Here is a striking image from Bhugola Varnanam by Sri Vadiraja of the school of Acharya Madhwa (12th Century). It is entitled Bhugola Brahmanda with the Universe and the Nine Envelopes. True to the then prevailing concept, verticality is emphasised by the central axis resting on Kurma, with the universal planes connected to this pole, similar to most extant representations of Mt Meru. Lacking the defined horizontal spread, an important feature of the Churning process is left out – that is, its dynamic character which constitutes the very essence of the Myth.
Be that as it may, the most striking part of this representation lies in the centre dividing the lower lokas from the higher. The unusual symbol standing at the centre is intriguing. It is Vishnu in the form of a scorpion with its stinger raised high supporting the upper subtle planes emphasising verticality all the more. This Puranic representation is most accurate in presenting Vishnu in this manner, though somewhat perplexing. After all, the scorpion is hardly a lovable creature! What is the reason for this unusual imagery?
This diagram-image is found on the back cover of the commentary by B. V. Bhadarayana Murthy that inspired me to take up this series. But there is an image related to this one in the text itself that explains the symbolism to a greater extent (page 101). It appears to be a detail of the first reproduction I presented, in this case highlighting the HORIZONTAL plane that was not defined in the former imagery.
Vishnu (Vrishchika – Scorpio) stands again at the centre of this detail: Kala Chakra – the Time Wheel – Sun’s path around the Meru Centre, as the subtitle informs us. The text itself does not clarify the Vishnu/scorpion matter, but the sequence of 12 numbers around the outermost circle causes us to deduce that this Chakra actually refers to the 12 signs/months of the zodiac. Therefore, Vishnu as scorpion must refer to the 8th sign Scorpio. With the addition of the signs of the zodiac, it is indeed the Kala Chakra and the horizontal component of the vertical imagery.
This is accurate according to the Rig Veda itself. I will deal with the matter in depth because by penetrating the meaning of Scorpio we discover that this knowledge was preserved in the earliest records the Rishis have left us. And what was discovered in the Hymns is here confirmed once again in the Puranic Cosmology as presented in Bhugola Varnanam. Confirmation is found precisely in the praises to Vishnu. The 8th sign Scorpio, left out of the praises as we shall see, is conspicuous by its absence, thus providing the confirmation needed regarding the zodiac and the Veda. The Vishnu praises reveal that the zodiac was part of the most esoteric/initiatic Knowledge of the Vedic Age, contrary to what is believed today.
Unfortunately, those who scrutinise the Veda for clues to understand their meaning often bring their biases into play; they analyse the texts according to preconceived ideas and arrive at conclusions to confirm a particular ideology. A case in point would be the post-Independence historians and Indologists. These scholars contributed significantly to demolishing the Aryan Invasion Theory that had held sway for over a hundred years, without any basis at all, though there is copious evidence on hand to suggest a different history for the subcontinent. Together with the demolition exercise there was another favourite indulgence: at all costs this group sought to prove that the Rig Veda dating was inaccurate and that its origin should extend far back in time, well before 1500 BCE as sustained by the Aryan Invasion apologists.
When I presented evidence of the zodiacal content in the Vishnu praises I was viciously defamed by those who sustained the earlier origins of the Veda, though the evidence I presented was certainly sound and merited scrutiny. However, given their biases my discoveries had to be attacked because if not in their minds the earlier dating of the Rig Veda would appear to be threatened. Their reasoning was that since the zodiac was introduced to India by the Greeks, there could be no evidence of its symbols in the Veda which pre-date the Greek arrival by many centuries. Their conclusion was that my findings had to be wrong; they were surely coloured by the suspect ‘foreign hand’ intent on destroying Indian culture and Hindu Dharma!
Naturally the proponents of this bias were not initiates of the Ancient Mysteries where the zodiac figures as one of its mainstays. If they had undergone such an initiation, they could not have failed to recognise that this initiatic language permeates the entire Veda.
It is clear therefore that biases of any sort cannot be allowed to interfere with the conclusions we may draw on the Veda. Because of such biases Sri Aurobindo wrote that ‘for the past two thousand years no Indian has understood the Veda’.
