The Vedas are believed by the orthodox Hindus to be of divine origin the first, unchanging, eternal word of the Supreme expressive of the Law of Life, its origin, manifestation, and end. All ancient systems of Hindu thought claim their descent from the Vedas and accept their authority; and the Brahmanas, Angas, Upanishads, Puranas, Smritis, and the great epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata are all believed to be but commentaries on the imperishable Word, embodying the knowledge of the universe, the essence of thought, the wisdom of ages, and the truth of the Eternal. To the orthodox there is nothing greater than the Vedas, nor can be.
Yet no one who has read the Vedas either in translation or the original, can fail to recognize how difficult, if not impossible, it is to accept this traditional view, and reconcile their spiritual, moral and intellectual contents with the claim to divine origin and supreme unfailing Truth. Indeed, even in the olden days there were Hindu writers who held that if the object of the science of etymology is to ascertain the meaning of the Vedas, it is useless; for the Vedic stanzas have no meaning. But it is not possible to accept this sweeping statement of Kautsa. The Vedas contain some magnificent hymns relating to the origin of the universe from the Unmanifest, Hiranyagarbha or the Golden Egg ; Non-existence, unfathomable Waters, or Darkness (Prakti) tracing it to Tapas (heat or meditation), or Kama (desire), or else the sacrifice of the Supreme they contain references to the One from whom the universe is evolved, the Unborn supporting all; to Truth as the basis of life and the eternal Law that upholds it; to the abode of the Supreme; to life, death, fire, lightning, dawn, day, night, seasons, years, sun, moon, stars, earth, sky, rivers, seas,, oceans, fathers, mothers, maidens, men, horses, cows, birds, trees, forests, fruits indeed, all that can be found in the world of daily life. But these are scattered references in connection with subjects far removed from any great and definite explanation of the mysteries of the universe, even as they might be in a work with no claim to be regarded as inspired or divine. The Vedas contain, for the most part, hymns addressed to Agni, Indra, Varuna, Soma, Surya, Vishnu, the two Asvins, and a host of other gods and goddesses. They relate their achievements, glory and power, in peace and war; and refer to kingdoms won, races subdued, foes vanquished, and stores of wealth and horses and kine. They are invocations to the gods to help to destroy the foe, cast out disease, subdue death, protect the weak, support the true, and: grant boons of sons and wealth and horses and cows to the devoted worshippers. The gods are described as engaged in slaying Vrtra, the Dragon, cutting through mountains, loosening the floods, releasing cows, controlling horses, enjoying Soma, and drinking milk. Now and then they strike a higher note, guiding the motions of the year; the course of night and dawn and day; sun, moon, and stars; and lightning, thunder, and rain. In some cases, again, the hymns take flight into the regions of the Unknown, and attempt to soar into the origin of things; but they are generally inconclusive and vague. Beyond a few sublime suggestions and mystic hints the reader seeks in vain for that imperishable Truth of divine origin which alone can be accepted without question as the word of God revealed to Man. Whatever the interest of the antiquary, who delves into the past for a shell of thought, or the philologist who traces in Sanskrt the origin of all languages of the Aryan stock, or the mythologist who seeks in them for the first form of human thought clothed in the garb of symbolism, they cannot, as at present understood, have much practical bearing on conduct or thought or life, or be regarded as the first and everlasting expression of divine Truth, as the orthodox and all their systems of thought claim them to be.
But if what has been observed with regard to the origin of Sanskrt and our method of interpretation be correct, the Vedas, being the most important expression of the thought that gave birth to this language, must appear in a new and a different form, and all that they contain assume a new and a different aspect, when examined in its light. The Vedas are the crucial test of our scheme of thought and interpretation; and they must be proved to constitute, even as the orthodox believe, the fundamental basis of all subsequent systems of philosophy and religion. Indeed, according to orthodox tradition, all later works are but commentaries on the Vedas, intended to explain, classify and define what is difficult or obscure or vague in the original and if, as is claimed, our system of interpretation can transform a strange and extraordinary story of the Mahabharata into a great philosophy of life, the method must, first and foremost, be applied to the Vedas; and we should be able to show that they contain, not stray and casual references to the Unmanifest or the mystery of life, but clearly defined and clearly understood schemes of thought which, in their process of development and definition, have grown into different schools of philosophy and religion; and which, when expressed in story-form, have given us the Puranas and the great epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Difficult though the task, it must yet be attempted, to however small an extent, were it only to test the soundness of our theory. On the other hand, its importance, should it be found to be correct, as throwing a new light on the problems of ancient literature and life of the Aryan race, can hardly be exaggerated. It is obviously impossible for a single individual to cover in detail the whole range of sacred Hindu literature in the light of this scheme of thought. It would be enough to analyze the names of the principal gods hymned in the Vedas, examine the description of their deeds, and show how far they express but different points of view with regard to the origin, manifestation and end of life. This will be followed by an examination of the story of the Mahabharata; and if the first and last of the sacred works can be reinterpreted in this light the same system must apply to all.
