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The Vedic Seers

The Vedas are the source-books of Indian culture and religion. There are four Vedas: the Rigveda, the Samveda, the Yajurveda and the Atharvaveda. The Rigveda is in poetical form, with more than a thousand hymns in about ten thousand stanzas. The Samveda, almost wholly derived from the Rigveda, is poetry meant to be sung; it has a little less than two thousand stanzas. The Yajurveda (Vajasaniya text) has both poetry and prose, with a total of about two thousand stanzas and prose units. The Atharvaveda has over seven hundred hymns in about six thousand stanzas and prose units. The Yajurveda and the Atharvaveda, too, have many Rigvedic stanzas in them.

The author of the Vedas are the Rishis whose names appear in the hymns, and are remembered along with their hymns or described as the Rishis (seers) of particular hymns in later literature on the Vedas. The Rishi hardly say anything about themselves. In fact, they keep their private personalities apart from the hymns they compose. A Rishi says of the Veda that it is "the first and foremost speech that the sages uttered, giving the unnamed a name, a speech that was their best and most stainless by means of which they revealed with love (prema) the Divine Secret lying hidden in their souls." Elsewhere a Rishi says; "It is not by our human nature that we can know the Deity."

The Vedic people and their descendants had very high regard for the Rishis. A sage in the Rigveda speaks of them as "persons whose words are true". A sage in the Atharvaveda says: "Awe inspiring are the Rishi; to them our homage, to their eyes and to the trust of their spirit." Another sage describes them as "world-builders". In later times people have said of the Rishis that they saw time in its three stages-past, present and future. This can be illustrated from a description of the dawn: "Those mortals are gone who saw the flush of dawn in former ages; we living men see the shining dawn now; and those are coming who will see the dawn in after-ages." Similarly, a Rishi describes the earth as "the mistress" not only of what is, but of what has been and what will be. The Rishis composed the hymns not only for their own time but also for future generations. In a hymn a Rishi is told : "Do not forget, Singer, these words of yours which will resound in after-ages."

Again, the Vedic Rishi thinks of the wide world having people speaking diferent languages, with various religious rites according to the places of abode. And the Rishi preaches to all men - "to their own people and to foreigners." Among his own people a Rishi could be from any vocation including manual workers. Another Rishi prays that all his people pursuing different vocations, including labourers (sudras) may have spiritual brilliance.

The function of the Rishi as poet has been much emphasised in the Vedas. For instance, he has been called a sage poet (kavi), as inspired person (vipra), a maker (kari,karu); etc. while as a sage, he has been described as one who is brilliant in mental power (manishi), as one in whom the highest intellect is active (dhira) and so on. A poem has been called in the Veda song (gir, arka), a song of praise (stoma, ukta), hymn (sukta), and the Veda is often referred to as metrical language (chhandah). The Rishis are said to be singing with devotion. Of their songs it is said that they are "radiant as the flame of fire." Elsewhere it is said that the sages received the divine gifts of "revelation, thought and power of song." The freshness, beauty and power of the Vedic hymns have been well suggested by what a Rishi says about them: "Like joyous streams bursting from the mountain, our songs have sounded to the Deity." In the Vedic hymn, sound appears to echo the sense so perfectly that some came to hold the view that sound by itself was significant even without a knowledge of the meaning of the words. This is one reason why the followers of the Vedic religion did not lose their interest in the Vedas even when the language changed with the passage of time and many words became obsolete.

One remarkable thing about the Vedas is that the texts, consisting of over twenty thousand stanzas and prose units, have been preserved by the process of oral transmission. They were committed to memory by people of the Vedic age and passed on from father to son and teacher to pupil, and have been so carried in memory from age to age, with great attention to correct pronunciation. Even today there are Vedic reciters in different parts of India who, as a religious duty, repeat the Vedic texts everyday. As a result of the oral tradition, the Vedas are believed by many to be the oldest extant books of the world that have been very well preserved.

Behind the oral tradition there is the belief that the Vedas are revealed literature, and that the mere sound of the texts vibrating in the air brings peace and good-will to the world. The preservation of the texts through an unbroken oral tradition for long ages through many social convulsions and political upheavals is a remarkable achievement of human civilization. It should be noted that the people who composed, preached, taught or memorised the Vedas were private individuals, not controlled by the State or by a religious authority. They speak of seven Rishis as the most prominent. They are said to be "united in their praise-songs, united in the music of metres, united in lusture, divinely elected, God-like and serene." It is said that following the path of their forefathers they took up the spiritual leadership of the people. The seven Rishis were: Kasyapa, Visvamitra, Gotama, Atri, Bharadvaja, Vasishtha and Jamadagni.

Among other prominent Rishis were Agastya, Vamadeva, Gritsamada, Narayana and Atharvan. There were women Rishis too - a remarkable thing for those early times: Two of these are eminent: Ghosha who describes herself as the daughter of a King, and Vak, said to be the daughter of the Rishi Ambhirina. Among other women sages were Apala, Indrani, Sachi Paulomi and Yami. Like the seven Rishis, the other Rishis too are found to be united in their spiritual attitude, without any difference of opinion among them.

DATE OF THE VEDAS: In the absence of external evidence no date which can be accepted as valid beyond doubt, can be definitely fixed for the Vedas or the Rishis whose literary work is incorporated in the collections (Samhita). We have to find out the period during which the hymns of the four Vedas were composed, and the time when they were selected, classified and arranged as Samhitas or collections. According to many scholars, the first date, specially of the Rigveda, is probably not later than 2500 B.C., and the second, not later than 1500 B.C. There are some who believe that the Vedas were composed very much earlier.

WHAT THE RISHIS SAW:

The Vedic Seers speak of two kind of seeing: seeing with the spirit and the mind as well as seeing with the eye. "The wise see with the spirit and mind", says a Vedic Rishi, but the sage-pots cherished their physical visions too, as the following prayer shows:

"Give sight to our eyes, give sight to our bodies that they may see. May we see (things) together, and also see them separately. May we look on you, Surya (the Sun), most lovely to behold, look well with the eyes of men."

Thus there are two different ways of approaching the Ultimate Reality: one, through an inner spiritual vision and another through poetic vision, which makes what is seen with the eye a symbol for what is seen with the spirit and the mind. So it happens that the poetic escasty carries within it a deep spiritual escastasy. Poetry itself, it has been found, becomes spiritual at its intensest. When it becomes the medium of expressing intense spiritual passion which is ordinarily inexpressible in language, the result is wonderful. This is the case with the finest Vedic poetry.

