VEDIC CONCEPT OF SOMA A.S. RAMANATHAN
THE LOGIC OF VEDIC THOUGHT - 2
VEDIC CONCEPT OF SOMA
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of Prajapati, or Purusaor Atman or the combined presence and coordinated functioning of manas, prana and vak before creation starts. Actually prior to the conning into existence of the Brahman theory of creation, there were many cosmogonic theories prevalent during the early Rgvedic period. The Nasadiya sukta * gives details of these schools of thought and finally upholds the Brahman theory of the origin of the cosmos. Madhusudan Ojha categorised them into ten distinct schools and dealt with them in his works. In the opinion of the author, these works have no parallel in the existing research contributions, to the understanding of Vedic philosophic thought. All the above theories speculate on the nature of the primordeal substance, that gave rise to this Universe. One of them says that, there was „asat‟ in the beginning. The Satapatha Brahraana makes a pointed reference to this and says„This cosmos was „asat‟ in the beginning. What is „asat‟? Rsis were asat in the beginning. Who were those rsis? Pranas were the rsis. They strained themselves desiring creation of the cosmos, hence they are called rsis 2. So according to the above statement pranas were called asat and from them the cosmos (sat) came into existence. In the Rgveda we get the following passage: „Brahmanaspati produced the Devas in the same way as a blacksmith blows the bellows to light up the fire. In the previous yuga of
Vedic Concept of Soma
the Devas (i.e. at the beginning of creation) from „asat‟ (i.e. from the nonexistent), this „sat‟ (i.e. the jagat) came into existence Here „asat‟ should really mean prapic energy, though Sayana takes „asat‟ to mean nameless and formless Brahman 4. However the Satapatha Br3hmana at another place makes a direct reference to Nasadiya sukta and says„This cosmos was not „asat‟ (i.e. it is not true that it did not exist) in the beginning. Nor was it 'sat (i.e. did exist). It was there and it was also not there. Only the mind was there. Therefore the rgi says „Nasadasinno sadaslt tadanlm‟ Mind is neither „sat‟ nor „asat‟ 5'. The Taittiriya BrShmana says„There was nothing in the beginning, Neither the earth nor the heaven was there. This non-existent (asat)desiredtocomeintoexistence‟^. At another place the same Brahmana saysFrom ‟asat‟ manas was created. Manas created Prajapati‟^. Both these passages together would mean that in the beginning, there was an indiscernible potential entity. It gave rise to manas (mind) and in the manas, a desire to create arose and the creation commenced.
Taking all the above passages together, we would conclude that asat means either prana or pranic energy or manas (mind) or an indiscernible potential entity. From that asat, sat i.e. the observed cosmos came into existence. According to another school, â&#x20AC;&#x17E;rajasâ&#x20AC;&#x; was the primeval material cause of the cosmos. What is rajas? The general opinion of most of the commentators is that rajas is closely associated with lokas** i.e. definable space. It would mean rajas is that primordeal substance which manifests itself into lokas. Madhusudan Ojha in the first six verses of his work Rajovada, gives a short description of rajasÂŽ. According to him the primeval rajas is a condition of primeval darkness, in which all distinctions of heaven and earth were absent. This rajas, to become the material cause of the cosmos (arambhanam tatvam), gets agitated and gives rise to lokas (rajamsi i.e. definable space) first. Explaining the concept of rajas further, Ojha says that some hold rajas to be the same as apah. Others take rajas as vlyu because of its movement. Yet some others go deeper and explain rajas as prana. Ojha then explains parorajas as thfe original pranic principle, which creates the six lokas (rajamsi). He holds the view that pfana and rajas are identical. Another school of thought believed that ambhah or primordeal waters were the starting point for the creation of the cosmos. Ambhah, apah, salilam, samudrah are all considred more or less synonymous concepts in the Vedas. The Rgveda mentions in one of the rks, the
Vedic Concept of Soma
presence of primordeal waters in the beginning and in them the creator created the Earth and the Heaven which were shaky at first and then were stabilised by Him*®. This is supported by Manu, who says that the creator created the waters first and sowed the seed in them11. The Satapatha Biihmana at another place says, „The waters were the primordeal fluid. They desired, „How shall we create‟? They strained and wanned themselves up. In those agitated waters the golden egg was formed‟ * 2. There were some other schools of thought also about the origin of the cosmos, about which we shall not bother now. The author of Nasadiya sukta rejects all the above mentioned theories and says that there was one primeval principle (mulatatva) which „breathed without air‟ for the sake of creation. This pranana is only an outward indication of the fact that the entire cosmos to be created is already within the mulatatva. During creation it only comes out, just like air comes out from the lungs when we breathe out. This iriGlatatva is Brahman and does not undergo any change when the cosmos becomes manifest. This pranana which means only a vikasa (manifestation) is supported by a power called „Svadha‟ 13. Actually, the object of the rsi is to discredit materialistic theories of the origin of the cosmos and support the Brahman theory, which upholds the divine power in the creation of the cosmos.
We have'already seen in the first book that, according to the Brahman theory mayabala manifests itself in the ocean of rasa and creation commences. In the present sTikta the rsi says that before creation commenced, the ocean of rasa was all pervading and it was darkness and darkness everywhere and nothing was discernible. In this state, the rsi says that the mayabala which is termed „tuccha‟ by him in its unmanifest condition, completely covered the rasa principle which is termed as 3bhu. Neither rasa, nor bala was recognisable and it was one entity called Brahman and nothing else was there. Then the mayabala which was so far dormant, manifested itself as a result of tapas. What was called bala in the dormant stage is now called pftna, when it gets activated. The tapas is nothing but the agitation of the prapa. In other words the transformation of dormant bala into active prana is what the tapas achieves. This itself is its mahima. It actually means that a centre of creation appeared in the ocean of rasa 14. Proceeding further the rsi says, that the desire to create appears at this stage. The appearance of a centre of creation in the previously undisturbed ocean of rasa constitutes the coming into existence of manas (mind) in which the desire to create arises, (eko aham bahu syam - let me multiply myself). This is the first activity or vrtti of the manas. The rsi then says that the learned people, after deep thought have come to-the conclusion, that the observed cosmos which is „sat‟, is closely linked to or has its origin in asat, the Brahman 15. In the next rk the rsi says that the creation proceeded quickly in all directions. Actually the sukta does not at all deal with any details of the creation process. The main interest of the rsi was to only uphold the
Vedic Concept of Soma
Brahman theory, according to which Brahman alone is, both the material and ellicicnl cause ol the cosmos. In the last rk, the rsi expresses doubts about our knowledge of the creative process16. He says it is very difficult for anybody to say how all that we see around us (i.e. the observed cosmos) came about. In other words, he says he is well aware of the complexity of the problem. Expressions of such doubts were very common among the Vedic seers. They were earnest seekers of truth and were always after somebody who will give them correct information about the workings of Nature, as the following rk says. â&#x20AC;&#x17E;O Pusan lead me to a learned man, who will quickly declare that it is this way onlyâ&#x20AC;&#x; ^. All the above details have been presented to the reader to show the richness of the mind of the Vedic seers and also their earnestness to get at the truth. They were essentially scientists in theirown way and pursued the study of Nature in order to derive maximum benefits from her resources. This is the true Vedic tradition from which we have gone too far away. The Vedic seers realised at a very early stage that manas and prana play important roles in creation. Vak (matter) comes into existence later either in the form of agni or primordeal waters, as we shall soon see. They codified the creative forces in such a logical way that they were able to build up in theirown way a unified field theory of creation and sustenance
of the Universe as we shall later see. As we have already seen, there is a di fference of opinion regarding the question which of the three (viz. manas, prana and v5k) came into existence first. The Satapatha BfShmana says at one place1 速 that manas came into existence first. Then manas created vak and then vak created prana. At another place the same Bftahmana says that pilna came into existence first. From these pranas, Prajapati came into existence. His central piSna is called Indra controlling all his seven pranas. Manas then came into existence and he desired to create. His pranas were agitated (atapyata) and then vak (matter) came into existence. He physically strained himself (asramyata). That is, v$k (matter) became the seat on which manas and prana could operate for the sake of creation. He produced the Vedas first and they became the seat of his establishment And yet in the Prasnopanisad, it is said that Prajapati with a desire to create, did tapas and produced the pair rayi and prana and he said that they will create the subjects (prajah)19. Here praqa should mean agni and rayi should mean soma. These two are the fundamental substances in the process of creation. While we concede that the creation process requires the combined presence of manas, prana and vak (matter) and they always exist together, and also it is immaterial which one of these comes into existence first, what is important for us here, is to note that the Vedic seers were quite aware, that the most important aspect of creation of life is by copulation and it required the interaction of two distinct substances. They knew that when copulation takes place, there is a deposition of fluid from the male
Vedic Concept of Soma
into the womb of the female and as a result, creation of new life takes place. This is what happens at the adhyStimika level. They extended the idea to the Sdhidaivika level and postulated a process, by which the primordeal waters could be created by Prajapati. This is exactly what the Br&hmana proceeds to describe. It says that Prajapati heated himself up while taking his seat on Trayi Vidya. He produced waters from his vak part. Since these waters pervaded everywhere they were called „apah‟. Since they covered everything they are also called „vah‟. Then he thought „shall I create the subjects (prajah) from these waters?‟ He the,n entered the waters with Trayi Vidya. Then the egg was formed 20. The same is stated by Manu, who says that Prajapati thought and wanted to produce the various subjects (prajah). He produced waters out of his own body and in them he released his Selate. This egg which is described as hiranmaya (golden) marks the birth of the Sun 21 (Suryanarayana). This would mean that the waters are the receiving womb and Svayambhu Prajapati‟s seed which is Vedagni, was deposited in these waters. Because the golden egg took the seat in waters, it was called Narayana. In the process Prajapati also produced TrayT Vidya pertaining to the Sun i.e. Sauraveda. The first Veda he produced was Brahmagniveda or Brahmani^Vasitaveda but the present Veda is the Sauraveda or Agniveda because the Sun‟s seat of establishment is agni. It is also called Prathamajaveda (i.e. the Veda that was born first) in the sense that it is
