A History of Indian Philosophy Part 3

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This tendency towards extolling a G.o.d as the greatest and highest gradually brought forth the conception of a supreme Lord of all beings (Praj.a.pati), not by a process of conscious generalization but as a necessary stage of development of the mind, able to imagine a deity as the repository of the highest moral and physical power, though its direct manifestation cannot be perceived.

Thus the epithet Praj.a.pati or the Lord of beings, which was originally an epithet for other deities, came to be recognized as a separate deity, the highest and the greatest. Thus it is said in R.V.x. 121 [Footnote Ref 2]:

In the beginning rose [email protected], Born as the only lord of all existence.

This earth he settled firm and heaven established: What G.o.d shall we adore with our oblations?

Who gives us breath, who gives us strength, whose bidding All creatures must obey, the bright G.o.ds even; Whose shade is death, whose shadow life immortal: What G.o.d shall we adore with our oblations?

Who by his might alone became the monarch Of all that breathes, of all that wakes or slumbers, Of all, both man and beast, the lord eternal: What G.o.d shall we adore with our oblations?

Whose might and majesty these snowy mountains, The ocean and the distant stream exhibit; Whose arms extended are these spreading regions: What G.o.d shall we adore with our oblations?

Who made the heavens bright, the earth enduring, Who fixed the firmament, the heaven of heavens; Who measured out the air's extended s.p.a.ces: What G.o.d shall we adore with our oblations?


[Footnote 1: Macdonell's _Vedic Mythology_, p. 17.]

[Footnote 2: _The Rigveda_, by Kaegi, pp. 88, 89.]


Similar attributes are also ascribed to the deity Vis'vakarma (All-creator) [Footnote ref 1]. He is said to be father and procreator of all beings, though himself uncreated. He generated the primitive waters.

It is to him that the sage says,

Who is our father, our creator, maker, Who every place doth know and every creature, By whom alone to G.o.ds their names were given, To him all other creatures go to ask him [Footnote ref 2]



The conception of Brahman which has been the highest glory for the Vedanta philosophy of later days had hardly emerged in the @Rg-Veda from the a.s.sociations of the sacrificial mind. The meanings that [email protected] the celebrated commentator of the Vedas gives of the word as collected by Haug are: (_a_) food, food offering, (_b_) the chant of the sama-singer, (_c_) magical formula or text, (_d_) duly completed ceremonies, (_e_) the chant and sacrificial gift together, (_f_) the recitation of the [email protected] priest, (_g_) great. Roth says that it also means "the devotion which manifests itself as longing and satisfaction of the soul and reaches forth to the G.o.ds." But it is only in the S'atapatha [email protected] that the conception of Brahman has acquired a great significance as the supreme principle which is the moving force behind the G.o.ds.

Thus the S'atapatha says, "Verily in the beginning this (universe) was the Brahman (neut.). It created the G.o.ds; and, having created the G.o.ds, it made them ascend these worlds: Agni this (terrestrial) world, Vayu the air, and Surya the sky.... Then the Brahman itself went up to the sphere beyond. Having gone up to the sphere beyond, it considered, 'How can I descend again into these worlds?' It then descended again by means of these two, Form and Name. Whatever has a name, that is name; and that again which has no name and which one knows by its form, 'this is (of a certain) form,' that is form: as far as there are Form and Name so far, indeed, extends this (universe). These indeed are the two great forces of Brahman; and, verily, he who knows these two great forces of Brahman becomes himself a great force [Footnote ref 3]. In another place Brahman is said to be the ultimate thing in the Universe and is identified with Praj.a.pati, [email protected] and [email protected]

[email protected]_

[Footnote 1: See _The Rigveda_, by Kaegi, p. 89, and also Muir's _Sanskrit Texts_, vol. IV. pp. 5-11.]

[Footnote 2: Kaegi's translation.]

[Footnote 3: See Eggeling's translation of S'atapatha Brahmana _S.B.E._ vol. XLIV. pp. 27, 28.]


(the vital air [Footnote ref 1]). In another place Brahman is described as being the Svayambhu (self-born) performing austerities, who offered his own self in the creatures and the creatures in his own self, and thus compa.s.sed supremacy, sovereignty and lordship over all creatures [Footnote ref 2]. The conception of the supreme man ([email protected]) in the @Rg-Veda also supposes that the supreme man pervades the world with only a fourth part of Himself, whereas the remaining three parts transcend to a region beyond. He is at once the present, past and future [Footnote ref 3].

Sacrifice; the First Rudiments of the Law of Karma.

It will however be wrong to suppose that these monotheistic tendencies were gradually supplanting the polytheistic sacrifices.

On the other hand, the complications of ritualism were gradually growing in their elaborate details. The direct result of this growth contributed however to relegate the G.o.ds to a relatively unimportant position, and to raise the dignity of the magical characteristics of the sacrifice as an inst.i.tution which could give the desired fruits of themselves. The offerings at a sacrifice were not dictated by a devotion with which we are familiar under Christian or [email protected]@nava influence. The sacrifice taken as a whole is conceived as Haug notes "to be a kind of machinery in which every piece must tally with the other," the slightest discrepancy in the performance of even a minute ritualistic detail, say in the pouring of the melted b.u.t.ter on the fire, or the proper placing of utensils employed in the sacrifice, or even the misplacing of a mere straw contrary to the injunctions was sufficient to spoil the whole sacrifice with whatsoever earnestness it might be performed.