In the inner vision of the Rishis, the Ultimate Reality is Pure Being formless, attributeless, sexless and nameless. Cryptic terms like 'the one' (ekam), 'that' (tat), 'That Reality' (tat sat), 'the Eternal' (aksharam), and 'the Supreme' (Brahman), has been used by the sages. These are in the singular number and neuter gender. Then there is the indefinable word Om (the Absolute). The pure Being is spoken of in the Vedas as 'the Unmanifest' (aja, literally 'unborn'), as, for instance, in the following description of the precreation state:

There was neither existence nor non-existence then neither the world nor the sky that lies beyond it..... The One (ekam) breathed airless by self-impulse, other than that (tat) was nothing whatsoever." What was That One (tat ekam) as the unborn (aja)?"

The Rishis also speak of the Absolute manifested (jata literally 'born') through the glory of creation as Deva, A Being of splendour, with form, attribute and name, in the masculine or the feminine gender. In the following lines a Rishi speaks of the Devas as manifestations of the eternal (aksharam):

"When the earliest of the mornings dawned, the Great Eternal was manifested (literally, 'born') on the path of light. So the statutes of the Devas will be honoured. Great and single is the godhood of the Devas."

While contemplating the Deva in the glory of the Manifest Absolute. The Rishis think of him not only as King but also a poet (kavi), as Architect (visvakarman), as Physician (bhishak), as Hero (soora), as sage (manishi), etc.

Similarly, to indicate he loving relation between man and the Deity the Rishis thought of the Deity not only as Father, but also as Mother and as a Maiden to whom the worshippers wish to be "like sons of the mother." The Deva is also regarded as Brother, Son, Friend, and as Guest. He is also said to be like the lover to the beloved, and husband to the wife. Sometimes the Deva is spoken of as both, Father and Mother.

Sometimes an object closely associated with the Deva becomes a name for his (as in common speech in English the 'chair' implies the 'Chairman') According to this figure of speech (metonymy), Agni (meaning 'fire') - into which offerings are made for the Deva - becomes the name of a Deva, without losing its original meaning. Similarly, Soma (the juice of a plant of that name) offered to the Deva, and Vak (sacred speech) used in prayers are respectively, the names of a Deva and Devi.

But whatever be the source of the name, the Deva or Devi bearing it is given common attributes applicable to the Manifest Absolute. For instance, it is said about Agni (Fire), the Deva:

A fountain in the desert are you, O Agni! O Ancient King;

"Agni! you have made the sun, the ageless star, mount the sky, giving light to men."

Similarly, Soma, the Deva is addressed as follows:

"You are vast, O Sage-poet, ! and all-knowing. Under your law are the five regions of the world. You transcend heaven and earth. Yours is the light and yours the sun."

The following is spoken by Devi Vak about herself:

"It is I who like the wind breathe forth and see all existing things in motion. Beyond the heavens and beyond the earth am I, and all this I have become in my splendour."

The Rishis have repeatedly identified the Deva (the Manifest Absolute) with the Pure Being (the Unmanifest Absolute). "They speak of Indra, Mitra, Varuna, Agni the One Being the sages call by many names." "Agni is That (Tat), Vayu is that ......... Brahman is That, Apas (Waters) are That, Prajapati is That."

In accordance with this view, one Deva may be identified with another or with this view, one Deva may be identified with another or with all the other Devas. For instance, Agni is identified with Rudra or as in the following Skambha is identified with Indra:

I have known you, Skambha, by direct vision (pratyaksham) to be existing wholly in Indira ...... I have known you, Indra, by direct vision to be wholly established in Skambha."

It is evident, then, that any one Deva or Devi may be regarded as the Supreme Being - the Absolute. For instance, it is said of Deva Savita that he is "one and only one; that he is not called either second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eight, ninth or tenth", that "he oversees all that breathes or that does not; that "in him lies the Supreme power; he is one, the only one; and in him all Devas become the only one."

Similarly, one Deva may be called the 'Emperor'. For example, Indra is spoken of as the one manifested as the 'Lord of races', Agni as 'the Emperor', Varuna as 'the Emperor sublime', Pushan as 'the Supreme Ruler' and so on, and any Deva may be described in the superlative degree as 'the Vedas', a Deva whatever his name, is regarded as the Deva. The identity of a Deva with the Absolute being accepted, the Rishis speak freely of two or more Devas together. While doing so, they evidently bring together different visions of the Manifest Absolute.

How many Devas are there? Though three and thirty Devas, and sometimes a much larger number of them, are spoken of, the Rishis do not set any limit to their number, as there can be no limit to the poetic visions of Divine glory. A Rishi says :

"Such is your greatness, O liberal Lord ! a hundred bodily forms are yours. Millions are in your million, and you are a billion in yourself."

Even when the Devas are regarded as individuals, they are said to be bound by harmony and concord (sanjnana) resulting from their knowledge (jnana) of each other. This harmony has been compared by a Rishi to the harmony existing among a group of dancers.

Another Rishi says that one, viewing the Devas externally, can not understand them because the truth about them because the truth about them lies hidden in mystery " Who knows this truly and who will declare it here, what paths lead together to the Devas? Only the lowest aspects of their being are seen who exist on supreme, mystical planes."

But a Rishi has recorded his vision of the Absolute behind the visible universe: " Vena (the loving sage) saw That Being (tat sat), hidden in mystery, in which all come to have one single home. Everything unites in that and from that all issues forth. The all - Pervading One is the warp and woof of creation."

The attributes with which the Pure Being is invested in its manifestation as Deva are derived from fundamental Vedic values. These are clearly stated in the Vedas. A sage in the Rigveda says that in the beginning of creation "Eternal Law and Truth (rita and satya) were manifested through blazing spiritual fire (tapas)." Rita is Cosmic Order-Law of Nature and the symmetry and beauty produced by it as well as Moral Law demanding goodness and justice also called (dharman and dharma), Truth (satya) is reality (sat) on the metaphysical plane, and integrity on the moral plane.

The Devas are 'Promoters of rita', says a Rishi "and are pure in spirit and infallible." They are sometimes described as "born of rita and guardians of rita." Similarly, a Deva has been called ' the son of satya' and " one having satya as the source of his strength." Sometimes a Deva is identified with rita and satya. In a hymn a Rishi speaks of a poet who, on being asked to bring a song of praise for Indra, sys, "There is no Indra. Who has seem him? Whom shall we praise?" In the hymn Indra tells the doubter : "I exist, O singer! Look upon me here. The commandments of rita make me mighty."