the first Veda that deals with maithuni sr§ti. Because this Agni (Sauragni) was formed first as a result of creation, it is called „Agri‟. In the indirect language they cat! it Agni. This is exactly what the Brahmana says^. Having brought into existence the primordeal waters and also the agni, the Vedic seers have now two distinctly different substances and it was easy for them to conceive that these two would interact and produce life. It is here they conceived the soma concept. The reason for naming it soma will be clear a little later. While they had already the three Agni vedas viz. Rk, Yajus and Sama, the necessity for the fourth Veda has now arisen to deal with the primordeal waters, which were named by them as Subrahma, or Suveda and this fourth Veda was called Somaveda or Atharva Veda. It should not be understood here that Agnivedas deal with Agni alone and Somaveda deals with only Soma. When once the concept of yajna was formulated and defined generally as „Agnau somahutiryajfiah‟ ie. the offering of soma in agni is yajna and since yajna formed the subject of all the Vedas, Agni and Soma were both dealt with in all the Vedas, The Gopatha Brahmana, as we have already stated in our book, „What is Veda?‟ deals with the primordeal waters Subrahma created by Prajapati. These waters were said to contain two components viz. bhrgu which represents sneha (stickiness) principle and angiras which represents tejas (fire) principle. These waters were called Suveda because they appeared as the sweat of Prajapati. The combined presence of bhrgu and angiras in the primordeal waters constitutes the Atharva principle. It is the bhfgu principle, that carries with it the soma concept, while the
Vedic Concept of Soma
angiras principle is associated with agni. We can look at the problem in an entirely different way. The main property of agni is to spread and lose itself completely. It requires soma as food for its survival and this substance should not only enable agni to survive, but also help it in the creation of objects in the Universe-both living and non-living. Take for example the occurrence of rtus (seasons). The Vedic seers argued that the creation of life in the rtus cannot occur because of agni alone. During the summer agni moves from South to North and pushes the snow line to the North. During the winter agni moves towards the South and snow line advances towards the South. During the summer, agni asserts itself and interacts with snow (which may be conceived as a replica of soma). During the winter snow advances and pushes agni to the South. It is this interaction which can be described as the deposition of fluid-soina into agni, resulting in a fertilisation process and creation of life of all sorts takes place. That is why the Brahmana says „Somo vai retodhah‟2^ je. soma is a fertilising agent. It is a yajna where deposition of soma into agni takes place. This is what happens in the middle region (antariksa). At the adhidai vika level the Sun and the stars require some feeding in order to maintain their form and brightness. This food is essentially the food of agni (mahavrata or soma), which when consumed by the Sun becomes part and parcel of it. That is why the Brahmana says „Somo vai annam agnirannadah‟ 24. It maintains its vak (matter) content and also contributes to its brightness by converting part of itself into agni. That is to say, if agni has the quality of spreading and losing itself, the other substance should oppose this spreading by feeding the agni and containing it. That is, while agni is visaranadharma (spreading and losing), the other substance should be anna type and
should be sankocadharma (contracting). In effect, the Vedic seers had conceived the radiative equilibrium of a stellar atmosphere in its most elementary form. The second substance was named by them as soma, because it is offered to agni and reacts with it (suyate ayam agnau iti somah). While agni was conceived as a form of vak (matter), in which pranaâ&#x20AC;&#x;s role is predominant, soma was postulated here to be a form of vak in which the role of vak is predominant. Agni is surrounded by soma, wherever the creation process is in operation. When we go deeper into the concept of soma, we find that it has many ramifications. Actually, it will not be an exaggeration if we say, that next to the discovery of the three entities viz. manas, prana and vak, and Atman, the discovery of soma or rather the concept of soma is a very great achievement by the Vedic seers in their understanding of the creation process, as we shall see in the subsequent chapters.
II - AGNISOMA VIDYA In our book, What is Veda?, we explained the rk, yajus and saman principle. We saw that rk is mahaduktha, saman is mahavrata and yajus is agni, which is called purusa or yajurbrahma. This yajus is a combination of two principles „yat‟ and „juh‟. Yat represents movement (gati) and juh represents steadiness (sthiti) principle. Yat is prlna or vayu which moves and juh represents the steady background, which is akas‟a. Prana and akas‟a always exist together. The Chandogyopanisad says, “Prana is brahman. Kam is brahman and kham also is brahman, What is kam is also kham. What is kham is also, kam. This is called prana. That is called akas‟a).”! In other words, this prana which is in the form of vayu is really brahmagni and represents the agni principle. The vak which fills the akasa represents the soma principle. The two together may be called agnisomabrahma. This all pervading vak does mantrana (ie. thinks about creation which menas‟ „means‟ is embedded in it) together with prana, which is called rsi in the Brahmanas. That is why vak is called mantra and the seer of the mantra is called rsi, though many times the rsi himself is called
comprehensive and interesting term on pregnant with meaning, in the Vedic literature. We shall have occasion to elaborate on it elsewhere. Ttie Taittiriya Brahmana says, that in this vak the visva is already present
in unmanifest form2. The prana which goes under the name „yat‟ operates on vak and converts part of it into waters. These waters go under the name ' subrahma or „Sutfeda‟ or „Sveda‟ according to the Brahmanas. In other words, the yajurvak which was only „brahma‟ has now become brahma and subrahma^. Incidentally it is also called Paramesthi occupying the fourth loka4. Both y ajurbrahma and subrahmaconstitute agnisomabrahma. Whereas in the case of yajurbrahma, the agnisoma principle is characterised by gati (movement) and sthiti (stability), in the case of subrahma, the agnisoma principle is characterised by tejas (fire) and sneha (stickiness). In other words the aptatva, which is called subrahma has actually two principles, one represents the bhrgu principle which is soma principle and the other angiras principle which is agni principle 5. The Kausitaki Brahmana says that there are only two things viz. sneha (sticky) and tejas (fiery) principles and these two are realised from day and night (ie from light and darkness)^. It is the coming into existence of this substance, that is responsible for the commencement of creation by copulation (maithuni srsti) at the adhidaivika level. Yajurbrahma cannot start it by itself because it is predominantly prana and vak plays a very minor role. On the other hand in the case of subrahma, Vak in the form of aptatva (waters) is predominant. We may say yajurbrahma plays the role of purusa and subrahma plays the role of stri (woman). Purusa deposits his seed in the waters, after creating
Vedic Concept of Soma
In fact, if we understand soma in all its aspects, we will be nearer to developing a physical model of the evolution and sustenance of the Universe based ~on the Vedic concepts in which manas will be incorporated as a parameter at some stage. We have already seen that the word brahman is used for yajus, which is essentially agni. Now another substance viz soma has come into existence, because of the creation of the waters. When agni and soma unite, the condition that results is called satya. This satya is of two types, brahmasatya and devasatya. When yajurbrahman is involved and rsi prana (agni) combines with mantra vak, the resulting satya (i.e. truths concerning the functioning of Nature) is called brahmasatya. When bhrgu principle (soma principle) and angiras principle (i.e. agni principle) are involved, we have the creation of pitrpranas and devapranas, which go under the name devasatya. The coming into existence of life (ji va) on this earth denotes the coming into existence of brahmasatya and devasatya. That is, every human being takes his birth with rsi prana, devaprana and pitrprana. We shall have occasion to elaborate this elsewhere. Satya and rta are very interesting terms in Vedic literature. It is unfortunate that most of the commentators have gi ven meanings to t hese terms according to their whims and fancies. Many think that they have the same meaning namely truth. Even in vocabularies like Amarakosa, Nighantu,
commentators get into trouble, when in the same place both the words rta and satya are used, they manage to get away by giving different meanings to the word rta. Sometimes it means water, sometimes yajna, and sometimes satya itself. For example, in the aghamarsana sukta both the words occur 1 Sayarja gets away by saying that rta concerns truthfulness of the mind and satya concerns truthfulness of speech.
Vedic Concept of Soma
MadhusOdan Ojha in his writings has discussed this topic in great detail taking support from passages taken from the Vedas Brahmanas and Upanisads. Actually rta is a condition in which a substance exists without any defined centre (kendra) around which an object could be built up. For example, air, water, snow, or any fluid are all said to be in a rta condition. It is from this condition we paiss on to a condition, where a centre appears and an object builds up around that centre. The object that comes into existence is termed „satya‟. Thus rta and satya are not synonymous terms. Madhusudan Ojha defines rta state as „ahrdayam asarram rtam‟ and satya state as „sahrdayam sasariram satyam‟. From rta state we pass on to the satya state. For example, the agni in the middle region (antariksa) is in the rta state. But in the Sun, the agni at the centre is satya and the soma which is in the mahima region and which feeds it, is in the rta state. Similarly the agni trapped in the centre around which earth has formed is in the satya state. In all creation processes satya is at the centre and rta surrounds it. The satya part is agni and the soma surrounds it in the rta state and feeds the satyagni. The Vedic seers recognised three types of states, when an object comes into existence. These were termed as 1) satta 2) vidhrti and 3) dhrti. Satta refers to the fact that the object exists. In the process of formation, the object gains certain substances, acquires certain qualities and
There is then the third state, in which two different substances join together and both co-exist in one object (samyogasambandhena dravye dravyantarapratistha). This is the dhrti state. The object that comes into existence is said to have a seat of establishment (pratistha) and is now called satya. The substance out of which the object is formed surrounds it as rta. In this sense satya and rta
V e d ic Concept of Soma
is charcterised by a hrdaya which only means that it is indicative of the three activities viz. harati, dyati and yacchati, which we have already explained. Rta surrounds satya and in a way protects it. The Brahmana says, “Rta is placed in satya and satya is placed in rta. Both wore my (i.e. Prajapati‟s) possessions”. 12 The satya that is first born is agni. Because the soma in the surrounding region is offered to produce this satya (satyasvarupSvataraya suyate) it is called soma (tasm3l somah). One can go on quoting many passages from Vedic literature to prove the above interpretation of rta and satya which was first given by Madhusudan Ojha. It is unfortunate that a good portion of his writings on this subject still remain unpublished. Vikafca is that activity when something is trying to go out of the object. When there is a tendency to shrink and the outer parts of the object show a tendency to move towards the centre, the activity is called sankoca. The former is characteristic of agni and the latter is characteristic of soma. (Prasarapam agnih; akuncanam somah). When agni moves out it gets subtler and subtler and in this way it exhibits itself in three states viz, agni, vSyu and aditya. These are the three states of angiras principle. On the other hand soma becomes denser and denser as it shrinks and therefore exhibits itself as soma , vayu and Spah. These are the three states of bhrgu principle. Though the bhrgu principle is vak oriented, it has also prana embedded in its v3k part. We have therefore corresponding to its three states soumyaprana, vayavya pr3na and apya praija. It is this ■Spya prana which is also called asura prana that pollutes soma at all levels.
