Narach Philosophy

THE GODS OF THE VEDAS: TWO ASVINS


We may now pass on to consider the idea of the two Asvins, who represent the twin senses of knowledge and action, associated with the Purushic and Prakrtic character of Ether.

Meaning of Asvins: The literal meaning of the word Asvin is, possessed (in) of a horse (asva); and, as we have explained, the Horse in sacred literature is conceived as a symbol of the senses. Accordingly the Asvins, the twin Horsemen, represent the twin senses of knowledge and action.

According to our letter analysis, the word Asva may be resolved into A, s, va, and would mean, a personification (a) of the number five conceived as Purushic (s) and Prakrtic (Va, water or Prakrti); and as the number five refers to Ether and the senses, Asva or Horse literally signifies the same.

Nasatya and Dasra: The two Asvins are often called Nasatyas and Dasras sometimes one of them is called Nasatya and the other Dasra. The word Nasatya may be resolved into Na, a, satya; and would mean, a personification (a) of Purushic Ether (na) as a deity of Buddhi (satya); while Dasra may be analyzed into Da, s, ra, meaning, He who (s) gives (da) Prakrtic Ether (ra, speed, associated with Prakrtic Ether); and the letter s further refers to the energy of the Heart. Thus we see that the literal meaning of Nasatya and Dasra agrees with the idea of Asvins as representing Purushic and Prakrtic Ether in the light of the senses of knowledge and action.

Twin-Born: The Asvins are said to be twins, and so are the senses of knowledge and action which they represent.

Sons of Dyaus: As the Asvins refer to the senses of knowledge and action, born of the twofold character of Ether, and the latter is personified in Heaven and Earth or Dyu and Prthvi, they are said to be the sons of Dyaus, for the son in sacred literature is often identified with the father.

Difference between Asvins and Dyu and Prthvi: It has been observed that Dyu and Prthvi or Heaven and Earth refer to the twofold character of Ether, while the Asvins represent the senses of knowledge and action, associated with it. In this connection we have already referred to the idea of Heaven and Earth as dividing the universe into two separate halves, and have pointed out that they can be joined together only by means of action conceived as sacrifice; thus transforming action, usually regarded as Prakrtic, into Purushic and creative. Thus, in the light of the Prakrtic conception of the universe or by Varuna's decree, Heaven and Earth or the two world-halves stand parted from each other but the Asvins, while dividing them into two, are instrumental in bringing them together again.

Asvins and Feet and Hands: As the Asvins refer to the twofold character of Ether, with its senses of knowledge and action, and the latter are associated with feet as the instruments of motion and hands as the instruments of action, they are said to have nimble hands, and come like two hands most helpful to the body, guide us like two feet to what is precious, and like two hands give us increasing vigour. They give the boon of a son by name Hiranya-hasta (Gold-handed), and grant to Vispala a leg of iron.

Reference has already been made to their association with horses and cows, and these have been explained as signifying action and motion respectively, represented by hands and feet. They are also called wonder-Workers, of wondrous deeds, and assist Indra in his task and the explanation is obvious.

Asvins and Rudras: The Asvins are called Rudras. Now a distinction is always made between Rudras (plural) and the god Rudra (singular), whose followers they are; and we have pointed out that there are eleven Rudras, who represent the ten senses, with Mind as the eleventh. Accordingly the god Rudra and this will be explained in the course of this Chapter, represents Mind energy, and the remaining ten Rudras the senses of knowledge and action. Hence the Asvins, who represent the same, are identified with Rudras.

Asvins and Soma Juice: The Asvins are Soma drinkers and the juice is said to delight all the principal gods of the Vedas. But, as has been explained, Soma represents Mind energy in connection with the senses of knowledge; and as the Asvins symbolize the senses of knowledge and action, which at first sight appear to be inferior to the Mind, a doubt is expressed whether they are worthy of being invited to partake of the divine juice. But actions conceived as sacrifice, can transform a Prakrtic into Purushic energy; and the conception of the energy of the Heart is similar too. As the Asvins are associated with this idea, and unite the two world-halves through sacrifice, they are related to the energy of the Heart, and Buddhi its first manifest form; and we see a reference to these in the names Dasra (where the letter s represents Heart energy), and Nasatya (where satya refers to Buddhi). Thus the gods agree to invite them to the sacrifice it is for them that the sweetest Soma has been shed the Soma pressed with stones and they are the very store of the Soma juice itself.

Wedding of Surya: One of the most fascinating Vedic stories refers to the bridal of Surya or Sarasvati, for the two are identified, with the Asvins. Surya, the daughter of the Sun, dressed in her lovely robes, went with her treasury of Heaven and Earth, to Soma her lord, to whom she was plighted; and the bridesmen were the Asvin pair. But suddenly the bridesmen became the wooers; the gods agreed to the change, and Surya became the wife of the Asvins; and of their union was Pushan born.

