Advaita in the Vedas – Rig Veda 1.164.39

One of the mantras which captures, not only the essence of Advaita, but also the Vedas themselves, is Rig Veda 1.164.39 —  

“To one who does not know the supreme syllable of the Rig Veda, in which, in heaven, all the devas have taken their seats, what use is the Rig Veda?” 

The mantra also appears in Shvetashvatara Upanishad [1]. The Rig Veda gets its name from the type of mantras it contains, known as a ‘ric‘, which literally means “praise”. These mantras focus on invoking and worshipping devas. “To one who does not know the supreme syllable of Rig Veda,” means not knowing what is being worshipped and invoked, the syllable pervading every word of every mantra. The devas take ‘their seats’ in this syllable because it is their source. Knowing this syllable is to know, not only the source of the devas, but also what the entire Rig Veda is in praise (ric) of. Continue reading

Advaita in the Vedas – Rig Veda 1.115.1

The imagery of the Sun features throughout the teachings of Advaita. It appears multiple times in the Upanishads and is first found in the Vedas. But what is its significance and how does it relate to the ultimate reality of Brahman? 

The meaning Rig Veda gives us couldn’t be clearer, 

The Sun is the Self of the whole world both moving and non-moving and rises with its own effulgence in heaven, the earth and atmosphere. [1]

Continue reading

Advaita in the Vedas – Rig Veda 10.125.8

Rig Veda 10.125.8 is unique as it is one of the rare occasions in the Vedas where a mantra is spoken in first-person. Such mantras are categorised as directly relating to the Self, where the worshipper is identical with the deity being worshipped and the illusion of separation is seen through.

In Rig Veda 10.125.8, it is declared that,

I breathe forth like the wind, giving form to all created worlds. Beyond the heaven, beyond this earth, so vast am I in greatness.

Continue reading

Advaita in the Vedas – Rig Veda 3.62.10: Gayatri Mantra

The Gayatri mantra is one of the most famous, chanted by millions of people every day and heralded for many reasons. But what makes it so significant? Two explanations are its Vedic origins and the meaning of the mantra itself — 

That greatest Savitri is the light of the shining one we meditate on which illuminates our intellect.

The mantra, which is ‘tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi dhiyo yo nah prachodayat’, first appears in Rig Veda (3.62.10). When it is chanted, it is preceded by Om and the mahavyahriti: bhur bhuvah svah. They symbolise the three regions earth, atmosphere and heaven while Om is their source, beyond them. Similarly, the Chandogya Upanishad says about Gayatri as the personification of the mantra,

Gayatri is all this, whatever exists. Speech is the Gayatri: speech sings (gai) and protects (trai) all this that exists. [1]

Continue reading

Advaita in the Vedas – Rig Veda 10.129.4

Alongside Purusha Sukta (10.90), the Nasadiya Sukta (10.129) is one of the most famous Suktas of the Vedas. Known as the Creation Hymn, its fourth mantra says,

In the beginning, there was the disturbance of desire, from which sprung the first seed, which was born of the mind. Sages, searching in their hearts, realised the wisdom of the connection between existence and non-existence.

The creation the Nasadiya Sukta discusses is often believed to be the origin of the universe. However, 10.129.4 does not refer to any ordinary creation but, rather, the illusion of duality. This is attributed to desire in the mind – the first ‘seed’ of ignorance which gives the impression that we are separate. Before this disturbance, there was nothing to realise and no one to know because there was no appearance which was taken to be real as separate from the Self or Brahman. Continue reading

Advaita in the Vedas – Rig Veda 10.90.2

Alongside Rig Veda 1.164.46, 10.90.2, part of the famous Purusha Sukta, is one of the most succinct declarations of Advaita in the Vedas. It goes further than 1.164.46, as it gives a name to ‘what is one’ – Purusha (the Self). It says,

It is the Self who is all this – whatever has been and whatever is to be.