Vedic Concept of Soma
active in the solar region, while Varuqa has no place there. What is important for us here is that the bhrgu principle in the state where it exists as waters* has polluted soma (Varuna soma). However in that part of the Parame§thTregion where Indra‟s influence extends, it is unpolluted and exists as pure soma or pavitrasoma or Brahmanaspatisoma. It is this soma that feeds the Sun and is responsible for its brightness. It is this soma that feeds Indra who is active in the Sun. The Rgveda says, „Soma the steer, the child of waters achieved great things. He gave strength to Indra. He generated light in the Sun 13 . „G Soma, you have produced the herbs, the milk giving cows and the waters. You pervade the entire firmament and have dispelled the darkness with light 14. „O Brahmanaspatisoma, you enter every limb (of the consumer). The person who has not gone through the vratas does not get it. Only those who have gone through them get it* 5. Actually the soma that is present in our body is protected by vayavya prana in which the Indra principle works. The moment this prSna leaves the body, the body starts stinking because of agression by Varuna forces. The Brahmaijaspati soma present in the Parame§thT region which feeds the Sun is the soma which the brahmanas were after
in order to attain immortality (amrtatva). That is why the Rgveda says, â&#x20AC;&#x153;People think that the juice extracted from the herb by crushing, is the soma. But the soma which the brahmanas knew, is not consumed by anybodyâ&#x20AC;?*^. Reverting back to the bhrgu principle, in the state ofapah (waters), the asura pratjas, which are said to be of 99 kinds, are active. In the vayavya state, the gandharva praijas are active, which are said to be of 27 kinds. In the soma state, the pitr pr5nas (which keep the birth chain unbroken) are said to be active and they are said to be seven in number. Because of the presence of angiras principle along with the bhrgu principle in the primordeal waters, devapranas are also produced. But they are exhibited only in the region of the Sun below because devapranas are agneyapranas, as opposed to the pitrpraQas, which are soumyapranas.
That is why Manu said, â&#x20AC;&#x17E;Rsis give rise to pitrs and pitrs give rise to the devas and asuras. From the devas, the entire jagat with all its beings came into existence * 7. AgnTsomavidya is synonymous with yajnavidy a. It is yajna process that is responsible for the coming into existence of this visva with all its diversities. This yajna has many ramifications and many of these have relevance to our understanding of the nature and functions of soma. Actually soma is an entity much subtler than vllk (matter) pervadi ng the entire space. In this state, it does not exhibit any qualities of bhuta which is characterised by the five tanmatras viz. sabda, sparsa, rupa, rasa
Vedic Concept of Soma
and gandha. It is some sort of amrta or rasa, which cannot be annihilated and which plays an important role in creation. In the purest state, it forms Prajapati's manas. This manas takes the help of his prana and operates on his vak part. This operation produced two types of substances, which were amjta (cannot be annihilated). One had the tendency to go out and spread itself and in this the prana was very active. The other substance had the tendency of shrinking and inward movement and in this, the prlna was feeble. The former, because of its active prana is called annada (eater of food) and the latter because of its weak prana and predominance of vak becomes food (anna). The former is called agni and the latter, soma. When both these interact, creation takes place. If soma were not there, there would be no limit to the spreading tendency of prapa and ultimately the substance annihilates itself. If agni were not there, the shrinking tendency of vak will lead to contraction of substances without limit and again the substance will lose its existence. Therefore in ereation both these forces exist in varying degrees and that is how, diversity in creation is achieved. Another important aspect of agni-soma interaction is that when soma in the form of food is offered to agni, it first becomes agni and rises up in flames. It ultimately loses itself in space, but in the process it becomes converted into soma finally and fills the space. It comes down again along with rain to produce life on earth (somo vai retodhah). This int^rconvertibility of agni and soma, as well as their individual roles in creation, are beautifully described in Brhajjabalopanisad, which says, 1.
â&#x20AC;&#x17E;Agni which is fiery and ferocious exhibits a shining form while soma which is power (sakti) is essentially amrta and has a form full of essence and vitality.â&#x20AC;&#x;
â&#x20AC;&#x17E;Amrta is that, which is firmly established. It is characterised by vidya, tejas (Heat and light) and kala (art). In all subtle
and gross substances it is present as rasa (essence) and tejas (heat and light) (rasa belongs to soma category and tejas belongs to agni category).‟ 3.
‟The fiery principle takes two forms. One is the Sun and the other is agni. Similarly, the essence (rasa) and vitality (sakti) principle has two forms - one is soma and another is water‟.
lightning. The rasa (essence) is exhibited in sweet things. Both
immovables in this visva‟. 5.
„Agni gives rise to amrta (soma). Amrta feeds agni. The constructive feeding of the Universe is by agni-soma interactions.‟
„Soma has strength above and comes down. Agni has strength below and goes up. The visva is locked up with these two always.‟
„Sakti (power) lies over agni (soma lies on the head of Siva) This agni goes up and reaches soma and becomes one with it. Soma comes down and reaches agni and becomes one with it.‟
“That is why the power (£akti) of KSlagni moves up. It takes soma with it (in the form of flames) and then soma comes down (in the form of rain amrta).‟
„The Siva-Sakti pair represents Kalagni going up and soma coming down.‟
10. „Sivas power (sakti) is always above and the power below
Vedic Concept of Soma
is Siva himself, who provides the support for the Sakti In this way, there is no place devoid of Si va-Sakti influenceâ&#x20AC;&#x; 18. The above passage clearly brings out the following points 1.
Agni and soma are two important entities in the Universe which create and sustain this jagat. They enter into every object of creation, both gross and subtle and provide support to them.
consumed and reformed constantly by moving up, 3.
Agniâ&#x20AC;&#x;s movement is always upwards and soma always comes down (with rain).
In short Agni-soma constitute the inseparable Siva-Sakti pair which pervades the entire jagat.
Actually when the rsi says agni goes up and soma comes down, we are only reminded of the following rk which says; „With the passing days, the movement of waters is uniform. It goes up and falls down. Parjanyas (i.e. rain bearing clouds) feed the earth and agni moving up reanimates the heaven‟ 1^. Here, it should be noted that the rain contains soma. In other words, the only way by which soma reaches the earth is through rain. It is the heat of the earth that restores water to the clouds, which later comes down as rain. This is real constructive feeding of the earth and the life it supports. In other words the Sun‟s heat falling on the earth and energising the atmosphere and the rains that feed the earth, constitute the Siva-Sakti pair discussed in the Upanigad referred to above. They conduct this yajna to create and sustain life on earth. Soma is really a very comprehensive term. All types of food or more precisely all types of enjoyables (bhogyavastu) come under the name soma and the enjoyer is of course agni 2®. We know already that all Prajapatis are not of equal strength; Some are stronger than the others and live at their cost. The Prajapati, who loses his vak part to the other Prajapati becomes his food (anna) and the Prajapati, who consumes this is the eater of the food (annada) and is in essence agni. The soma consumed becomes urk which is fine essence of food. This urk becomes prana and this prana goes after food. This interconversion of anna, urk and praqa which is essentially yajna or anna-annada bhava goes on in Nature21.
Vedic Concept of Soma
To look at in another way, yajna produces a samskiira (puri Creation) in the agni, which can be classified under three kinds. These arc vaidika, daivika, and bhautika. Vaidikagni is one that involves the Vedas. It is essentially yajus as we know already, it is this yajus that builds up every object. It is this yajus which gets out as rk (mahaduktha) and comes back with food (mahavrata or soma) through saman and again becomes agni. This in effect is the samskara for the Vaidikagni. Daivikagni constitutes the 33 devatas, who perform the yajWa which is interconvertibility of anna, Tirk and prana. In the case of bhautikagni, soma is offered to agni. It bums out becomes agni, rises up and again becomes soma. There are two types of offerings that agni gets. One is when soma is offered to agni, which we have all along been discussing. This yajfia can be called soma yajna, which is essentially of 11 types. The gSrhapatySgni is representative of the agni of the earth, which gets soma along with rainfall. The ahavaniyagni represents the Sun who gets mahavrata through saman. There are eight types of antariksfgni (agni of the middle region) going under the name dhisnyagni. The gandharva /
pranas reside here and protect soma. What these gandharva pranas are, we shall see in the next chapter, when we deal with adhidaivika soma. The eleventh one is naintagni which is said to be inauspicious. We shall not bother about it just now. On the other hand when agni is offered to agni, we have a different kind of yajna called cayana (piling) yajffa. Here, the agni offered is not consumed but it strengthens the agni to which it is offered. As the agni content of object increases, the soma content decreases. In effect, the atman of the object (or living being) gets strengthened and the bhuta (material) part of it becomes weak. In the next stage bhuta or material
connection gels broken, just like a dried leaf falls off from the branch of a tree. As a result, the atman leaves its connection with the Earth and the Moon (which is conceived as a soma pinda) and merges with the agni of the Sun. In other words the vaisvanaragni in the man which is produced by the combination of divyagni (agni of the heavens) and parthivagni (agni of the earth) gets released of its earthly connection and becomes divyagni. This is termed as kaivalya mukti of the atman. That is why the saying goes that only through cayana yajna, one can attain immortality (amrtatva) 22. Actually the concept of mukti is an extremely interesting one from the scientistâ&#x20AC;&#x;s point of view and we shall discuss it in a separate book dealing with the concept of atman and its final goal. But when a person performs soma ySga, he goes to svarga but his atman does not attain mukti. He is bom again. While living, the devatas come and live in his body. His atman is made of samvatsaragni of the Sun in which the devatas establish themselves. In other words his vaisvanaragni is made up of devatas. Whenever soma is offered to this agni, the devatas in him are fed. In short, he is still inside the cycle of births and deaths, though he functions as a human being of a higher order. We have already seen that agni and soma constitute the amrta part of Prajapati and both take part in the creation process. Agni has expanding tendency and soma has contracting tendency. When both the forces are at work, balancing of these forces in varying degrees takes place and objects of various forms and size come into existence. Agni stops the contraction of soma at some stage and soma stops agniâ&#x20AC;&#x;s expansion at some stage. That agni and soma play their roles in creation and each tries to excel the other in the performance of their respective roles is b eautifully described in the Rgveda thus:
Vedic Concept of Soma
"Both of them overpowered the asura forces (which work against the constructive creative forces) and could never be overpowered by them. Indra and Vignu vie with each other in performing their roles Neither of them could excel the other. In the process they achieved thousand things in three ways‟ 23. Here
Aitareya Brahmapa while explaining this £k says that the three thousands (sahasrT) constitute Iokasahasri, Vedasaharsri and vaksahasri. 24 Actually, Visnu is the force which feeds agni with soma and contains it. The rk only means that agni and soma partake in creation, in varying degrees and are responsible for the variety in the Universe. It is worth noting here that when a star is in radiative equilibrium, there is a balance between the radiation pressure and the gravitational force and the size of the star is determined by the comparative strength of these two forces.
