India, my Love|Oct 1, 2010 1:52 PM| by:

The Vision that made the Nation – IV

The Vedic Social Ideal

The other important question regarding the Vedic vision is whether the Vedic ideal is purely individualistic or has a collective dimension. To answer this question we must have a clear understanding of Vedic vision of human society.  Here also we have to get behind the symbolic language of Vedic sages. The symbolic image of Purusha Sukta conveys the idea of human society as an expression of the divine Being, marching ahead with Brahmana as the mouth, Kshatriya as his arm, Vaishya as his thighs, and Shudra as his feet. It will be beyond the scope of this essay to enter into the details of the psychological and spiritual significance of this Vedic conception of society. In brief the central intuition behind this Vedic conception is that human society or social organization must be a faithful outer expression of the inner psychological organization of the human being.  Brahmana, Kshatriya,Vaishya, Shudra represent  the four psychological faculties in Man and their self expression in the society – Brahmana represents the  faculties of  thinking, ethical, and spiritual intelligence seeking for truth, knowledge, values; Kshatriyas the faculties of will seeking for power, strength and mastery; Vaishya the faculties of emotions and vitality seeking for mutuality and harmony; and Shudra  the faculties of physical being and the natural urge for work and service.  Based on this intuition human beings are classified into four psychological types and human society organized according to their corresponding self expression in the collective life of man.  The Brahmana expressing himself through the social organ of Culture, Kshathria through Polity, Vysya through the Economy and Shudra through Labour.  But these psychological powers in man and the human types they represent are themselves expressions of the corresponding four-fold cosmic powers: the power of Wisdom which determined the broad lines, principles and order of the world; power of Strength which enforces what the Wisdom conceives; power of Harmony which determines the rhythms, relations and organization of things; the power of Work which executes what the other three conceive, decide or dictate.  The Vedic ideal of society is to make the whole of human society a direct and conscious expression of the fourfold powers of the creative Godhead in Man.

So the Vedic sages never shunned the society but lived within it and actively guided and shaped its life, ideals, values and institutions.  Most of the Vedic sages lived a full and rounded life with wife, family and children and pursued both the spiritual and worldly life without any conflict between them. The Vedic seers made no sharp distinction between spiritual and secular life. The life of the world is a symbolic image of the life of the Spirit, a distorted image perhaps, distorted by ignorance and falsehood and crookedness of the human consciousness but still an expression of some truth of the spirit and not an illusion, Maya.  If this “crookedness” in man can be made “straight” then the world and human life can become a luminous, perfect and progressive expression of the powers of the Spirit, the gods.  And the way to make the life of the world “straight” is not to reject it but to offer it to the gods.  So the Vedic path is not a path of renunciation but a spontaneous, joyous and child-like acceptance of life and the offering of all the inner and outer activities and enjoyments of life to the gods so that the whole of human life becomes a conscious expression of the spirit.

Thus the Vedic ideal of spiritual man is not a world-shunning ascetic or a monk but the Rishi, one who has lived and transcended the life of the world.  He has realized in himself the integral spiritual consciousness which knows not only the highest truth of the Spirit but also the deepest truth of Life and therefore can provide a much better and wiser guidance to the society than any “expert” of the world.  This is the reason why Indian culture gave the highest respect to the Rishi and viewed the spiritual man as the best guide not only of religious life but also of secular life.  As Sri Aurobindo explains the deeper truth and significance of this traditional Indian respect for the Rishi:

“The Indian mind holds… that the Rishi, the thinker, the seer of spiritual truth is the best guide not only of the religious and moral, but the practical life.  The seer, the Rishi is the natural director of society; to the Rishi he attributes the ideas and guiding intuitions of his civilization. Even today he is ever ready to give the name to anyone who can give a spiritual truth which helps his life or a formative idea and inspiration which influences religion, ethics, society, even politics.  This is because the Indian believes that the ultimate truths are truths of the spirit and the truths of the spirit are the most fundamental and most effective truths of our existence, powerfully creative of the inner, salutarily reformative of the outer life.”1

The later developments in Indian yoga moved towards a gradual loss of this dynamic and integral spiritual vision and ideal of the Vedic sages and culminated in the philosophy of illusionism and the ideal of a life-denying renunciation.  Somewhere during the post-Upanishadic era an overwhelming attraction towards this ideal of life-negating renunciation, preached by great and powerful minds like Buddha and Shankara took hold of the spiritual and cultural mind of India.  This led to a sense of world-weariness among the best minds of the age.  We can very well imagine the subtle psychological damage wrought on the collective life of the people when the best minds of the society lose the motivation to work for the creative regeneration and transformation of life, preach a gloomy gospel of Maya and look forward to the forest, monastery and the mountain-top as the final station of life or the dissolution of individuality in a life-denying spirit or void as the highest aim of life.  And the result of this unfortunate development is that the collective life of the civilization lost the positive psychological motivation and the creative force needed for its regeneration.  This is one of the major causes of the decline of India.  For example in the heyday of Buddhism in India, many of the young, educated, intelligent and talented Kshatriya princes, attracted by Buddhist teachings, handed over their kingdoms to incompetent hands and became monks.

But the greatest loss is the flight of spiritually illumined souls away from society – instead of remaining within the community, like the Vedic sages, as pillars of light and guidance for the moral and spiritual regeneration of the collectivity.  And the result is that human society lost the transformative light and force of a power beyond mind, the power of the Spirit, the only power which can transform human life.  The path for the regeneration of India lies in recovering the Vedic vision and ideal in all its integrality and giving it a new form suitable to the modern conditions.

Towards the Original Vedas

However, even this integral vision may not be the original vision of the Vedas. As we have already mentioned, much of the Vedas were lost, and what we possess as the Vedas are perhaps only a fragment of the original Vedas.  This lost portion may probably contain many spiritual secrets which are not there in the Vedic text available to us, like for example, the spiritual transformation of the body.   The future India, if she follows faithfully her spiritual destiny, may probably recover the full and original Vedic vision and knowledge. This is perhaps already happening in the teachings, and realizations of modern Indian spiritual masters, especially in the teachings and experiences of Sri Aurobindo and Mother.

In Sri Aurobindo’s vision, the highest evolutionary destiny of humanity and our planet is a complete spiritual transformation of the individual and collective life of man from the lowest material, the vital and mental, to the highest spiritual in an indivisible and harmonious spiritual whole. The crowing and ultimate goal is the spiritual transformation of body and terrestrial matter. This is perhaps the highest vision and ideal of the original Veda, which India has to rediscover.


1. Sri Aurobindo, The Foundation of Indian Culture, SABCL, Vol.14, P.157-58


                The Vision that made the Nation

                           Part I   |   Part II   |   Part III   |   Part IV