The Gods and the Titans Strive for Control of the Human Psychology

Sri Aurobindo translates Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Chapter One, Section Three, Verses 1-2:  “Two were the races of the Sons of God, the gods and the Titans.  Thereafter the gods were weaker, mightier the Titans.  They in these worlds strove together, and the gods said, ‘Let us by this udgitha overpass the Titans in the Yajna.’  They said to Speech, ‘Do thou go upward (by the udgitha) for us.’  ‘So be it’, said Speech and he went upward for them; the enjoyment that is in speech, he reached for the gods, the good that it speaks, he reached for the self.  They thought it was by this singer they would overpass them, but they ran at him and penetrated him with evil.  The evil that one speaketh, this that hath no correspondence (to the thing in fact to be expressed), — this is that evil.”

The battle of the gods and the Titans is an allegory of the inner struggle between the impulses driven by ego, and the aspiration of the higher self seeking to attain knowledge and realisation. The actions of each individual are governed by the predominance and balance of the three gunas, or qualities of Nature.  Those with a predominant sattwic nature, focused on peace, harmony, compassion, seeking for knowledge and devoted to truth, are carrying out the action of the gods, focusing on the growth of the higher principles of action, and reducing the impact of the ego-nature’s seeking for satisfaction of its desires.  Those with a predominant rajasic nature tend to try to aggrandize themselves at the expense of others, want to satisfy the urgings of their lower desires and do not care about truth in their attempt to gain a victory for their egoistic pursuits.

In his Essays on the GitaSri Aurobindo comments: “These are the human representatives of the Devas and Danavas or Asuras, the Gods and the Titans. This distinction is a very ancient one in Indian religious symbolism. The fundamental idea of the Rig Veda is a struggle between the Gods and their dark opponents, between the Masters of Light, sons of infinity, and the children of Division and Night, a battle in which man takes part and which is reflected in all his inner life and action.”

The egoistic nature and the rajasic and tamasic elements are naturally stronger in man in his animal nature.  Seeking physical satisfaction, vital achievement and the seeking for power are thereby predominant for a long while in human nature, and the vital force, oriented towards the process of “eating” in order to survive and thrive, naturally favors the ascendancy of these forces.  Those who seek truth, who seek oneness, who seek a wider and higher action of harmony try to overcome the force of desire through the chanting of the udgitha, the OM.  This action is beneficial, but for a long time the force of desire continues to arise and it can hijack the thoughts, and deeds of the individual even as they begin to carry out their higher seeking.  The force of speech, when it is not chanting OM, engages still with the human nature, and brings about the expression of falsehood as part of the egoistic approach to success in life.  This is that evil that is spoken of here.

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, pp.327-347 and M P Pandit, Upanishads: Gateways of Knowledge, pp. 185-193

The Esoteric Sense of the Ashwamedha, the Horse Sacrifice

Sri Aurobindo translates Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Chapter One, Section Two, Verse 7 (partial): “He desired, ‘Let this have sacrificial capacity for me, by this let me be provided with a body.  That which has expressed power and being, that is fit for the sacrifice.  This verily is the secret of the Ashwamedha and he knoweth indeed the Ashwamedha who thus knoweth it.  He gave him free course and thought, then after a year ( a fixed period of time) he dedicated him to the self. … ”

We have seen that the Ashwamedha, the traditional Horse Sacrifice, has a deep esoteric significance.  The horse in this sacrifice is equated with the universal manifestation.  There is a power of creation put forth by the Eternal to manifest through Time and Space.  It should be noted that the Sanskrit term Ashwa, generally translated as “horse” has underlying meaning, as described by Sri Aurobindo “to the Rishis meant the unknown power made up of force, strength, solidity, speed and enjoyment that pervades and constitutes the material world.”  The term medha, putting aside for the moment its external translation of “sacrifice”, has underlying sense of intelligence, wisdom, sharpness of penetration.  The combination of intelligence and force is the characteristic of the Vijnana, the Supramental consciousness, which is the power that carries out the manifestation through the creation of differentiated forms that represent through Time and Space the Eternal in its embodied presence.

The portion of this verse not translated here by Sri Aurobindo includes references to the sun being the horse sacrifice, with his body being the time span of the year, the cycle of the earth’s rotation around the sun.  The embodied fire is the manifested world.  Death is a form of the action set forth in the sacrifice, and thus, he who knows this becomes one with Death and cannot be vanquished by death, and thus, achieves oneness with the manifested Eternal.