The Satapatha Brahmana says that half of PrajSpati is amrta and . half is martya (mortal) 2- 5. If mjtyu were not there, agni and soma will both gain strength and because of their comparable strength, variety in creation will not be possible. Therefore, the Vedic seers postulated the existence of a type of agni that is called yama, which acts as mrtyu for soma and which on account of its warmth renders the binding between particles weak and tries to separate them and ultimately causes the
disappearance of the substance itself. The mrtyu for agni is a type of hunger as a result of which it consumes too much food (soma) and ultimately loses its identity. That is, a condition is reached when soma completely overpowers agni and we have waters instead of agni. The soma is no longer friendly with agni but actually it weakens a nd kills it. It will be interesting to note here that whenever wild Fires take place, the atmosphere is filled with smoke and at a certain stage, there is a possibility of showers. It constitutes some sort of intense ground seeding of the clouds in the atmosphere. We have therefore, in Prajapati four entities present instead of two, because he combines in himself both martya and amrta parts. Agni and soma, interwoven with his atman are his amrta components. Yama and Spah (waters) are his martya components. Yama belongs to agni category while 3pah belongs to soma category. While agni consumes soma and supports the yajna process i.e. supports creation of various substances, yama weakens soma‟s activity and therefore it prevents soma sustaining the created object. At some stage ,the object ceases to exist. Similarly the mrtyu of agni which is apah (waters) causes its disappearance. Actually all these four forces take part in creation and sustenance of the various objects in the Universe (both living and nonliving) and produce variety and diversity in them. However while agni and soma play the major role in creation, yama and apah have only a secondary or minor role and that is why we have the saying „agnijomltmakam jagat‟. It is obvious that when a man dies, the friendly relation of agni and soma breaks down and yama and apah (waters) play their role. According to the Vedic seers, yama‟s region (loka) is in the Sun 26 agni‟s region is on the Earth, soma has its region in the Moon and 5pah
Vedic Concept of Soma
(waters) surround the space outside the regions. Agni‟s direction is East, yama‟s direction is South, soma‟s direction is North and the direction for waters is West. That is how the Vedic seers located these four principles on the Earth. So when the devas are worshipped, we face East or North. When we worship asuras (wicked acts like harming or killing others) we face West. We worship pitrs facing South. We have already said that in the pure and subtlest state, soma goes to form the manas of Prajapati. What applies to adhidaivika sphere, applies to thelkdhyatm i ka sphere also. The finest essence of food that we take goes to make the manas. The Chandogyopanisad §ays, „The food taken is used in three ways. The grossest part becomes waste (purisa) to be excreted. The medium part of it goes to build the flesh and the finest part goes to make the manas‟ 27 We are going to deal withldhidaivika soma in greater detail in the next chapter and there we shall be dealing with the Moon as a reservoir of soma. We shall also be dealing with sraddhatatva, which has its origin in the Moon. There we shall be able to know more about the role of soma in the formation of manas. From our analysis so far, a clear picture of the nature and functions of soma is yet to emerge. This is mainly due to the fact that the Vedic seers conceived soma in various ways. They wanted an entity, which will provide a strong urging force to bring the material world into existence and sustain it and soma answered their requirement. The pitr prlijas, the sticky bhrgu principle, the yajna process, agni-soma interaction, the Siva-Sakti concept, etc were all brought in by them to explain the
observed cosmos and its diversities. We shall be able to get a clearer picture of soma only after we see in detail, the way, the Vedic seers understood adhidaivika soma, adhibhautikasomaand3dhy5tmika soma.
Ill ADHIDAIVIKA SOMA
We have already mentioned that the Vedic seers believed in -a grand unity in the Universe. According to them, whatever exists i n the Universe exists at all the three levels viz. adhidaivika, adhyatmika and adhibhautika levels though it may be difficult to identify them in every case. In the case of soma, the Vedic seers identified the uppermost region called paravata, in which soma alone exists. The Kaujltaki Brahmana says „anto vai paravatah' i.e. the end region is paravata. While this is the region of soma, the region comprising the Earth -atmosphere-Sun system is called virat region, i.e. the region in which the yajna process tak es place. We may imagine the centre or uktha region of the Universe is the one in which Indra prana or Indratma (Prajapati),resides and spreads his rays in all directions. He is surrounded by agni, which in turn is surrounded
maintains it self by feeding on
surrounding soma. Actually the whole system constitutes Prajapati. The soma taken by agni that goes out is again reconverted into soma. This is the Kuruksetra (yajna sthana) in which this yaga goes on continously. The soma that occupies the outer regions of space is called „diksoma.‟ From the above description, it is not difficult to infer that the Vedic seers had realised the importance of rainfall for all forms of life on Earth. They described this phenomenon in various ways and agn i-soma description (agni going up, soma coming down) was one of the ways used by them. The Vedic seers believed that the Sun maintains his brightness by
soma only.* This soma as we have already seen is nothing but the Paramesthisoma or Brahmanaspatisoma or Pavamana soma or pavitra (unpolluted) soma 2 . It is this soma that is present in the milky way as mentioned in the Rgveda 3 . It is reaUy this soma that the brahmanas were after and not what is extracted from the plant 4 . The river Ganga was considered by them as directly originating from soma dhSra (milky way, also called akasa Ganga) of the heavens and carrying soma in their waters. The
adhidaivika soma and its descent on the Earth, along with rains to cause life. We have already seen that in a yajna union of soma with agni takes place resulting in the creation of a new object. In the Agnihotra karma which is the basic yajna perf ormed by the yajamana, agni, samit (fuel), angara (cinder), dhuma (smoke), arcih (flames), visphulinga (sparks) havirdravya (milk that is offered) etc. are all involved and here the rsi uses this language to explain the statement „panchamyamahutavapah purusavacaso bhavanti‟ i.e.‟in the fifth offering (ahuti) man comes into existence‟ (which goes under the name pancagnividya) and goes into details of the five yajnas taking place in the heaven, middle region, (antariksa) and earth, resulting in the appearance of man (purusa) at the final stage. In the first yajna, the ahutidravya is sraddha and the created substance is soma. Sraddha according to the Vedic seers is one of the
sphere, the moon is the most difficult to understand. The Vedic seers were extremely fascinated by the Moonâ&#x20AC;&#x;s behaviour as a heavenly body and speculated quite a lot about its origin and nature. Her periodic waxing and waning, her north-south movement in the sky during the month, the pleasant effect she produces on the living beings on earth, especially when she is full, her whiteness etc, led them to confer on her the qualities of soma, which ultimately resulted in her being called soma itself and they developed a theory of her origin. The Vedic seers were ardent students of Nature. In the very early stages, every natural phenomenon should have posed a puzzle to them which they gradually tried to resolve. One of the phenomena of Nature which probably threw them into utter confusion, was the total solar eclipse. The first total solar eclipse observed by them should have posed a serious threat to their very existence. The lunar eclipse might not have bothered them so much, since they were used to moonless nights. For some time, none of the rsis could explain the eclipses. At that time seme rsis of Atri family came forward with an explanation. Apparently the Atris constituted a highly intellectual group, who not only headed the assembly of intellectuals at one time but also were able to explain various natural phenomena^. According to the Puranas, Atri was ordained by Brahma to propagate the Vedas. The asuras hated him for his views which did not agree with theirs and tortured him and his family members in a torturing cell called rbisa. They also subjected him to the heat of burning grain husk (tusagni). The rsi Kakslvan refers to this in his sukta in the Rgveda and says that Atri propitiated the Asvins, who saved him from the fire and also got him out of the torturing cell. The emanciated Atri was then fed by them with food and milk. We quote below the relevant rks. 12. Even today the brahmins belonging to the Atreyagotra consider themselves superior to the other brahmins.
Adhidaivika Soma 8,
The brahmin Atri, pressing the stones, praising and adoring the Gods, esablished in the heaven the eye of Surya and causecfcSvarbhTSnu‟s magic arts to vanish.
The Atris found the Sun again, whom Sv^chMnu pierced with darkness. None else had the power to achieve this 14.
