Matters of religion: Varuṇāvasiṣṇavam, Agnāvasiṣṇavam and the vyahṛti-s

Like the clouds lifting after the monsoonal deluge to unveil the short-lived comforts of early autumn, the metaphorical pall over the nation cast by the engineer’s virus was lifting. Somakhya and Lootika were at the former’s parents’ house, relieved that they had survived and overcome the tumultuous events. Somakhya’s parents asked them to offer the Varuṇāvasiṣṇava and associated oblations as ordained by the Bhṛgu-s and Āṅgirasa-s of yore. Vrishchika and Indrasena were also present as observers of the rite. Somakhya donned his turban and identified himself with the god Indra to initiate the rite, for indeed the śruti has said: tad vā etad atharvaṇo rūpaṃ yad uṣṇīṣī brahmā । — that brāhmaṇa who is turbaned is indeed of the form of the Atharvan. He explained to Indrasena that the śruti holds the Indra took the shape of the Atharvaveda in his turbaned form to protect the ritual of the gods from the dānava-s. Indrasena: “Indeed, even the primordial śruti records that form of Indra in the ṛk of the Kāṇva-s:

yajña indram avardhayad yad bhūmiṃ vy avartayat । cakrāṇa opaśaṃ divi ॥ 
The ritual magnified Indra [with praise] when he made the earth rotate, making [himself] a turban in (= of) heaven.
One may note play on the word opaśa; by taking it as neuter one could also interpret is as the pillar or the axis of heaven.”

Then, Somakhya and Lootika took their seat before the fire on the hide of a reddish brown ox strewn with darbha grass. Thereafter, they performed an ācamana and prokṣaṇa with the incantations: apāṃ puṣpaṃ mūrtir ākāśaṃ pavitram uttamam । indra jīva sūrya jīva devā jīvā jīvyāsam aham । sarvam āyur jīvyāsam ॥ [The flower is the form of the waters, the empty space [and] that which the most pure. Enliven, o Indra; Enliven o Sūrya. Enliven, o gods. May I live. May I complete my term of life].

Thereafter, Somakhya meditated on the special connection of the founder of his race to god Varuṇa and uttered the incantation establishing his connection to the founder of his lineage, great Bhṛgu: tad bhṛgor bhṛgutvam। bhṛgur iva vai sa sarveṣu lokeṣu bhāti ya evaṃ veda ॥ [That [connection with Varuṇa] is the Bhṛgu-ness of Bhṛgu. He who knows thus shines in all the worlds like Bhṛgu]. He recited the formula: OṂ sarvair etair atharvabhiś cātharvaṇaiś ca kurvīya॥ [OṂ May I perform [this rite] by means of all these incantations of Atharvan and the Ātharvaṇa-s]. OṂ mantrāś ca mām abhimukhībhaveyuḥ [OṂ may the [AV] mantra-s face me [favorably]]. Somakhya then explained to Indrasena and Vrishchika: “The śruti holds that like a mother can be killed by the fetus she bears, the mantra-s can kill the holder if he improperly applied them or has not been diligent in their study. Hence, he must utter this incantation beginning with OṂ. The praṇava indeed protects him from such backfiring.”

He muttered the Sāvitra incantation-s to the god Savitṛ as per the teaching of the great brāhmaṇa Śvetaketu, the son of Uddākaka Āruṇi:
OṂ BHUR BHUVAḤ SVAḤ tat savitur… prachodayāt ॥: This first cycle is done with the 3 mahāvyāhṛti-s.
OṂ BHŪR JANAT tat savitur… prachodayāt ॥: Somakhya touched Lootika with a darbha-bunch and she made an oblation as is appropriate for the sacrificer’s wife in the fire at the utterance of svāhā (idaṃ na mama ॥)
OṂ BHUVO JANAT tat savitur… prachodayāt ॥: Somakhya’s parents stepped forward and made an offering with a silent svadhā call and touched water.
OṂ SVAR JANAT tat savitur… prachodayāt ॥: Somakhya made an oblation with a svāhā (idaṃ na mama ॥)
OṂ BHŪR BHUVAḤ SVAR JANAD OM tat savitur… paro rajase ‘sāvado3m॥: Somakhya made an oblation with a vauṣaṭ uttered loudly (idaṃ na mama ॥)

Then he proceeded to the main oblations:
śrauṣaḍ
yayor ojasā skabhitā rajāṃsi
yau vīryair vīratamā śaviṣṭhā ।
yau patyete apratītau sahobhir
viṣṇum agan varuṇaṃ pūrvahūtiḥ ॥

