Puranic Cosmology Updated 17


Some followers of this series have expressed the desire to have the complete hymn RV X.135 which I discussed in the last Update, transcribed for readers. I had purposely not done so because not being a Sanskrit scholar myself, for the most part I would have to rely on the various translations in print. To my knowledge Sri Aurobindo has not translated this particular hymn and I would have had more confidence in his rendition, but I can understand why. Indeed, as others have stated, it is obscure. It presupposes a thorough background in ‘the language of the Gods’ which is indeed Sanskrit – but within the initiatic framework I have referred to time and again.
There are others of less goodwill – to put it mildly – who reject my attempts to convey the esoteric substance in a manner which we can apply today precisely because I am not a Sanskritist. These are research scholars who believe that the word alone holds the key to understanding, and perhaps even enlightenment. None seem to understand that we are dealing with a perennial knowledge, as it is sometimes called. But this does not imply a fixed, static truth unaffected by time and circumstance. For if this truth is embedded in a cosmic system then change, Becoming of Being is inherent in the knowledge and must be accommodated in any interpretation of the ancient wisdom, failing which we fall into the trap of fundamentalism where religions and ideologies often find themselves.
The dharma of the subcontinent is sanatana, eternal, not because it is the One Truth, unchanging and timeless, but because it is cosmic to the core. However, a distinction must be made: there is Cosmic Truth and Cosmic Ignorance. What is known of the Dharma today is often a distortion of that pristine Truth we see in the cosmic surround because we have lost the Divine Maya, the key to the sacred Measure. It is the holy grail of the Vedic Way, the Philosopher’s Stone that can distinguish the dross from the pure substance.
There is a wisdom in the arrangement of the task to re-establish the Dharma in this Age of Vishnu the Friend, so that it can be applied to the whole world and not just reserved for one culture, one nation, a community or even a caste. The method has been precise. To begin, those who were born to undertake this work came to Indian culture only after the initial break-through realisation that revealed the eternal truth-foundation of the Dharma – fresh as it were, shorn of the embellishments and also distortions that had necessarily been accumulated over the centuries. The point I wish to make is that the breakthrough is a product of the present; it occurs amidst the play of circumstances that cannot be ignored when the goal is an integral manifestation. The Cosmic Truth can never be anything but integral. The proof of this statement lies in the cosmos itself and a most profound symbol which accurately describes Being and the Becoming of that Being. Together they form the astrological symbol of the Sun , heart of our system whence we receive our Light. It is the most inspiring symbol of the Cosmic Truth.
How does the cosmos imply the integral, we may ask. This is by the divisions of the circle in the act of Becoming when diversity enters the scheme of creation. We note the same development in the first Book of the Bible: Genesis starts from a condition of wholeness, oneness; thereafter division begins and increases until finally unity must be achieved again but on a very different, enhanced basis (Book of Revelation). These divisions, it needs to be noted, are entirely based on measures provided by the Earth and her harmonies as she journeys around the Sun, most obvious of which is the fourfold periodicity based on the phenomenon of Equinoxes and Solstices. This division of four is what we rely on to forge in our consciousness the Earth-grounded truth and the inescapable necessity to respect her measures for the Cosmic Truth to reveal its secrets.
The problem with academic research in dealing with ancient lore is that it does not start with the aforesaid break-through realisation – i.e., a foundation of unity which is indicated by the central Point of the symbol. This research stands poised on the periphery where any one of its fragments can be taken for the Point. From that segment it constructs an hypothesis, seeks to make a theory; and from there a more or less complete system. At the end, what we have is simply one more interpretation which only increases confusion. I will use one verse of RV X.135 as an example, first giving Raimundo Panikkar’s translation, and then a rendition of the same verse by Jeanine Miller from her book, The Vedas, Harmony, Meditation and Fulfilment. In Update 16, I referred to one line of this particular verse; here is the full stanza, first by Panikkar:

Without seeing you mounted, young man,
The new chariot constructed by your mind;
Wheelless it is, with only one pole,
Yet it moves in all directions.

Miller’s version reads:

The new, wheelless, one-poled car
facing in all directions which thou
didst make, O youth, by means of mind,
thou ascendest unconsciously (without seeing).

