Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Hinduism, day #3: Rg-Veda, Chandogya Upanishad

From today:

1. I move with the Rudras, with the Vasus, with the Adityas and all the gods. I carry both Mitra and Varuna, both Indra and Agni, and both of the Ashvins.

2. I carry the swelling Soma, and Tvastr, and PuĊĦan and Bhaga. I bestow wealth on the pious sacrificer who presses the Soma and offers the oblation.

3. I am the queen, the confluence of riches, the skilful one who is first among those worthy of sacrifice. The gods divided me up into various parts, for I dwell in many places and enter into many forms.

4. The one who eats food, who truly sees, who breathes, who hears what is said, does so through me. Though they do not realize it, they dwell in me. Listen, you whom they have heard: what I tell you should be heeded.

5. I am the one who says, by myself, what gives joy to gods and men. Whom I love I make awesome; I make him a sage, a wise man, a Brahmin.

6. I stretch the bow for Rudra so that his arrow will strike down the hater of prayer. I incite the contest among the people. I have pervaded sky and earth.

7. I gave birth to the father of the head of this world. My womb is in the waters, within the ocean. From there I spread out over all creatures and touch the very sky with the crown of my head.

8. I am the one who blows like the wind, embracing all creatures. Beyond the sky, beyond this earth, so much have I become in my greatness.

"So be it, my child. Bring me a fruit from this banyan tree."
"Here it is, father."
"Break it."
"It is broken, Sir."
"What do you see in it?"
"Very small seeds, Sir."
"Break one of them, my son."
"It is broken, Sir."
"What do you see in it, my son?"
"Nothing at all, Sir."
Then his father spoke to him: "My son, from the very essence
in the seed which you cannot see comes in truth this vast banyan
tree. "Believe me, my son, an invisible and subtle essence is the
Spirit of the whole universe. That is reality. That is Atman.
"Explain more to me, father," said Svetaketu.
"So be it, my son. Place this salt in water and come to me
tomorrow morning."
Svetaketu did as he was commanded, and in the morning his
father said to him: "Bring me the salt you put into the water last
Svetaketu looked into the water, but could not find it, for it
had dissolved.
His father then said, "Taste the water from this side. How is
"It is salt."
"Taste it from the middle. How is it?"
"It is salt."
"Taste it from that side. How is it?"
"It is salt."
"Look for the salt and come again to me."
The son did so, saying: "I cannot see the salt. I only see the
His father then said: "in the same way, O my son, you cannot
see the Spirit. But in truth he is here.
"An invisible but subtle essence is the Spirit of the whole
universe. That is Reality. That is Truth. THOU ART THAT."

We did not look at "The Sacrifice of Primal Man."

[1] A thousand heads had [primal] Man,
A thousand eyes, a thousand feet:
Encompassing the earth on every side,
He exceeded it by ten fingers' [breadth].

[2] [That] Man is this whole universe, -
What was and what is yet to be,
The Lord of immortality
Which he outgrows by [eating] food.

[3] This is the measure of his greatness,
But greater yet is [primal] Man:
All beings form a quarter of him,
Three-quarters are the immortal in heaven.

[4] With three-quarters Man rose up on high,
A quarter of him came to be again [down] here:
From this he spread in all directions,
Into all that eats and does not eat.

[5] From him was Viraj born,
From Viraj Man again:
Once born, - behind, before,
He reached beyond the earth.

[6] When with Man as their oblation
The gods performed their sacrifice,
Spring was the melted butter,
Summer the fuel, and the autumn the oblation.

[7] Him they besprinkled on the sacrificial strew, -
[Primeval] Man, born in the beginning:
With him [their victim], gods, Sadhyas, seers
Performed the sacrifice.

[8] From this sacrifice completely offered
The clotted ghee was gathered up:
From this he fashioned beasts and birds,
Creatures of the woods and creatures of the village.

[9] From this sacrifice completely offered
Were born the Rig- and Sama-Vedas;
From this were born the metres,
From this was the Yajur-Veda born.

[10] From this were horses born, all creatures
That have teeth in either jaw;
From this were cattle born,
From this sprang goats and sheep.

[11] When they divided [primal] Man,
Into how many parts did they divide him?
What was his mouth? What his arms?
What are his thighs called? What his feet?

[12] The Brahman was his moth,
The arms were made the Prince,
His thighs the common people,
And from his feet the serf was born.

[13] From his mind the moon was born,
And from his eye the sun,
And from his mouth Indra and the fire,
From his breath the wind was born.

[14] From his navel arose the atmosphere,
From his head the sky evolved,
From his feet the eath, and from his ear
The cardinal points of the compass:
So did they fashion forth these worlds.

[15] Seven were his enclosing sticks
Thrice seven were made his fuel sticks,
When the gods, performing sacrifice,
Bound Man, [their sacrificial] beast.

[16] With the sacrifice the gods
Made sacrifice to sacrifice:
These were the first religious rites (Dharma),
To the firmament these powers went up
Where dwelt the ancient Sadhya gods.

Interesting, stimulating discussion. I was interested in concentrating on the fact that in the first text, you see the elevation of sacrifice in the abstract above sacrifices in the particular. The text seems to imply a sort of metonymic substitution of the concept "sacrifice" for the entire pantheon and ritual apparatus of Vedic religion. This same pattern seems to recur in the second text, in which the underlying concept of a mystical, intangible substance that pervades and sustains physical existence is extended to include the notion of the human self and human subjectivity itself.

(Sources: Rg-Veda, Chandogya Up. [PDF], Sacrifice of Primal Man.)

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