As has been pointed out, Surya or Sarasvati represents Prakrti as energy of the Heart; but is this energy Purushic or Prakrtic or both? Soma represents Mind energy in association with the senses of knowledge; and as the Mind is akin to the Heart, he implies that the Heart is Purushic in character, for so are the senses of knowledge, related to Purushic Ether. For the time being Sarasvati, the Prakrtic energy of the Heart, is satisfied that Soma, representing the Heart as Purushic, would be her proper lord. But she possesses the treasury of both Heaven and Earth, that is, the energy of both Purusha and Prakrti; and so represents Heart energy as both Purushic and Prakrtic; and comes to the conclusion that Soma, who stands for Heart energy as purely Purushic, would not satisfy her, for she cannot agree that it is Purushic alone and not Prakrtic; and she wants to know if any one, holding the Heart to be both Purushic and Prakrtic, can yet show how the Prakrtic aspect of it can be transformed into Purushic. This, as has been explained, can be done through action performed as sacrifice, linking together the senses of action with those of knowledge, the Prakrtic aspect of Ether with its Purushic counterpart. As the two Asvins are associated with this conception, she prefers them to Soma in the end, and the gods are satisfied, and the idea bears fruit.

Vrtra Slayers: Vrtra represents Prakrti exclusive of Purusha, and the universe as devoid of motion or speed; and as the Asvins represent the senses of knowledge and action, related respectively to motion and speed, they slay Vrtra, the Dragon, and show what he really is.

Asvins and the Sea: The Asvins are associated with the Sea in a number of Vedic hymns; and as the Sea or Water symbolizes Prakrti, and the twins represent the twofold character of Ether, often identified with Prakrti, they are called sons of the Sea and they unclose the waters of the sky and their chariot travels in the Sea.

The Chariot of Asvins: Some of the most obscure verses in the Vedas relate to the description of the chariot-wheels of the Asvins. It is said, "One of your chariot-wheels is moving swiftly round, one speeds for you its onward course" and again, "Another beauteous wheel have ye fixed there to decorate your car; with others through the realms ye roam" and the commentator remarks that the movements of the wheels are not very intelligibly described. Obviously, if one wheel is moving round and the other speeding onward, the two cannot belong to the same chariot; and again, if one is fixed and with the others they roam, the movements cannot be understood. But, as we shall find, the description refers to the character of motion in Purushic and Prakrtic Ether; and we have observed that the one is elliptical and the other characterised by speed; and as the Asvins represent the two in the light of the senses of knowledge and action, one of the wheels of their chariot has an elliptical motion or is moving swiftly round and round, while the other is characterised by speed and moves them onward in their course.

Asvins and the Eyes: This description of the chariot-wheels of the Asvins corresponds also to the form of the eye of the viviparous, to which reference has already been made: it is an ellipse and a circle, the former characterised by motion without relative change of place, and the latter by speed, like motion by means of a circular wheel. As a defect in the eye affects its shape in one way or another and the Asvins represent this form to perfection, they are called healers of the blind, and givers of eyes.

Asvins as Physicians: The Asvins are also spoken of as physicians. In this connection we have already referred to the healing properties of Ether, and shown that there are two causes of disease, when there is a disturbance in the current of life in Ether, and germs. The association of Asvins with Ether has already been explained; and it has been shown that all germs perish in Purushic Ether. Hence they are physicians bringing health leeches with medicines to heal and healers of the blind, the thin, the feeble, and the man with broken bones.

Asvins as Magicians: The Asvins are spoken of as Magicians, famed for their magic arts, and lords of magic power. The Sanskrt word for magic in the text is Maya, which, as has been explained, is not magic or illusion, but creative energy, sometimes associated with Purusha and sometimes with Prakrti; and according to the Sankhya system, based on Ether for the supreme creative energy of life, Maya is related to Prakrti, and so to Ether, for the two are often identified. As the Asvins represent this element, they are spoken of as possessed of Maya and all that it implies.

Asvins and the Number Three: The number three is specially associated with the Asvins. Three are the fellies in their car; thrice they sprinkle the sacrifice with meath; thrice they vouchsafe us store of food and plenteous strength; thrice they come to our homes; thrice grant us heavenly medicines; thrice are they worshipped; and thrice they travel round the world.

The reference to the number three is repeated in several places in the Vedas, especially in connection with the three steps of Vishnu and it has been pointed out that this number stands for Ether and the three Gunas hence its association with the Asvins.

Asvins in Post-Vedic Literature: It will be found that the idea of Asvins in post-Vedic literature corresponds to their Vedic conception. They are spoken of as Heaven and Earth divine physicians' helpers of Indra, and perform wonderful deeds. Prajapati produces creatures by union with them and they fit Dadhyanch with a horse's head. They are eyesight they are ears and Soma offering is made to them.

The Asvins are referred to in the story of the Mahabharata as the fathers of the twins, Nakula and Sahadeva; and these, as will be explained in due course, represent Arms and Legs respectively; and we have seen that the former are the instruments of action and the latter of motion, related to the Prakrtic and Purushic aspects of Ether, represented by the Asvins in the light of the senses of knowledge and action.

In this connection it might be of interest to note that the Lord Buddha is also associated with the Asvins and mistaken for one of them. We have already pointed out that the religion connected with the name of Buddha follows the Sankhya system of thought, which is based on Ether as the supreme creative energy of life and the Asvins represent the twofold character of Ether, Purushic and Prakrtic; hence their association with Buddha. Further, as Buddhism does not explicitly deny the existence of the Supreme Purusha it is to be referred to that aspect of the Sankhya system which is related to Purushic and not Prakrtic Ether and so Buddha should be associated with Nasatya rather than Dasra.