The Secret Inner Psychological Meaning of the Vedic Sacrifice

In his book The Secret of the Veda, Sri Aurobindo describes the dual meanings attributed to the language of the Rig Veda–an outer sense that apparently related to the outer world and fulfillment of desires for attaining the fruits of that world, and an inner psychological sense, available to the initiated seekers, that set forth a science and discipline of union with the Divine.

Sri Aurobindo reminds us of this dual sense of the Vedic sacrifice with respect to the Gita’s definition of sacrifice. “The fire of sacrifice, agni, is no material flame, but brahmagni, the fire of the Brahman, or it is the Brahman-ward energy, inner Agni, priest of the sacrifice, into which the offering is poured; the fire is self-control or it is a purified sense-action or it is the vital energy in that discipline of the control of the vital being through the control of the breath which is common to Rajayoga and Hathayoga, or it is the fire of self-knowledge, the flame of the supreme sacrifice. The food eaten as the leavings of the sacrifice is, it is explained, the nectar of immortality, amrta, left over from the offering; and here we have still something of the old Vedic symbolism in which the Soma-wine was the physical symbol of the amrta, the immortalising delight of the divine ecstasy won by the sacrifice, offered to the gods and drunk by men. The offering itself is whatever working of his energy, physical or psychological, is consecrated by him in action of body or action of mind to the gods or God, to the Self or to the universal powers, to one’s own higher Self or to the Self in mankind and in all existences.”

The result of all of this reorientation of the focus of action is described in the Gita: “…this inner giving up of works and yet physical doing of them is the culmination of sacrifice…” The Gita affirms that “…the result of such active sacrifice with an equal and desireless mind is liberation from the bondage of works.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 12, The Significance of Sacrifice, pp. 111-113