Category Archives: Quotes

Swami Shivananda, from “Practice of Yoga.”

I’ve held onto these intensely inspiring quotes for a while and decided to share them today. They are from Śivananda’s Practice of Yoga:

pp. 64-65: “‘As water from a tank may flow through a channel into a plot of land and assume its shape (square, triangular or any other form), so the radiant mind (Taijasa Antahkarana) goes out through the eye or any other sense-organ to the place where an object is and becomes transformed into the shape of that object. This modification of the Antahkarana-stuff is called Vritti.’ Professor P.N. Mukopadhyaya observes: ‘Western psychology gives us a one-sided view of perception: an external stimulus acting upon a sense-organ, e.g. an ether-wave acting on the retina. The mind goes out as a radiant energy and takes the shape of the object. The Antahkarana is believed to be a stuff that being Sattvic (consciousness-revealing) and Taijasa (radiant) can go out and invade the Tamasic (veiling crust of consciousness in the form of object, Vishaya Chaitanya), envelope and infuse it by its own luminosity (somewhat like the X-rays which are themselves ordinarily invisible, but make opaque things transparent) and thereby discover the essential identity between itself and the object; it is finding out of this essential identity between consciousness as knower (Pramatri Chaitanya) and consciousness as the known (Vishaya Chaitanya) and that between consciousness as knowing (Pramana Chaitanya) and consciousness as object (Vishaya Chaitanya) which makes the substance of perception according to Vedanta.'”

pp. 65-66: “Just as camphor in the presence of fire is turned into fire and absorbed in fire when burnt, so also a mind when purified becomes of the nature of Brahman. Just as water in the presence of salt, when a lump is placed in a basin of water, becomes saltish, so also mind in the presence of Brahman, when purified, becomes of the nature of Brahman.

Mind, when purified by the removal of six passions, becomes your Guru. There is a voice from the mind for every doubt that occurs in your Buddhi. Train yourself to hear minutely with care the subtle, silent voice. All knowledge comes from within.”

pp. 66: “…[the mind, which] constantly meditates on this picture and becomes that picture, Brahman, according to this analogy. As he thinks, so he becomes. The mind becomes that on which it intensely meditates. It infinitely expands and merges in Brahman.”

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Algernon Charles Swinburne, from “Dolores.”

“When, with flame all around him aspirant,
Stood flushed, as a harp-player stands,
The implacable beautiful tyrant,
Rose-crowned, having death in his hands;
And a sound as the sound of loud water
Smote far through the flight of the fires,
And mixed with the lightning of slaughter
A thunder of lyres.”

The shining rain.

Yajña. Japa. Judicial summons, even.(1) When the rain is scarce and predictions bleak, Indra is again remembered, and petitioned in many ways, to fulfill his duty and end the blight of drought.

Yet, though Indra is a god of rain, he is not only – or even primarily – the rain-god.

In Veda Indra is sung as protective strength and triumphant power; he is the flash and force of the storm, less often its bounteous result. He is part of the rains, but natural processes – which, in the Vedic view, are gross manifestations of subtle, universal phenomena – are not simple and clearly-delineated. Ṛgveda hymned no single “rain god,” but recognised and honoured the interplays by which life was nourished and maintained.

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Amazement with Aurobindo.

There are some folks whose prolific, brilliant accomplishments make me ashamed to be considered part of their species. Śrī Aurobindo is certainly one of these.

An actual post from me is forthcoming, but in the meantime, two brief quotes from this giant of Veda and verse.

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“Indra arising gazed from the heights of his mental realms and the moonbeams surprising flowed on him out of the regions immortal; their nectar slowly mixed with the scattered roses of dawn and mastered us wholly.”
–from The Descent of Ahana

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Ṛgveda III.46, Aurobindo’s translation:
“Very noble are the heroic deeds of mighty Indra, the thunderer, the bearer of the Word, warrior and powerful emperor, the ever young god resplendent, imperishable and possessor of tranquil strength.
O Great, O Puissant, thou art great; by the action of thy expansive power forcefully wrest from others the wealth we desire. Thou art one, king of all that is visible in the whole universe; inspire man in the battle; establish him in the abode of peace, worthy of conquest.
Indra manifesting himself as radiance crosses all measures of the universe surpassing even the gods in every way and infinitely he becomes inaccessible to them. This power that drives straight, by his strength in the mental world, surpasses the wide material universe and the great vital world.
Into this wide and deep, violent and powerful from his very birth, all-manifesting ocean-like Indra, the ordainer of all thoughts, enter the intoxicating universal currents of delight like fast-flowing rivers issuing from the mouth of the mental world.
O puissant Indra, for the satisfaction of thy desire, the mental world and the material universe hold this wine of felicity as a mother holds the unborn child. The priest who accomplishes the sacrifice is for thy sake only, O Bull; he drives the flow of delight so that thou mayst drink it; he refines that delight for thy sake only.”

Such a difference that an excellent English rendering, made with respect and understanding, can make! Having only read this hymn through Griffith’s translation before, I see the two versions now like night and day.

