A tAntrika interpretation of vaidika mantra

Having completed the second circle we mediated up on the might of the great archer invoking him with the mantra whose R^iShi is haryata the son pragAtha of the clan of the kANva-s and whose meter is the gAyatrI:
antar ichChanti taM jane rudraM paro manIShayA | gR^ibhNanti jihvayA sasam || RV 8.72.3

antar= within; ichChanti=desire/seek; taM=him; jane= men(locative); rudraM= rudra; paraH= beyond; manIShayA= mind (instrumental); gR^ibhNanti = seize; jihvayA = tongue (instrumental); sasam= plant/grass/grain

The word sasam needs further examination. Typically, it is taken to mean a grain – a shortened version of the more prevalent form sasya (or shasya) which means grain. However, we need to examine occurrence of this word elsewhere in the RV. Based on its occurrence in other places in the RV it appears that sasa unlike sasya tends to mean plant or grass or pasture. For example consider the R^ik:
pra mAtuH prataraM guhyam ichChan kumAro na vIrudhaH sarpad urvIH |
sasaM na pakvam avidach ChuchantaM ririhvAMsaM ripa upasthe antaH ||
RV 10.79.3

Here agni is said to be like a kumAra (child) who seeking out his mothers secret place creeps over the widespread vegetation. Like burning food he seeks the sasa (i.e. the plants) and licks deep into innards of the earth. This occurrence supports the sense plant for sasa. But this R^ik also indicates that sasa is explicitly identified as the food eaten by agni (i.e. pakvaM)

Hence, we may render the original verse in it is Vedic sense thus:
Him, rudra, who is beyond conception by thought, they [i.e. deva-s] seek in the midst of men; they seize the plants [as food] using him as the tongue.

To be able to interpret the R^ik in the tAntrika sense need to first take up its mImAmsaka explanations. Now in the basic literal sense the sasa (grass) consumed by rudra the could be taken to mean the kusha grass dipped in ghee that is offered in the fire as the share of rudra. This is laid out as the final offering in the context of the parvan sacrifices by the gobhila gR^ihya sUtra of the sAmaveda tradition with the mantra:
yaH pashUnAm adhipatI rudras tanticaro vR^iShA, pashUn asmAkaM mA hiMsIr; etad astu hutaM tava, svAhA || GGS 1.8.28
Of our cattle you are the lord rudra, the bull roaming near the line [to which calves are tied], do not harm our cattle; this oblation is for you, hail!
But the significance of the verse goes beyond that because it is not merely alluding to the grass offering to rudra but the fact that he is the tongue by which the deva-s eat the food which is being offered by men. To understand the precise significance of this we must turn to the taittirIya saMhitA 2.6.6 which provides the brAhmaNa regarding the offering of the sviShTakR^it cakes:

agnír amúShmin loká ÁsId yamò .asmín : té devÁ abruvann étemáu ví páryUhAméti : annÁdyena devÁ agním upÁmantrayanta : rAjyéna pitáro yamáM : tásmAd agnír devÁnAm annAdó : yamáH pitR^iNÁM rÁjA : yá eváM véda prá rAjyám annÁdyam Apnoti : tásmA etád bhAgadhéyam prÁyachChan yád agnáye sviShTakR^ite .avadyánti : yád agnáye sviShTakR^ite .avadyáti bhAgadhéyenaivá tád rudráM sámardhayati : sakR^it-sakR^id ávadyati : sakR^id iva hí rudrás : uttarArdhÁd ávadyaty : eShÁ vái rudrásya dík : svÁyAm evá díshi rudráM nirávadayate : dvír abhíghArayati chaturavat : tásyAptyai pashávo vái pÚrvA Áhutayas : eShá rudró yád agnís : yát pUrvA ÁhutIr abhí juhuyÁd rudrÁya pashÚn ápi dadhyAt : apashúr yájamAnaH syAt : atihÁya pÚrvA ÁhutIr juhoti pashUnÁM gopIthÁya ||

