Wednesday, November 7, 2007

17. Vedic Symbolism - Cow - V

It is interesting to note that how the Upanişadic story of Satyakāma’s education by sage Haridrumata has a direct bearing on the highly symbolic mantra seen by Dīrghatamas .

To remind ourselves of the main points of the story, Satyakāma, an initiate in Vedic education, was given the charge of four hundred cows by the teacher and was asked to take them to the pasture land, take due care of them and not return to the school until they became one thousand.

Satyakāma does accordingly and when the cows reach the required number of one thousand, the bull from amongst the cows happens to initiate Satyakāma in the mystery of Brahman, the Ultimate Reality. Supposing Brahman as four-footed, he proposes to teach Satyakāma in one aspect of Brahman called prakāśavān and explains it as comprising the four directions, i.e., east, west, north and south as different aspects of that phase of Brahman. After teaching so much, the bull directs Satyakāma to proceed on his return journey where Agni would teach him next into the mystery of Brahman.

When he stops in the evening and kindles the fire, Agni begins to teach him how the earth, the intermediate space, the heaven and the ocean form different aspects of one leg of Brahman known as anantavān.

Having taught him next in this regard the swan in its turn teaches him how Agni, Sūrya, Candra, and Vidyut form different aspects of the third leg of Brahman known as jyotişmān.

In course of this, the bird madgu finally teaches him how breath, eye, ear and mind form the fourth leg of Brahman known as āyatanavān.

This teaching by the four agencies proves so effective that when Satyakāma reaches in the presence of the teacher, the latter finds him as already fully enlightened leaving little scope for any further teaching except formalising what he already had learnt. (Chāndogya Upanişad, IV.4-9)

When we go through this account vis-a-vis the details embodied in the mantra, we have no difficulty in correlating the facts mentioned in them. In the first place, in the mantra, as well as in the story, it is the cow which forms the basis of the creation as well as learning about the mystery of creation. This suggests that the mystery of creation can be got unveiled by taking recourse to the fundamental principle of creation itself, as knowledge is closely associated with the object of knowledge.

Secondly, if in the story what Satyakāma is handed over are cows numbering four hundred, in the mantra also while creating the waters Gaurī at one stage shows herself as four-footed developing out of one-footedness and two-footedness successively. Four, of course, is a square number capable of serving as the basis of reaching perfection, which is symbolised by thousand.

Accordingly, if in the story the four hundred cows are to grow into thousand, in the mantra Gaurī at the state of perfection grows into thousand syllabled. Thus, if the four hundred cows correspond to the four-syllabic Gaurī or Vāk, the one thousand cows correspond to the thousand-syllabic.

Thirdly, if in the story it is when the cows grow into one thousand that the bull emerges out of them and enlightens Satyakāma in the knowledge of Brahman partly at least, and further shows the definite way to fuller enlightenment, in the mantra also it is equally well understood that when Vāk would become thousand-syllabled it would automatically make one enlightened in the whole mystery of creation out of the Ultimate Being whose Creatrix Gaurī is and which itself is directly mentioned by the seer almost in the same continuation just after a few mantras as ekam sat.(Rigveda, I.164.46)

Finally, if the bull of the story mentions the four directions i.e., the east, the west, the north and the south as constituting one of the four legs of Brahman, the mantra mentions the same together by the term pradiśaścatasrah, the four directions leaving only samudra to be mentioned further by Agni in the story.

In fact, as the earth, the intermediate space, the heaven, Agni, Sūrya, Candra, and Vidyut all are creations out of space, indeed in co-ordination with time, what the agencies other than the bull taught to Satyakāma is simply an elaboration on the bull’s teachings.

If this be admitted, it can confidently be said that it is the bull who is the real teacher of Satyakāma. And there is no misunderstanding about it that the bull is just a counterpart of the Gaurī of the Rgvedic mantra. He, indeed, is the same bull who in Vāmadeva’s famous mantra occurs as four-horned, three-footed, two-headed, seven-handed, threefold bound and as bellowing constantly from within the mortals having entered within them (Rigveda, IV.58.3).

The four horns of this bull may tentatively be taken to have been rendered into the four feet in the Upanişad, representing the four forms of manifestation of It in the world, i.e., spatial, temporal, physical and psychic. By virtue of lying inherent in the psychic being of the mortals, the bull is capable of emerging from within and teaching them about the Reality along with all its manifestations.

This is the real secret of the process of learning and knowing, all other things involved in the process being just accessories to this final objective, just as attainment to the state of thousand-syllabled Vāk is the final objective while the way to attaining to this objective lies in traversing along the path of monosyllabic, disyllabic, quadri-syllabic, eight-syllabic and nine-syllabic words. This psychology of learning has symbolically been brought out in the story of Satyakāma Jābāla through cows used as symbols.

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