It is said elsewhere that " the Devas bind the breakers of rita." In the rivalry between truth and untruth, " that which is true and straight the Deva protects, the untrue he destroys." The conflict between rita and anrita, law and lawlessness, is symbolised by the continual battle between Indra and Deva; who is a champion of rita and Vritra a demon, his sworn enemy, who is bent upon stopping the operations of Nature (by frying to prevent ling from dispelling darkness, and water from falling as rain from clouds, or flowing as streams from mountain heights). Indra's unfailing victory over Vritra through valour signifies the victory of good over evil through heroism, and provided the basis of and optimistic view of life.

Here, from the ethical point of view, we find another bond of union among the Devas, all of whom represent rita and satya by their nature and their action. They are 'free from hate' and 'always pure." So it is declared: "All your names, Devas are worthy of homage, worthy of praise and worthy of worship."

The Vedic Devas are not only good but also beautiful. They embody rita in both its cosmic and ethical aspects. From this point of view there is much difference between them and the Devas of legends and tales of later ages, who are sometimes found to have many defects, though, they bear names of the Vedic Devas.

THE INDWELLING SPIRIT (ATMAN):

The Rishis speak of the manifestation of the Absolute not only in the external universe, but also within man. A Rishi of the Rigveda speaks of "two beautiful winged birds united with each other, friends that have perches on the same tree, of which one eats the sweet pippala fruit, and the other, not eating, looks around." The tree is believed to signify the body of man, and the two birds the Jivatman (individual soul) and the Paramatman (Over Soul) respectively. The Rishi describes the Paramatman as "desireless, serene, immortal, self-existent, satisfied with the essence (rasa) of things, and lacking nothing, and says " one is freed from the fear of death, who has known the Ataman, serene, ageless, ever-youthful." When the Jivatman becomes perfectly pure, the dividing line between it and the Paramatman disappears, and man, rising to the peak of his being, claims his identity with That, like the sage of the Yajurveda who declares: "I am That, Om, the Eternal Brahman.

WHAT THE RISHIS TEACH: Since the Vedic values - rita and satya, and tapah as the means of realising them - find concrete expression in the Devas, they become models for men. So a Rishi says : " I have risen with life, risen with good life, following the Devas." It is said of some eminent Rishi that "by admiring rita and thinking straight (i.e. in a truthful manner) he held the rank of sages." In practical applicatiokn to life, satya and riat become Brahman (intellectual spiritual power) and kshatra (ruling and defensive power) respectively.

The preparation for life is through the system of education called Brahmacharya. There is an initiation ceremony (upanayana) in which the pupil makes the affirmation : "Here I proceed from untruth to tgruth." Through this ceremony the pupil is said to be transformed from a mere man in to a spiritual being. He is said to have a second birth as a mental child of the Acharya (teacher), Brahmacharya is described as tapah, the kindling of spiritual fire that transforms man. It says elsewhere that the Brahmachari "becomes a limb of the Devas' own body." The tapah of Brahmacharya, says the Atharvaveda, qualifies people for their vocations: the kind protects his State through it, the teacher qualifies for teaching students, both by (knowledge and character), and the girl student qualifies for a good husband. Women could also become Rishis and teachers.

At the conclusions of his education, " the Brahmachari" says Rishi, goes from the eastern to the northern sea and grasps people together, constantly drawing them near." This means that the Vedic student, after completing his education (which was supported by the common people among whom he begged for his upkeep) took up intellectual and spiritual leadership of the People.

The Vedic Rishis show particular respect to women. They use the term Subhaga (illustrious one ) for a Deva and Subhaga, for addressing a Devi. This term has also been used by them for a woman. The begging Brahmachari, as we find from Manu's Code also addresses women in the same graceful term.

In personal life, Brahmacharya was followed by Garhapatya. Young men and women entered in to the marriage union by mutual choice and become joint rulers of the household (dampati). The Rishis set the ideal of monogamy which appears to have been the norm. At the marriage ritual the bride received the invitation to "speak to the religious assembly" (vidatha) which was also addressed by sages. This was in recognition of her heigh education. The newly.weds received many blessings including the following : "Enjoy you two together fortune's richest gifts, observing rita and behaving according to rita." The wife was told : "Hoping for love, childre, fortune, wealth, and by always being behind your husband in his life's vocation, strive for immortality."

The husband gave the conjugal relation a holy touch by telling his wife : "I am Saman (the holy song), you are Rik (the holy verse)." And they prayed together: "May the Devas join our hearts may they unite us both." The Rishi exalts the wife by comparing the purity of Dev Agni to that of "the spotless wife, loved by her husband."

The Rishis accept earthly life and want all earthly bliss : the sun to shine bliss, the days to be blissful and the night to approach blissfully. They believe that food is the source of much that is excellent in man. "In you, Food" says a Rishi in a song of praise, "there is lodged the spirit of the great Devas. Under your flag were great deeds done. With your help was Ahi (or Vritra, the dragon of wickedness) slain." They believe in the healing power of water: "Water come filled with healing balm for the shielding of my body, so that I may see the sun long." They pray for freedom from fear from all quarters: "Let there be no fear from friend, no fear from foe, no fear from the known, no fear from what lies before us unknown." In another prayer they ask for energy, manliness, strength, vigour, wrath and conquering power against the aggressor. And a Rishi prays: "May all my limbs remain unimpaired and my soul unconquered."

The Rishis find that Nature brings happiness to the man who lives by the moral law. "Sweet blows the breeze for him who lives by the rita." To live by rita (Dharma), one must earn one's livelihood by honest work, a vocation that will draw out all that is finest in a man and help his intellectual and spiritual growth and also do good to the society. A Rishi prays at the beginning of the day : "May the dawn, flushing, move me to exertion and bear me safely over every trouble." Referring to vocations, another Rishi says : "Dawn awakens one to kshatra (work of ruling a state), one to winning high fame ( as a Rishi and poet), one to the pursuit of an object of one's choice (ishta) and one to gainful labour (artha) and so on -all looking after their different vocations." In another hymn, different vocations are symbolically sopken of as limbs of the Divine, indicating the sacred nature of each vocation. This is also evident from description of field labourers 'who do not sacrifice' as do the sages (kavi,dhira). The description of an ideal son in the Veda shows the demand for an all-round man. He is "fit for work, fit for the home, fir for the religious assembly, fit for the political council and a glory to his father."