By whose power the domains of space were stabilized,
by whose energy, the most energetic and mightiest,
who lord it unopposed by their powers,
to [that] Viṣṇu and Varuṇa have gone the first offerings.

yasyedaṃ pradiśi yad virocate
pra cānati vi ca caṣṭe śacībhiḥ ।
purā devasya dharmaṇā sahobhir
viṣṇum agan varuṇaṃ pūrvahūtiḥ ॥
vauṣaṭ + idaṃ varuṇāviṣṇūbhyāṃ na mama ॥

In whose direction is that which shines forth,
[whatever] that vibrates and observes with power
from ancient times by the god’s law with might,
to [that] Viṣṇu and Varuṇa have gone the first offerings.

OṂ BHŪH pra tad viṣṇu stavate vīryāṇi
OṂ BHUVO mṛgo na bhīmaḥ kucaro giriṣṭhāḥ ।
OṂ SVAḤ parāvata ā jagamyāt parasyāḥ ॥
OṂ BHŪR BHUVAḤ SVAR JANAD VṚDHAT KARAD RUHAN MAHAT TAC CHAM OṂ viṣṇave svāhā + idaṃ viṣṇave na mama ॥

Thus, he praises forth his heroic deeds, Viṣṇu is
like a dreadful lion wandering, stationed in the mountains
From the distant realm may he come close.

śrauṣaḍ
agnāviṣṇū mahi tad vāṃ mahitvam
pātho ghṛtasya guhyasya nāma ।
dame-dame sapta ratnā dadhānau
prati vāṃ jihvā ghṛtam ā caraṇyāt ॥

O Agni and Viṣṇu mighty is your might;
you two drink from name of the ghee’s secret.
In home after home you two place the seven gems.
may your tongue move here to meet the ghee.

agnāviṣṇū mahi dhāma priyam vāṃ
vītho ghṛtasya guhyā juṣāṇau ।
dame-dame suṣṭutyā vāvṛdhānau
prati vāṃ jihvā ghṛtam uc caraṇyāt ॥
vauṣaṭ + idaṃ agnāviṣṇūbhyāṃ na mama ॥

O Agni and Viṣṇu mighty is your dear domain;
may you two savor the secret enjoyment of the ghee
In home after home you two are magnified by good praise-chants.
may your tongue flicker upward to meet the ghee.

OṂ BHŪH yasyoruṣu triṣu vikramaneṣv adhikṣiyanti bhuvanāni viśvā ।
OṂ BHUVA uru viṣṇo vi kramasvoru kṣayāya nas kṛdhi ।
OṂ SVAḤ ghṛtam ghṛtayone piba pra-pra yajñapatiṃ tira ॥
OṂ BHŪR BHUVAḤ SVAR JANAD VṚDHAT KARAD RUHAN MAHAT TAC CHAM OṂ viṣṇave svāhā + idaṃ viṣṇave na mama ॥

In whose wide three strides all the worlds are laid down;
stride widely O Viṣṇu for wide lordship; make [that lordship] for us;
Drink the ghee, O source of ghee; prolong the lord of the ritual over and over!

mama devā vihave santu sarva
indravanto maruto viṣṇur agniḥ ।
mamāntarikṣam urulokam astu
mahyaṃ vātaḥ pavatāṃ kāmāyāsmai ॥
OṂ BHŪR BHUVAḤ SVAR JANAD VṚDHAT KARAD RUHAN MAHAT TAC CHAM OM indravantaḥ svāhā ॥

May all the gods be at my ritual invocation;
The Marut-s with Indra, Viṣṇu and Agni.
Let the broad realm of the atmosphere be mine.
May Vāta blow for favoring this wish of mine.

yo naḥ svo yo araṇaḥ sajāta uta niṣṭyo yo asmāṃ abhidāsati ।
rudraḥ śaravyayaitān mamāmitrān vi vidhyatu ॥

Whether one of ours or one who is in a truce, a kinsman or an alien, whosoever attacks us
may Rudra releasing a shower of arrows pierce those enemies of mine.

yaḥ sapatno yo ‘sapatno yaś ca dviṣan chapāti naḥ ।
devās taṃ sarve dhūrvantu brahma varma mamāntaram ॥

Whichever competitor or whichever non-competitor and whichever hater curses us,
the gods shall injure him. The incantation is my inner armor.