A question I have long had: I know that the respectful, correct way to cite Vedic verse is by recalling the ṛṣi, devatā, and chandas of the hymn. But from what I’ve seen so far, all of the online translations omit information on the Seer and Metre, telling only the Deva(s) praised.

Does anyone know of a website, or an available print source, that gives this information? (Edit: Please see the comments to this post, for some responses!)

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© Arjunī and ridiculously reverent. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Arjunī and ridiculously reverent with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Day 8: Saffron, Sāman, Soma.

11 November 2011. Day 6/final day of Panauti somayajña.

“The view that gods are dependent on man’s sacrificial rituals is a misapprehension. It is truer to say that in the Vedic view the gods need man’s participation in the Vast Cosmic Order of which the sacrifice is the dramatic, symbolic re-enactment…This mutual participation is summarized in the sacrificial ritual. The birth of the universe is a sacrificial offering of Deity to Itself (RV 10.90; 10.81.5) and the gods’ participation in it is mirrored on earth by the human ritual which is itself an epitome of the law of life, of taking and giving, the eternal exchange.”
–Jeanine Miller, from chapter 1, “Bhakti and the Rig Veda,” in Love divine: studies in bhakti and devotional mysticism

I normally have words for situations, even if they’re empty syllables to fill the silent spaces, but I say little this morning. My eyes hold every sight with care as I walk, trying to remember everything.

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Rumi, excerpts.

“My sweetheart seized it from him and quaffed the wine; flames from that wine went running over his face.
He was beholding his own beauty, and saying to the evil eye, ‘Never has there been, nor shall there come in this age, another like me.'”

