“There is a need to reassert that Devas and Devatas are real and legitimate experiences of Hindu culture. There is no need to be apologetic about astute representations of reality, both internal and external. Mathematician genius Ramanujan experienced a Devata in his highly mathematical mind and attributed the formulae he arrived at and the insights he gained to the cognitive gifts he received from this Devi that was very real to him, and since the formulae can be verified is real, one has to be careful about describing his experience in the realm of his consciousness as ‘delusional.’” – Achintyachintaka
The word “Vedas” is translated in English to mean “Knowledge.” The verb “Vid” to know or comprehend is the root in the “noun,” when transformed to “Vedas,” meaning that which is known or comprehended (or realized). Vedas are thus the expressions of “what is known” in poetic form. What is known and expressed is the content of consciousness. The cognition in Vedas is not anything different than the representation of internal and external reality. The knowledge in Vedas may be viewed as representation of inner reality, or outer reality, and of course, we cannot dismiss the subject expressing it (Rishi) who will necessarily reveal his/her “relationship or reaction” (subjectivity) to the perception and comprehension as well as his own emotional experience of the inner or outer reality as realized.
So if the Rishi is describing in a poetic format any revelation which he may call Sookta, he may appropriately name it as a revelation of his experience which may be narrowed down to a Devata, and it would be proper to name the Rishi as its composer, and the Chhanda in which the Sookta is composed (the meter, and the inflections, etc.).
All of the Vedas are to be viewed as the content of consciousness and the task is to understand which inner or outer reality they represent or describe.
These realities may assume the status of devas or Devatas, and if addressed in any Sookta, the Sookta may be assigned or dedicated to that Devata.
Some of these Devatas may have correspondence with outer objective phenomena, forces of nature that have deep impact on the lives of humans then, or then and now. They have to be graphically described for generational transmission of cultural memories.
These cultural memories cannot be transmitted from one generation to the next unless the compositions are elevated to “sacred” and the duty to transmit them in the authentic format is also recognized as a sacred duty. That is the wisdom behind the oral transmission of Vedas in their purity for many millennia, un-adulterated and non-distorted forms, from one generation to the other. More on the inherent sacredness and assigned sacredness later.
The people of the ‘religions of the book’ projected that “The Vedas,” so very revered by Hindus, must be similar to the Bible or Koran for the Hindus, and some Hindus went along with this to humour them in this perception. Vedas themselves have to my best knowledge never claimed to have founded a religion; nor are they described as the authoritative book of any “religion.”
The fact that they reveal their deeper understanding of nature and deeper spiritual knowledge does not it in itself make them the “Dharma shastra”. That does not mean that a dharma shastra may never be evolving or may not have evolved from the wisdom revealed in Vedas, in some measure or in some parts. The practical utility of the knowledge revealed, if known to the composer, will be described as “Viniyoga”.
Since the concepts of Devas and Devatas are older than the concept of god and goddesses, it is imperative that these newer concepts are not projected on to Devas and Devatas, but examined with a mind not tainted with the concepts of god or goddesses.
If a mind of a rishi comprehended these phenomena of consciousness or knowledge as worth preserving for perpetual cultural memory, it would be included in the Vedas. It must be presumed that there was a consensus for including that insightful knowledge in the form of Sookta or other forms in the Vedas for oral transmission.
Phenomena of consciousness or knowledge must be recognized as representation of inner and/or outer realities. So these important realities that will affect the human race were to be given the status of Devatas. Not all of them may be worshiped by everyone, and may not be worshipped by anyone at all.
However, if they attained the super-ordinate value in human consciousness they were to be recognized as “Devas”. That special place in human consciousness leads to their sacredness and elevation in positive transference to images to be loved and worshipped.
To understand Devas and Devatas one must focus on human consciousness and its contents. One must abandon the concept of god and goddesses to understand and interpret the images representing these concepts, Devas and Devatas, even though they may be worshiped by their bhaktas or worshippers. Such worship is what makes them look like the gods and goddesses of some other cultures or the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God or Allah.
In simplistic terms, what looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck, is a duck.
One could use such simplistic argument to dismiss this assertion as meaningless and still maintain that Devas and Devatas are indeed nothing but gods and goddesses. The latter are presumed to be outside the realm of consciousness in the West, and until the West came into contact with the East in the last couple of centuries, Western theology had no mention of “Consciousness”, but now it is not uncommon to hear words like “Christ Consciousness.” The West needs these borrowed concepts to sell their gods. In contrast, the word chit / chid to denote the sentient nature of Brahman is indigenous to Hindu philosophy in describing the nature of Brahman.
Viewing Devas and Devatas as phenomena of consciousness does not devalue them, but in fact raises questions about any spiritual science that bypasses consciousness.
While god is an elaborated projection of a child’s infantile memories of his/her father, Devas and Devatas are real phenomena and exist in the outer or inner worlds.
At a very high level of evolution of individual consciousness, the subjective and objective reality merges into one. That is the Brahman.
But when the duality sets in, as in the paradigm of Purusha and Prakriti, a paradigm elaborated in Sankhya, the Subject is Purusha and Object is Prakriti. So objective devatas are necessarily Saguna and are closer to Prakriti than to the Nirguna Brahman.
These must be understood as “sookshma” or subtle realities from which the manifest (measurable – root “mi” meaning measure and “Maya” meaning that which is measurable – the space-time-mass-energy complex with its measurable precursors if identified by modern physics) universe described as Prakriti emerges starting with “Moola Prakriti.” The saguna Brahman is the beginning and is the “beeja” or the source of “all this” (idam) and is symbolized by “OM”. We are so brainwashed into this business of “god” “demigod” “demons” terminology which comprises of foreign concepts superimposed upon Vedic concepts leading to mistranslations of authentic Vedic concepts, that it is difficult for most people to abandon that foreign paradigm of god and goddesses. No wonder many scholars had trouble making sense of anything that is simple because it is made so very complex over the ages, and also with the introduction of many translational flaws.
The phenomena of consciousness are not inconsistent with what the majority of the human race experiences as objective. The “concepts” when comprehended are inner representations of objective reality. We don’t have to go back to argue whether they are same as Gods or Goddesses because we are getting away from that superimposed foreign paradigm here. The phenomena of consciousness are the “real” powers working in the human mind. Nothing from “outside”!!! There is nothing “childish” about it when these phenomena are linked with the rudimentary consciousness which is later elaborated with richer and richer contents that nevertheless always remain linked to earlier experiences.
This small article sets the groundwork and elaborates slightly more on this topic previously introduced elsewhere (http://www.sookta-sumana.blogspot.com/) because some felt it did not make sense. If people find anything confounding when processing these concepts and paradigms which seem somewhat novel, it is okay to stay confused for a while and start from scratch again, because any paradigm shift is initially confusing.
There is a need to reassert that Devas and Devatas are real and legitimate experiences of Hindu culture. There is no need to be apologetic about astute representations of reality, both internal and external. Mathematician genius Ramanujan experienced a Devata in his highly mathematical mind and attributed the formulae he arrived at and the insights he gained to the cognitive gifts he received from this Devi that was very real to him, and since the formulae can be verified is real, one has to be careful about describing his experience in the realm of his consciousness as “delusional.”
This topic needs further elaboration in a separate article as the human Unconscious (a compartment of consciousness most human beings are only vaguely aware of) is very rich and full of surprises.
There is no need to insist that words like Deva and Devata must have equivalents in other languages. For instance, the word “Prana” can never be literally translated into one word in English that could adequately or even partially denote all the different meanings this one word conveys in Sanskrit. – Sookta Sumana, 8 October 2012
Readers may see the previous articles in this series at
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