The Rishis are keenly aware of the severe conflict between good and evil (rita and anrita) as, for instance, between the defenders of a country and the invaders. The Rishis want men to follow example of Indra who defends his dominion (svarajay), based on rita, by fighting and defeating Vritra, the aggressor. A Rishi's call Indra to fight Vritra bravely is also a call to men to fight the aggressor against their own country (svarajya): "God forward, be fearless, and fight, Indra, valour is your strength. Strike down Vritra acclaiming svarajya." The ideal fighter (kshatriya) is, like Indra, unbending and ever resourceful: " He does not bow before the strong or the stiff... For Indra lofty mountains as plains and in the deeps there is a foothold for him."

Men are also called upon to fight heroically the many difficulties in life. Speaking of life figuratively, a Rishi sends his call for unity and heroic endeavour: "The rocky stream flows. Hold together, be heroic and cross its friends! Leave here those who are evil.minded. Let us cross over to powers that are beneficent." Then is added: " For spiritual brilliance (varchas) approach the universal luster of the Devas, becoming pure, bright and purifying. May we, heroes in all respect, surmount every difficulty and live happily for a hundred years." In another hymn there is a call to men to "livelong, becoming clean and Deva-like."

"I will know that land as holy", says a Rishi, " Where Brahman (intellectual power) and kshatra (ruiling power) move in harmony."

The Vedic sages call upon men to be Deva-lime not only in purity or in heroism but also in the establishment of sanjnana, harmony and concord, among themselves. A Rishi asks members of a family to have "The sanjnana by which the Devas do not separate nor ever hate each other. " He wants them to "love each other as the mother-cow loves the new-born calf." "Let son be loyal to father and of one mind with the mother", he says, " let not brother hate brother or sister hate sister; unanimous, united in aims, speak your wards with friendliness... Let your water-store be common, and common your share of food... Morn and eve may there be the loving heart in you."

Sanjnana is extended to all inhabitants of a country. The closing hymn of the Rigveda concludes with: "Meet together, speak together, let your minds be of one accord (sanjnana) as the Devas with one accord accept the offerings.... Let your aims be common, and your hears of one accord. Be all of one mind so that your may live happily together."

Beyond national sanjnana the Vedic Rishi seeks international harmony and concord. He prays: "Let us have concord (sanjnana) with our own people and concord with foreign people too...May we and the foreigners unite in our minds, unite in our purposes, and not fight against the Divine spirit within us. Let not the battlecry rise amidst many lying slain." The Vedic Rishi who advocates ware in defence of svarajya also indicates how war can be prevented by establishing harmony and concord among the peoples of different nations.

The Vedic Rishis also believe that a man, by developing his strength can establish friendly relations on a mutual basis with all living beings. So the prayer : "A dorable One, make me strong. May all beings look on me with a friendly eye. May we look on each other with a friendly eye."

THE VEDIC RITUAL:

Rita in its formal aspects includes the performance of the Vedic ritual (yajna) in which hymns were chanted and sung, often to the accompaniment of instrumental music. Priests used to wear garlands of lotuses on the occasion. The yajna was performed in the open and the place was elaborately decorated ("They adorned the yajna for beauty as they adorn the child") There were large gatherings of people. A fire was made with splinters of wood and kept burning with clarifies butter (ghrita). Into it the juice of the soma plant was poured and other offerings thrown with the chanting of the Vedic texts (mantras).

In the mantras, the Vedic values were emphasised. For example, the some juice is said to be poured out as an offering to the Diety "with the word of rita, with satya, with tapah and with reverence." Elsewhere a Rishi says that "The some juice, flowing in streams of rita.... glorifies Indra, making all noble (arya) and dirinv out the lawless enemy." In the ritual for atonement of sins, a Rishi speaks of sins committed against the nearest and dearest ones, and against a stranger. In another prayer of this type, atonement is sought for "sins committed against the Devas, committed against men, committed against ancestors, and sins committed by a man against himself - atonement for sins committed knowingly or unawares." Here we find a strict moral code applicable to one's behavior not only towards one's own people but also towards others, besides requiring men to honour the memory of the dead by their conduct and not be cruel to themselves. The code is based on a sense of universal justice, giving a clue to the claim that the Vedic Rishis were 'world-builders.'

Five stanzas in a Vedic hymn give a wonderful description of the pure glory of heaven, with prayers including the following: "place me, Purifier (soma) in that deathless, imperishable would where eternal luster glows, the realm in which the light Divine is set.....where all wishes and longings go.. where there is holy bliss and happiness." In another hymn consisting only of five stanzas, the Rishi, said to be a woman (Yami), prays for departed man, wishing that he may find himself in the company of those "who through tapas (spiritual wer) went to heaven... the ancient followers of rita, who were steadfast in rita and furthered rita... heroes who laid down therir lives in contested battles (in defence of riat)", and "sage-poets, the leaders of thousands, the Rishis of great tapas." Prayers for heaven, are uncommon in the Vedas.

Generally in the Vedic rituals there are prayers for good thing of earth and for good qualities in men, someties desired to be obtained here and now (iha, ada) There is a prayer that men may prosper in every way through Yajna and that the form of "yajna may prosper (through the spirit of) yajna (sacrifice)." At the colose of yajna the worshippers declare: "Devas! We have become children of the Lord of Creation (Prajapati)! We have attined heaven! We have become immortal!" So the Rishis found heaven on earth itself.

The Rishis seek the harmony of the spirit of man with the profound serenity (santi) that lies in the heart of Nature and in the Divine. A peace-chant in the Yajurveda expresses this with eloquence : "The serenity that is in the sky... in the atmosphere, in water, in plants, in forest trees; the serenity that is in the Devas, that is in Brahman, the serenity in the heart of serenity, may that come to me."

At the close of yajan mantras, the word Santi was uttered by way of invoking peace. The ritual, dealing with external ceremony, was in a later age called karmakanda (the action part of the Veda), and the pursuit of ultimate knowledge and spiritual realisation was called jnanakanda (the knowledge part of the Veda). In the Vedic samhitas both are accepted karmakanda has a special appeal to the masses of people, and jnanakanda to enlightened men and women. In the Upanishads new sages bring their own spiritual realisation to affirm and expound the concept of the Pure Being (as Brahman or Atman).

The Vedas having poetry as the medium of expression which touches reality in its varied aspect are omniform (visvarupa), as a Vedic Rishis calls them. So the Rishi has not only his inner vision of the Absolute, but, as siad above, also the poet's interest in the Absolute, manifested in the universe in all glory; and while giving and expression to his glory he interprets the highest values of life. So he became a spiritual 'leader of thousands.'

Our homage to the Rishis of old, To the pioneers, the path makers!''

Sages, philosophers, saints and poets of later ages in India have paid the same tribute to all the Vedic Rishis.