Sri M. P. Pandit concludes:  “Thus are fire, the Sacrifice (of the embodied World-Force), the Horse and Death one Divinity.  He who knows, he who realises this truth in himself becomes that very God with death for his limb, a process of his living.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, pp.327-347 and M P Pandit, Upanishads: Gateways of Knowledge, pp. 185-193

The Process of Differentiation of Forms and Beings in the Creation

Sri Aurobindo translates Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Chapter One, Section Two, Verse 6:  “He desired, ‘Let me sacrifice more richly with richer sacrifice.’  He laboured and put forth heat of force, and of him thus laboured and heated splendour and strength came forth.  The life-forces are that splendour and strength, therefore when the life-forces go forth, the body sets about to rot, yet in his body even so mind was.”

Once the process of differentiation of forms begins, it multiplies and creates the manifold creation that we experience around us.  This is the “richer sacrifice”.  Sacrifice is the process of aspiration, of a concentration of conscious force.  Sri Aurobindo translates the word tapas here as ‘heat of force’.  The Taittiriya Upanishad equates tapas as the Eternal and the concentration brings about everything that exists.  The forms take on this energy in the form of the Life-Force.  When it is time for a particular form to disintegrate and return to the original state of matter, the life-force departs and the body “rots”.  Existence is a constant process of offering, of sacrifice, as each form takes shape, plays its role, and then is given up to another form in the process of birth, life, and death.

Sri M. P. Pandit notes:  “He desired to sacrifice, to lend Himself for further becoming.  To the exclusion of His other self-formulations, He concentrated and brooded upon his developing body to render it fit for the great Sacrifice.  And with the maturity of Time He sacrificed His own Body to Himself the Godhead presiding over this creation.  And lesser creatures He offered to the emanations of the Godhead, the gods participating in the Manifestation.”


Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, pp.327-347 and M P Pandit, Upanishads: Gateways of Knowledge, pp. 185-193

The Eater, Eating, is Eaten: the Process of Development of the Manifested Universal Creation

Sri Aurobindo translates Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Chapter One, Section Two, Verse 5:  “He saw, ‘If I devour this, I shall diminish food’; therefore by that speech and by that self he created all this that we see, the Riks and the Yajus and the Samas and the rhythms and sacrifices and animals and these nations.  Whatsoever he created, that he set about devouring, verily he devoureth all; this is the substantiality of being in substance (that it can be destroyed [Destroyed, i.e. enjoyed by absorption].  He becometh the Eater of all the world and everything becometh his food who thus knoweth the substantiality of being in substance.”

With the expression of the creative Word OM, the manifestation of the universe comes into being.  There is however not yet the infinite differentiation of forms that characterizes the worlds.  The process of fragmentation occurs with the development of additional vibratory patterns as embodied in the various Vedas.  This process occurs at the level of the Vijnana, the Supramental plane of existence.  Each form, each being has its own “sound-body” and characteristic vibration.

Transformations and development of forms take place through the process of assimilation, through “eating”.  We learn today that modern science has posited that even galaxies devour one another over Time.  Every created form or being assimilates the vibrational pattern and undergo internal changes as they attune their own original vibration with the ones being eaten.  Thus the universe becomes a place of constant change and development.  Eventually it is the turn of the eater to be eaten and the development continues.  “The eater, eating, is eaten.”

The famous physicist Albert Einstein famously expressed the truth of the conversion of matter and energy from one to the other.  Yet this truth is obvious to every person who considers the act of eating, where matter, in the form of food, is converted into energy.  Calorie content measures the energy potential of the food.  Similarly as we observe the burning of a piece of wood, we see the conversion of matter into energy before our eyes.  In the other direction, the sun radiates its energy onto the earth, and plants convert this energy, through the process we call photosynthesis, into their respective material forms.

Sri M. P. Pandit comments:  “Still there was not yet a multiplicity for the enjoyment of a varied manifestation and relation.  So from the depths of this revealed Word He brought out the whole world: the creative rhythms of the Veda, the mode of Sacrifice to sustain the world with its myriad creatures — men and animals.  And after this Creation of His self-projection was complete, He commenced to eat it i.e. to enjoy it.  For indeed, all this is created, manifested, for His Delight, for His Lila.  Infinite, He eats infinitely….”

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, pp.327-347 and M P Pandit, Upanishads: Gateways of Knowledge, pp. 185-193

The Creation of Time

Sri Aurobindo translates Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Chapter One, Section 2, Verse 4:  “He desired, ‘Let a second self be born to me.’  He by mind had intercourse with speech, even Hunger that is Death; the seed that was of that union became Time.  For before this Time was not (period of Time) but so long He had borne him in Himself.  So long as is Time’s period, after so long He gave it birth.  He yearned upon him as soon as it was born; it cried out and that became speech.”