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Having concluded the after-rites Somakhya, Lootika, Indrasena and Vrischika left to savor the fresh air and the natural world, and engage in some brahmavāda on the hills beyond the late medieval temple of the awful Caṇḍikā. They stopped at the quadrangle in the low ground facing the stairs leading to the temple on the hill before a towering bastard poon tree. Vrishchika: “There used to be an old woman with a goat who used sit in the vicinity of this skunk tree. We used to feed her goat as a representative of the god Kumāra. She has likely passed into the realm of Vivasvān’s son along with her aja. Hope Rudra was kind to her when her time came. Indrasena, sometimes, thinking about you, as though seized by Skanda or Viṣṇu, I used to feed her goat hoping that Skanda might be kind to me.” Indrasena: “O Gautamī, after all the meanderings, it seems, Skanda has brought you to your destination as he did to the Kāṇva and his goat.” Lootika: “I also recall that Somakhya’s family observes a Kaumāra rite on the Āśvina fullmoon, where they make a rare dish from payasya (curdled milk cheese; Iranic: paynīr). They would offer some of that to the woman with the goat getting the leaf in which the dish was wrapped” Indrasena: “Is that a folk Atharvan rite?”. Somakhya: “Yes, the folk Atharvan tradition holds that Skanda is the teacher of Paippalāda, one of the promulgators of the AV saṃhita-s, and the paurṇamāsya rite is held in the honor of the enlightenment of Paippalāda.”

It was a quiet time of the day with just a light stream of votaries and gawkers on the stairway to the temple. The four made their way up the steps, mostly in silent thought, to pay their respects to the enshrined parivāra-devatā-s and the wife of Rudra at the main shrine. Even as they were about to exit the circumambulatory path to resume their climb beyond the stair way further up the crag to the plateau beyond, Lootika was approached by a woman who wanted to fall at her feet. Lootika prevented her from doing so and she began pouring out a litany of medical troubles. Lootika signaled to her sister: “This lady seems to have mistaken me to be you.” Vrishchika: “Stepped in and having briefly heard her out gave her some reassuring words and asked her to attend to her father’s clinic.” Somakhya and Indrasena instinctively felt their concealed guns and knives for a dasyu could always be lurking in the shades. Having reached their favored vantage point, the site of an old megalithic stone circle, they looked on at their city below. There seemed to be some hesitancy in returning to the old normal; hence, the air seemed cleaner and the horizon clearer. The, nakṣatra of the day, the eye of Mitra and Varuṇa, had mounted the vault of the cloudless southern sky. Looking into the distance they saw that the fires in the yonder cemetery were far fewer than when Somakhya and Lootika had looked on from the same place during the height of the conflict. Lootika: “The lull between the storms.” Vrishchika: “You think it is not yet over?” L: “The clash with the rākṣasa-mata-s is like the fight between the Daitya-s and the Deva-s — the bigger disease from the mleccha-s is that of the mind — it will play out next with much spilling of blood — but then our people could end in a whisper too.”

Indrasena: “Coming to the rite of morning, I’d like understand more about the AV vyāhṛti-s — both the combination of the mahāvyāhṛtis with the incantations as also the connection of the vyāhṛti-s to Maruta Indravantaḥ.”
Vrishchika: “Could we please also have a broader discussion of role the mahāvyāhṛti-s and their transcendence by other vyāhṛti-s across the Vaidika collections?”

Somakhya: “Alright, Vrishchika, let us lay the groundwork for the exploration desired by Indrasena by first addressing the brahmavāda on the vyāhṛti-s in the śruti-s other than those of the Atharvan-s. Let us begin this discussion with testing your knowledge of the traditions regarding the vyāhṛti-s in the traditions you are familiar with. Why don’t you tell us what you know regarding the three mahā-vyāhṛti-s?”
V: “The śruti of the Aitareya-s holds that the 3 vyāhṛti-s are like connective tissue that holds together the three disjunct parts of the śruti in the form of the ṛk-s, yajuṣ-es and sāman-s — thus they are compared to procedures akin to reducing dislocations of joints or sewing up cut skin. Indeed, this analogy of the Aitareya-s provides early evidence for these medical procedures among the ārya-s, which parallel those surgical and bone-setting procedures explicitly mentioned in the Veda of the Atharvan-s and having echoes among other Indo-Europeans, like in the Merseburg spell of the śūlapuruṣa-s:
(bhūr bhuvaḥ svar) … etāni ha vai vedānām antaḥ śleṣaṇāni yad etā vyāhṛtayas . tad yathātmanātmānaṃ saṃdadhyād . yathā parvaṇā parva yathā śleṣmaṇā carmaṇyaṃ vānyad vā viśliṣṭam saṃśleṣayed । evam evaitābhir yajṅasya viśliṣṭaṃ saṃdadhāti ॥

These are verily the internal bindings of the Veda-s, these vyāhṛti-s. Even as one joins the one individual thing other separated thing; like setting one joint with another joint; like suturing with a cord, skin with another torn one. Even so, verily with these one joins the disjunct parts of the the ritual.