It is time to set aside our respective ideological, religious, and even political leanings and take up this exercise shorn of the limitations they impose. For this reason, whenever possible I use Sri Aurobindo’s translations of the Hymns because he had realised the Vedic Way and could therefore recognise the universal language they contained and what would be important to highlight in translation. For example, his translation of the Vishnu praises helped to bring about one of the most important breakthroughs contributing to this updating process. I will present his translation along with others to prove the point; and to confirm the precision of the message given to us in the sectional detail of Vishnu as Scorpion. With this discovery once again we confirm that the Ten Avatars of Vishnu form the backbone of Vedic civilisation. Vishnu’s three strides, the theme of the praises, refer to the last three Avataric appearances, the 7th, the 8th, and the 9th. But one is left out and it involves the Scorpio connection. Nonetheless, as we note from the Bhugola Varnanam, Scorpio was centrally included to provide proof again of the extraordinary value of the Puranas in preserving the most important elements from the Vedic Age.
In the Rig Veda there is only one hymn addressed directly to Vishnu; it is nonetheless crucial to the discovery that the Line of Ten Avatars originated in the Vedic Age and not later. But to make this discovery the original text had to be approached in a different manner than the Sanskritist. To provide evidence of the difference between translations of the Veda by actual Initiates rather than scholars, below are two noteworthy translations; but when compared to Sri Aurobindo’s they are unable to provide the real clue to the arcane symbolism the Rishis employed. These praises to Vishnu, from where the tale of his Three Strides to measure the universe arose, are unique; but only the contemporary Rishi who has undergone the same Journey is in a position to disclose in what way they are indeed unique. When we delve into these mysteries and discover their true meaning, we understand how it is that these myths have endured across the centuries.
Unbeknown to all, on the basis of Aurobindoavatar’s translation the entire unfolding of the last three stages of Vishnu’s avataric appearances are described in minute detail (RV 1, 154). To begin the illustration, I present Raimundo Panikkar’s very lyrical translation of the three stanzas where each stride is described, the 2nd, the 3rd, and the 5th:
2. For this his prowess Vishnu is acclaimed.
He inhabits the mountains, like a savage beast1
wandering at will; in his three mighty paces
are set all the worlds.
3. Now, may my prayer ascend to the far-striding
Vishnu, the Bull, who dwells upon the mountains,
to him who unaided measured with threefold step
these far-flung spheres.
5. May I attain to Vishnu’s glorious mansion
where the faithful rejoice, where, close beside the Strider,
within his highest footstep springs the well
of purest honey! (The Vedic Experience, All India Press, 1977)
Next we have V. Madhusudan Reddy’s translations, a scholar of Sri Aurobindo’s work. He has sought to maintain his Guru’s line of thought, but, as I will reveal, his work lacks the imprimatur of the direct realisation the Vedic Way provides. Here are the same three stanzas:
2. Vishnu is avouched on high by his supreme prowess; he is like a ravenous lion that wanders at will in difficult terrain and inhabits the mountains. In his wide-covering three paces all the worlds abide.
3. Now may our strength and our prayer ascend to the all-prevading, far-striding Vishnu, the mighty Bull whose dwelling place is upon the mountain-tops. Unaided and alone he has measured out with his three strides this far-reaching seat of our self-accomplishing.
5. May I attain to that abode of Vishnu, the goal of his movement and enjoy it – the seat and source of infinite delight where the seeker-souls rejoice; there within that highest step of the supreme strider is the perpetual fount of purest honey. (Institute of Human Studies, 1994)
And here is Sri Aurobindo’s translation of the complete Hymn; my highlights are in bold:
1. Of Vishnu now I declare the mighty works, who has measured out the earthly worlds and that higher seat of our self-accomplishing he supports, he the wide-moving, in the threefold steps of his universal movement.
2. That Vishnu affirms on high by his mightiness and he is like a terrible LION that ranges in the difficult places, yea, his lair is on the mountain-tops, he in whose three wide movements all the worlds find their dwelling-place.
3. Let our strength and our thought go forward to Vishnu the all-pervading, the wide-moving BULL whose dwelling-place is on the mountain, he who being One has measured all this long and far-extending seat of our self-accomplishing by only three of his strides.
4. He whose three steps are full of the honey-wine and they perish not but have ecstasy by the self-harmony of their nature; yea, he being One holds the triple principle and earth and heaven also, even all the worlds.
5. May I attain to and enjoy that goal of his movement, the Delight, where souls that seek the godhead have the rapture; for there in that highest step of the wide-moving Vishnu is that FRIEND of men who is the fount of the sweetness.