Manifesting the created universe occurs through the initiation of a vibration.  This vibration is OM, the sound-body of the universe.  Before there is any vibration, in an absolute stillness, there is no Time, although it remains potential within Existence-Consciousness-Bliss.  With the initiation of the process of manifestation, vibrations ensued to develop the entire creation in extension through Time and Space.

Scriptures in India speak of the process of creation and withdrawal of the manifestation as a recurrent phenomenon.  The “in breath” and the “out breath” of the Divine.  The creation proceeds through vibration, the withdrawal through stilling the vibration.

The Christian Bible starts with “In the beginning was the Word”, which defines creation as the initiation of vibration as well.  Western scientists refer to the “big bang” as the beginning of creation when vibration was loosed forth and then created all that exists through Time.  The Rishis obviously were ahead of their time in understanding this.

Sri M. P. Pandit notes:  “He then decided to multiply.  For this purpose He activated His Word-Potential by the conscious force of His Intelligence, and Time was conceived.  Ere this there was no duration of Time.  He held the Time-seed in incubation for a full period and then was Time born.  And out of Time erupted the Speech, vak.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, pp.327-347 and M P Pandit, Upanishads: Gateways of Knowledge, pp. 185-193

The Threefold Division of the Force of Manifestation

Sri Aurobindo translates Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Chapter One, Section Two, Verse 3:  “Fire divided himself into three — the sun one of the three and Vayu one of the three; this is that force of life arranged triply.  The east is his head and the northeast and the southeast are his arms.  Now the west is his seat and the southwest and the northwest are his thighs; his sides are the south and the north; heaven is his back and the middle region is his belly; this earth is his bosom.  This is he that is established in the waters wheresoever thou turn.  And as that is he established who thus knoweth.”

Fire represents the creative force in manifestation.  Sri M. P. Pandit describes the triple form:  “And, says the Upanishad, this Godhead active in the form of Desire or Hunger that is Death, at the root of all creation divided Itself into three, each a God presiding over a different formulation of His force: as Aditya, the Sun (presiding over the Heavens of the Mind), Vayu (over the Mid-region of the Life-Force) and Agni (presiding over the Earth — the Material extension).  He is not only at the base and the centre, but He stands spread out entire in the cosmic extension, manifest on each level in a different and appropriate form, but active everywhere for the same end, for advancing and self-fulfilling career of the Divine Being on the move.”

To “know” this is not an intellectual process, but a process of becoming one with this force, achieving a knowledge by identity.  “And as that is he established who thus knoweth.”  A knowledge by identity implies that the seeker becomes that which he has sought.

The apparently different forms and powers are all one being — this is the point of the description of the various directions related to the parts of this sacrificial horse.  The separation is superficial, just as the parts of the body are all One in the creation, maintenance and ongoing activity of the being who inhabits the body.

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, pp.327-347 and M P Pandit, Upanishads: Gateways of Knowledge, pp. 185-193

The Hunger That Creates the Universal Manifestation, Part 2

Sri Aurobindo translates Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Chapter One, Section 2, Verse 2:  “The waters verily (in their movement) are action; that which was a lake of waters was contracted and became compact.  This became earth; upon earth he grew weary; in his weariness he was heated and the Essence of energy went out from him, even Fire.”

If we look back at the Vedic use of the symbols, as Sri Aurobindo has done in The Secret of the Veda, we find that the image of the rivers represented streams of consciousness.  These streams of consciousness carry out the manifestation through the process of involution and compaction.  The compaction forms the element earth, which is the densest element.  All energy is contained within earth, as modern science has confirmed through the conversion of Matter into Energy.  We can see this process more simply in the element of fire which is brought forth out of earth.

Western scientists tend to start with gross matter and from there see the development of the subtler forces of life and mind.  They are left without any idea of how dense matter can spawn life, much less the higher powers of mind.  The Vedic Rishis describe a process which they elsewhere have imaged as a tree with its roots above and branches below.  The process starts with the more subtle, which successively “condenses” as it involves consciousness into ever-denser forms.  In the end, consciousness is embedded and hidden in matter.  It is only thus that it can later evolve out and manifest consciousness in material forms.  As scientists have gone deeper they begin to realize the tremendous intelligence, organisation and power contained in the very building blocks of matter, the atomic realm, and thus, have moved their leading edge views towards one that aligns closely with the Vedic view, that it is consciousness that creates energy and energy that creates matter.