Thus, the suturing role of the vyāhṛti-s is critical for the terminal sviṣṭakṛt-s for fixing the errors in the ritual.

S: “That is good. So, what do you know of the thesis of the transcendence of 3 mahāvyāhṛti-s?”
V: “Well, the Upaniṣat of the Taittirīyaka-s holds that there are three primal or mahāvyāhṛti-s, bhūr, bhuvas and suvar; however, the sage Māhācamasya held that there is a fourth, i.e. mahas. In his teaching mahas is privileged over the remaining three. He establishes four homologies between them and other entities. Those are the following: 1) He sees the three primary one bhūr, bhuvas and suvar as corresponding to the earth, the atmosphere and the space beyond. The fourth, mahas, is seen as the Āditya, the sun, which causes the world material worlds to take form — perhaps in more than one way — by supplying the matter to make them and also the light by which their existence is perceived. 2) The next homology is to the first 3 and the sources of light — the fire, the wind (he implies lightning here) and the sun. The reflected light of the moon is homologized to mahas — here again we might see it as the ambient light that makes perception possible even the source themselves are invisible. 3) He also homologizes the first 3 with the 3 categories of incantations in the śruti, the ṛk-s, the yajuṣ-es and the sāman-s, and mahas with the brahman, which is to be understood here as the praṇava. 4) The next homology is between the vyāhṛti-s and the inhalation, exhalation, and retention in the prāṇāyāma cycle. Specifically, in that context mahas may be understood as the air. However, I hold that from the śruti we may infer that what was meant was more general — the physiological process of nutrient uptake, export of unwanted and secreted compounds and the anabolic processes. The free-energy-providing material in this process, i.e. the nutrients, is the fourth, mahas. Thus, as there are four homologies in each set with a total of 4 sets, the vyahṛti-s are seen as being 16-fold. The summary of these linkages is presented as the understanding that the first three are the limbs of the physical body and mahas corresponds to the consciousness. Thus, mahas in different domains is equated respectively with the link substance, the work-generating substance, the diffuse or reflected light that pervades the universe and the mantra essence — all of these are seen as analogies for the nature of consciousness with respect to matter.”

Somakhya: “Excellent upa-gautamī. Dear Lootika is there something you might want to add to what your sister has just expounded from other Vedic traditions?”
Lootika: “Sure. I actually learnt of the multiple expressions of vyāhṛtyutpatti in the scriptural readings I did with your mother. This theory of Māhācamasya, introducing the fourth vyāhṛti perhaps led up to the theory of multiple vyāhṛti-s in both Atharvan and Yajuṣ traditions. This is clearly a departure from the triple vyāhṛti system expounded in the brāhmaṇa of the Vājasaneyin-s, that of the Aitareya-s and the Upaniṣad brāhmaṇa of the Jaimini singers. There explicitly Prajāpati is described as generating only 3 vyāhṛti-s.”

Indrasena: “Indeed. However, each of those accounts have notable points — one may see a gradual build up of concepts within the 3 vyāhṛti system that led to the emergence of the fourth. In the śruti of the Vājasaneyin-s, we have an account that might be seen as retaining the archaic form which the thesis of Māhācamasya eventually emerged. That account describes the heat (tapas) of Prajāpati as the basis for the emanation of the 3 worlds. Since these worlds were heated by his tapas they emanated the same 3 primary sources of light (the deities Agni, Vāyu and Āditya) mentioned by the TU. That tapas causing those lights to radiate heat spawned the collections of the 3 types of mantra-s of the śruti. His tapas then caused those mantra collections to radiate heat from which Prajāpati extracted three generative substances (śukra-s) that are the vyāhṛti-s. We might trace the origins of the two other traditions, which Lootika just mentioned, from such a foundation — one present in the Sāmavaidika tradition of the Jaiminīya-s and the other in the Aitareya-brāhmaṇa.