agni was in the other world, yama in this. The deva said: ‘Come, let us interchange them’; with food the gods invited agni, with the kingdom the pitR^i-s [invited] yama; therefore is agni the food-eater of the gods, yama the king of the pitR^i-s; he who knows thus obtains the kingdom and food. To him [agni] they gave that share [of the puroDAsha cake], which they cut off for agni sviShTakR^it. In that he cuts off a share for agni sviShTakR^it, he offers rudra a share. He cuts off one by one [of the two cakes in the offering], for indeed rudra is one. He cuts off [the piece] from the northern half, for indeed this is rudra’s direction; verily he pacifies rudra in his own direction. He sprinkles [each cake] twice, to make [the offering] partitioned into four. The fore-part of offerings [ i.e. pUrva part as against the uttara part from which the cut for rudra is made] are cattle, agni is rudra here; if he were make the oblation with the fore-offerings, he would give the cattle to rudra. The ritualist would become bereft of cattle. [Hence, the ritualist] offers leaving the fore-offerings aside, to protect the cattle.

The key points from the above brAhmaNa passage that concern the R^ik of haryata under discussion are the following:
1) agni was in the other world but he was exchanged for yama by the deva-s and brought to this world. This explains the “jane antar ichChanti rudraM”, i.e. the deva-s are seek in agni in this world, amidst men.
2) The deva-s do this to make agni their food-eater, i.e. eat the oblations of men. Hence, this explains the “gR^ibhNanti jihvayA sasam”, i.e. the use agni as the tongue to eat the ritual fuel, which is their food. The brAhmaNa adds that the ritualist who performs the rite knowing this becomes possessed of food.
3) Importantly, the brAhmaNa explains that this form of agni, who is agni sviShTakR^it, is none other than rudra; this explains why in the R^ik in discussion rudra is referred to. Thus, it is clear agni who becomes the tongue to provide food for the deva-s. Now this play on sasa as implying both the vegetable fuel as well as prepared ritual food is consistent with the offering under discussion. While the direct evidence for it is not apparent, one could potentially include soma, a plant, under what is implied by sasa.

One phrase that remains is the term “paro manIShayA”, i.e. beyond the means of the mind”. This is an importantcommon link to the shrauta and tAntrika explanations of the mantra. We interpret it that rudra is beyond mental conceptualization – he has to be directly consciously experienced in first person. This experience is the one which both the shrauta ritual and the tAntrika sAdhana produce.

Turning to the tAntrika explanation we have to first note that the cognates of vaidika ritual are internalized within the human body. Hence the “jane antar ichChanti rudraM” is literally inside the body of the man. It is here that the deva-s are stationed. In this regard we might examine the opinion of the great tAntrika abhinavagupta (tantrAloka 12.6-7; let me repeat it here):
evaM vishvAdhva saMpUrNaM kAla-vyApAra-chitritaM |
desha-kAla-maya-spanda-sadma dehaM vilokayet |
tathA vilokyamAno .asau vishvAntar devatA-mayaH |
dhyeyaH pUjyashcha tarpyashcha tadAviShTo vimuchyate |
(tantrAloka 12.6-7)

Thus, the body is perceived as full of diverse pathways, marked by time-dependent processes (lit. temporal processes), and as the seat of vibrations in space and time. The [body] perceived thus is composed of all devatA-s and meditated, worshiped and pacified [quenched with offerings]. He who enters that [the body] is liberated.

Thus, the kaula vision can be interpreted as implying that all devatA-s are stationed within are are receiving their worship and importantly the quenching offerings right within the body itself. Hence, in the tAntrika interpretation of this mantra the deva-s are experienced within the body itself, with all its physiological processes, receiving their oblations. To move further with tAntrika interpretation let us examine the kaula practice of manthana as described by abhinavagupta by which the great energy arises which manifests as the three shakti-s of the trika tantra-s. The point of note is the initiation of this dhyAna laid out in the 5th chapter of the tantrAloka (5.22-23):
soma-sUryaagni-saMghaTTaM tatra dhyAyed ananyadhIH |
tad dhyAnaaraNi-saMkShobhAn-mahAbhairava-havyabhuk ||
hR^idayAkhye mahAkuNDe jAjvalan sphItatAM vrajet |
tasya shaktimataH sphIta shakter bhairava-tejasaH ||
(tantrAloka 5.22-23)

With an undistracted mind he meditates on the rubbing together of soma, sUrya and agni. By the friction of such a fire-drill [the sAdhaka] becomes the eater of the oblation of mAhAbhairava in the great fire-altar in the form of the heart, blazing brightly, attains success. This success of his, possessed of mighty energy is the bhairava luster.

