Maurice Phillips, “The Teaching of the Vedas.”

The wisdom and beauty of the Vedas are pervasive, and seem persuasive even to those who want to remain skeptical. The author of this particular book from 1895 views Varuṇa as a just, dignified, ethical God – who was unfortunately displaced by the decadent, passionate, immoral Indra – and writes quite a bit about how the “ascension” of Indra represents a fall of Aryan spirituality. But Phillips also, almost grudgingly, follows that assertion with this rather astonishing paragraph:

“In their efforts to find suitable epithets to celebrate the greatness of Indra, the old Rishis exhaust the language of the Vedas. He is the Supreme God, the architect of all things, surpassing in power all former generations of gods and creatures, daring in spirit, deriving his power from himself; the creator of the earth, the sky, the sun, moon and stars; the ruler of all things movable and immovable; the leader of gods; the lord of the lofty sky, the lord of the sacred assembly, the lord of the joy-inspiring Soma-juice, the lord of horses, of cattle, and of mansions. He is the primeval, most resplendent divinity; mighty, wise, true, holy, everlasting, swift, joyful, void of fear, loving glory, skilled in all science, shepherd of men, performer of a hundred sacrifices; the awful god, whose counsels not all the gods are able to frustrate. He is the cow that produces the water of life, the great bull in the air, the being that stops the breath of life, that drives away disease and all hurtful and malicious foes. He is omniscient and omnipresent. He hears and sees all things (visvam srinoti pasyati). ‘He is both just and merciful’; ‘he punishes and pardons. He hears prayer, and through faith in him the strong acquire spoils in the day of battle.’ He surpasses heroes in his greatness; the earth and heaven suffice not for his girdle. He orders the earth to be his garment, and god-like, wears the heaven as it were a gauntlet.”

I wonder what sort of utopia Mr. Phillips believed the Vedic world to be, with Varuṇa as Supreme, if the above passage describes the God who represents a “decline” of Vedic virtue!

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