The Vedas are considered the oldest intact religious texts of India.The verbal form of the Vedas is called śruti, ("what is heard") (1), which was spoken as early as 2,500.B.C, though many Hindu scholars accept the much earlier date of (5,000 to 17,000 B.C.). It is generally accepted by Western scholars Vedic texts were transposed into Sanskrit between 1,100 B.C. and 1,700 B.C. (2). For thousands of years, Vedic hymns were spoken with an emphasis on the sound of the words-(mantra), which was of paramount importance to the transformative power of the hymns. There are four Vedas: the Rigveda, the Yajurveda, the Samaveda and the Atharvaveda (5) According to the Hinduism the Vedas were based upon revealed knowledge attained in higher planes of consciousness, or (apauruṣeya): which means "not of a man, superhuman" (3) or "impersonal and authorless"(4).
When the Vedas were first translated into English from Sanskrit, scholars thought the Vedic Gods were aspects of nature, as the Sun, became the god Surya or as well fire was worshipped as the God Agni. Later, a "Storm Theory" by Indian author Nairuktas, proposed the God "Indra" to be a personification of the weather and lightning, a theory “accepted by almost all Western scholars without reserve.’’ (6).
The problem with such interpretations is a disregard of the original spiritual intent of the Vedas, as mystical chants, hymns and ceremonial sacrifices with an esoteric spiritual intent. Most of the early nineteenth century interpretations are completely literal, and based upon an obvious materialistic philosophy. The spiritual and esoteric meaning has been lost; due to the fact, very few initiates have ever reached the spiritual heights of the original authors-the ancient Sages and Rishis. The eastern religions have also lost the Vedic symbolic thread while the west, in general, doesn't even know there even exists such a possibility as spiritual Enlightenment.
Three categories of Vedic texts
The Vedas are multi-leveled and complex texts with many overlapping motifs, and numerous esoteric meanings. Mythological themes can be placed in three categories.
The first takes place in the heavenly or the Celestial realm. Consisting of all creation myths, such as how the elements combined together out of chaos to become physical reality. Natural forces such as the Sun-Surya or Indra -weather and lightning- were deified.
The second category is based on the evoultion and transformation of the mind, called self-realization or enlightenment, is comprised of Vedic texts that are directly linked to the symbol of the serpent Kundalini, Soma and Surya, light. The personal aspect of the soul's evolution, its growth and final salvation is explored on this level.
The third category contains the Vedic hymns predicated upon the earth's seasonal regeneration. The serpent in this category alludes to the life force of the Earth which returns after winter, mirroring the Sun's life giving powers. Moreover the Sun is metaphorically-reborn after its death during winter, just as the Gods are born on the winter solstice, close to Dec. 25. Therefore the serpent and sun represents the renewal of life in all three categories.
Vedic Gods and Enlightenment
The second category, the personal transformation of consciousness, has been understood by only a few individuals who have experienced enlightenment and were able to uncover the enigmatic meaning of the Vedas. Sri Aurobindo understood their symbolic structure in terms of consciousness interacting with matter. He refers to the God Agni as a form consciousness which underlies all matter. The ancient Rishis discovered intense concentration increases bodily heat, which in essence involves the serpent fire or Kundalini. Agni-fire alludes to the power of consciousness within all existence.
The "Awakening of Kundalini" has certainly been explored in India, more so than any other civilization except possibly Egypt, (whose esoteric history is lost). The practice of yoga is largely built on the transformative possibilities of the human body, which explains a great portion of the exercises that are physically oriented, such as Asanas, pranayama and diet. When Kundalini moves from its dormant state into activity, a sequence of biological effects unfolds. There is increased metabolic activity, as Pranic energy becomes warm enough to be noticeable. The initiate has a feeling of energy flowing through the back of the neck, with an accompanying sound, something like humming bees. In the final stage an internal light shines within the mind giving one a sense of immortality.
This transformative process underlies a great portion of humanities religious scriptures, mythology, legends and fairy tales, including the Vedas. The serpent, dragon and snake are symbolic images of both the good and bad effects of Kundalini. The awakening process entails sublimation of all the lower energies into the higher centers. In a healthy individual the transformation can lead to a sense of bliss and peace, genius and artistic talent. A love of humanity is one of the most important rewards of a successful transformation. One will also develop psychological depth, literary and artistic talents.