Madhusudan Ojha, in his book Atri KhySti 15‟. while analysing these rks has brought in several things which appear to be difficult for us to digest. His explanations of the words Rahu and Svarbhanu are interesting. While the word Rahu is explained as devoid of sunlight (characteristic of asuras)^ on the earth‟s side caused by the eclipsing of the Sun by the Moon‟s disc, Svarbhanu is explained by him as the varying intensity of sunlight caused by the eclipse, on the Earth s side ^. It is to be noted here that the word Svarbhanu does not occur anywhere else in the Rgveda. Madhsudan Ojha then explains the rks. We shall first follow his explanations and give our comments on them and then present our explanations. The first rk (i.e. fifth rk in the sukta) says, that the people were
whether you exhibit, Mitratva or Varunatva, you are Atriprana. Now, Ojha says that the question of Mitra or Varuna would not have been there if Atriprana is not present in the Moon. That the Sun did not really disappear is conveyed to us by bringing in the Mitra -Varuna concept. Before we give our comments on the above, we shall present Ojha‟s explanation of the next rk also. Ojha says that the rsi Atri set up an instrument for observing the Sun
instrument. He set the gravas together, the klris were used to please the Devas using the stotras (namamsi). Atri set his eye on the portion of the sky which contained the eclipsed Sun and explained to the people how the eclipse took place and when it would end. We have no knowledge of that instrument or its components now. The last j-k of this sukta is simple to understand. During ancient times, whenever solar eclipse occurred and the Sun was eclipsed by the Moon, nobody except the Atris was able to understand the phenomenon correctly. While explaining the above rks Madhusudan Ojha has brought in the concept of atriprana, which has the property of hardening substances and making them opaque. While angiras and bhrgu principles have three components or states of existence, atri principle does not show any such difference but exists only in one state. That is why it is called a -tri (not three). The Satapatha Brahmana, while explaining the word „atri‟ says, „Vak is atri. The food is eaten by vak only. It is „atti‟ that has become atri.
Vedic Concept of Soma
It eats everything. Everything becomes its food This atriprana is one in which the vak part is predominant i.e. it has the property of making vak pindas (lumps of matter) by its activity. For example, the hardening of earth, stones, etc. is due to the activity of atriprana. Along with bhrgu and angiras principles atri principle also has its origin in the paramesthi waters. While angiras principle creates deva pr5nas
bhutas (material bodies). It actually represents the dark part (tamobhaga) or martya part of every created object and manas and prana form the amrta part.
When a woman is in her periods she is called atreyl^ , because of the appearance of rajas which represents tamobhaga. That is why she was kept aloof. Certain changes take place in her, which finally end up in a condition in which she becomes fit for receiving the retas of the man, which later results in the birth of the child.
According to the Puranas Atri performed a severe penance for a prolonged period and as a result, his body became soma and from his eyes shining soma was dripping and it illuminated all directions ten fold. Ten damsels came to bear it in their womb. However they were unable to hold it and gave it to the directions. The directions were unable to hold it and therefore it came down towards the earth. On its way Brahma stopped it
and made it the moon. Whatever reached the earth became herbs and plants and they were shining. These herbs and plants nourish the beings on earth. BrahmacoRferred-on soma the kingship and he became the king of seeds plants, brShmanas and waters^O. Because Atris explained the cause of the eclipses, they were honoured by the first daksina (presentation) in every yajna^l. Even today this practice is prevalent in our country. At
Vedic Concept of Soma
portion of ihe Brahmarjas Many of these certainly contain interesting concepts of the Vedic seers couched in symbolic language and it is very difficult for most of us to decipher them. It is this difficulty that has kept many scholars away from an intensive study of the Brahmanas. The akhyana that we are here interested in, runs as follows: ‟The soma was originally in the heavens. The devas (i.e. the devas on the earth) desired that they would do yajrfa, if soma comes down and be available to them. They then created two mystic figures Kadru and Suparni. The author of the akhyana says here that the story of Kadru and Suparni will beexplained later in the Brahmana dealing with DhisnySgnis. For them gayalri was able to bring the soma down. While she was carrying it and rushing towards the Earth, a gandharva, ViSvavasu by name, stole it away. The devas knew that the soma had come down and yet it had not reached them. They suspected that the gandharvas might have stolen it. They said, "The gandharves are fond of women. Let us send vak (speech). She will come back to us again along with the soma. They then sent word to the gandharvas. They came with soma and told the devas „soma will be yours, if vak can be ours‟. The devas agreed on condition that the vak should not be forced to go to their side. Both should invite her to join their side. She can choose and join whichever side she likes.
The gandharvas said „we know, we know‟ and used the Vedas to
_ talk to vak. The devas on the other hand designed a vina (stringe d instrument) and playing on it approached vak and told her that they would entertain her with dance and music. VSk went to the devas. But it was not a good thing, because she was attracted by the sweet songs*and
dance of the devas. In the same way women will be attracted towards those who sing and dance. This will eventually become a natural trait in themâ&#x20AC;&#x;.
The devas thus got both soma and v3k. Thereafter whosoever wants to do yajna using soma, buys soma and uses it in the yajna 24,
In the above akhyana, adhidaivika vidya and adhyatmika vidya are interwoven and an explanation is sought to be given in terms of the properties of soma, for the fact that women are by nature attracted towards men who sing and dance. Actually elsewhere in the Vedas, it is said that brahmins whose main occupation is the study of Vedas. should not indulge in music and dancing. We shall deal with this Skhyana in great detail, when we deal with soma yaga in a separate book. Our main purpose here is to understand the role of gandharva, which is essentially a prana in the adhidaivika level and also the role of gayatri in effecting the descent of soma towards the Earth.
Vedic Concept of Soma We have already seen that the agni of the earth-atmosphere-sun
system exists in eleven states, viz, garhapatySgni, which is the agni of the earth, ahavaneyagni, the agni which the Sun represents and eight dhisnyagnis which represent the agni of the middle region (antariksa) The dhisnyagni is essentially a prana which pervades the middle region and which is closely related to soma. In fact the Brahmana says that dhisnyagnis are the stepbrothers of soma and they actually constitute atmans of soma 25. This would mean that somaâ&#x20AC;&#x;s support in the middle region
dhisnyagnis constitute prana and therefore they mutually support each other and always go together. Dhisnyagni can as well be called theatman of soma which pervades the entire
its own light. The gandharva prana which is essentially a soumya prana is nothing but this dhisnya prana (as will be clear just now).
The Vedic seers were very keen observers and whatever they observed in the adibhautika level was used by them to frame concepts in the adhidaivika level. This was based on their belief that there is a grand unity in the universe. They passed from the known to the unnown. They were very much aware of the fact that on the earth, there is ample accumulation of snow (which is a replica of soma) in the northern latitudes and agni (heat) in the southern latitudes. In the initial stages they should have wondered how these coexist side by side without soma being consumed by agni. During extreme summer when the Sun reaches its extreme northward position, there is copious flow of snow-melt-water in the rivers. Applying the same principle in the vertical, the Vedic seers
imagined that the agni in the antariksa region coexists with soma without consuming it. But when the Sun reaches extreme northward position and turns back, the protection of soma is broken and it comes down with rain. Actually, according to them it is only heat of the Earth that brings the waters down. The Sunâ&#x20AC;&#x;s radiation reaches the earth as savitri. When it gets scattered back into the atmosphere and heats up the atmosphere, this scattered radiation is named as gayatri. It is because of this gayatri that the antariksa is illuminated even when the Sun is not there. GSyatri, though has its origin in the Sun, belongs to the Earth. Therefore ithas the chandas
region. The chandas of sauragni on the other hand is brhati. This only shows
something for the Earth, it has to first adapt itself to the conditions on the Earth.
The akhyana only means thay the agni of the Earth reaches the antariksa region and holds the water vapour which also contains the adhidaivika
season, rainfall takes place and the soma also comes down along with it and reaches the earth which is benefitted by it. This is what is meant by the statement that gayatragni (which is a form of vak) is able to break the hold of gandharvaprana on soma, and bring it down to the Earth. The ^atapatha Brahmana says.
â&#x20AC;&#x17E;It was hidden in between the golden spear-like weapons. These sharp spear like weapons were constantly on the gaurd on soma. They were diksa and tapas. The gandharvas (soumya pranas) protect this soma, (what are these gandharva pranas ?). They are the dhisnyas. They are the hotrasâ&#x20AC;&#x;.
Vedic Concept of Soma Gayatri tore away one of the kusis (weapons). It gave it to the
devas. The devas used it to enter into vrata. The second weapon was also torn away by gayatri. It was tapas. It gave it to devas. It is upasad that is called tapas. Gayatri used khadira to comsume soma. That is why the khadira has become the yupa and sword. Because acchavaka was on the gaurd when gayatri took away soma, acchavaka is considered as an inferior rtvikâ&#x20AC;&#x;27. As we have said the akhyana only means suparnT vak i.e. gayatri vUk was able to knock at the soma held between the Sunâ&#x20AC;&#x;s rays and bring it down to the Earth. This idea is interwoven in a clever way by the Vedic seers to establish that women are attracted by men who dance and sing. Having seen this much of adhidaivika soma, the reader would now appreciate the ramifications of the concept of soma as formulated by the Vedic seers. Let us now pass on to see how they conceived the adhibhautika soma.
IV ADHIBHAUTIKA SOMA
Every scholar has given more importance to terrestrial soma than to, adhidaivika soma or adhyatmika soma. As we have already mentioned, the Vedic seers believed in a grand unity in the structure of the Universe and therefore, conceived soma at all the three levels and attributed to soma, qualities common to all the levels. If we can name one entity, which constitutes an outstanding contribution or discovery by the Vedic seers, we can straight away say, it is soma. Whether they conceived the adhidaivika soma first or the adhibhautika soma first or the adhyatmika soma first, it is very difficult to say, though it is very likely that, when they found that the Sun is constantly shining without any diminution in its brightness or change in its shape, they were led to the discovery of soma as the food, which kept Him immortal. To explain maithuni srsti also they wanted an entity that will react favourably with agni. Then the Moonâ&#x20AC;&#x;s influence on the procreation activity of men led them to imagine that Moon contained soma. Therefore in all probability adhibhautika soma was discovered by them, only after they had formulated the concept of adhidaivika soma. Since moon was considered by them as adhidaivika soma,
characteristics similar to those of the Moon. In their quest for terres trial soma, they discovered the soma creeper which satisfied their conditions
Vedic Concept of Soma
viz.!. It exhibited growth and decay in phase with the growth and decay (waxing and waning) of the Moon.