Comments on these lines by Miller are interesting because they reveal that the point of the hymn is missed when it is taken as a funeral rite; that is, the ‘death’ in question may be representative of a process leading to Immortality, the goal of the Vedic quest. The chariot (to move through the ecliptic wheel) is clearly the vahana of the initiate’s journey, or the ordinary mortal’s, as the case may be, and not necessarily a funeral bier; and it moves through or across the zodiac in a progression of stages. The youth of the hymn enters this ‘wheel’ in an unconscious state as birth on Earth demands. The goal is to alter that atavistic unconsciousness and to attain a state of immortality – hence, the Rishis are known also as the Immortal Ones. If successful, that ‘unseeing’ entry is overcome – i.e. a conscious ‘death’ and an equally conscious birth. The chariot ‘faces in all directions’ in Miller’s translation; for Panikkar it ‘moves in all directions’. This is another reference to the ecliptic circle (wheel), backdrop or ‘map’ of the Journey.
It seems obvious that we are dealing with a very specialised cosmically-grounded vision in these and many other hymns. Indeed, Miller makes this comment before taking up these obscure verses: ‘…Passing references without explanation would rather point to a body of doctrine already well-established and cannot be dismissed either as meaningless or as without any future purport in point of doctrine.’
I do agree with Jeanine Miller and it is a point I have made from the moment I first read the hymns. They reveal a civilisation long-acquainted with and firmly rooted in the Cosmic Truth. But where I disagree concerns the ‘doctrine’ Miller reads into the Veda: methods of meditation and states of consciousness attained through techniques which she believes are described in the collection. She often refers to the hymns as ‘prayers’ which I would find difficult to do, given their precise context and background. This is an interpretation very far from the cosmic language I perceive in the Veda. However, to the credit of both Sanskritists, they have not fallen into the Indologists’ trap of seeking to read history into the collection – i.e., the so-called Aryan Invasion by hordes descending from Central Asia into the subcontinent which was supposedly empty of any civilisation worth the name.
The text reveals a civilisation grounded in the Cosmic Truth in all its facets, corresponding to the stage of evolution of the Earth and the questions imposed by decay, death and the reality of a process where the Ignorance must be taken into account – and its function, if it may be so called, recognised and overcome. For this is the purpose of the quest and leads to a state of immortality. In that sense the Ignorance (the Panis, the Dasyus, Vala, Vritra) – what we might call hostile forces today – is actually the initiate’s greatest aid because without their contribution little can be achieved at our present stage.
Further, Miller comments on this stanza, ‘…The description is specific: wheelless, acakra, furnished with only one pole, ekesa, facing in all directions visvatah. This confirms that no earthly vehicle is meant here; its facing in all directions surely implies a mental capacity for viewing or taking in all surrounding objects or many different concepts at once. It is new, for though fashioned during existence, it is used only after death, and in a peculiar sense resembles a ratha [chariot] of the ritual which wafts the essence of the sacrifice to the gods. In other words, it [the chariot] is the representation of the essence of the previous life of that alone which can take the defunct to paradise…’
The translator approaches the Veda and this particular hymn from a post-Vedic mentality where karma began to play a central role. This, she believes, seems to be the nature of the chariot that carries the youth to the beyond [‘paradise’] in this funeral rite. Rather, to one versed in the cosmic harmonies any mention of wheel immediately calls up that Harmony. It is unavoidable.
Thus, what if this hymn is no funeral description at all? Failure to understand the main feature of the verses – the chariot – is certainly to miss the point. As I wrote in Update 16, there is a lower hemisphere – i.e. ‘the evil path’; in Panikkar’s interpretation, this is the path that ends in death where one exits (the Underworld – Cosmic Sunset, 7th stage) and is therefore unable to experience ‘death’ as the initiate would: the threshold that must be crossed for the second birth to occur in life.
There is an interesting point to be made that reveals the difficulties translators face and for which reason I feel that in arcane texts such as these a foundation must exist before one can begin to convey their real meaning. To illustrate from her cited book, Jeanine Miller has reproduced the above stanza 6 of the hymn in question, in English which she has translated from the French of L. Renou, another Sanskritist; the Sanskrit transliteration is given with each line.

How was his equipment [chargement] (yathā abhavad                                                                                                        anudeyī)
Thence was born the origin [of things] (tato agram ajāyata)
First the foundation was laid (purastād budhna ātatah)
Then the egress was made (pascān nirayanam krtam)

Miller does not agree with the ‘cosmic significance’ Renou applies: ‘On this basis he believes the hymn has a cosmogonic intent. The word agra means “beginning, summit, front”, so Renou chose the sense of “origin” of things…’
But I certainly agree with Renou, though I believe his interpretation has not gone far enough simply because he did not have that ‘foundation’. What is interesting to note is that the circle/wheel is the same for both the cosmos and the individual. This is the One Circle clearly defined in the Rig Veda, in this important verse which explains all the properties of that ‘one wheel’:

Twelve spokes, one wheel, navels three.
Who can comprehend this?
On it are placed together
Three hundred and sixty like pegs.
They shake not in the least.

(Rig Veda 1.154.48)

It is the same circle for the ecliptic year and for the individual; the problem is that scholars do not appreciate this Oneness. And in Miller’s case, the understandable difficulty surfaces again and again when she confuses the attainment of Swar and immortality with an extra-cosmic dimension.
In the chariot stanza there are two words that interest me, purastād budhna atatah, which they translate as ‘First the foundation was laid’, and then the next line, pascān nirayanam krtam, ‘Then the egress is made’. The underlined words in both lines can be read as ‘east’ and ‘west’. In so doing, we may well come to a different conclusion if the wheel is perceived as the ecliptic. Miller’s comments on this stanza serve to confirm her interpretation of a moral/karmic reading: ‘…As we live, so we die, remembering the injunction to think nobly is to live nobly and die nobly.’ These various translations are replete with assumptions and inferences which, in my view, have little to do with the reality the Rishis experienced.
And what if Swar is not assumed to be an otherworldly ‘heaven’ – because this is the current understanding of the word after the religious mind took hold during the Age of Pisces and had forced the ancient Traditions to go underground? The point of the hymn would then be different. To illustrate, here is the circle divided into four (the astrological symbol of the Earth) with a lower and a higher hemisphere and the division into four quarters. This symbol explains the basic structure of the Journey and would especially explain this hymn.
The cosmic script gives accurate details of the initiation when we understand the zodiac in its pre-Vedantic, pre-orthodox-religion content. The four quarters are 1) physical, 2) vital, 3) mental, and 4) spiritual, known as Twashtri’s ‘bowl’ in the Veda.

