Interpretation of the Vedas by Dayanand Saraswati
What is the main positive issue in this matter? An interpretation of Veda must stand or fall by its central conception of the Vedic religion and the amount of support given to it by the intrinsic evidence of the Veda itself. Here Dayananda’s view is quite clear, its foundation inexpugnable. The Vedic hymns are chanted to the One Deity under many names, names which are used and even designed to express His quaiities and powers. Was this conception of Dayananda’s an arbitrary conceit fetched out of his own too ingenious imagintion? Not at all; it is the ex-
Page – 338
plicit statement of the Veda itself: “One existent, sages” – not the ignorant, mind you, but the seers, the men of knowledge, – “speak of in many ways, as Indra, as Yama, as Matarishwan, as Agni”. The Vedic Rishis ought surely to have known some- thing about their own religion, more, let us hope, than Roth or Max Muller, and this is what they knew.
We are aware how modern scholars twist away from the evidence. This hymn, they say, was a late production, this loftier idea which it expresses with so clear a force rose up somehow in the later Aryan mind or was borrowed by those ignorant fire- worshippers, sun-worshippers, sky-worshippers from their cultured and philosophic Dravidian enemies. But throughout the Veda we have confirmatory hymns and expressions: Agni or Indra or another is expressly hymned as one with all the other gods. Agni contains all other divine powers within himself, the Maruts are described as all the gods, one deity is addressed by the names of others as well as his own, or, most commonly, he is given as Lord and King of the universe attributes only appropriate to the Supreme Deity. Ah, but that cannot mean, ought not to mean, must not mean, the worship of One; let us invent a new word, call it henotheism and suppose that the Rishis did not really believe Indra or Agni to be the Supreme Deity but treated any god or every god as such for the nonce, perhaps that he might feel the more flattered and lend a more gracious ear for so hyperbolic a compliment! But why should not the foundation of Vedic thought be natural monotheism rather than this new-fangled monstrosity of henotheism? Well, because primitive barbarians could not possibly have risen to such high conceptions and, if you allow them to have so risen, you imperil our theory of the evolutionary stages of the human development and you destroy our whole idea about the sense of the Vedic hymns and their place in the history of mankind. Truth must hide herself, commonsense disappear from the field so that a theory may flourish! I ask, in this point, and it is the fundamental point, who deals most straightforwardly with the text, Dayananda or the Western scholars?
But if this fundamental point of Dayananda’s is granted, if the character given by the Vedic Rishis themselves to their gods
Page – 339
is admitted, we are bound, whenever the hymns speak of Agni or another, to see behind that name present always to the thought of the Rishi the one Supreme Deity or else one of His powers with its attendant qualities or workings. Immediately the whole character of the Veda is fixed in the sense Dayananda gave to it; the merely ritual, mythological, polytheistic interpretation of Sayana collapses, the merely meteorological and naturalistic European interpretation collapses. We have instead a real Scripture, one of the world’s sacred books and the divine word of a lofty and noble religion.
Sri Aurobindo Centenary Works Volume 17 p 338 -339