2. Its juice had very desirable effects on the human system. That is, it formed an ideal anna (food). Madhusudan Ojha gives a^ood deal of information on terrestrial soma in his book Tndravijayaâ&#x20AC;&#x; 1 Susruta in his Samhita deals with the medicinal and miraculous effects of soma juice on the human system. Since many of the readers may be interested to know the details available in Susruta Samhita, we shall present these briefly here. According to Susruta, the soma creeper was created by Brahma and others on the Earth and it has the property of keeping aging and death away from those who consume its juice. Though the soma creeper is one only, its form and power vary according to the place in which it grows. There are actually twenty four kinds of soma plants. Susruta enumerates the Vedic names of these plants in his Samhita. All these have more or less similar properties and the method of using them for treatment is the same for all. 2
I.. 'Indravijaya' b y Madhusudan Ojha is a very rare contrib ution to the study of Arya n culture. We find lot of material in t his book worth investigating upo n. It was first published by Aryadatta Thakur in Lucknow in 1930.
If one wants to be treated with soma of any kind, he should first build a house with three stories with all the paraphernalia, in a good place. He should carry out a clean wash of his stomach by vomitting and then arrange for poper food. He should choose a good day characterised by favourable tithi, karana, muhurta and naksatra and should get the stalks of amsuman (soma) through adhvaryus in the Vedic way. He should buy them and get them cleaned. He should then go to a selected place in the house, recite prayers and then extract the juice of the stalks in a golden vessel, with a golden needle. He should sip a palmful of this . juice and gulp it without tasting it.He should then remain quiet, with mind and body under control. He may walk a bit inside the house but should not lie down. In the evening he may take light food (milk etc) and then lie down and take rest. He should wake up the next morning, recite prayers, touch a cow and sit down. When the soma is digested, he will vomit. Blood and worms come out. In the evening he should boil milk, cool it and then take it. On the third day worms come out; all bad things inside the body are got rid of. Then he should take milk as before and lie down on a bed made of soft material 3. On the fourth day he gets boils all over the body and from the boils worms come out. He should lie down on bed, take milk as before
Vedic Concept of Soma
in (he evening. On the fifth and sixth days, he should take milk as before in the evening. On the seventh day, he will lose all his flesh and will become a skeleton. It is soma that just keeps him alive. On that day his body is sprinkled with milk and then is smeared with sesame paste, madhuka and sandal paste. He then takes milk. On the eighth day in the morning, his body is sprinkled with milk and sandal paste is applied to his body. He is then given milk and allowed to lie on asoft bed. His flesh begins to build up and skin starts pealing off. Teeth, nail and hair fall off. He is then given a smearing with oil and his body is sprinkled with the decoction of soma stalks. His skin now gets strength. This is continued upto the sixteenth day^. Then on the seventeenth and eighteenth days, the teeth come up in a very regular order and they are very bright like gems and also strong and firm. Now he can start taking fresh grains, rice and milk till the twentyfifth day. He can continue taking rice and milk afterwards also. New nails are formed and they are bright, shining and beautiful. He gets new hair also. The skin also starts brightening up. After a month, the hair is shaven and sandal paste and sesame paste are applied on his head. He then takes bath with milk. In seven days, he gets thick, dark hair and looks charming. He should then once get out of the house and get in. He takes
bath with medicinal oils, pastes etc lor the next ten days and then he moves to the next floor of the house and remains there for ten days. Then he stabilises himseIRn the third floor of the house and remains there for ten days. Here he exposes himself to the Sun and then gets in.He should not see himsef in a mirror. He will develop a charming personality and he should avoid getting angry or losing temper. He should take valll, pratana and kยงupa kinds of soma. He should take four and half mustis. Candra soma is extracted in silver vessels. Amsu soma is extracted in golden vessels. The rest of the soma can be extracted in copper vessels or earthern vessels. Soma can be taken by all the three varnas in vessels made of red skin. After four months, when he gets his new body stabilised, he gets out of the nursing home on a full moon day after worshiping brahmins. He can then move freely^. Susruta then proceeds to state the effects of the above treatment
Vedic Concept of Soma
on the patient. He says, „A man who undertakes soma treatment, gets a new body which will sustain him for ten thousand years. Neither lire, nor poison, nor water, nor any weapon can overpower him.Even at the age of sixty, he exhibits the strength of a thousand elephants. He can go wherever he likes. He understands the Vedas well. His figure is like that of Cupid and he attracts people like a deva‟6 To be in unison with adhidaivika soma, all soma plants have fifteen leaves. They fall at the rate of one a day in krsnapaksa and grow at the rate of one a day in sukla pak§a. On the full moon day there will be fifteen leaves and on the new moon day only stalk remains^. Susruta also gives the characteristic features of various types of soma. For example, amsuirian soma has the smell of ghee. That which has roots is silvery in appearance. The root itself has the form of plantains, etc.
Susruta also mentions the mountains on which those soma plants are found8. Madhusudan Ojha in his â&#x20AC;&#x17E;Indravijayaâ&#x20AC;&#x; says that the soma creeper which is considered as the replica of moon on earlh, was grown in Hemakata for use in the rituals. The asuras were jealous of the devas (earthly devas) because of their expertise in yajnavidya and the prosperity they enjoyed. They tried on their own to practice yajnavidya but they could not achieve anything. They got upset and sent their people to destroy the soma plants in Hemakuta and also the solar wheel set up by them there. Indra the king and head of the devas (on earth) came to know about this and sent a group of his own people called gandharvas to v Hemakuta
settlement for them on the side north of the Sindhu river. These gandharvas were a group of people occupying the valleys of the Himalayas and they were lovers of music and dance. They were actually the replica of di vyagandharvas on earth. The difference was while the di vyagandharvas, were
gandharvas 9, The Rgveda '0 and the Kausitaki Brahmana 11 mention about them and their work. Madhusudan Ojha mentions eleven types of di
Vedic Concept of Soma In course of time, the soma creeper was destroyed by the asuras.
However, according to Madhusudan Ojha even now in the Majandaran hills soma creeper is found. But this soma is not the original one. The original soma which the brahmanas knew is lost now. The manduka parnT which is nowadays called soma, is not original soma creeper* 3. When the original soma was lost, the asuras started preparing an intoxicating drink with the help of Varuna. This had evil effects on the human system unlike the genuine soma, which had many desirable effects like nourishing the brain, increasing its thinking power, confering strength, courage, confidence, capacity to overcome enemies, long life, health, victory, etc. Pragatha a rsi of the Kanva family praises the good effects of soma in one of the suktas of the Rgveda. He says, 1.
â&#x20AC;&#x17E;I, who am endowed with good thoughts and engaged in self studies enjoyed the food (which is soma) which is savoury and which all the devas and men go after, saying it is sweet as honey.
O Soma, you have entered into the yajna and appeased the anger of the devas. You enjoy Indraâ&#x20AC;&#x;s friendship. Bring us riches quickly.
O Soma, you are immortal. We have consumed you and have become immortal. We have attained light, i.e. svarga where there is light always. We have known the devas. What harm can a mortal do to us ?
O Soma, we have consumed you. Having entered our heart, be sweet to us, just like a kind father is to his son. O Soma,
you, are famed as having many qualities. Increase our life span. 5.
This sopia, consumed by me, makes me famous. It knits my joints closely, just like straps secure a car. It enables me not to falter in my duties. It keeps me away from disease.
O Soma, consumed by us make us shine bright like Sire produced by churning. Give us clear sight. Nourish us and make us wealthy.
O Soma, our spirits rise high while consuming you, in the same way a son feels, when he enjoys his fatherâ&#x20AC;&#x;s riches. Prolong our life just like the Sun makes the bright days longer.
O king Soma, favour us and make us prosper. Be mindful of the fact that we are your devotees. Please do not throw us to the wrath of the enemies.
O Soma, you are the protector of every part of our body. Y ou are presiding in every joint of our body. Though we harm you (i.e. crush you to extract the juice) be gracious and be our best friend.
10. This soma is friendly with me and when consumed will never harm me. I pray to Indra for longer life, after depositing soma in me. 11. All our maladies have weakened and vanished. With fear they vanished into darkness. Soma has got into us. With it, we shall be able to prolong our life. 12. O Pitrs, immortal soma has entered into us, who are mortals. Let us offer him oblations and rest securely under his grace and favour.
Vedic Concept of Soma
13. O Soma, you have pervaded earth and heaven along with pitrs.Let us serve you with oblations and become lords of riches. 14. Give us your blessings, O Gods, let not sleep or idleness overpower us. Let us be friends of Soma and praise him and have good offsprings.
15. On all sides, O Soma y
arc life giver. You are the eye of all
people. You give us a|| round protection^. There are other suktas in the Rgveda, especially in the ninth and eighth mandals which praise the
effects of soma, which is often
described as madhu, ghrta, amrt<^ plyusa, etc. Madhusudan Ojha has collected the different names given to soma in the Rgveda. Some ol these names like Pavamanah, Pavitram occur more than twenty times. Madhusudan Ojha goes to the extent of saying that these names pertain to different kinds of soma 15. Another classification based purely on the rituals connected with soma says that soma is of four kinds. They are r aja, vaja, graha, and havis. Of these havissoma is essentially food (including animal food) offered to the Gods in istis, pasubandha o.r a^y other haviryaga. The grahasoma is offered in grahayaga or savayaga which is an integral part of soma yaga. It is here that the soma creeper is used and the juice of its stalks extracted and collected in cups and offeree! to Gods. The soma stalks or shoots are called amsus. The Tandya Brahmana however gives an interesting definition of amsu. It classifies amsus into ten kinds. The amsus used in grahayaga are called pratnomsu. Waters are ceiled trptoms"u.Rice is rasomsu. Barley is vrsomsu.Milk is sukromsu. Animal (food) isjlvomsu. Gold isamrtomsu. We have also rgamsu and samgms'u. When all these get involved, it is called soma and it is the one thtu is to be offered 16. This only shows the comprehensive nature of soma.