The Evil Serpents-Vrtra-Set-Satan
The Dragon-Serpent in world mythology can be a symbol of either good or evil, signifying god's creative and destructive power. The evil serpent gods, Satan-Set-Kali, bring death and destruction, but on the other hand, the transformative aspects of serpent power bring wisdom and immortality.
In the second personal category, the evil serpent is the personification of the refusal to become conscious, by seeking the destruction of oneself and others. It is the serpent's shadow within the human psyche; the evil of rebellion against nature and God. Egotism, hatred, depression, addictions, and laziness must be purified by the fire (Agni), before reaching a state of higher consciousness and opening the crown chakra. The process of dropping evil traits and purifying the nervous system is depicted in world Mythology as "conquering the serpent."
The serpent's poison, mentioned in mythology, refers to the cleansing power of Kundalini, which removes the poisons from the blood. In many myths, it appears as if the serpent is the cause of problems. For example, Krishna jumped on the head of the serpent Kaliya, who had poisoned the river Yamuna, which was said to be burning. Poisons are moved of the cells into the bloodstream to be purified by the liver, skin, digestive system, hair. This episode is a metaphor that indicates the cleansing of nerve-toxins in the body (who is personified by Krishna), the good aspects of Kundalini. The bad or evil poisonous aspect is symbolized by the evil serpent, Kaliya.
Because the Vedas can be interpreted on three different levels, it makes the texts difficult to understand but not impossible. These particular verses from the Rig-Veda will only be interpreted from the second domain, that of Kundalini and personal enlightenment. The origin of this type of symbolism can be traced directly to the Vedas, which are the first known religious texts that mention the conquering of a serpent or Dragon and a subsequent physical transformation.
Interpretation of the Rigveda Chapter One: Hymn XXXII,
I will declare the manly deeds of Indra, the first that he achieved, the Thunder-wielder.
He slew the Dragon, then disclosed the waters, and cleft the channels of the mountain torrents.
In verse one the Dragon "Vrtra" is conquered by the greatest of Vedic gods, "Indra." In this case, Vritra represents the dormant aspect of Kundalini, which resides in physical matter; it is unmovable and prevents the flowing of the rivers. Vrtra is also looked upon as an evil force, because it is not active.
In the human body, there is a small triangle at the base of the spine where Kundalini rests in a dormant state, coiled up three and a half time. Meditation and spiritual practices are like a hammer that continuously hits that “Kunda” (the small triangular area in the back). This intense concentration awakens Kundalini-like Indra’s lightning bolt, a symbol of consciousness, striking the dormant serpent Vrtra.
He slew the Dragon lying on the mountain: his heavenly bolt of thunder Tvaṣṭar fashioned.
He slew the Dragon lying on the mountain: his heavenly bolt of thunder Tvaṣṭar fashioned.
Like lowing kine in rapid flow descending the waters glided downward to the ocean.
When Kundalini is awakened, Prana becomes much more active and ascends upward. Thus the 'water flowing' through the channels denotes how Pranic energy flows throughout the body but especially up the spine. The phrase “Like lowing kine” is an indication of the flow through the nadis. The word 'Kine' is an ancient word for the plural of cow. The 'cow' symbol is representative of the feminine energy but also alludes to the 'milk' of the cow, which is really sublimated prana and associated in many ways with milk that feeds a baby. The 'milk' points the 'white phase' of the transformative process. We can see this in depictions of Shiva, resting on a thousand-headed serpent floating on a river of milk. The 'milk' in mythology points the 'white phase' of the transformative process but also the universal Pranic energy that flows throughout the universe.
The flow of Prana moves down the front of the body and chakras, expressed by the phrase; "rapid flow descending the waters glided downward", actually Prana ascends the spine as Agni-fire, condenses in the 'Cave of Brahman' then flows down the front of the body vilifying all seven (rivers) or chakras.
Impetuous as a bull, he chose the Soma and in three sacred beakers drank the juices.
Maghavan grasped the thunder for his weapon and smote to death this firstborn of the dragons.