In the former, Prajāpati is not presented in a protogonic context, but is competing with the other gods, probably reflecting the tension between the surging Prājāpatya religion among our people and the older Ārya-deva-dharma. Prajāpati conquered the triple-world with the 3-fold mantra collection. Fearing that the other gods might see the same and take over his conquest, he extracted the essence of the ṛk-s uttering bhūḥ. That became the earth and its essence streamed forth as Agni. From the Yajuṣ-es he extracted the essence with bhuvaḥ and that formed the atmosphere and streamed forth as Vāyu. The sāman-s were distilled with the suvaḥ call and they formed the the heaven, from which the essence streamed forth as the Āditya. However, there was one akṣara he could not distill into an essence, namely the praṇava. That remained by itself and became Vāc.

In the Aitareya text, we have a cosmogony closer to that the of Vājasaneyin-s, wherein Prajāpati’s heat generated the triple-world. As in the former account, by his heating of those, the 3 luminaries emerged and by heating those the 3 mantra-s collection were generated. By heating those again the generative essences (śukra-s), which are the 3 primary vyāhṛti-s emerged. But in this account those were heated further to generate 3 phonemes: A, U, M, which Prajāpati got together to generate the praṇava, OṂ. Thus, here too, as in the Jaiminīya-Upaniṣad-brāhmaṇa we see that there is something beyond the 3 basic vyāhṛti-s, namely the praṇava. It is the praṇava that Māhācamasya equated to the fourth vyāhṛti mahas in his thesis and that which appears as the final vyāhṛti of the Atharvan-s. Thus, we see an evolutionary process within the śruti which paved the way for the vyāhṛti-s beyond the primary three via the concept of the praṇava.”

Lootika: “There is no mention of the triple vyāhṛiti-s in the oldest layer of our tradition, the Ṛk-saṃhitā. Now, that could be because they are specialized calls that don’t fit into the metrical incantations. However, in all the accounts of vyāhṛtyutpatti, which we have discussed so far, we see the central role of the protogonic god Prajāpati. Is that the vyāhṛiti incantations arose within a Prājāpatya milieu? As Indrasena pointed out, one of the narratives might hint at Prajāpati competing with the gods of the old religion. Moreover, in specifying the deities of the vyāhṛiti-s, Śaunaka mentions in the Bṛhaddevatā that, whereas Prajāpati is the god of all the 3 vyāhṛti-s as a group, individually they have Agni, Vāyu and Sūrya as their deities. Likewise, for OṂ, Śaunaka mentions Vāc and Ka Prajāpati as in the brāhmaṇa narratives, but also Indra and the gods in general as its deity. This is indeed supported by the fundamental teaching of the upaniṣat:

yaś chandasām ṛṣabho viśvarūpaś
chandobhyaś candām̐sy āviveśa ।
satām̐ śikyaḥ provācopaniṣadindro
jyeṣṭha indriyāya ṛṣibhyo
namo devebhyaḥ svadhā pitṛbhyo
bhūr bhuvaḥ suvaś chanda om ॥

After all even in its declining days our tradition was quite unanimous about this teaching and held that: “sa praṇava-svarūpī paramaiśvarya-yukta paramātmā indra upaniṣat pratipādyo bhūtva vyāhṛti-trayātmā oṃkāraḥ ।” Indra, in the form of the vyāhṛti-s and the praṇava, is indeed is the first causal link in the “bringing together” (upaniṣat) of the sambandha-s for our ancestors — fitting well with the Aitareya statement on the vyāhṛti as the internal bonds of the śruti. These hint at a pre-Prājāpatya origin for the vyāhṛti-s and the praṇava within the old religion. So, can we find evidence for the ritual deployment of the vyāhṛti-s in the pre-Prājāpatya layer of the religion?”

S: “A superficial student could indeed reach the conclusion that the vyāhṛiti-concept emerged as part of the linking of the cosmogonic role of Prajāpati with the cosmic origin of the mantra-s, like in the accounts that Indrasena just expounded. However, as your sister noted there is an association of the vyāhṛti-s with the sviṣṭakṛt rite for setting right the errors of ritual. Indeed, as you know well, such vyāhṛti oblations and calls are a general feature of most gṛhya rites and also śrauta rituals such the sāmidhenī incantations where they make up the syllables corresponding to the rest of the year beyond the 365. I would say this pervasive use is an indication of their ancient and pre-Prājāpatya ritual roles, substantiating their conception as the internal fastenings of the Veda. An unambiguous case for their pre-Prājāpatya role is made by their central role in the silent incantations that are inaudibly recited as as part of various śastra-s, as also the similar incantations used in the morning and evening offerings of the Agnihotra. Thus, the śruti of the Aitareya-s states that one concludes the Ājya and Praüga recitation with bhūr agnir jyotir jyotir agniḥ ॥; the Niṣkevalya and Marutvatīya recitations with indro jyotir bhuvo jyotir indraḥ ॥ and the Āgnimāruta and Vaiśvadeva recitations with sūryo jyotir jyotiḥ svaḥ sūryaḥ ॥ as the inaudible incantations. This give us a glimpse of their ancient use in a śrauta context going back to pre-Prājāpatya times. But we see pervasive signs of their place in even more routine rites that reinforce the proposal that their common place use was of pre-Prājāpatya provenance — I guess you might agree Indrasena?”