Sri M. P. Pandit, commenting on the hunger that creates the universal manifestation, notes:  “This Desire sought an embodiment; it needed a body for the organisation and working out of its Impulse.  It dwelt upon itself i.e. upon the Truth in itself in an adorative contemplation and there ensued the Waters, the streams of Consciousness-Force which uphold all creations.  From these Waters, following a process of self-condensation, there came to be the Earth, the solid base for the manifesting Force to stand upon and act.  And then came Fire, the Energising-Force at the centre of the evolution of this creation.  This force of dynamism, the Agni, is the very life-essence, innate power of the manifesting godhead.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, pp.327-347 and M P Pandit, Upanishads: Gateways of Knowledge, pp. 185-193

The Hunger That Creates the Universal Manifestation, Part 1

Sri Aurobindo translates Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Chapter One, Section Two, Verse 1:  “Formerly there was nothing here; this was concealed by Death — by Hunger, for it is Hunger that is Death.  That created mind, and he said, ‘Let me have substance.’  He moved about working and as he worked the waters were born and he said, ‘Felicity was born to me as I worked.’  This verily is the activity in action.  Therefore felicity cometh to him who thus knoweth this soul of activity in action.”

Can existence arise out of “nothing”?  The Upanishad here states that while there may not have been a manifested universe that was perceptible, it existed in some form as it was “concealed by Death”.  The Eternal exists eternally.  The description of the creation of the manifestation is one example of a theme that recurs not only in other Upanishads but also in the Rig Veda:  “That One lived without breath by his self-law, there was nothing else nor aught beyond it.  In the beginning Darkness was hidden by darkness, all this was an ocean of inconscience.”  (R.V. X.129)

The Upanishad equates Death with Hunger.  Hunger in this instance is not a physical experience, but a metaphysical principle which we call desire.  It is at the level of the undifferentiated Absolute that the One Existent “desired” to create forms of differentiation, which we call the universal creation.  The Rig Veda:  “That moved at first as desire within, which was the primal seed of mind.” (R.V. X.129)  In this case, it is the universal principle of creation that is put into motion through the arising of desire.  The sages consistently equate desire with death, and overcoming desire with the attainment of immortality, such as in the Taittiriya Upanishad.  Here however we are focused on the creation of the universal action, put forth through the arising of the divine intention manifested as desire, which provokes the development of mind (not the human mind, but the “mind” that creates differentiation and manifestation, which Sri Aurobindo would call the Supermind), which then works to create water (a principle of the movement and flow of energy), out of which the further concentration of energy into matter then takes place.  This follows the principle that the universe was condensed from the more subtle energetic forms to the gross material forms.

The Upanishads frequently remind us that the inherent quality of the Brahman is a triple status of Sat-Chit-Ananda, Existence-Consciousness-Bliss.  This Sat-Chit-Ananda rolled out the creation through the mechanisms of Time-Space-Causality and this was an action of joy.  For as the Taittiriya Upanishad states:  “In the beginning all this Universe was Non-Existent and Unmanifest, from which this manifest Existence was born.  Itself created itself; none other created it.  Therefore they say of it the well and beautifully made.  Lo, this that is well and beautifully made, verily it is no other than the delight behind existence.”  (T.U. Brahmanandavalli, Ch. 7)

We experience the joy of creating something.  This is a reflex of the joy of the Brahman in manifesting the universal creation.  The process of creation as we experience it as human beings arises from a sense of lack, a “hunger”, and out of that we engage the mind to work on “solving” that lack, thus tracking the description provided by the Rishi of the Upanishad.  We act out of a sense of separation or fragmentation, and our hunger then is bound in our mortality.  This is a process for rolling out the universe through Time and Space.  Why is this important?  If we understand the actual processes, new ways of action and progress open before us.

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, pp.327-347 and M P Pandit, Upanishads: Gateways of Knowledge, pp. 185-193

The Deeper Meaning of the Horse of the Worlds

Sri Aurobindo translates Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Chapter 1, Section 1, Verse 2:  “Day was the grandeur that was borne before the horse as he galloped, the eastern ocean gave it birth; night was the grandeur that was borne behind him and its birth was from the other waters.  These are the grandeurs that came into being on either side of the horse.  He became Haya and bore the gods, Vaja and bore the Gandharvas, Arvan and bore the Titans, Ashwa and bore mankind.  The sea was his brother and the sea was his birthplace.”

This is no animal used in an imperial sacrifice, but clearly a symbol for the universal force of creation.  Sri Aurobindo notes:  “The Ashwamedha or Horse-Sacrifice is, as we shall see, taken as the symbol of a great spiritual advance, an evolutionary movement, almost, out of the dominion of apparently material forces into a higher spiritual freedom.  The Horse of the Ashwamedha is, to the author, a physical figure representing, like some algebraical symbol, an unknown quantity of force and speed.  From the imagery it is evident that this force, this speed, is something worldwide, something universal; it fills the regions with its being, it occupies Time, it gallops through Space, it bears on in its speed men and gods and the Titans.  It is the Horse of the Worlds, — and yet the Horse sacrificial.”