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 Title : The Vedic Seers Author : A.C.Bose

The Vedic Seers

The Vedas are the source-books of Indian culture and religion. There are four Vedas: the Rigveda, the Samveda, the Yajurveda and the Atharvaveda. The Rigveda is in poetical form, with more than a thousand hymns in about ten thousand stanzas. The Samveda, almost wholly derived from the Rigveda, is poetry meant to be sung; it has a little less than two thousand stanzas. The Yajurveda (Vajasaniya text) has both poetry and prose, with a total of about two thousand stanzas and prose units. The Atharvaveda has over seven hundred hymns in about six thousand stanzas and prose units. The Yajurveda and the Atharvaveda, too, have many Rigvedic stanzas in them.

The author of the Vedas are the Rishis whose names appear in the hymns, and are remembered along with their hymns or described as the Rishis (seers) of particular hymns in later literature on the Vedas. The Rishi hardly say anything about themselves. In fact, they keep their private personalities apart from the hymns they compose. A Rishi says of the Veda that it is "the first and foremost speech that the sages uttered, giving the unnamed a name, a speech that was their best and most stainless by means of which they revealed with love (prema) the Divine Secret lying hidden in their souls." Elsewhere a Rishi says; "It is not by our human nature that we can know the Deity."

The Vedic people and their descendants had very high regard for the Rishis. A sage in the Rigveda speaks of them as "persons whose words are true". A sage in the Atharvaveda says: "Awe inspiring are the Rishi; to them our homage, to their eyes and to the trust of their spirit." Another sage describes them as "world-builders". In later times people have said of the Rishis that they saw time in its three stages-past, present and future. This can be illustrated from a description of the dawn: "Those mortals are gone who saw the flush of dawn in former ages; we living men see the shining dawn now; and those are coming who will see the dawn in after-ages." Similarly, a Rishi describes the earth as "the mistress" not only of what is, but of what has been and what will be. The Rishis composed the hymns not only for their own time but also for future generations. In a hymn a Rishi is told : "Do not forget, Singer, these words of yours which will resound in after-ages."

Again, the Vedic Rishi thinks of the wide world having people speaking diferent languages, with various religious rites according to the places of abode. And the Rishi preaches to all men - "to their own people and to foreigners." Among his own people a Rishi could be from any vocation including manual workers. Another Rishi prays that all his people pursuing different vocations, including labourers (sudras) may have spiritual brilliance.

The function of the Rishi as poet has been much emphasised in the Vedas. For instance, he has been called a sage poet (kavi), as inspired person (vipra), a maker (kari,karu); etc. while as a sage, he has been described as one who is brilliant in mental power (manishi), as one in whom the highest intellect is active (dhira) and so on. A poem has been called in the Veda song (gir, arka), a song of praise (stoma, ukta), hymn (sukta), and the Veda is often referred to as metrical language (chhandah). The Rishis are said to be singing with devotion. Of their songs it is said that they are "radiant as the flame of fire." Elsewhere it is said that the sages received the divine gifts of "revelation, thought and power of song." The freshness, beauty and power of the Vedic hymns have been well suggested by what a Rishi says about them: "Like joyous streams bursting from the mountain, our songs have sounded to the Deity." In the Vedic hymn, sound appears to echo the sense so perfectly that some came to hold the view that sound by itself was significant even without a knowledge of the meaning of the words. This is one reason why the followers of the Vedic religion did not lose their interest in the Vedas even when the language changed with the passage of time and many words became obsolete.

One remarkable thing about the Vedas is that the texts, consisting of over twenty thousand stanzas and prose units, have been preserved by the process of oral transmission. They were committed to memory by people of the Vedic age and passed on from father to son and teacher to pupil, and have been so carried in memory from age to age, with great attention to correct pronunciation. Even today there are Vedic reciters in different parts of India who, as a religious duty, repeat the Vedic texts everyday. As a result of the oral tradition, the Vedas are believed by many to be the oldest extant books of the world that have been very well preserved.

Behind the oral tradition there is the belief that the Vedas are revealed literature, and that the mere sound of the texts vibrating in the air brings peace and good-will to the world. The preservation of the texts through an unbroken oral tradition for long ages through many social convulsions and political upheavals is a remarkable achievement of human civilization. It should be noted that the people who composed, preached, taught or memorised the Vedas were private individuals, not controlled by the State or by a religious authority. They speak of seven Rishis as the most prominent. They are said to be "united in their praise-songs, united in the music of metres, united in lusture, divinely elected, God-like and serene." It is said that following the path of their forefathers they took up the spiritual leadership of the people. The seven Rishis were: Kasyapa, Visvamitra, Gotama, Atri, Bharadvaja, Vasishtha and Jamadagni.

Among other prominent Rishis were Agastya, Vamadeva, Gritsamada, Narayana and Atharvan. There were women Rishis too - a remarkable thing for those early times: Two of these are eminent: Ghosha who describes herself as the daughter of a King, and Vak, said to be the daughter of the Rishi Ambhirina. Among other women sages were Apala, Indrani, Sachi Paulomi and Yami. Like the seven Rishis, the other Rishis too are found to be united in their spiritual attitude, without any difference of opinion among them.

DATE OF THE VEDAS: In the absence of external evidence no date which can be accepted as valid beyond doubt, can be definitely fixed for the Vedas or the Rishis whose literary work is incorporated in the collections (Samhita). We have to find out the period during which the hymns of the four Vedas were composed, and the time when they were selected, classified and arranged as Samhitas or collections. According to many scholars, the first date, specially of the Rigveda, is probably not later than 2500 B.C., and the second, not later than 1500 B.C. There are some who believe that the Vedas were composed very much earlier.

WHAT THE RISHIS SAW:

The Vedic Seers speak of two kind of seeing: seeing with the spirit and the mind as well as seeing with the eye. "The wise see with the spirit and mind", says a Vedic Rishi, but the sage-pots cherished their physical visions too, as the following prayer shows:

"Give sight to our eyes, give sight to our bodies that they may see. May we see (things) together, and also see them separately. May we look on you, Surya (the Sun), most lovely to behold, look well with the eyes of men."

Thus there are two different ways of approaching the Ultimate Reality: one, through an inner spiritual vision and another through poetic vision, which makes what is seen with the eye a symbol for what is seen with the spirit and the mind. So it happens that the poetic escasty carries within it a deep spiritual escastasy. Poetry itself, it has been found, becomes spiritual at its intensest. When it becomes the medium of expressing intense spiritual passion which is ordinarily inexpressible in language, the result is wonderful. This is the case with the finest Vedic poetry.