I: “I was just about to interject in this regard. To build up the context, we may first note the Vyāhṛti-kalpa from the gṛhya appendix of the Bodhāyana-s, which teaches the 12000x japa of the mahāvyāhṛti-s for the attainment of specific goals and purification. It was this tradition of the japa of the vyāhṛti-s that one hand was incorporated into nitya and naimittika rituals focused on Deva Savitṛ — like the very fact that we use either the three mahāvyāhṛti-s or the seven vyāhṛti-s: BHUḤ BHUVAḤ SUVAḤ MAHAḤ JANAḤ TAPAḤ SATYAM coupled the Sāvitrī in our routine daily japa. The same applies to the coupling of the mahāvyāhṛti-s with the Sāvitrī and the Trisuparṇa in the mahat (the great) rite taught by Uddālaka Āruṇi to Yājñvalkya Vājasaneya, the founders of the śukla tradition. Indeed, this coupling of the mahāvyāhṛti-s with the Sāvitrī is extended in tradition of the Jaiminīya singers, wherein two additional vyāhṛti-s are added to the list to make it a total of five, just as the seven in the other traditions. These are SATYAM and PURUṢA, after which comes the gāyatra sāman composed on the Sāvitrī. On the other hand the pure mahā-vyāhṛti japa also developed into the song of vyāhṛti-s in the tradition of the Rāṇāyanīya and Kauthuma singers. In that song, the musically rendered vyāhṛti-s are sandwiched between two musical praṇava-s and interspersed with 3 repetitions of the magical stobha-s with the concluding bhakti-s of the suvar-jyotiḥ, reminiscent of both the śastra incantation you mentioned and the brahmaśiras that closes the Sāvitrī with the ten praṇava-s (OṂ BHUḤ । OṂ BHUVAḤ । OM̐ SUVAḤ । OṂ MAHAḤ । OṂ JANAḤ । OṂ TAPAḤ। OM̐ SATYAM । OṂ tat savitur vareṇyam । bhargo devasya dhimahi । dhiyo yo naḥ prachodayāt ॥ OM āpo jyotī raso amṛtam brahma BHŪR-BHUVA-SVAROM ॥). Similar to this connection to the Sāvitrī, the vyāhṛti-s are also incorporated into the important vyāhṛti-homa-s of the Yajuṣ tradition (bhūr annam agnaye svāhā… ityādi) which culminate in the incantation of Indra as the bull among the meters that your wife just mentioned. Notably, the last of the vyāhṛti-homa incantations include the fourth vyāhṛti, mahas. All these not only indicate the pervasive presence of the mahāvyāhṛti-s but also the other vyāhṛti-s in a range of prayoga-s, like say the offerings to Mahārāja in the Āraṇyaka of the Taittirīyaka-s. These strongly favor the idea that the Prājāpatya-s were merely incorporating a widely use mantra-tradition into their philosophizing.”

S: “Good. In this regard I would note that the special vyāhṛti, PURUṢA, of the singers is also used in other recitations. One such is during the expiatory singing of the Vāmadevya Stotra based on RV 4.31.1-3 composed by the illustrious ancestor of our wives. The last of these ṛk-s is short by 3 syllables from the gāyatrī; hence, he should insert the the 3 syllables of the vyāhṛti PURUṢA and recite this ṛk as a proper gāyatrī before the Vāmadevya Stotra is sung. Thus, we have:
OṂ abhī ṣu ṇaḥ sakhīnām PU avitā jaritṝṇāṃ RU । śatam bhavāsy ūtibhiḥ ṢAḤ ॥