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“When the veils are burned away, the heart will understand completely…Ancient Love will unfold ever-fresh forms in the heart of the Spirit, in the core of the heart.”

~~~

“All your talk is worthless when compared with one whisper of the Beloved.”

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Day 7: Pervading and purifying.

10 November 2011/day 5 of Panauti somayajña.

“O thou who seest all things, Sovran as thou art and passing strong, thy rays encompass all abodes.
Pervading with thy natural powers thou flowest on, and as the whole world’s Lord, O Soma, thou art King.
The beams of Pavāmana, sent from earth and heaven, his ensigns who is ever steadfast, travel round.”
Ṛgveda IX.86.5-6.

This morning, I am stepping on the earth more carefully than before; I take the Nepali tilaka with a careful hand, moving slowly to impress every moment with significance. It’s the last full day of rituals here, and I do not know if I will be blessed to witness this rite again.

I pull off my heavy sandals and duck inside, hoping to slip into the shelter’s peace unnoticed. A few children run past me, skipping a circle on the mats and then looking back at me giggling. People have already started to gather, and a lady makes a circling gesture, her and her companions’ faces asking an untranslated question. I nod. Today will be more parikrama indeed, to offer devotions into this living temple while it still stands.

I realise that I have not visited Indreshwar temple, and may not, because I don’t want to leave these potent fires to step on cold, ancient stone.

A few volunteers sweep yesterday’s dust from the carpets and mats as I set down my bag and jacket and prepare to walk. Two-and-a-half sides of the rectangular ground are covered; the remaining one-and-a-half sides are bare dirt with pebbles, sharp rocks, hay blades. My feet are already sore and torn. But I take heart; there is no need to rush on this calm, cool early morning, and I recall Śrī Ramana Mahaṛṣi’s instruction on parikrama:

“One should go round either in mouna (silence) or dhyana (meditation) or japa (repetition of Lord’s name) or sankeertana (bhajan) and thereby think of God all the time. One should walk slowly like a woman who is in the ninth month of pregnancy.”

Silent japa seems to echo and vibrate within the body, and I am already restless; walking slowly does not come naturally to me. But I move, my heart attentive to the centre fires, and a dreamy peace descends.

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Jeanine Miller: Bhakti and the Ṛgveda.

There is much ill-considered and nonsensical work on Indra, in both the world of “scholarly” research and in the speculations/opinions of popular culture…but once in a while, I have the joy of finding an author who reads the texts with respect, without prejudice.

What I mean by “ill-considered” is that people do not celebrate Ayyappa as “that god born when two other gods hooked up,” nor do they remember Govardhana as “that time when Krishna totally lifted a mountain.” There are profound spiritual meanings in these tales; the story can’t be properly understood unless the reader looks beyond the literal events. Yet, as I’ve written in this blog before, if a story involves Indra, then most “scholars” (the infamous Wendy Doniger and her downright pornographic, fascinatedly-repulsed approach to Indra at the top of the list) treat it as completely superficial, physical, and earthly, without allowing the possibility of greater significance. Or else, they force the Deva into the framework of an invented Western sociological history, portraying Indra as a masculine oppressor of women and matriarchical culture, as the Aryan dominator of ‘lesser’ or ‘darker’ tribes, or as simply a deified warrior-king with no true divine origin.

I am guessing from this book chapter that the author, Jeanine Miller, is not herself Hindu. She also references Ralph T.H. Griffith’s translation of Ṛgveda; with this version, the only way one can view Ṛgveda as a spiritual text, is to read just about every noun as a metaphor for something else: “light” reads better as “illumination” or “enlightenment,” for instance. But many people take Griffith’s widely-available translation literally, and this is one of the reasons that Veda commands less respect nowadays than it ought.

So it’s extraordinary that, despite using Griffith’s text and without being devoted to these particular Gods, Miller combines sensitivity and poetry with solid scholarship, and writes some gorgeous interpretations of the Vedic Devatās and their worshippers.

A beautiful analysis of Indra is reproduced below, from the volume, Love divine: studies in bhakti and devotional mysticism…a well-reviewed text combining the works of several authors, which I hope to read in its entirety.

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Brief quote.

“Indra is ‘apprehended by the understanding, and appreciated by the wise,’ i.e. in his essence and very self, he is not cognizable by the senses, but is perceptible by the intellect only. He is therefore neither the firmament, nor an orb or luminary, nor any phenomenon of visible appearance, and must of necessity be something that is existent in the Universal Fire, emanating from it, and then by itself acting outwardly and visibly.”

–Albert Pike, from Indo-Aryan Deities and Worship as Contained in the Rig-Veda, 1872.

E. Washburn Hopkins, from “Indra as God of Fertility.”

“There is something that appeals to our imagination also in the realization that this god, who is older than Brahma, Vishnu, and Śiva, still has his worshipers. No other god, unless it be the rather impersonal Heaven of the Chinese, has been revered with uninterrupted devotion for so many centuries. The gods of Egypt and Babylon were born earlier perhaps, but they all died long ago. Indra, worshiped to-day, was already a notable god fourteen hundred years before the Christian era. His contemporaries, Varuṇa, Mitra, and the ‘healing’ Twins, who correspond to the Dioskouroi, have long since vanished from the mind of the people. But Indra perdures…”

And a few paragraphs later, this relevant observation is made:
“The expression ‘when it rains’ is indifferently ‘when the god rains’ or ‘when Vāsava (Indra) rains.'”
-E. Washburn Hopkins, 1916, from the Journal of the American Oriental Society.

The rest of Hopkins’ essay is available here.

The rain-god’s grace (quotation).

“For centuries, Indians have waited for the monsoons and in most years it has arrived like clockwork, bringing its life giving showers. Through the hot summer months, the earth is baked dry, the rivers turn into thin trickles, the trees are leafless skeletons. The people, the earth, the flora and fauna all wait breathlessly for the rains. Can you wonder that in Hindu mythology, the supreme Lord of the Heavens, Indra, is also the god of thunder, lightning and rain? Some of the most heartfelt paeans were sung to him in the Vedas: He whose magic powers, from earth withhold the genial showers.

Varuna, the god of oceans and rivers, is invoked too, but it is Lord Indra who plays an active role in bringing rain. Every year at the end of summer, Indra gets down from his celestial throne and takes a few draughts of the intoxicating drink, Soma, and thus fortified, rides out on his magic elephant Airavat, to give battle to the demon of drought, Vritra. This cloud-dwelling demon is the villain who is holding back the rains, so Indra uses his arsenal of booming thunder and bolts of lightning and watches in divine satisfaction as “the dying demon headlong fell, down from his cloud-built tower”.

Indra’s many names poetically echo his powers. He is Vajrin, who wields the thunderbolt, and Meghavahana, he who rides on the clouds. In later times he lost his eminent position, and in modern India there are no temples for him. But just let the rains fail, and old Indra is invoked again in elaborate yajanas and days of prayers.”

–Subhadra Sen Gupta, “Rain is like ropes of pearls,” The Deccan Herald

P.V.R. Narasimha Rao: One god, many gods.

A teacher whom I greatly esteem is P.V.R. Narasimha Rao; I so admire his accessible, lively writing, the clear-minded simplicity with which he answers questions, as well as his dedication to teaching fire-worship to everyone.

Today he posted a wonderful analogy to the vedic-wisdom e-mail group, to simply explain the Hindu view regarding “one god,” versus the “many gods” that people see when looking at Hindu altars and temples. I thought to share his post here, since I know that most of my readers are not Hindu and may be confused about this particular point.

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Evolution of false assumptions.

I post sometimes on a Hindu forum online, and one recent question raised there asked members – particularly Hindu converts – to share false assumptions about India, Hindus, and Hinduism that they’d held when first starting on their path. The original poster explained that knowing about common misconceptions might help guide others away from making the same mistakes. It was an excellent point, and I’ve decided to give excerpts from my own reply here.

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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!

Abinash Chandra Bose, “Hymns from the Vedas.”

Occasionally I will post beautiful quotations, inspiring links, and other excellent reads as I come across them…

…and Hymns from the Vedas is a marvelous read! Bose writes such loving, poetic words about not only the Vedic hymns, but the Vedic religion and the Devas. If you seek to understand the Vedas as a comprehensive vision of the cosmos, this book is a must-read. If, like me, you have a soft spot for Indra, it will break your heart with happiness.

Bose’s description of Indra’s epithets and qualities – my favourite passage in the entire book – is quoted below the cut.
(I’ve reproduced Bose’s transliteration scheme for the Sanskrit words as it appears in the book.)

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