Thus, in the kaula meditation of the churning of the fire-drill of soma, sUrya and agni the heart is the ritual fire where in the sAdhaka identified with mahAbhairava consumes his oblation. This provides the link to the rudra within men who is the consumer of oblations in the R^ik.

The reference to the tongue immediately reminds one of the famous yogic practice incorporated into the kaula system, namely the khecharI mudra. To understand the connection the mantra under discussion we shall first see how the tongue is seen as the means of consuming the food/elixir of the deva-s. This is made rather clear in the yoga compendium of the medieval yogin svAtmArama in his haThayoga pradIpika:

gomAMsaM bhakShayen nityaM pibed amara-vAruNIm |
kulInaM tam ahaM manye cetare kula-ghAtakAH ||
go-shabdenoditA jihvA tat pravesho hi tAluni |
go-mAMsa-bhakShaNaM tat tu mahA-pAtaka-nAshanam ||
jihvA-pravesha-sambhUta-vahninotpAditaH khalu |
candrAt sravati yaH sAraH sA syAd amara-vAruNI ||
HYP 3.47-49

He should constantly eat the meat of the cow and drink the beer of the immortals. I consider him to be a Kaula, while the others are destroyers of the kula. By the word cow the tongue is meant, which is inserted above the palate. Hence indeed the eating of beef destroys great sins. The tongue’s insertion generates the fire verily [causes] the juice to flows from the moon, which is the beer of the gods.

The points to note here are :1) the implicit identification of the tongue with the fire and 2) that the tongue is used to feed on the elixir of the deva-s that is allegorically referred to as beer. To see the connection between the khecharI practice and rudra we must turn to the khecharI-vidyA, a tantra of the kaula stream. This tantra repeatedly informs us the practice of khecharI results in the identification of oneself with shiva (KhV 2.7, 2.8, 2.12, 2.29). In the highest stage of khecharI practice one performs the great meditation of the five-fold shiva in the center of the brain, the hypothalamus, known to the tAntrika-s as the vajrakanda. The description of this meditation is rather complex and we shall lay it out as its described in the khV:

ataH paraM pravakShyAmi parAmR^ita mahApadam |
vajrakandaM lalATe tu prajvalach chandra saMnibham ||

Now I shall teach regarding the great state of the ultimate ambrosia. The “diamond bulb” i.e. the hypothalamus in the forehead shines like the moon.

laM garbhaM chaturasraM cha tatra devaH paraH shivaH |
devatAH samupAsante yoginaH shakti-saMyutam ||

In it is the syllable laM in the center of a square maNDala. The deity there is the paraH shiva. The gods and yogin-s worship him together with his shakti.

chUlitale mahAdevi lakSha-sUrya-samaprabham |
trikoNa-maNDalaM madhye devaM li~NgAtmakaM shivam ||

At the chUlitalA O mahAdevi , bright as one hundred thousand suns is a triangular maNDalaM, in the middle of which is a shiva in the form of a li~NGa

raM garbha-madhyamaM devi svashaktyAli~NgitaM param |
devatA-gaNa saMjuShTaM bhAvayet parameshvari ||

In its middle he visualizes the syllable raM, O goddess, with shiva embracing his shakti and accompanied by all the gods.

dakSha-sha~Nkhe mahAbhAge ShaD binduvalayAnvitam |
yaM garbhaM dhUmra-varNaM cha tatra devaM maheshvaram ||

In the right temple, O most fortunate goddess, is that which is encircled by six dots, containing the syllable yaM and smoke-coloured; there he should visualise, O goddess, the god maheshvara

li~NgAkAraM smared devi shakti-yuktaM gaNAvR^itam |
vAmasha~Nkhe .ardhachandrAbhaM sapadmaM maNDalaM shive ||

In the form of a li~Nga together with his shakti and surrounded by his gaNa-s. In the left temple, O goddess, is a maNDala, like a half–moon together with a lotus.

vaM garbhaM cha dR^iDhaM madhye tatra li~NgaM sudhAmayam |
gokShIradhavalAkAraM sharach-chandrAyuta-prabham ||