Similarly, during the recitation of the Rājana incantation in the nocturnal ritual of the winter solstice we insert a PURUṢA into the intertwining of the ṛk of my ancient clansman Bṛhaddiva Ātharvaṇa and that of Priyamedha Āṅgirasa:
tad id āsa bhuvaneṣu jyeṣṭham PU
nadaṃ va odatīnāṃ |
yato jajña ugras tveṣanṛmṇo RU
nadaṃ yoyuvatīno3m ।
sadyo jajñāno ni riṇāti śatrūn
patiṃ vo aghnyānāṃ |
anu yaṃ viśve madanty ūmāḥ ṢO
dhenūnām iṣudhyaso3m ॥

Bṛhaddiva Ātharvaṇa:
He indeed was the foremost in the universes,
who was born with fierce, mighty manliness
Simultaneously, with his birth, he melts down the enemies
as all his friends [Viṣṇu, Vāyu and the Marut-s] cheer him on.

Priyamedha Āṅgirasa:
At the roaring bull among the eager females,
at the roaring bull among the coy young ladies,
at the lord of your milk-giving cows,
shoot your arrow [in the form of the chant]

As you can see, the intertwining couples a mantra indicating the manliness of Indra with one indicating him as the bull among the females; thus, the vyāhṛti PURUṢA here becomes the seed that is infused into the incantation.”

I: “Somakhya, having gone so far into the realm of the vyāhṛti-s and their prayoga-s, let us return to my original question regarding the roots of the vyāhṛti-s of the Atharvan-s. Where all are they found and what are their prayoga-s?”
S: “Prājāpatya brahmavāda for the AV vyāhṛti-s given in the Gopatha Brāhmaṇa is closely but briefly paralleled by the Jaiminīya Brāhmaṇa, which states that the local worlds was generated in fluid from the three mahāvyāhṛti-s. In contrast, the higher realms of space are said to have been generated from vyāhṛti-s KARAT, JANAT, VṚDHAT and SATYAM. This indicates that there was a wider knowledge and tradition of most of the AV vyāhṛti-s. In terms of ritual, we can see from the Gopatha Brāhmaṇa itself that the prayoga is in the context of the older Aindra religion, in the offering to the Marut-s and other deities who are in the company of Indra (the Indravant-s). Even as the vyāhṛti PURUṢA is deployed within the incantations that we just discussed, one could make a case for a similar wider presence for most of the AV vyāhṛti-s. You noted the emergence of equivalents of MAHAT and JANAD among other vaidika traditions. To that I would add the use other AV vyāhṛti-s in various traditions. For instance, the Vārāha-gṛhya-sūtra of the Maitrāyaṇīya-s specifies the use of the triad karat, janat and bṛhat (unique to that tradition, and semantically mirroring mahat or mahat) in the Garbhadhāna ritual. Coming to the Taittirīyaka-s, we have Iḍa recitations laid down by my ancestor Jamadagni Bhārgava for the drawing of the milk offerings in the Agnihotra as taught by Āpastamba: BHŪR IḌĀ BHUVA IDĀ SUVAR IḌĀ KARAD IḌĀ PṚTHIG IḌĀ ॥ In this tradition, the first three mahāvyāhṛti-s are, as usual, associated with the Agni on earth, Vāyu in the atmosphere and Sūrya in the heavens. Of the two further vyāhṛti-s, karat, matching the AV tradition, corresponds to the moon moving against the backdrop of the nakṣatra-s and the YV-specific PṚTHIK corresponding to the medicinal herbs discovered by Jamadagni Bhārgava. The Āśvalāyana-s have only four drawings of milk, and use vṛdhat instead of karat, again matching one the AV vyāhṛti-s. Interestingly, the Maitrāyaṇīya-s instead use janat in this context. Thus, these vyāhṛti-s are individually used in the other traditions but come together as a whole in the AV tradition and the svāhā offerings with them are specified in the Kauśika-sūtra-s.

This brings us to TAT and ŚAM. I’d posit that those arose from the ancient opening of the Śamyuvāka incantation which is repeatedly mentioned throughout the śruti. Its ancient use is suggested by opening of the Śamyuvāka being sought from Rudra in the ṛk of Kaṇva, the son of Ghora Aṅgirasa in the RV. In regard to TAT, one might also note that it might have a link to its use in the Yajuṣ incantation of the supreme Vāyu: OṂ tad brahma । OṂ tad vāyuḥ । OṂ tad ātmā । OṂ tat satyam । OṂ tat sarvam । OṂ tat puror namaḥ ॥ Finally, coming to the praṇava as an AV vyāhṛti, it seems to be a natural inclusion given the intimate link the mahāvyāhṛti-s share with it mīmāṃsā and prayoga. We see that, for example, in the Upaniṣat statement that identifies them with Indra as the bull among the Chandas, which Lootika just mentioned. Finally, I should also mention one of the homologies that the Atharvan tradition recognizes between these vyāhṛti-s and the wider horizon of texts. Thus, it has janat as equivalent to the compilation of the Āṅgirasa-s — the Āṅgirasa-veda; similarly we have vṛdhat and Sarpaveda, karat and Piśāchaveda, ruhat and Asuraveda, mahat and the Itihāsa-s, and tat and the Purāṇa-s. This perhaps reflects both the growing corpus of texts and awareness of texts of other traditions — like the Asuraveda — it could be some kind of memory of the Iranian texts.”

