we cry out for myth
- Those who dismiss sacred ritual and myth should remember that even
in the face of (or precisely because of) our societys rampant
secularism, people still ritualize their lives and mythologize their
world. The big difference, though, is that secular rituals (watching
football on Saturday) and secular myths (notably the notion of
limitless progress) do not have the power to uplift or change us for
the better. As psychiatrist Rollo May has shown in his last book, we
cry out for myth. This is why so many people who have been deprived
of their more traditional mythic anchorage seek intellectual and
emotional refuge in aliens, end-of-millennium revelations, and other
similar products of New Age provenance.
Although the seer-bards aspired to give voice to the fruit of their
prayerful meditations in the form of poetry, or hymns, they knew
that essentially prayer was beyond the mind, or transcognitive
(acitta). Yet sacred utterance was important to them. For, through
masterful verbal communicationand the seer-bards were superb
crafters of languagethe unnamable Reality could be hinted at and
thus become an efficient means of self-transformation for their
listeners. Their hymns are called mantras because they are tools for
focusing the mind (manas) to accomplish the great work of
penetrating into the mysteries of the cosmos and winning
the "highest heaven," the abode of immortality.
In a famous hymn, dubbed the "Creation Hymn," one Vedic seer-
composer by the name of Dîrghatamas ("Long Darkness") displays a
wonderful loftiness of thought:
In the beginning, desire, the first seed of mind, arose in That.
Poet-seers, searching in their heart with wisdom, found the bond of
existence in nonexistence.
Their [visions] ray stretched across. Perhaps there was a below;
perhaps there was an above. There were givers of seed; there were
powers: effort below, self-giving above.
Who knows the truth? Who here will pronounce it whence this birth,
whence this creation? The Gods appeared afterward, with the creation
of this [world]. Who then knows whence it arose?
The entire Rig-Veda is traditionally held to be a nonhuman
revelation, because its 1028 hymns were all the fruit of the seer-
bards prayerful meditations and visions. Thus this hymnody is in
effect a product of yogic creativity, and the oldest one at that.
For this reason, the translation of the Rig-Veda presents formidable
difficulties, and several generations of Western scholars failed to
do justice to this scriptures spiritual depth and symbolic
intricacy. It took a great Yoga adept like Sri Aurobindo to wrestle
from the difficult image-laden Vedic hymns something of their deeper
meaning and to point scholars in a new, more credible, and rewarding
direction. No doubt it will take several more generations of
scholars who are spiritually sensitive or Yoga adepts with a
penchant for scholarship to unearth the deeper layers of Vedic
thought and symbolism.
At present we can know the Archaic Yoga of the the Vedic period only
partially (and this short article has barely touched on what we do
know about it). To be sure, it is useful for Yoga students to
acquaint themselves with the Rig-Veda. After all, it is the
fountainhead of Hinduism and all later Yoga. Among other things, it
shows us that the earliest masters of Yoga, the Vedic seers, were
far from being life-denying ascetics without education or talent.
They did not shun the mind but trained it for a higher purposethat
of realizing their true nature in the immortal dimension of
existence. They loved this world but were not captives of it. They
loved the Infinite but did not fail to realize that for the Infinite
to be truly infinite it must include the finite realm. These
pioneers of the spirit were no primitives, as is overwhelmingly
evident from their highly skillful poetry. If their symbolic
language is alien to us, it is perhaps because we ourselves have
become so alienated from the deeper levels of our own psyche and
from the invisible realms of existence.
Readers of Patanjali's Yoga-Sûtra will know that study (svâdhyâya)
is one of the elements of Classical Yoga. This always meant
primarily study of the sacred scriptures. From the vantage point of
the twentieth century, this kind of study, which was intended to
enrich ones personal practice and inner growth, is at the same time
a study of the history of Yoga. Obviously, it would be beneficial to
begin such a study with the Archaic Yoga of the Rig-Veda. Rather
than being a chore, this would be an edifying task. Reading the
Vedic hymns attentively, even given the less than imperfect English
renderings, is like listening to the great Yoga masters of yore. If
we can shelve our presumptions and prejudices and, in Francis Bacons
words, "ask councel" from the Vedic adepts, they can still teach us
http://tinyurl.com/o5j3 chart for the yogas
from Aechiac Yoga page