It contains the syllable vaM its core and in the middle there is a firm li~Nga with nectar, as white as cow’s milk and with the radiance of the autumn moon.

svashakti-sahitaM sarvadevatA-gaNa-sevitam |
evaM devi chaturdikShu sthAnAny uktAni vai mayA ||

Together with his shakti he is served by the entire host of gods and goddesses. Thus have I described stations in the four directions, O goddess.

teShAM madhye mahAvR^ittaM haM garbhaM tatra pArvati |
parameshaH paraH shambhuH svashaktisahitaH sthitaH ||

In the middle of them is a great circle, O pArvati, which contains the syllable haM . There the supreme lord shambhu together with his shakti is stationed.

li~NgAkAro gaNayutaH sUrya-koTi-samaprabhaH |
pR^ithivy-adhipatir bhAle pashchime sUrya-nAyakaH ||

He is in the form of a li~Nga, together with gaNa-s, and is as bright as crores of suns. At the forehead is the lord of Earth, at the back of the head is the lord of fire.

dakShasha~Nkhe .anilapatir vAme jalapatiH shive |
madhye vyomAdhipaH shambhu sthAnAH pa~ncha mayoditAH ||

In the right temple is the lord of air, in the left is the lord of water, o goddess; In the middle is the lord of vacuum. Thus I have elucidated the five stations of shambhu .

vyomAdhipasya devasya shirordhve chatura~Ngulam |
jyotir-maNDala-madhyasthaM koTi-chandra-samaprabham ||

Above the head of the god, the lord of vacuum is a vessel full of the divine ambrosia, four fingers broad, in the middle of an orb of light, as bright as ten million moons.

divyAmR^ita-mayaM bhANDaM mUla-bandha-kapATakam |
Urdhva chandraM mahAshailam abhedyam amR^itAs-padam ||

The pot filled with ambrosia with a door closing its base within a great rock with the moon above it, thus is the impenetrable seat of the ambrosia.

shItalAmR^ita-madhye tu vilInaM li~Ngam Ishvari |
trasareNu pratIkAshaM koTi-chandra-samaprabham ||

Immersed in the cool amR^ita is a li~Nga, O lady, like an atomic triad, as bright as crore moons

heyopAdeya-rahitam aj~nAna-timirApaham |
atItya pa~ncha sthAnAni para-tattvopalabdhaye ||

Without the nature of mAyA dispelling destroying the darkness of ignorance he has to go beyond the five stations, in order to obtain the highest substance.

parAmR^itaghaTAdhAra-kapATaM kumbhakAnvitam |
manasA saha vAgIshAm UrdhvavaktrAM prasArayet ||

[To do so] holding the breath, he should extend his tongue [allegorically described as the goddess of Speech with her mouth upwards] together with mind, to the door at the base of the pot of the highest ambrosia.

niruddha prANa-saMchAro yogI rasanayArgalam |
lIlayodghATayet satyaM saMprApya manasA saha ||

Restraining his breath, truly attaining it along with his mind, the yogin should playfully open the bolt with his tongue.

shItalekShu-rasa-svAdu tatra kShIrAmR^itaM himam |
yogapAnaM pibed yogI durlabhaM vibudhair api ||

The yogin drinks the yoga-juice tasting like iced milk-effused sugar-cane juice, which is hard
for even the gods to obtain.

tat sudhA tR^ipti saMtR^iptaH parAvasthAm upetya cha |
unmanyA tatra saMyogaM labdhvA brahmANDakAntare ||

Quenched by the satisfaction of that nectar and having entered the supreme state,
he should obtain union with the state of consciousness beyond the mind, within the skull [identified with the celestial sphere].

nAda-bindu-mayaM mAMsaM yogI yogena bhakShayet |
etad rahasyaM deveshi durlabhaM parikIrtitam ||KhV49-68

The yogI thus eats by means of yoga, the meat consisting of nAda and bindu. This secret lore has thus been proclaimed, O mistress of gods.

Thus, the sAdhaka who has identified with shiva meditating on the great five-headed shiva who is at the source of the ambrosial drink and meat of nAda and bindu consumes that from the kapAla with his tongue, feeding the hosts of gods in his body and attains conjunction with the state beyond the mind.

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