Sunday, October 25, 2015

Book Review - A New Light on the Veda

Book Review A New Light on the Veda

In this post I will write a review of the book "A New Light on the Veda"  by by Shri T V Kapali Sastry published by SAKSHI Bangalore which I finished reading yesterday.

Book: A New Light on the Veda (English)
Author: Shri T V Kapali Sastry
Publication: SAKSHI Bangalore

Finished reading "A New Light on the Veda". A very satisfying and fulfilling read it was.




Book Review A New Light on the Veda - Rishi Sri Aurobindo

For those unaware, Shri Kapali Sastry, a disciple of Sri Aurobindo was an erudite Sanskrit Pandit, who belonged to the Symbolic school of Rig Vedic thought as proposed by the great Bengali Yogi Sri Aurobindo. 

This was in direct contrast to Mimasaka Ritualist school as popularized by Sayanacharya, later by Western Indologists and Indian academician following in their footsteps.

Book Review A New Light on the Veda - Kapali Sastry Shastry
Shri T V Kapali Sastry
The original work was in Sanskrit - what I read was an English translation by prolific writer and spiritual giant Shri M P Pandit. The book systematically dismantles the naturalist/ ritualistic framework propounded by Max Muller and later parroted by all and sundry.

The book tries to answer the question:"Is there any support for the spiritual/ psychological viewpoints of the Veda in our traditional books such as the Nirukta of Yaska, Brihad Devata of Shaunaka, the Brahmana, Aranyaka and the Upanishad books, Mahabharata, Purana etc? If so, where is it documented?"

The main purport of the book is two-fold.
  • That the Rig Veda verses have two meanings - an outer meaning on the physical plane with real life events and an esoteric meaning of deep mysticism for the initiated.
  • And that the central aim of the Vedic hymns is to help the seekers of truth, immortality and light. This immortality is beyond space, time and causation. The light of the Vedas is way beyond the  light of human intelligence.

The key to this secret (Guhya) knowledge in our age was first perceived by Sri Aurobindo, who being a Rishi and an adept mantra-drashta, could "see" the Rig Vedic hymns during his meditations. 

Later Shri Kapali Sastry developed and takes the symbolic interpretation to its logical end. He documented his findings in his Sanskrit book "Siddhanjana" which was published in 1950.

The summary of this magnum opus was summarized by Shri S K Ramachandra Rao in his famous Veda Gudartha Bodha Sutrani (Sanskrit: वेद गूडार्थ बोध सूत्राणि , Bengali: বেদ গূডার্থ বোধ সূত্রাণি )  of 30 verses or Aphorisms on Secrets of the Veda.

The hidden teaching is this: 
The Supreme Solitary divinity is Surya, the Supreme Person. Surya abides bearing several names and assuming several deity forms. The real is but One, but bearing a multiplicity of names and forms.

For Sanskrit and Dharma enthusiasts, this book should be a must read. 

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That's it. Thank you for reading Book Review - A New Light on the Veda. You may also like the following.

Interesting Facts about Rig Veda
Interesting Facts about Atharva Veda
An Introduction to Tantra 
The Hindu World View 
Introduction to Trika

Thank you for reading Book Review - A New Light on the Veda. You can buy the book from Flipkart.

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6 comments:

  1. Thanks for this review. I'm excited that the hidden meaning is that the Sun is representative of the Supreme Person. Sun, or Aditya, is my favorite (Vedic) deity, much like perhaps Indra is for you (if I remember well about you telling me something to that effect).

    I thought Rg Veda focuses more on Agni though, considering that the very beginning of the Rg Veda is with Agni. It starts like this: agnim ILe purhoitam yajnasya devamrtvijam | hotaram ratna-dhAtamam. agnih purvebhir rishibhir IDhyo nUtanairuta | My Guru, Swami Tattvavidananda ji often quotes this mantra and says that the Agni of the Vedas is not the physical fire, but Hiranyagarbha - the first manifestation of the otherwise unmanifest para-brahman. He says 'agre nayati iti agnih' one who leads forward this entire creation (by being the first manifestation).

    Kapali Sastry is a well known scholar. He was a disciple of Kavya Kantha Ganapati Muni and also Sri Aurobindo. Ganapati Muni himself considered Ramana Maharshi and Sri Aurobindo as his gurus. Kapali Sastry has written many excellent Sanskrit Bhashyas - two most famous being his Bhashyas on Ganapati Muni's Uma Sahasram and Sad-darahanam. While the former is a wonderful work of poetry - 1000 verses in praise of Uma, with 25 verses in one metre, the latter is a Sanskrit poetic translation of a famous Vedantic work written by Sri Ramana Maharshi in Tamil. Swamiji uses Kapali Sastry's Bhashyas while teaching those works.

    Thank you for the review. Looking forward to read the book. Again, I'm particularly excited by the mention of Sun.

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    1. In case you do plan to read this I would recommend you to read 3 books in conjunction to get the full picture. 1. Secret of the Veda by Sri Aurobindo 2. A New lIght on the Veda (the above book) and 3. Semantics of Rig Veda by Shri (Prof) R L Kashyap.

      In their scheme of things, Sun is the Supreme Purusha. Agni, Indra, Marut, Ashvina, Usha are but manifestation of the Supreme One. Ultimately there is only one (advaitic) reality (ekam sat) but different aspects of it are known by different names. For example, as you quoted in RV 1.1, as per the symbolic school, Agni is the purohita (front-stander) of the Yagya, he is a Deva, a Ritvik (one who has the Ecstasy of Truth), the summoner of the Gods (hotar, he who calls, from hu) and the bearer of happiness (ratna-dha uttamam).

      This interpretation is in contrast to the shrauta / mimaska ritualism where yagya is more important than any God.

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  2. It is well known that Sri Aurobindo disagrees with Sayanacharya. He also respectfully disagrees with Shankaracharya at places. (He respects Shankaracharya otherwise though).

    The advantage with Sayana's Bhashyas is that since he has written a Bhashya for one shakha of every Veda (5 in number, when you consider Shukla and Krishna Yajurvedas as two) and has also written on all four portions - Samhita, Brahmana, Aranyaka and Upanishad portions, there is some consistency when you want to consider all the Vedas as one book. But it is well known among people who studied Veda Bhashyas traditionally also that Sayana's commentaries can be better and are definitely not the last word. For example, Swamiji was once teaching me the Hiranyagarbha Suktam, with Sayana's Bhashyam as a base, and since it is a very philosophical hymn, Swamiji considered Sayana bhashyam as too much ritualising a beautiful hymn.

    Krishna Yajurveda has an alternative - Bhatta Bhaskara has written a Bhashya on the entire Taittiriya Shakha, as I understand. But I couldn't find it entirely online. Only some portions are available.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks very well said. Sayanacharya, who by the way was an Andhra Brahmin, was a great ritualist, and from a ritualist point of view his commentaries are invaluable. We do not have extant any other person who has done so much for Dharma. But as you rightly said he is not the right word.

      Thank you for your erudite comments.

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  3. It is too much of a coincidence that today I was practising surya namaskar in the morning and kept thinking how surya is truly the centre of everything. Gives life and helps us understand and undertake ideas of time...

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    1. That's quite a coincidence. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

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