Vedic Concept of Soma
The soma stalks are crushed wilh stones and the juice extracted and collected in cups. The colour of the soma plant and the colour of the juice vary from plant to plant, according to the kind to which it belongs. Perhaps the babhru type is preferred in the soma yaga and that is why the cow which is the price paid in the purchase of soma, is brown or ruddy in colour, in agreement with the colour of the soma juice '7. Since soma yaga forms the main ritual of Rgveda, a whole mandala (mandala IX) is devoted to the praise of soma. Most of these rks form the sastra mantras in the soma yaga. The rks mainly constitute incantations sung over the tangible soma, while it is crushed by the stones and the juice flows through the woollen strainer into the wooden vats, in which it is offered to the Gods and later sipped by the rtviks. To understand grahayaga, we should know what graha is. While we shall deal with grahayaga in great detail in our book on Vedic rituals, here we shall confine ourselves to those details, which are relevant to our understanding of the soma concept. The entire Vedas describe only agni soma interaction.Since, agni exists in three forms viz. agni, vayu and aditya, we have also three Vedas (agni Vedas) viz Rgveda, Yajurveda and Samaveda. Rgveda is concerned with the agni of the Earth, Y ajurveda with vayu and Samaveda with aditya. Then we have the Somaveda viz. Atharva Veda which is concerned with soma. The process of soma being offered to agni is soma yaga. This soma is of ten kinds. Out of these we are concerned here only with three viz.vrtra soma, bhrgu soma and pavamana soma. Of these vrtra soma is of four kinds. Bhrgu soma is of four kinds. Pavamana soma is that, which occupies the space from earth upto Varunamandala. Pavamana soma is of four kinds viz. raja, vaja, graha and havis. That which resides in theVaruna mandala is called raja because Varuna
Adhibhautika Soma \
is callied raja. Below Varunamandala, the Vcdic seers conccived the Bj-haspatimandala,
pavamana soma that prevails in this region is called vaja soma. It is this soma that the brahmanas were after, while performing Vajapeya yaga. Vaja is a healthy state of the intellect and this particular type is conducive to vigorous activity of the mind (uts5ha). It refers to an active, energetic and
psychophysical system. Since this energetic state of the physical system is predominant in horses, it is called vaja (vaji is horse). The
components and these are the forty grahas used in the soma y3ga. Since the sauragni receives the soma from above, it is called graha (grhyate agnina asau). On the earth soma reaches as food and therefore it is called havissoma. Thus Varunamandala, Brhaspatimandala, Sauramapdala and Parthivamandala are the abodes of raja soma, vaja soma, graha soma and havissoma respectively. The yagas using them are respectively called Rajasuya, Vajapeya, Grahayaga and Haviryaga. Actually the Vedic seers conceived the graha soma as a type of vayu with forty components. Therefore grahasoma does not become agni, when it is offered to agni. It remains what it was. It is this, that is imagined to be received in grahas and offered to agni or taken by rtviks. The Rgveda saysThey (the sages) run the yajna chariot by arranging the forty cups of soma, twleve metres and the rks and samans * 8. Since we cannot get the grahas directly in the cups, the rtviks receive them through the juice of the soma creeper .They crush the soma
Vidic Concept of Soma
stalks and receive the juice in forty grahas (wooden vats). Twenty seven cups are used for morning oblation (pratassavaniya), four for noon (madhyandina savaniya)and five for the evening (sayamsavaniya). Four are extras. At the adhyatmika level each one of these grahas represents a particular component of the human system. The idea is that in the yaga, the yajamana gets a divine atman and body in which all these forty components are established. In other words, with all these conponents functioning in their proper place the yajamana becomes a devatma. Every one of these forty components in the adhidai vika system corresponds to a particular organ in the adhyatmika system. That is why the Brahmana starts with the statement that upamsu, upamS ; usavana and antaryama represent the yajamana's prana, udana and vyana respectively 19. Just like there are three lokas viz. prthivi, antariksa and heaven in the adhidaivikamandala,the same were also conceived in the adhyatmika mandala by the Vedic seers. From the anus to the navel is prthivi loka; from nlbhi to hrdaya is antariksa loka; from hrdaya above is dyuloka. In this way, it was easy for the Vedic seers to establish one to one correspondence between the adhidai vika and adhibhautika systems on the one side and adhyatmika system on the other. We shall be seeing in great detail the grahayaga and its significance in our book on Vedic rituals. What is relevant here to us is that soma, as vayu (prana) has many functions in the adhyatmika system. Speaking about the pavamSna soma of the Brhaspatimandala, the Rgveda says, â&#x20AC;&#x17E;O Brahmanaspati, your cleansing filter is spread out. As a master, you enter the limbs from every side. Only the person, who is fit to receive it through proper management of the ritual gets itâ&#x20AC;&#x;20.
It is this soma that is present in the Moon. What we have on earth as soma creeper is conceived as,the replica of the Moon. The question now arises, if the toma juice represents pavitra (pure) soma, why is it passed through the filter ? The Brahmana answers this question thus: The Moon was the ruler of the northern direction. Brhaspati was the purohita of the devas. His wife was T3ra. Because. Candra took her away, he became a sinner. Because the soma juice is representative of candrasoma, and since Candra is polluted by the sin, the rtviks filter the juice and remove the sin. Actually pusyanaksatra is called Tara and its lord is Brhaspati. Pusya‟s rasa is enjoyed by the Moon. Incidentally Pusyanaksatra is in karka r5&, which constitutes Candra‟s house. All types of food available on earth, which nourish the living beings, go under adhibhautika soma. The hardness in stones is due to the • presence of what is called astria soma, which is classed as vrtrasoma. The soma that is present in waters and is polluted is also called vjrtrasoma. The pollution may occur in various ways. For example Vrtra is active in glaciers and ice sheets preventing the free flow of water containing soma. The waters connected with soma exist at all levels. Though they generally go under the name „apah‟, they are called differently at differnt places. For example, the apah of the paramesthi region are called „ambhah‟.In the sauramandala they are called „maricih‟. On the earth they are called'marah‟ In the candramandala they are called sraddha .
V. ADHYATMIKA SOMA
While dealing with adhidaivika and adhibhautika soma, we have already pointed out that it constitutes food essentially. The Sunâ&#x20AC;&#x;s form and brightness are maintained by soma only (somenadityah balinah). The divine order is maintained by the union of soma with agni. Indra drinks soma in order to fight the evil forces and bring prosperity to the Earth. In the grahayaga the cups in which the soma is drunk represent the sense organs in the adhyatmika system. The process of transformation of minute particles of food or physical soma into energy or more precisely indriyasoma is what is dramatised symbolically in the grahayaga. The two crushing stones used to extract soma jui<3e in the soma yaga represent prana and apana in the adhyatmika system, which remain in perpetual collision to energise the psycophysical system. In the first stage, soma is shoot (amÂŁu) having material form, i.e.vak or five bhutas. In the next stage, it is graha the vital principle of prana produced by the assimilation of amsu or food in the material form. In the third stage, it is manas which is more subtle. Mind is supreme. As we have already seen, soma principle and the mind principle are the same. In other words, soma is the finest form of food, which goes to make the manas. While rajasoma represents the mind, vajasoma represents pure absolute consciousness which is higher than manas. Ksatravirya is under brahmavirya. The Brahmana says brahmavirya is para (higher) and ksatravirya is avara (lower). The person who performs vajapeya yaga becomes samrat. He gets samrajya while the ksatriya, who performs Raj as uy a yaga gets only rajya. Vajapeya yaga is Brhaspatisava while
Rajasuya is Varunasava. All these details we shall see elsewhere. From the adhyatmika point of view, soma is variously described as mother, amrta, prana, annaÂťr mad|uu sukra, etc. The Rgveda says, that a wave of sweetness springing from the ocean brought immortality (amrtatva) to the sap in the soma shoot 1. At another place, the same Veda describes soma as the seed of stallion or cosmic horse yoked to the cosmic car as well as to the human body~. The cosmos was created from the seed of the universal horse, the Sun (i.e. samvatsara). Applied to the adhyatmika level, it would mean that soma is sukra (reto vai somah). It also constitutes the mind. Both the cosmos and the human body conduct yajfia in which the mingling of agni and soma i.e. the fiery principle of energy and the watery principle of food go on. In the adhyJEtmik system it is the vaisvanar5gni that takes in the food. It is this agni that pervades every part of our body (alomabhyah anakhagrebhyah). When food is taken it splits into two parts viz. rasa (essence) and mala (waste). What is rasa in the first stage, becomes mala in the next stage. In this way food that is taken is converted into rasa, (blood) asrk (seerum), mamsa (flesh), medas (fat), asthi (bone), majja (marrow) and sukra (semen) in seven stages. The food that is formed on the Earth has its adhidai vika components viz. of the antariksa, the Sun and the Moon. After the sukra stage we go to the stage of ojas which is connected with antarikja. It is also called urk. When ojas is formed out of sukra, the former constitutes rasa and the latter becomes mala. From ojas, with the association of candrarasa (i.e. paramesthya somarasa) prajnanamanas (which is called atindriy amanas) is produced. The quality of this manas in a man (whether satva type or rajas type or tamas type) depends on the food he takes. We have already seen that Prajapati created the waters in order
Vedic Concept of Soma
that maithuni srsti is possible. Agni and soma form the male-female pair. Agni is purusa and soma is stri. The first creation from their union is the Sun. This is adhidai vika yajna. In the adhyatmika yajna, the sonitagni of the woman (i.e. agni of the womb) is the purusa and sukra of the man constitutes the stri. In fact the visible part of the celestial sphere was conceived by the Vedic seers as the purusa and the invisible part as stri The entire celestial sphere constitutes the stri-purusa pair. That is why the man is called as apurna i.e. incomplete. Only when he gets a woma n, he becomes purna. The wife constitutes an important component in the yajna. Prajapati converted one half of himself into a woman and produced virat in her. Both man and woman have agneya as well as soumya components in them. In the case of the man, the body is agneya but the sukra which forms the pratistha (basic support) for his body is soumya (stri). In other words stri is the pratistha of the man. That is why the Rgveda says, â&#x20AC;&#x17E;They say that these are males though really they are females. He who has eyes (i.e. the wise) only know this and not the blind (i.e. unwise)â&#x20AC;&#x;3. The right part of the man is stronger than the left part. The right part is agneya and the left part is soumya. The woman by nature has a soft body (soumya) whereas the body of a man has a rough structure (agneya). However the atman of the woman is agneya and therefore strong. We have already seen that the Vedic seers believed that the origin of the man lies in the paramesthya aptatva which supplies the food for the Sun. Through the Sun soma reaches the atmosphere, in which rain takes place. The rainfall on the Earth produces food and this food taken
by man produces his retas (procreating fluid) and when sexual union lakes place, Ihc child is born. In other words the sukra of the man has adhidaivika origin. Therefore the creative processes that go towards the birth of the child are contributed by forces that operate from the heaven and it is very necessary that the processes are always in perfect condition for ensuring healthy species on the Earthâ&#x20AC;&#x17E;d. The concept ofatman in Vedic literature is fairly difficult to grasp. Though we have already defined it as the combined existence and coordinated functioning of manas, prana and vak, it is not as simple as that. We shall deal with this subjcct in great detail in a separate book. Actually the Vedic seers believed in the multiplicty of atmans. Of these the atman that is linked to paramesthya aptatva, and that is established in the sukra of the man is called mahanatma and is responsible for his procreative activity and his general well being. The adhyatma soma is linked to this. That atman which is responsible for the physical activity of the man is called karmatma. That which guides the intellect andwhich is influenced by the Sun, is called vijnanatma. Here we shall be mainly concerned with mahanatma. The Vedic seers were well aware of the fact that Nature works on the conservation principle and they made intelligent use of this principle in their concepts.Just like for the snow fall cycle to operate smoothly, the amount of snow depletion during the summer should be replenished by falls of equal amout in the higher ranges during the winter, the Vedic seers imagined that for the production of human species on earth, the portions of mahanatma (pitrtatva) which comes down for the creative process should be restored back in full. If the process of restoration is left 4. It w ill be use ful at t his sta ge to note here t he correspo nde nce o f snow reservo ir at the ad hib ha ut ika le vel to t he st ore ho use o f ap tat va o f t hfc Para mesthi re gio n at t he ad hida ivika le ve l a nd to t he st ore ho use o f 6ukra at the ad hyat mika le ve l.