We could easily mistake this for a mantra from the Upanishads or another Advaita text, as it is perfectly in-line with their teachings. For this reason, it is unsurprising that it later appears in the Upanishads, in Shvetashvatara 3.15. Continue reading

Advaita in the Vedas – Rig Veda 1.164.20

See the source image

In exploring Advaita, we may have heard of the metaphor of the two birds,

Two birds, inseparable friends, cling to the same tree. One of them eats the sweet fruit, the other looks on without eating. [1]

The two birds are the jiva (the one which eats) and paramatman (the one which looks on without eating). The jiva is bound, attached to karma and its fruits, whereas the paramatman is free from karma. Identified as the jiva, the ‘enjoyer’, we ‘taste’ the fruits of action (pleasure and pain). Identified with the paramatman, we do not experience the duality of pleasure and pain as there is no attachment to them.

The two birds highlight the contrasting ways of conducting action – with or without attachment. In the jiva, we act to attain certain fruits (desirable outcomes) of our actions. Whereas, in the paramatman, we act without any desire or discrimination between success and failure or pleasure and pain. The paramatman is the Advaitin witness, whilst the jiva is still caught up in the dualistic experience of self (subject) and ‘other’ (object).

What we may not know is that the ‘two birds’ metaphor originates from Rig Veda (1.164.20). Continue reading

Advaita in the Vedas – Rig Veda 1.164.46

This post marks the beginning of a series called ‘Advaita in the Vedas’, where different Vedic mantras are explored for their similarities with the Upanishads’ to highlight how they share the same truth of Advaita.

We start with Rig Veda 1.164.46. Its famous saying, “The wise speak of what is one in many ways”, perfectly encapsulates Advaita. In the mantra, it is explained that the various devas – including Indra, Mitra, Varuna and Agni – are some of the “many ways” spoken of. By understanding the devas as the different names for “what is one”, it cuts through any need to distinguish between them.

When we take the devas as being separate from one another, it may be confusing when we find instances in the Vedas where they overlap. For example, Agni being credited with Indra’s achievements of slaying Vritra and releasing the waters or attributed with Surya’s characteristic of being the light which shines down on all the worlds. The mantra reminds us that these three devas are not separate, but the diverse expressions of what is one which is at the heart of Advaita.

Continue reading

Q.534 Purpose and Meaning

Q: Advaita Vedanta has caused me two persistent difficulties. Firstly its argument that we are dependent upon Brahman, yet Brahman has no dependence; secondly that since we cannot know Brahman, only be It.

The questions concerning the meaning of life and why we are here will find no answer, beyond the speculative in vyavahAra. It’s just that statements such as these come across as rather negative, divisive and, particularly, dismissive. This is not what I expected from ‘not two’!

But, undeterred, and mindful that Advaita advises that its own teachings must eventually be left behind, I’ve moved towards a more all-inclusive perspective…. (I hope). You, Sir, seem perfectly at ease with the notion of ‘no choice’; and you present a flawless case for its validity, with which I can only concur. However, actually facing it is terrifying. Fortunately, familiarity offers a happier and unshakable strength in the ‘surrender’, although this is not an on/off situation – more a ‘work in progress’ lasting a lifetime.

So my question (if you’re still awake) is: where is ‘enjoying the journey’; joie de vivre; ‘experience’ as the key to unlock the understanding we seek? If living it can assist so well in making sense of it, why does Shankara always want to go the long way round?

Continue reading

Consciousness & AI

We are in the midst of a technological civilization or culture the consequences of which at long range are unpredictable; a future where technological growth could become uncontrollable and irreversible, resulting in unforeseeable changes to human civilization. This conditioning would bring about an ‘explosion’ in intelligence resulting in a powerful superintelligence that qualitatively far surpasses all human intelligence. This change or event has been called a ‘technological singularity’, as a result of which, it is stipulated, the human race could not continue.

What follows is an exchage on the ‘Quora’ forum from Oct. 2015 – anticipating today’s current concerns by over 7 years. The question asked was: “Could the technological singularity occur without computers ever becoming conscious?” And the following are comments by David Eager (Zen seeker, metaphysical tweaker) and myself.

Continue reading