In the inner vision of the Rishis, the Ultimate Reality is Pure Being formless, attributeless, sexless and nameless. Cryptic terms like 'the one' (ekam), 'that' (tat), 'That Reality' (tat sat), 'the Eternal' (aksharam), and 'the Supreme' (Brahman), has been used by the sages. These are in the singular number and neuter gender. Then there is the indefinable word Om (the Absolute). The pure Being is spoken of in the Vedas as 'the Unmanifest' (aja, literally 'unborn'), as, for instance, in the following description of the precreation state:

There was neither existence nor non-existence then neither the world nor the sky that lies beyond it..... The One (ekam) breathed airless by self-impulse, other than that (tat) was nothing whatsoever." What was That One (tat ekam) as the unborn (aja)?"

The Rishis also speak of the Absolute manifested (jata literally 'born') through the glory of creation as Deva, A Being of splendour, with form, attribute and name, in the masculine or the feminine gender. In the following lines a Rishi speaks of the Devas as manifestations of the eternal (aksharam):

"When the earliest of the mornings dawned, the Great Eternal was manifested (literally, 'born') on the path of light. So the statutes of the Devas will be honoured. Great and single is the godhood of the Devas."

While contemplating the Deva in the glory of the Manifest Absolute. The Rishis think of him not only as King but also a poet (kavi), as Architect (visvakarman), as Physician (bhishak), as Hero (soora), as sage (manishi), etc.

Similarly, to indicate he loving relation between man and the Deity the Rishis thought of the Deity not only as Father, but also as Mother and as a Maiden to whom the worshippers wish to be "like sons of the mother." The Deva is also regarded as Brother, Son, Friend, and as Guest. He is also said to be like the lover to the beloved, and husband to the wife. Sometimes the Deva is spoken of as both, Father and Mother.

Sometimes an object closely associated with the Deva becomes a name for his (as in common speech in English the 'chair' implies the 'Chairman') According to this figure of speech (metonymy), Agni (meaning 'fire') - into which offerings are made for the Deva - becomes the name of a Deva, without losing its original meaning. Similarly, Soma (the juice of a plant of that name) offered to the Deva, and Vak (sacred speech) used in prayers are respectively, the names of a Deva and Devi.

But whatever be the source of the name, the Deva or Devi bearing it is given common attributes applicable to the Manifest Absolute. For instance, it is said about Agni (Fire), the Deva:

A fountain in the desert are you, O Agni! O Ancient King;

"Agni! you have made the sun, the ageless star, mount the sky, giving light to men."

Similarly, Soma, the Deva is addressed as follows:

"You are vast, O Sage-poet, ! and all-knowing. Under your law are the five regions of the world. You transcend heaven and earth. Yours is the light and yours the sun."

The following is spoken by Devi Vak about herself:

"It is I who like the wind breathe forth and see all existing things in motion. Beyond the heavens and beyond the earth am I, and all this I have become in my splendour."

The Rishis have repeatedly identified the Deva (the Manifest Absolute) with the Pure Being (the Unmanifest Absolute). "They speak of Indra, Mitra, Varuna, Agni the One Being the sages call by many names." "Agni is That (Tat), Vayu is that ......... Brahman is That, Apas (Waters) are That, Prajapati is That."

In accordance with this view, one Deva may be identified with another or with this view, one Deva may be identified with another or with all the other Devas. For instance, Agni is identified with Rudra or as in the following Skambha is identified with Indra:

I have known you, Skambha, by direct vision (pratyaksham) to be existing wholly in Indira ...... I have known you, Indra, by direct vision to be wholly established in Skambha."

It is evident, then, that any one Deva or Devi may be regarded as the Supreme Being - the Absolute. For instance, it is said of Deva Savita that he is "one and only one; that he is not called either second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eight, ninth or tenth", that "he oversees all that breathes or that does not; that "in him lies the Supreme power; he is one, the only one; and in him all Devas become the only one."

Similarly, one Deva may be called the 'Emperor'. For example, Indra is spoken of as the one manifested as the 'Lord of races', Agni as 'the Emperor', Varuna as 'the Emperor sublime', Pushan as 'the Supreme Ruler' and so on, and any Deva may be described in the superlative degree as 'the Vedas', a Deva whatever his name, is regarded as the Deva. The identity of a Deva with the Absolute being accepted, the Rishis speak freely of two or more Devas together. While doing so, they evidently bring together different visions of the Manifest Absolute.

How many Devas are there? Though three and thirty Devas, and sometimes a much larger number of them, are spoken of, the Rishis do not set any limit to their number, as there can be no limit to the poetic visions of Divine glory. A Rishi says :

"Such is your greatness, O liberal Lord ! a hundred bodily forms are yours. Millions are in your million, and you are a billion in yourself."

Even when the Devas are regarded as individuals, they are said to be bound by harmony and concord (sanjnana) resulting from their knowledge (jnana) of each other. This harmony has been compared by a Rishi to the harmony existing among a group of dancers.

Another Rishi says that one, viewing the Devas externally, can not understand them because the truth about them because the truth about them lies hidden in mystery " Who knows this truly and who will declare it here, what paths lead together to the Devas? Only the lowest aspects of their being are seen who exist on supreme, mystical planes."

But a Rishi has recorded his vision of the Absolute behind the visible universe: " Vena (the loving sage) saw That Being (tat sat), hidden in mystery, in which all come to have one single home. Everything unites in that and from that all issues forth. The all - Pervading One is the warp and woof of creation."

The attributes with which the Pure Being is invested in its manifestation as Deva are derived from fundamental Vedic values. These are clearly stated in the Vedas. A sage in the Rigveda says that in the beginning of creation "Eternal Law and Truth (rita and satya) were manifested through blazing spiritual fire (tapas)." Rita is Cosmic Order-Law of Nature and the symmetry and beauty produced by it as well as Moral Law demanding goodness and justice also called (dharman and dharma), Truth (satya) is reality (sat) on the metaphysical plane, and integrity on the moral plane.

The Devas are 'Promoters of rita', says a Rishi "and are pure in spirit and infallible." They are sometimes described as "born of rita and guardians of rita." Similarly, a Deva has been called ' the son of satya' and " one having satya as the source of his strength." Sometimes a Deva is identified with rita and satya. In a hymn a Rishi speaks of a poet who, on being asked to bring a song of praise for Indra, sys, "There is no Indra. Who has seem him? Whom shall we praise?" In the hymn Indra tells the doubter : "I exist, O singer! Look upon me here. The commandments of rita make me mighty."