Vedic Concept of Soma
incomplete there is always an adverse effect on the quality of the specics. Since the Moon is always taken as the repository of soma, she is also said to nurture mahanatma, the oozed out portion of which is established in the sukra of the man on earth. Pitrprana is nothing but the soumya
p'aramestjiyamahan are the same. The paramesthya mahan is all embracing. Creation through yajna, maithuni srsti, the sustenance of devapranas, the functioning of the pitipranas, the establishment of mahanatma in the sukra of every man etc. are all his manifestations. When the man dies, his mahanatma which is responsible for his procreative activity and his general well being, goes to candraloka along with karmatmia both assuming (suksma sarlra) as is borne out by the statements in Brahmasutra^, as well as in Kausitaki Upanisad 6. After reaching the candraloka, the karmatrria gets separated from the mahanatma and goes to various lokas to enjoy the fruits of its karma. After that it takes its birth on the Earth, as indicated by the statement in ChSndogyopanisad 7. The mahanatma which reaches the candraloka gets merged with the mahanatmas of the family and attains sapindyabhava. The sraddha ceremony is intended only for this mahanatma. The Vedic seers imagined that it takes one lunar year (the time taken by the Moon to complete one rotation round the Sun and be back in the same position with respect to the Sun and the stars) for the soul (mahanatma and karmatnfa) to reach the candraloka. Having reached there, the mahanatma merges with the pitrs of the family. This merging
of the pinda (pitrlatva) of the deceased with the pindas (pitrlalva) of the forefathers of the family, which have already been deposited there, is called sapigdyabhavs,:- The ceremony performed by the son for the deceased father towards the fulfilment of this state, is called sapindikarana.
We have already said that the food that is produced through rain contains candrasoma. According to the Vedic seers, the candrasomarasa has three components viz. retas, yasas and s raddha and these get into the food (anna) which is formed out of somarasa. These three entities are connected with sukra, ojas and manas in the adhyatmika system. Retas forms the base for sukra, the procreative fluid. Yasas forms the base for ojas and sraddha forms the base for manas. The candrapitrtava in the sukra is called â&#x20AC;&#x17E;sahaâ&#x20AC;&#x; and it is this tatva, that constitutes mahanatma.lt is this that goes back.to candraloka when the man dies and attains sapindyabhSva. The candrapitrrasa in the sukra is also called pinda and hence the words sapindya, sapindikarana etc. The candrarasa or the sahatatva in the Moon, that goes on continuously influencing the mans sukra is more during the night than during the day. Corresponding to the 28 naksatras (abhijit included) through which the moon moves, 28 fold monthly pinda is acquired by the sukra every month. This is called masika pinda. Thus during a lunar year thirteen masika pindas are established in the sukra. Actually in addition to these two^ayana pindas and one samvatsarika pinda are also formed. But for all practical purposes, we may take that twenty eight-fold masikapipda is the main pinda which goes on getting wasted or transferred to generations below and is constantly replenished from above. It is because of the sahatatva in the sukra, the man has sahasa i.e. the capacity to achieve the desired objectives and it bestows on the man a general impressive personality. When the sahatatva is weak, the man s general performance is poor and his procreative activity also is poor. In other
Vedic Concept of Soma
words it is the presence of this sahatatva that is responsible for the full blossom of the mahanatma in the man. Its main function is to enable the man to keep the family chain (prajatantu) unbroken through procreative activity (prajotpadana karma). The Vedic seers believed that when aman is born, he inherits from his father a certain portion of the genetic characteristics, which were described by them as cerain portion of his mahBnStmS or sahatatva. A part of what he inherits, is transferred to his son. This goes on till the seventh generation,at which stage the transferred portion of the man of the first generation, is so little that no further transfer is possible. In other words, the man of the eighth generation does not inherit any characteristics of the man of the first generation. That is, sapindya ceases at the seventh generation. The Vedic seers however defined two more terms, „Sodaka‟ and „Sagotra‟. Sodakapitrtatva extends upto fourteenth generation and Sagotra pitrtatva extends upto twenty first generation. It is very interesting to note‟that these names have again an^ analogy with the origin of snowmelt water or rain water. One can imagine three situations viz. water coming out from a particular limited region (sapiijda), water from a particular rivulet collecting water from a few regions (sodaka) and water from a mountain having a number of rivulets (sagotra). Gotra means a mountain. It is easy to see why sagotra embraces more generations than sapinda. We have already said that when a man has a son, only a portion of his characteristics (sahatatva) is transferred to him. The rest are retained by him. His son transfers only a part of what he inherits from his father to his son and this goes on. In other words every man retains with himself a certain portion of what he inherits. When he dies, that portion of sahatatva which he retains is returned back to candraloka, but what he transferred to his son remains distributed upto the seventh generation. As
people die in the family, the distributed portion of the sahatatva (mahanatma) goes on getting deposited back in the candraloka. This pratyarpanakarma (the act of returning back) goes on in Nature. When the seventh generation man dies in the family, the entire characteristics of the first generation man are back in the candraloka. This would mean that the mahanatmS of the first generation man in candraloka is complete in all respects. It is no longer bound to the Earth. It is free to move and get merged with the paramesthi region, which is the origin of pitrprana. This, the Vedic seers described as, mukti of the mahanatma. In the opinion of the Vedic seers unless the above pratyarpana karma of the pitrtatva takes place, conservation of all the potentialities of mahanatma, which alone, will ensure the birth of healthy species on the Earth will not be possible. It should be noted here that when the seventh generation man dies, the return process is complete only for the first generation man or the mulapurusa. AH the other men of six generations, who have died have only part of their mahariatma restored to candraloka, the amount restored being maximum for the second generation man and decreasing steadily forthe later generations. Because of the incomplete restorations, their souls (mahanatma) are turned towards the Earth and are always looking for their remaining portions, which are distributed in the living persons in the family. The Vedic seers believed that these souls remain hungry and if not appeased, eat awa y the procreative potentialities of the living persons. They, therefore prescribed sraddha ceremony in which, food in the form of pindas (balls) are offered with great sincerity (sraddha) by the living persons to the six forefathers (pitrs) and they in turn bless the family with healthy children. Actually of the six generations for whom the Sraddha ceremony is done, the three generations immediately preceding the persons perfor ming the s'raddha, are called pindabhajas and the other three generations
Vidic Concept of Soma
lepabhSjas. That is why in actual practice pindas are offered to only the three preceding generations in the sraddha and the other three derive their food through lepa(wiping of the hand). When
involved in his creation. He is therefore indebted to the rsis, devas and pitrs. The rsiprana builds up his power to acquire knowledge and the best way of returning the debt to rsis is, to acquire knowledge. The deva debt it returned by feeding divine forces, which are responsible for the yajifas taking place in Nature. The debt to the pitrs is returned by producing children (prajotpadana)^. It is clear from what we have stated above that sraddha is done for those pitrs whose portions of mahanatma lie distributed in the family members and who therefore are hungry and look forward to liberation form earthly bond. The Vedic seers considered the rituals for pitrs more important than the rituals for the devas^. Since sraddha, which is another state of soma, is an important aspect of the Vedic rituals, we shall see some details of these rituals with special reference to the significance of sraddha. The yajnas done by man closely follow what takes place in Nature. The ahutis (offerings) are offered in ahavaniyagni While the material part of the ahuti remains here, the prana part goes up and feeds the devas, who in turn feed theldhyatmika praijade vatas of the yajamana and at the same time keep the forces of Nature favourable to him. The parthivapranagni is called angiroagni. The agni of the Earth
VI IS SOMA A REALITY OR A MERE CONCEPT?
Is Soma A Reality or A Mere Concept
In view of what all has been stated above, it is more appropriate to consider soma as a wonderlul concept of the Vedic seeis rather than as a reality. The Rgvcda says, The author would like to translate the above rk in the following way: 'People think that the juice, which they extract from the herb i.e. the soma creeper, and consume, is the real soma. The soma which the brahmanas knew is not consumed by anybody. It is a mere concept. If however, soma is a reality, it is yet to be discovered.