Even if a word was misp.r.o.nounced the most dreadful results might follow. Thus when [email protected]@[email protected] performed a sacrifice for the production of a demon who would be able to kill his enemy Indra, owing to the mistaken accent of a single word the object was reversed and the demon produced was killed by Indra. But if the sacrifice could be duly performed down to the minutest detail, there was no power which could arrest or delay the fruition of the object. Thus the objects of a sacrifice were fulfilled not by the grace of the G.o.ds, but as a natural result of the sacrifice.

The performance of the rituals invariably produced certain mystic or magical results by virtue of which the object desired


[Footnote 1: See _S.B.E._ XLIII. pp.59,60,400 and XLIV. p.409.]

[Footnote 2: See _Ibid_., XLIV, p. 418.]

[Footnote 3: R.V.x.90, [email protected] Sukta.]


by the sacrificer was fulfilled in due course like the fulfilment of a natural law in the physical world. The sacrifice was believed to have existed from eternity like the Vedas. The creation of the world itself was even regarded as the fruit of a sacrifice performed by the supreme Being. It exists as Haug says "as an invisible thing at all times and is like the latent power of electricity in an electrifying machine, requiring only the operation of a suitable apparatus in order to be elicited." The sacrifice is not offered to a G.o.d with a view to propitiate him or to obtain from him welfare on earth or bliss in Heaven; these rewards are directly produced by the sacrifice itself through the correct performance of complicated and interconnected ceremonies which const.i.tute the sacrifice. Though in each sacrifice certain G.o.ds were invoked and received the offerings, the G.o.ds themselves were but instruments in bringing about the sacrifice or in completing the course of mystical ceremonies composing it.

Sacrifice is thus regarded as possessing a mystical potency superior even to the G.o.ds, who it is sometimes stated attained to their divine rank by means of sacrifice. Sacrifice was regarded as almost the only kind of duty, and it was also called _karma_ or _kriya_ (action) and the unalterable law was, that these mystical ceremonies for good or for bad, moral or immoral (for there were many kinds of sacrifices which were performed for injuring one's enemies or gaining worldly prosperity or supremacy at the cost of others) were destined to produce their effects. It is well to note here that the first recognition of a cosmic order or law prevailing in nature under the guardianship of the highest G.o.ds is to be found in the use of the word @Rta (literally the course of things). This word was also used, as Macdonell observes, to denote the "'order'

in the moral world as truth and 'right' and in the religious world as sacrifice or 'rite'[Footnote ref 1]" and its unalterable law of producing effects. It is interesting to note in this connection that it is here that we find the first germs of the law of karma, which exercises such a dominating control over Indian thought up to the present day. Thus we find the simple faith and devotion of the Vedic hymns on one hand being supplanted by the growth of a complex system of sacrificial rites, and on the other bending their course towards a monotheistic or philosophic knowledge of the ultimate reality of the universe.

[Footnote 1: Macdonell's _Vedic Mythology_, p. 11.]


Cosmogony--Mythological and philosophical.

The cosmogony of the @Rg-Veda may be looked at from two aspects, the mythological and the philosophical. The mythological aspect has in general two currents, as Professor Macdonell says, "The one regards the universe as the result of mechanical production, the work of carpenter's and joiner's skill; the other represents it as the result of natural generation [Footnote ref. 1]."

Thus in the @Rg-Veda we find that the poet in one place says, "what was the wood and what was the tree out of which they built heaven and earth [Footnote ref. 2]?" The answer given to this question in [email protected] is "Brahman the wood and Brahman the tree from which the heaven and earth were made [Footnote ref 3]." Heaven and Earth are sometimes described as having been supported with posts [Footnote ref 4]. They are also sometimes spoken of as universal parents, and parentage is sometimes attributed to Aditi and [email protected]

Under this philosophical aspect the semi-pantheistic Man-hymn [Footnote ref 5] attracts our notice. The supreme man as we have already noticed above is there said to be the whole universe, whatever has been and shall be; he is the lord of immortality who has become diffused everywhere among things animate and inanimate, and all beings came out of him; from his navel came the atmosphere; from his head arose the sky; from his feet came the earth; from his ear the four quarters. Again there are other hymns in which the Sun is called the soul (_atman_) of all that is movable and all that is immovable [Footnote ref 6]. There are also statements to the effect that the Being is one, though it is called by many names by the sages [Footnote ref 7]. The supreme being is sometimes extolled as the supreme Lord of the world called the golden egg ([email protected] [Footnote ref 8]). In some pa.s.sages it is said "[email protected] blew forth these births like a blacksmith. In the earliest age of the G.o.ds, the existent sprang from the non-existent. In the first age of the G.o.ds, the existent sprang from the non-existent: thereafter the regions sprang, thereafter, from Uttanapada [Footnote ref 9]." The most remarkable and sublime hymn in which the first germs of philosophic speculation


[Footnote 1: Macdonell's _Vedic Mythology_, p. 11.]

[Footnote 2: R.V.x. 81. 4.]

[Footnote 3: Taitt. Br. II. 8. 9. 6.]

[Footnote 4: Macdonell's _Vedic Mythology_, p. 11; also R.V. II. 15 and IV.


[Footnote 5: R.V.x. 90.]

[Footnote 6: R.V.I. 115.]

[Footnote 7: R.V.I. 164. 46.]

[Footnote 8: R.V.X. 121.]

[Footnote 9: Muir's translation of R.V.x. 72; Muir's _Sanskrit Texts_, vol.

v.p. 48.]

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A History of Indian Philosophy Part 3 summary

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