The Bull is noted for strength and sexual potency, representing a definite type of masculine energy. Verse three states “Impetuous as a bull, he chooses Soma.” This phrase is about overcoming one's bull-like sexual nature, 'Soma' is sublimated sexual energy. This same idea is found in the ancient practice of ceremonial bull sacrifices. In Greece, the god Zeus and in the Phrygian cult of Cybele, bulls were sacrificed, a metaphor that parallels sacrificing one's sexual energy, which they considered the lower animal desires. Chastity and purity were an important part of their spiritual beliefs.
It’s also relevant that verse three mentions “drinking from three sacred beakers”. These 'sacred beakers' are the three Nadis which rise up to the brain, the Ida, Pingala, and Sushumna. Soma was the sacred liquid Indra and the Gods drank giving them strength and immortality.
When, Indra, thou hadst slain the dragon's firstborn, and overcome the charms of the enchanters,
Then, giving life to Sun and Dawn and Heaven, thou foundest not one foe to stand against thee.
The ancient idea of killing all the first-born male children appears in many ancient religions. In the Bible, King Herod and the Egyptian Pharaoh attempted to murder all the firstborn Jewish boys. In the Greek Myth of Zeus’ birth, his younger sibling was swallowed whole by his father Cronus, and once again in Krishna’s birth, his younger siblings were murdered, (except Balarama) by his evil uncle, King Kamsa. The motif of killing the first born originates symbolizes the reluctance of the older generations and stagnant cultures to accept the ideals and physical presence of the next generation; it is basically a metaphor on the evolution of consciousness which is resisted in every way possible, particularly by the older generation who attempt to hold onto power. Killing the first born is a universal theme found in world mythology.
Indra with his own great and deadly thunder smote into pieces Vṛtra, worst of Vṛtras.
As trunks of trees, what time the ax hath felled them, low on the earth so lies the prostrate Dragon.
He, like a mad weak warrior, challenged Indra, the great impetuous many-slaying Hero. He, brooking not the clashing of the weapons, crushed-Indra's foe-the shattered forts in falling.
Footless and handless still he challenged Indra, who smote him with his bolt between the shoulders. Emasculate yet claiming manly vigor, thus Vṛitra lay with scattered limbs dissevered.
The footless and handless dragon indicates Vrtra’s helplessness, it reveals how evil is rendered harmless in the face of Indra’s’ consciousness. While being struck between the shoulders, points to the main Nadi, the Sushumna running up the spine.
It is noteworthy in verse seven that the word "Emasculate" is inserted, as it pertains to a loss of sexual potency and is linked to the sublimation of sexual energy. The next line, “lays scattered limbs dissevered” suggests that a complex motif of death and regeneration. Once Vrtra dies the seven rivers in the "Cave of Vala" are released, which feeds the earth, meaning the seven chakras are opened and the flow of Prana begins. This process of opening the chakras occurs in the human body, but this hymn is also referring to the earth’s regeneration. So it actually occurs on two levels. It would take years of scholarly study, and meditative practices to uncover the multi-layered meanings within the Vedas; this is only a small beginning.
Author; Joseph Alexander/ edited 11/ 25 /2015
Verses from Rigveda chapter one XXX11
1. Vaman Shivram (1965), The Practical Sanskrit Dictionary (4th revised & enlarged ed.), Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 81-208-0567-4 .
2. Lucas F. Johnston, Whitney Bauman (2014). Science and Religion: One Planet, Many Possibilities. Routledge. p.179.
3. Vaman Shivram (1965), The Practical Sanskrit Dictionary (4th revised & enlarged ed.), Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 81-208-0567-4 . see apauru Seya
4. D Sharma, Classical Indian Philosophy: A Reader, Columbia University Press, ISBN, pages 196-197
5. Gavin Flood (1996), An Introduction to Hinduism, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0521438780, pages 35-39
6. Bal Gangadhar Tilak (2011), The Arctic Home in the Vedas, Arktos Media Lt, ISBN-10: 1907166343, pg.240. (Also found in Google books.)
"Lectures on the science of language, delivered at the Royal Institution of Great Britain in 1861 [and 1863], Volume 1", by Max Muller, p. 148