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Re: [Indo-Eurasia] Earliest origins of the Om/Aum concept

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  • George Thompson
    Dear Steve & List, You have asked us to stop looking at the trees and instead to look at the forest. Okay. Here is my view of the forest. A quick, impulsive
    Message 1 of 97 , Nov 1, 2005
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      Dear Steve & List,

      You have asked us to stop looking at the trees and instead to look at
      the forest. Okay. Here is my view of the forest. A quick,
      impulsive take on the Vedic forest.

      The bandhu ideology is pre-Achaemenid. It exists already in the RV,
      let us say in particular in the Dirghatamas cycle.

      This ideaology is rooted in Vedic sacrificial thinking, the logic of
      Vedic sacrifice. This logic revolves around the set of canonical
      sacrificial victims, the pancapashu doctrine, the set of five
      canonical sacrificial beasts, pashus, of which there are five
      [panca]: working from the bottom up, they are goat, sheep, cow,
      horse, and human. If you want to get the attention of the gods then
      you are obliged at a minimum to sacrifice one of these. As you move
      up the ladder from bottom to top you increase the charge of your
      sacrifice. The power of human sacrifice is well-known in Vedic &
      does not need to be illustrated.

      To move from the bottom of the ladder to the top is a matter of
      substituting upward. But it is also possible, and in fact
      inevitable, to move in the other direction, from the top to the
      bottom. This would be a matter of substituting downward. If some
      moral impulse awakens in you and you hesitate to sacrifice a pashu so
      valuable and so much like yourself as a cow or a horse or a human
      being, you may choose, within the logic of Vedic sacrifice, to
      substitute downward.

      The Vedic horse sacrifice is in fact such a move, since it is clear
      that the horse sacrifice is in its origins a move downward and away
      from the sacrifice of the human king. The horse is the bandhu of the
      king, who is the bandhu of the gods, and in the Dirghatamas cycle
      these bandhus are explicitly mapped out [see not only 1.164, but also
      1.162-3, which provide us with our best information concerning the
      horse sacrifice in the RV; the importance of the Dirghatamas cycle is
      very, very large; notice the preoccupation with brahmans there -- not
      with priests but with enigmas & paradoxes (bra'hman as opposed to
      brahma'n].

      Substituting downward weakens the charge of the sacrifice but the
      bandhus, which establish the links, bonds [bandhus] with the
      sacrificial intent, preserve that original sacrifical intent. So, as
      a late Rgvedic philosopher, you substitute downward to escape from
      the violence of sacrifice. You go down the ladder past the five
      canonical victims [in Frits Staal's 1975 recording of the agnicayana,
      instead of sacrificing a canonical victim, I believe that grass
      substitutes were used; please, let someone confirm or correct my
      memory].

      You go so far as to stop sacrificing any pashu at all. Instead you
      perform sacrifices mentally [manasaa = with your mind]. Thus, the
      BAU opens with the teacher taking aside his students and explaining
      the true meaning of the horse sacrifice: the sacrificial horse is
      this entire cosmos and all of the bandhus between the body parts of
      the horse and the body parts of the universe are laid out in
      elaborate, explicit detail. For the teacher & his students the horse
      sacrifice is not what it appears to be. And it is no longer an act of
      violence.

      As for OM and all of those other bija mantras, they are the product
      of this downward substitution. The articles of Parpola and Hock
      illustrate nicely the range of ritual performances, chanting, wherein
      these bija mantras replace, substitute for, a receeived text, just as
      the horse had replaced, substituted for, the earlier received victim,
      the king. Evidence for this kind of mantric substitution can be
      found already in the Dirghatamas cycle, as I've already pointed out.
      By the way, the nyunkha practice emphasized by Hock is also already
      attested in the RV, at 10.94, which I discussed at the last Vedic
      workshop in Leiden, much to Hock's amusement, I think.

      It is within the context of this sacrificial logic that one should
      understand the central bandhu [metaphor] of RV 1.164, the flow of
      speech, Vac, as the flow of the milk of the divine cow. The immense
      network of bandhus that make the Rgveda so difficult to understand is
      an expression of this sacrificial logic. The immense preoccupation
      with language in the Rgveda is not only a poetic preoccupation; it is
      also a proto-linguistic preoccupation that led directly to the
      insights of Panani & the grammarians. There is a good article by
      Thieme on Panini's Vedic satyakriya. I will cite it fully in another
      post.

      That is a quick take on my view of the forest. It is nearly 6:00 AM
      here.

      Best,

      George
    • Claus Peter Zoller
      ... I have apparently overshot the mark due to some communication misunderstanding. Sorry for that. The shofar is of course made from a horn. And the wrong
      Message 97 of 97 , Nov 11, 2005
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        > If you look at authoritative malacological sites
        > you will see such
        > headings as "Family Strombidae (True conchs)".
        > "Snail" in English is
        > a vaguer term, but usually refers to smaller
        > creatures ("with a
        > distinct head" according to the Am Heritage Dict.).
        > "Two shells", by
        > one of which I suppose you mean the operculum, isn't
        > a diagnostic feature.
        > The shofar blown in Jewish rituals is a ram's
        > horn. I would be
        > very surprised if the product of so unkosher a
        > creature as a conch
        > were used.
        > Dan Milton


        I have apparently overshot the mark due to some
        communication misunderstanding. Sorry for that. The
        shofar is of course made from a horn. And the wrong
        translation of ‘shankha’ is limited to German where,
        however, the common translation “Muschelhorn” is
        indeed a mistranslation.

        Claus








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