“But the real powers, the wonderful fundamental greatnesses of the Horse are … not the material.  What are they then?  The sunrise and sunset, day and night are their symbols, not the magnitudes of Space, but the magnitudes of Time, — Time, that mysterious condition of universal mind which alone makes the ordering of the universe in Space possible, although its own particular relations to matter are necessarily determined by material events and movements — for itself subtle as well as infinite it offers no means by which it can be materially measured.  Sunrise and sunset, that is to say birth and death, are the front and hind part of the body of the Horse, Time expressed in matter.  But on Day and Night the sage fixes a deeper significance.  Day is the symbol of the continual manifestation of material things in vyakta, the manifest or fundamentally in Sat, in infinite being; Night is the symbol of their continual disappearance into avyakta, the unmanifest or finally into Asat, into infinite non-being.”

“Of this Horse of the Worlds, who bears up all beings, the sea is the brother and the sea is the birthplace.  There can be no doubt of the meaning of this symbol.  it is the upper Ocean of the Veda in which it imaged the superior and divine existence, these are the waters of supramental causality.  From that this lower Ocean of our manifestation derives its waters, its flowing energies, apah; from that, when the Vritras are slain and the firmaments opened, it is perpetually replenished, … and of that it is the shadow and the reproduction of its circumstances under the conditions of mental illusion, — Avidya, mother of limitation and death.   … Deliverance from the dominion of asanaya mrtyuh (n.b. hunger which is death) is possible because of this circumstances that this sea of divine being is bandhu, kin and friend to the Horse. … We, appearing bound, mortal and limited, are manifestations of a free and infinite reality and from that from which we were born comes friendship and assistance fro that which we are, towards making us that which we shall be.  From our kindred heavens the Love descends always that works to raise up the lower to its brother, the higher.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, pp.327-347 and M P Pandit, Upanishads: Gateways of Knowledge, pp. 185-193

The Sacrificial Horse — The Universal Manifestation

Sri Aurobindo translates Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Chapter 1, Section 1, Verse 1:  “OM.  Dawn is the head of the horse sacrificial.  The sun is his eye, his breath is the wind, his wide open mouth is Fire, the master might universal.  Time is the self of the horse sacrificial.  Heaven is his back and the midworld his belly, earth is his footing, — the regions are his flanks and the lesser regions his ribs, the seasons his members, the months and the half months are their joints, the days and nights are his standing place, the stars his bones and the sky is the flesh of his body.  The strands are the food in his belly, the rivers are his veins, his liver and his lungs are the mountains, herbs and plants are his hairs, the rising is his front and the setting his hinder portion, when he stretches himself, then it lightens, when he shakes his frame, then it thunders, when he urines, then it rains.  Speech, verily is the sound of him.”

“As above, so below.”  We see here a symbolic representation of the material existence of the universe that matches up universal phenomena with the specific characteristics of the horse.  The microcosm and the macrocosm are One.  The imagery attempts to convey a truth that unites all existence.  Our normal view treats each of these as separate and distinct.

In modern Western science, the study of fractals shows that they always repeat the same pattern from the universal to the microscopic scale.  The Rishis anticipated this in their description of the sacrificial horse as the form and pattern of the creation.

Sri Aurobindo comments:  “Ashwa meant originally ‘being, existence, substance’.  From the sense of speed and strength it came to mean ‘horse’.  The word is therefore used to indicate material existence and the horse … is taken as the symbol of universal existence in annam.   The horse is symbolic and the sacrifice is symbolic.  We have in it an image of the Virat Purusha, of Yajniya Purusha, God expressing himself in the material universe.”

Sri M. P. Pandit notes:  “The Horse is not a figure of this gross material universe alone.  For Time is his body, his substance: the very texture of his being is made of Time which is non-material, though it manifests in physical Space as it does in the other extensions of Space.  Earth is his footing.  The material extension of Earth is the feet, the foundation created by the Power in manifestation.  The Mid-region, antariksa, is his belly wherein all is seized and consumed.  Heaven, the freer spaces of ether, the domain of purer Mind, is his back, the part on which this manifest creation rests.  … Periods of Time, the Seasons governed by the movements of the sun and stars are his members; months and fortnights set by the moon are that on which he stands.  Thus does the manifesting Power cover in its self-extension all the three worlds of our creation in the dimension of Time moving in Space.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, pp.327-347 and M P Pandit, Upanishads: Gateways of Knowledge, pp. 185-193