6. Those are the dwelling-places of ye twain which we desire as the goal of our journey, where the many-horned herds of Light go traveling; the highest step of wide-moving Vishnu shines down on us here in its manifold vastness. (Rig Veda 1.154)
To note is the manner in which Sri Aurobindo has emphasised or qualified Vishnu’s strides. First Lion, then Bull, then Friend. This emphasis is conveyed by the use of capitalisations, which does not exist in Sanskrit; therefore, the understanding that it was necessary to highlight the strides in this manner could only have come through the direct experience of the text’s secret meaning. The translator would need to have had a similar initiatic background to grasp the relevance. This, in turn, is lacking in the other renditions, admirable in other ways as they may be. It is this simple feature of the English language that permitted the discovery of just what Vishnu Trivikrama truly means. The accuracy, the precision is remarkable – and this will be discussed in depth further on since the tale of Vishnu’s three strides has had an abiding influence on Vedic civlisation across the aeons.
Certainly it is time to bring the myth TO EARTH, as we have already done with other aspects of the ancient way. Vishnu Trivikrama is even more astonishing in its applicability. However, if I had only the first two translations at my disposal, I would never have made this revolutionsing discovery, encompassing an entire body of higher knowledge centred on Vishnu’s Dasavataras. The first fails to mention the Lion or the Friend; the second makes no mention of the Friend. And yet, the three together, as in Sri Aurobindo’s translation, give us the key of higher knowledge to grasp the true meaning. With that key we are able to reveal the tremendous importance of the Dasavataras, the antiquity of the formulation, and the impeccable manner in which it has materialised over thousands of years, one incarnation after another. Surely there is no other extant tradition comparable.
It is only to be expected that praises to Vishnu should hold the key to the descent of his emanations; at the same time, the symbols the Rishi evoked point to three signs of the zodiac specifically – and they are precisely the signs known as PRESERVATION of the zodiacal trinity – Creation, Preservation, Destruction. That is, Vishnu’s own quality. However, the strides are three in number yet the signs of Preservation are actually four. The image reproduced from Bhugola Varnanam explains the discrepancy with Vishnu portrayed as the Scorpion. The ‘missing stride’ is in perfect accordance with the knowledge of the Dasavataras contained in the zodiac.
These four signs have held a place of honour from time immomorial. We find them mentioned in perfect sequence in the Rig Veda, and later in certain books of the Bible, but especially prominent in the last book of the New Testament, The Revelation of St John where the four are listed 1) lion, 2) bull, 3) man, 4) eagle, in the correct order. The point to note, however, is that the Eagle is the higher symbol of the 8th sign, the only one in the zodiac to have a higher and lower symbolism. There is a sound reason for this duality at the 8th stage of the Vedic Journey. And while all the ancient texts use the Eagle to describe the 8th sign, in this text of the Puranic Age the lower symbolism is used – that is, the symbol descriptive of the darker side of the 8th stage, precisely the power of darkness and ignorance that must be conquered by the aspirant so as to emerge from the clutches of Death like a soaring Eagle to replace the Scorpion.
The fact that in this 12th Century text the Scorpion is employed rather than the Eagle (Garuda, Vishnu’s own carrier), unlike in earlier texts, tells us much about the prevailing darkness when the knowledge was submerged in the Piscean Sea to preserve it for a future Age when retrieval of the Veda would be possible. Clearly during that Kaliyuga the Knowledge had to be withheld from the profane; the meaning of the Vedas was lost and only the ‘scorpion’ remained to remind us of the sublime truths that Vishnu’s strides hold. After all, by the 12th Century India had already experienced numerous invasions by forces inimical to the Vedic Way.
For a complete exposition of the knowledge contained in Vishnu Trivikrama, the reader is directed to my latest book, Secrets of the Earth (Aeon Books, 2009), questions and answers on the Line of Ten Avatars. In this series dedicated to the Puranic Age, I have again brought Vishnu Trivikrama of the Rig Veda into the discussion to illustrate its singular importance for the Dharma, and that given the subtleties of Sanskrit, even when spelt out openly and clearly, the deeper esoteric meaning eludes us. Only the initiate of the Vedic Journey can guide us to the true sense of the text. Without Sri Aurobindo’s rendition it would have been far more difficult to recognise the zodiacal content and the role of Vishnu’s 7th (Lion), 8th (Bull), and 9th (Friend) Avatars. We would have remained trapped by the beguiling magic of the Deluder, usurper of the 9th position in the Line.
1.Some Sanskritists translate the figure describing the first stride as ‘wild beast’; others, like Sayana, call it ‘like a lion’. The discrepancy is important to note.
Aeon centre of Cosmology