It is said elsewhere that " the Devas bind the breakers of rita." In the rivalry between truth and untruth, " that which is true and straight the Deva protects, the untrue he destroys." The conflict between rita and anrita, law and lawlessness, is symbolised by the continual battle between Indra and Deva; who is a champion of rita and Vritra a demon, his sworn enemy, who is bent upon stopping the operations of Nature (by frying to prevent ling from dispelling darkness, and water from falling as rain from clouds, or flowing as streams from mountain heights). Indra's unfailing victory over Vritra through valour signifies the victory of good over evil through heroism, and provided the basis of and optimistic view of life.

Here, from the ethical point of view, we find another bond of union among the Devas, all of whom represent rita and satya by their nature and their action. They are 'free from hate' and 'always pure." So it is declared: "All your names, Devas are worthy of homage, worthy of praise and worthy of worship."

The Vedic Devas are not only good but also beautiful. They embody rita in both its cosmic and ethical aspects. From this point of view there is much difference between them and the Devas of legends and tales of later ages, who are sometimes found to have many defects, though, they bear names of the Vedic Devas.

THE INDWELLING SPIRIT (ATMAN):

The Rishis speak of the manifestation of the Absolute not only in the external universe, but also within man. A Rishi of the Rigveda speaks of "two beautiful winged birds united with each other, friends that have perches on the same tree, of which one eats the sweet pippala fruit, and the other, not eating, looks around." The tree is believed to signify the body of man, and the two birds the Jivatman (individual soul) and the Paramatman (Over Soul) respectively. The Rishi describes the Paramatman as "desireless, serene, immortal, self-existent, satisfied with the essence (rasa) of things, and lacking nothing, and says " one is freed from the fear of death, who has known the Ataman, serene, ageless, ever-youthful." When the Jivatman becomes perfectly pure, the dividing line between it and the Paramatman disappears, and man, rising to the peak of his being, claims his identity with That, like the sage of the Yajurveda who declares: "I am That, Om, the Eternal Brahman.

WHAT THE RISHIS TEACH: Since the Vedic values - rita and satya, and tapah as the means of realising them - find concrete expression in the Devas, they become models for men. So a Rishi says : " I have risen with life, risen with good life, following the Devas." It is said of some eminent Rishi that "by admiring rita and thinking straight (i.e. in a truthful manner) he held the rank of sages." In practical applicatiokn to life, satya and riat become Brahman (intellectual spiritual power) and kshatra (ruling and defensive power) respectively.

The preparation for life is through the system of education called Brahmacharya. There is an initiation ceremony (upanayana) in which the pupil makes the affirmation : "Here I proceed from untruth to tgruth." Through this ceremony the pupil is said to be transformed from a mere man in to a spiritual being. He is said to have a second birth as a mental child of the Acharya (teacher), Brahmacharya is described as tapah, the kindling of spiritual fire that transforms man. It says elsewhere that the Brahmachari "becomes a limb of the Devas' own body." The tapah of Brahmacharya, says the Atharvaveda, qualifies people for their vocations: the kind protects his State through it, the teacher qualifies for teaching students, both by (knowledge and character), and the girl student qualifies for a good husband. Women could also become Rishis and teachers.

At the conclusions of his education, " the Brahmachari" says Rishi, goes from the eastern to the northern sea and grasps people together, constantly drawing them near." This means that the Vedic student, after completing his education (which was supported by the common people among whom he begged for his upkeep) took up intellectual and spiritual leadership of the People.

The Vedic Rishis show particular respect to women. They use the term Subhaga (illustrious one ) for a Deva and Subhaga, for addressing a Devi. This term has also been used by them for a woman. The begging Brahmachari, as we find from Manu's Code also addresses women in the same graceful term.

In personal life, Brahmacharya was followed by Garhapatya. Young men and women entered in to the marriage union by mutual choice and become joint rulers of the household (dampati). The Rishis set the ideal of monogamy which appears to have been the norm. At the marriage ritual the bride received the invitation to "speak to the religious assembly" (vidatha) which was also addressed by sages. This was in recognition of her heigh education. The newly.weds received many blessings including the following : "Enjoy you two together fortune's richest gifts, observing rita and behaving according to rita." The wife was told : "Hoping for love, childre, fortune, wealth, and by always being behind your husband in his life's vocation, strive for immortality."

The husband gave the conjugal relation a holy touch by telling his wife : "I am Saman (the holy song), you are Rik (the holy verse)." And they prayed together: "May the Devas join our hearts may they unite us both." The Rishi exalts the wife by comparing the purity of Dev Agni to that of "the spotless wife, loved by her husband."

The Rishis accept earthly life and want all earthly bliss : the sun to shine bliss, the days to be blissful and the night to approach blissfully. They believe that food is the source of much that is excellent in man. "In you, Food" says a Rishi in a song of praise, "there is lodged the spirit of the great Devas. Under your flag were great deeds done. With your help was Ahi (or Vritra, the dragon of wickedness) slain." They believe in the healing power of water: "Water come filled with healing balm for the shielding of my body, so that I may see the sun long." They pray for freedom from fear from all quarters: "Let there be no fear from friend, no fear from foe, no fear from the known, no fear from what lies before us unknown." In another prayer they ask for energy, manliness, strength, vigour, wrath and conquering power against the aggressor. And a Rishi prays: "May all my limbs remain unimpaired and my soul unconquered."

The Rishis find that Nature brings happiness to the man who lives by the moral law. "Sweet blows the breeze for him who lives by the rita." To live by rita (Dharma), one must earn one's livelihood by honest work, a vocation that will draw out all that is finest in a man and help his intellectual and spiritual growth and also do good to the society. A Rishi prays at the beginning of the day : "May the dawn, flushing, move me to exertion and bear me safely over every trouble." Referring to vocations, another Rishi says : "Dawn awakens one to kshatra (work of ruling a state), one to winning high fame ( as a Rishi and poet), one to the pursuit of an object of one's choice (ishta) and one to gainful labour (artha) and so on -all looking after their different vocations." In another hymn, different vocations are symbolically sopken of as limbs of the Divine, indicating the sacred nature of each vocation. This is also evident from description of field labourers 'who do not sacrifice' as do the sages (kavi,dhira). The description of an ideal son in the Veda shows the demand for an all-round man. He is "fit for work, fit for the home, fir for the religious assembly, fit for the political council and a glory to his father."