The last quarter is what needs to be treated in greater depth because it can no longer be understood as spiritual in the sense we attribute to the word. After the Earth-rooted orientation had been lost in the dark age, ‘heaven/swar’ had to be a plane beyond our material universe; there were no means to prove otherwise. The yogic realisation that could do so – the Vedic – had fallen into oblivion. What remained is the collection of the four Vedas, most of which are incomprehensible. But on the basis of the new cosmology, this last and highest quarter – the goal of the quest – is proven to be of this Earth and not a Beyond, wherever and whatever that may be. Its designation is now perforce ‘Supramental’, the plane above Mind and now opened up to the evolutionary process by the work of the 9th Avatar of Vishnu (see Secrets of the Earth, Aeon Books).
This is the great rahasya of the Veda; and it is totally beyond our comprehension because we cannot shake off the baggage accumulated over the past 2000 years. It is interesting to note that the zodiac makes this point quite clearly: Capricorn, the mountain summit of the Journey, is an earth sign; moreover, it is home of one of the more important Vedic Gods, Varuna. In the next and final update of this series, I will demonstrate how Puranic lore confirms this ‘location’ for Varuna unequivocally, thereby demonstrating how Puranic Tradition is a further stage in the evolution of the Vedic ‘seed’.
Thus, the point I am making is that the Vedas, and the Puranas as their extension, have to be denuded of post­-Vedic biases to become comprehensible. This being the case, RV X.135 is simply a description of birth (entering the wheel of time) unconscious for all but those who are able to reach the deathless path without exiting at the crucial 7th stage Libra, Cosmic Sunset. There one moves into the higher hemisphere and leaves behind the lower ‘evil path’ which ends in a death as unconscious as birth had been. One chooses to complete the Journey on the Chariot expressive of the Becoming – that is, movement, forward drive. One agrees to confront Death and then to experience the ‘second birth’ a qualification earned through a very special initiation as accurately described in the Veda and not simply a birthright.
Thereafter the Initiate-Warrior is carried on the Vedic Steed to Swar, the kingdom where he or she may join the Immortal Ones while choosing to remain or not on Earth and in a physical body. For Earthlings the journey we embark upon at birth (presently unconsciously) ends at the 8th stage, the sign of Death. When through yoga the inertia that is Death is overcome, the initiate transforms the Scorpion in his consciousness-being into the Eagle, Vishnu’s carrier – that Vishnu/Scorpion as accurately depicted in the Bhugola Varnanam imagery (Update 12), the one sign/stage left out of Vishnu Trivikrama’s three strides.
The next sign, the 9th, is the sign of the Horse; and this is the symbol-vehicle to attain a certain ‘speed’ of consciousness through contraction which permits us to pass through what for ordinary mortals would be the Underworld where oblivion sets in but which for the Initiate is the sign/stage wherein by conquering Death (Inertia) the sacred Portal (the Solstice month/door) is finally reached, through which one can enter Swar. For that to occur and to signify the Victory, extreme contraction of consciousness-being to a point is the key.
The process of Death the human experiences is characterised by that extreme contraction, but to the degree that he or she cannot hold on to the thread of consciousness in this material universe. The only way to cope with this predicament is to exit – and then to return, but again in an unconscious state for another ‘journey’. On the other hand, by processes of yoga as described in the Veda, the Initiate is able to resist the pull to exit and by the release of a concentration of Power accumulated in the act of choosing the higher over the lower at the 7th stage, a certain ‘fuel’ is secured which serves to impel the Warrior forward as on a swift steed en route to the Mountaintop.
I will close this series by providing examples in the next Update of the manner in which the same content of the early Veda is brought forward in a simplified fashion when the Knowledge was forced underground; while also explaining the problems that this ‘simplification’ has brought about. Hinduism secured the unbroken Thread through various means, most prominent of which is the enormous amount of temple constructions, each one faithful to the Veda when viewed under this new light and coupled with a different understanding of the vast collection of Puranic tales regarding their origin. Added to these are the numerous pilgrimages across the subcontinent, highlighting certain specific locations, also based on corresponding myths from the Puranic collection. These have, in their own way, actualised the Knowledge by describing geographical positions especially sacred to certain Godheads and embedded securely in the lore of the people, thus making the subcontinent unique on the planet for its living tradition.
The task at hand now is to cast new light on this tradition, thereby to halt the further proliferation of superstition that plagues a society where the real Veda had been kept secret for so long that its true content has been lost.

Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet
Aeon Centre of Cosmology

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