Closely following and liberally quoting Sri Aurobindo's views, the author adopts an integral approach to his study of the Veda and the Vedic Age. In the first part he lays bare the misconceived Aryan invasion theory and traces the roots of Indian thought and civilisation back to the Vedas and the profound philosophy of the Upanishads. A long second section presents Sri Aurobindo's interpretation of the Veda. The third part examines the Veda through the eyes of historians, both Indian and European, and concludes with a chapter on the history of the Vedic Age in the light of Sri Aurobindo, who asserted the influence of the Veda on the modern world's spirituality, religion, and thought.
Sri Aurobindo, while writing on Sanatana Dharma, says: “I seek not science, not religion, not Theosophy, but Veda—the truth about Brahman, not only about His essentiality, but about His manifestation, not a lamp on the way to the forest, but a light and a guide to joy and action in the world, the truth which is beyond opinion, the knowledge which all thought strives after—yasmin vijnate sarvam vijnatam
. I believe that Veda to be the foundation of the Sanatan Dharma; I believe it to be the concealed divinity within Hinduism,—but a veil has to be drawn aside, a curtain has to be lifted. I believe it to be knowable and discoverable. I believe the future of India and the world to depend on its discovery and on its application, not to the renunciation of life, but to life in the world and among men.” (CWSA, Essays Divine and Human
, Vol. 12, p. 62)
Indeed, the Veda is the spiritual cradle of Indian culture. The spiritual and cultural history of India begins with the Veda. As Sri Aurobindo reiterates, “There is no part of the spirituality, of the world’s religion, of the world’s thought which would be what it is today, if the Veda had not existed.” (Sri Aurobindo Archives and Research
, 1977, Vol. 1, Number 1, p. 31)
Unfortunately, this treasure of India has been misunderstood and misinterpreted by most of the academic community in the West and even in India. While interpreting the Vedas and endeavouring to map out the history of the Vedic age, most scholars view the Vedas as depicting a series of events. The Western mind has been intent on discovering the historical and sociological references, the custom and convention of the Veda. There was not the least attempt to unravel its symbolic or psychological significance. As a result, the true sense of the Vedic expression remained neglected.
In India, after Swami Dayananda Saraswati, it was predominantly Sri Aurobindo who provided a right direction to enter into the secret chamber of the Vedas. Sri Aurobindo was a Rishi
who by the power of his Yoga could see the reality behind the Vedic mantras. In the course of his interpretation of the Veda, he offered his own luminous perceptions to dispel any obscurity of symbolism and clear any ambiguity of phrase. The result is The Secret of the Veda
and Hymns to the Mystic Fire
, two major contributions of Sri Aurobindo that facilitate the study of the Vedas with an aim to understand the deep psychological and numinous sense of their contents. There have been very few attempts to lay out a study of the Vedas in the light of Sri Aurobindo’s insight, and in this context, The Vedic Age—In the Light of Sri Aurobindo
, written, compiled and edited by Chandra Prakash Khetan, needs sincere attention and study.
The contents of this book are distributed over four parts. In the first part, titled “Introduction”, the author clarifies that the approach taken here to rediscover the history of the Vedic age is “for a profound understanding of the true law and aim of the individual and the collective existence”. After examining the materialistic, ascetic and integral spiritual approaches to individual and collective existence, the author provides evidence that the study of the Vedas and the history of the Vedic age must be pursued in the light of an integral spiritual ideal which aims at seeing behind the appearances “the progressive manifestation of the spirit in the terrestrial nature”. This certainly was the preoccupation of the seers and sages of the Vedic age. In the next section of the first part of the book the author discusses the gross misconstruction and misinterpretation of the Vedas by Europeans, which gave birth to the Aryan Invasion Theory that harmed the integrity and well-being of India. In the third and the fourth sections of this part, a sound introduction to the Vedas and the Upanishads is provided by liberally quoting from the writings of Sri Aurobindo. After engaging readers in a discussion on the history of the Veda and the secret of the persistent Vedism of Indian thought and spirituality, the author ends the first part by discussing the misrepresentation of Vedic truth by modern Vedic scholarship, and the misinterpretation of the life and times of the Vedic people.
The second part of the book, comprised of eight chapters, provides a detailed discussion of Sri Aurobindo’s profound interpretation of the Veda based on his own deep and vast spiritual experience and knowledge, and solidly supported by philological and historical considerations. While this is the main focus of this part of the book, the author does not spare any issues related to the interpretation of the Veda: the need for recovering the truth of the Veda; the problem in finding out the secret of the Veda and its discovery by Sri Aurobindo; the historical background of how the Veda suffered the mutilation of its sense; interpretations of the Veda by Yaska, Sayana and Swami Dayananda; the problem of Vedic interpretation and the necessary processes suggested by Sri Aurobindo for the validation of Vedic truth; the interpretation of Vedic symbolism arising directly from the language of the Veda and passing through philological, psychological and historical tests; and the doctrine of the mystics that recognizes a timelessness behind all things that is not conquerable by the pursuit of the mind.
In the third part, titled “The History of the Vedic Age”, the Vedas from the perspectives of modern European and Indian historians are presented. The author also discusses the mistakes committed by traditional Indian interpreters like Sayana as well as the ones committed by Occidental scholars. A broad overview of Indian history highlights the central motives and distinctive characteristics of Indian civilization and culture—an ingrained spirituality, a prolific creativeness, a strong intellectuality, and the tendency to seek out the profoundest depths and highest pinnacles of philosophic thought or spiritual experience.
The last part of the book contains two appendices: quotes from Sri Aurobindo’s writings on the origins of Aryan speech and a refined note on Vedic literature.
This volume is very well presented, and renders a much-needed clarity with regard to not just a study of the Veda but also to a balanced evaluation of Indian culture and civilization. An index of important keywords might have added even more to its presentation, but as a whole, this book provides a strong foundation for taking up a study of the Veda and the history of the Vedic age in the light of Sri Aurobindo’s thought.
Sampad is presently working at the Sri Aurobindo Society in Pondicherry. As part of his work he is exploring, through his research, the many wonders and splendours of Sanskrit and sharing these with others through his workshops, lectures, and writings.