The Rishis are keenly aware of the severe conflict between good and evil (rita and anrita) as, for instance, between the defenders of a country and the invaders. The Rishis want men to follow example of Indra who defends his dominion (svarajay), based on rita, by fighting and defeating Vritra, the aggressor. A Rishi's call Indra to fight Vritra bravely is also a call to men to fight the aggressor against their own country (svarajya): "God forward, be fearless, and fight, Indra, valour is your strength. Strike down Vritra acclaiming svarajya." The ideal fighter (kshatriya) is, like Indra, unbending and ever resourceful: " He does not bow before the strong or the stiff... For Indra lofty mountains as plains and in the deeps there is a foothold for him."

Men are also called upon to fight heroically the many difficulties in life. Speaking of life figuratively, a Rishi sends his call for unity and heroic endeavour: "The rocky stream flows. Hold together, be heroic and cross its friends! Leave here those who are evil.minded. Let us cross over to powers that are beneficent." Then is added: " For spiritual brilliance (varchas) approach the universal luster of the Devas, becoming pure, bright and purifying. May we, heroes in all respect, surmount every difficulty and live happily for a hundred years." In another hymn there is a call to men to "livelong, becoming clean and Deva-like."

"I will know that land as holy", says a Rishi, " Where Brahman (intellectual power) and kshatra (ruiling power) move in harmony."

The Vedic sages call upon men to be Deva-lime not only in purity or in heroism but also in the establishment of sanjnana, harmony and concord, among themselves. A Rishi asks members of a family to have "The sanjnana by which the Devas do not separate nor ever hate each other. " He wants them to "love each other as the mother-cow loves the new-born calf." "Let son be loyal to father and of one mind with the mother", he says, " let not brother hate brother or sister hate sister; unanimous, united in aims, speak your wards with friendliness... Let your water-store be common, and common your share of food... Morn and eve may there be the loving heart in you."

Sanjnana is extended to all inhabitants of a country. The closing hymn of the Rigveda concludes with: "Meet together, speak together, let your minds be of one accord (sanjnana) as the Devas with one accord accept the offerings.... Let your aims be common, and your hears of one accord. Be all of one mind so that your may live happily together."

Beyond national sanjnana the Vedic Rishi seeks international harmony and concord. He prays: "Let us have concord (sanjnana) with our own people and concord with foreign people too...May we and the foreigners unite in our minds, unite in our purposes, and not fight against the Divine spirit within us. Let not the battlecry rise amidst many lying slain." The Vedic Rishi who advocates ware in defence of svarajya also indicates how war can be prevented by establishing harmony and concord among the peoples of different nations.

The Vedic Rishis also believe that a man, by developing his strength can establish friendly relations on a mutual basis with all living beings. So the prayer : "A dorable One, make me strong. May all beings look on me with a friendly eye. May we look on each other with a friendly eye."

THE VEDIC RITUAL:

Rita in its formal aspects includes the performance of the Vedic ritual (yajna) in which hymns were chanted and sung, often to the accompaniment of instrumental music. Priests used to wear garlands of lotuses on the occasion. The yajna was performed in the open and the place was elaborately decorated ("They adorned the yajna for beauty as they adorn the child") There were large gatherings of people. A fire was made with splinters of wood and kept burning with clarifies butter (ghrita). Into it the juice of the soma plant was poured and other offerings thrown with the chanting of the Vedic texts (mantras).

In the mantras, the Vedic values were emphasised. For example, the some juice is said to be poured out as an offering to the Diety "with the word of rita, with satya, with tapah and with reverence." Elsewhere a Rishi says that "The some juice, flowing in streams of rita.... glorifies Indra, making all noble (arya) and dirinv out the lawless enemy." In the ritual for atonement of sins, a Rishi speaks of sins committed against the nearest and dearest ones, and against a stranger. In another prayer of this type, atonement is sought for "sins committed against the Devas, committed against men, committed against ancestors, and sins committed by a man against himself - atonement for sins committed knowingly or unawares." Here we find a strict moral code applicable to one's behavior not only towards one's own people but also towards others, besides requiring men to honour the memory of the dead by their conduct and not be cruel to themselves. The code is based on a sense of universal justice, giving a clue to the claim that the Vedic Rishis were 'world-builders.'

Five stanzas in a Vedic hymn give a wonderful description of the pure glory of heaven, with prayers including the following: "place me, Purifier (soma) in that deathless, imperishable would where eternal luster glows, the realm in which the light Divine is set.....where all wishes and longings go.. where there is holy bliss and happiness." In another hymn consisting only of five stanzas, the Rishi, said to be a woman (Yami), prays for departed man, wishing that he may find himself in the company of those "who through tapas (spiritual wer) went to heaven... the ancient followers of rita, who were steadfast in rita and furthered rita... heroes who laid down therir lives in contested battles (in defence of riat)", and "sage-poets, the leaders of thousands, the Rishis of great tapas." Prayers for heaven, are uncommon in the Vedas.

Generally in the Vedic rituals there are prayers for good thing of earth and for good qualities in men, someties desired to be obtained here and now (iha, ada) There is a prayer that men may prosper in every way through Yajna and that the form of "yajna may prosper (through the spirit of) yajna (sacrifice)." At the colose of yajna the worshippers declare: "Devas! We have become children of the Lord of Creation (Prajapati)! We have attined heaven! We have become immortal!" So the Rishis found heaven on earth itself.

The Rishis seek the harmony of the spirit of man with the profound serenity (santi) that lies in the heart of Nature and in the Divine. A peace-chant in the Yajurveda expresses this with eloquence : "The serenity that is in the sky... in the atmosphere, in water, in plants, in forest trees; the serenity that is in the Devas, that is in Brahman, the serenity in the heart of serenity, may that come to me."

At the close of yajan mantras, the word Santi was uttered by way of invoking peace. The ritual, dealing with external ceremony, was in a later age called karmakanda (the action part of the Veda), and the pursuit of ultimate knowledge and spiritual realisation was called jnanakanda (the knowledge part of the Veda). In the Vedic samhitas both are accepted karmakanda has a special appeal to the masses of people, and jnanakanda to enlightened men and women. In the Upanishads new sages bring their own spiritual realisation to affirm and expound the concept of the Pure Being (as Brahman or Atman).

The Vedas having poetry as the medium of expression which touches reality in its varied aspect are omniform (visvarupa), as a Vedic Rishis calls them. So the Rishi has not only his inner vision of the Absolute, but, as siad above, also the poet's interest in the Absolute, manifested in the universe in all glory; and while giving and expression to his glory he interprets the highest values of life. So he became a spiritual 'leader of thousands.'

Our homage to the Rishis of old, To the pioneers, the path makers!''

Sages, philosophers, saints and poets of later ages in India have paid the same tribute to all the Vedic Rishis.

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