It would be tragic indeed if, as a result of this interpretation, the gods of the Vedas and the beautiful stories of the Puranas and the great epics are reduced to points of barren thought, or signs of lifeless symbolism, or lines of force, or currents of energy, bringing down the whole fabric of religion, with its breadth of life and beauty of colour and form, to the dust-heap of cold logic, bare argument, or soulless philosophy. But Hinduism, as it is today, or even as it is understood from the sacred works, is devoid of life and cohesive power, and continues to exist more by the tradition of the past than the vigour of inherent life in itself; and what an advantage would it be if it were possible to see in the gods and heroes of the sacred works the eternal forces of life made manifest in various forms; or else the forces themselves personified and made alive in the form of great and mighty gods and men and so would Hinduism be shown to be the true, scientific, and eternal religion, Sanatana Dharma, that it claims to be.
Nine Ways of Creation: Before we proceed to an examination of the meaning of the names of the gods and the ideas associated with them, it is necessary to refer to different points of view in connection with the manifestation of life in the form of the Golden Egg, expressive of the union of Purusha and Prakrti. In this connection it has been shown that there are nine principal ways of considering the creation of life; and in the first set of three Purusha lies to the north of the Golden Egg, whose pointed side is turned to east, south and north; in another set of three he lies on the Right side of Prakrti, and her pointed side is turned to east, west, and south; in the seventh the two are in proximity of each other, but without physical contact, and this sets up an electro-magnetic current of life in the Golden Egg, which creates; in the eighth Prakrti alone creates without the existence of Purusha; while in the last Purusha abides in the heart of the Golden Egg, which is created out of him.
It has been pointed out that the ancients conceived of the actual creation of the universe to be the result of the union of Purusha and Prakrti; and whether they thought of Purusha first or Prakrti first, it was followed by the idea of the union of the two. Accordingly the eighth point of view, viz., that life is created out of the evolution of Prakrti alone, would be regarded as erroneous, and the remaining eight positions would represent more correct theories of life. As the Vedas are believed to be the basis of all that is contained in the ancient systems of Hindu thought, we should be able to find in them a connection with these positions of the Golden Egg. Indeed, if the gods of the Vedas are conceived as personifications of the great forces of Nature, even as many believe, we should go a long way to establish their authority, if we can associate them with the positions of the Golden Egg; for the idea of Hiranyagarbha constitutes the basis of all that we have in Hinduism, its science and philosophy and religion.
Meaning of the Vedas: Before, however, we examine the ideas conveyed by the gods of the Vedas, it is necessary to understand the meaning of the word Veda itself. It is usually derived from Vid, to know; but according to our letters analysis it may be resolved into Va, i, da; and Va means Prakrti; i, out of; and da, to give. The word Veda means, therefore, Given out of Prakrti; hence it comprises universal knowledge or knowledge of the universe; and inasmuch as we understand of the Unknown only through the Known, it embraces not only all that can be understood from a study of observed phenomena, but also the Unknowable, the Eternal and the Unmanifest. All that can be acquired by a study and examination of manifest life or Prakrti is, therefore contained in the Vedas; and they examine and explain and solve the phenomena and problems and mysteries of life.
Rik or Rig Veda: Similarly, we may analyze Rk into R, k; where R means piercing through, and k refers to the first energy of life, Purusha, Prakrti Heart energy, Buddhi, Mind, or Ether. Accordingly Rk means, piercing through the first energy of life; and so this Veda explores the fundamental problem of the origin and manifestation of life.
Yajus or Yajur Veda: The word Yajus is usually derived from Yaj, to honour or sacrifice; but, according to our letter analysis, it may be resolved into Ya, j, u, s, where Ya means he who; j, that which is born or created; u, a sign of personification; and s, manifest human life. Accordingly Yajus would mean, a personification (u) of that which (ya) represents created (j) human life (s) It may be of interest to note that there are two branches of the Yajur Veda, the Black and the White; and black represents Prakrti, and white Purusha; and so this Veda is concerned with human life in the light of Purusha and Prakrti.
Saman or Sama Veda: The word Saman or Sama is variously derived, and in the Upanishads it is analyzed into sa, ama. According to our letter-analysis, however, it would be resolved into Sa, a, man; where Sa means he who, and refers to the energy of the Heart a means leading to; and man, to think, characteristic of the Mind, from which we get the word, manas, Mind. Saman, therefore, means, Heart energy, leading to the Mind; and refers to the Supreme Creator, characterised by Heart energy made manifest as Mind.
Atharva Veda: The first three are said to be the original Vedas; and the fourth, Atharva, is believed to have been revealed later on. It is usually derived from the name of its supposed author, Atharvan; but, according to our letter analysis, it would be resolved into A, tha, r, va, and mean, a personification (a) of the energy of speed (r) that supports (tha) Prakrti or manifest life (va) As speed implies change of motion and so refers to Prakrtic Ether or the senses of action, this Veda is associated with action.