V: “What are some of the meditations one should be mindful of when performing a japa or contemplation on the progression of vyāhṛti-s?”
I: “The most important one is the japa of the threefold mahāvyāhṛti-s preceded by a praṇava. During this, as in the Vaiśvadeva songs of the Chandoga-s, one meditates on the Vasu-s associating them with BHUR; them one meditates on the Rudra-s associating them with the utterance of BHUVAS; then one mediates on the Āditya-s while uttering SUVAR. With the preceding OṂ, one meditates on Indra or Viśvedeva-s, i.e. the entire pantheon. While moving from one mahāvyāhṛti to another one perceives the connector deities: SUVAR and BHUḤ are connected by Dyāvā-Pṛthivī; BHUR and BHUVAS by Agnī-ṣomā; BHUVAS and SUVAR by Vātā-Parjanyā. When uttering the five vyāhṛti-s, i.e., mahāvyāhṛti-s + TAPAS and SATYAM one additionally meditates on the primal heat from which all arose and the very nature of existence. May be Somakhya could add more while returning to our starting point of the AV vyāhṛti-s?”

L: “Also, before rounding up this discussion it would be worthwhile if you could touch upon some of the mīmāṃsā-s on the different sets of vyāhṛti-s that are not widely aired by the extant brahmavādin-s focused on Prājāpatya and Uttaramīmāṃsā traditions.”
S: “Sure. Their connection to the Sāvitrī and the god Savitṛ is the most apparent one. The śruti holds that the inviolable laws of Savitṛ, like the probabilities of the draws of the vibhīdaka nuts from the hole, are the ones which run the universe: deva iva savitā satyadharmā: like the laws of the god Savitṛ that hold true. The mahāvyāhṛti-s illustrate their most apparent domain of action: the near realm, the mid-region and the realm of the sun. The more expanded set of seven vyāhṛti-s yoked to the Sāvitrī indicate their broader sphere of action — Mahas: the wider space. Then we move into the temporal axis: janas: the origin of space itself. What drives its emergence? tapas: heat. Finally, the very fact that something exists: satyam: also expressing the inviolable or true nature of the laws of Savitṛ, the ṛta. Indeed, Kṛṣṇa Āṅgirasa states:
ṛtena devaḥ savitā śamāyata
ṛtasya śṛṅgam urviyā vi paprathe ।
By the natural law the god Savitṛ exerts himself,
[by that] the antler of the natural law has spread widely.

The Samaveda adds the vyāhṛti, PURUṢA, after SATYAM. This may be seen as the root of the concept that was later expanded in Sāṃkhyā — the Puruṣa as consciousness. In placing the final Puruṣa, the singers posited a system in which the laws and existence itself might be objects in the conscious experience of the sole reality, the Puruṣa. The next notable mīmāṃsā of the vyāhṛti-s pertains to the way we deployed the mahāvyāhṛti triad with the three feet of the AV mantra-s to Viṣṇu. This connection is declared by the Jaiminīya-s, who state that the vyāhṛti-s were offered to Viṣṇu. The three feet of the deployed mantra-s indeed correspond to the three steps of Viṣṇu, who appeared as a dwarf and suddenly grew to a gigantic size to conquer the worlds from the Dānava-s with his famed triple strides: bṛhaccharīro vimimāna ṛkvabhir yuvākumāraḥ praty ety āhavam ॥ As the founder of your race, O Gautamī-s, states in the primal śruti, that gargantuan form of Viṣṇu is said to measure out the worlds with the ṛk-s — those are the corresponding AV ṛk-s we deploy conjoined to the vyāhṛti-s. The Kāṇva-s further add that those steps were the ones with gathered the atoms — samūḍham asya paṃsure ॥ — from which the universe condenses. Hence, while uttering that incantation the ritualist meditates on the great Viṣṇu stamping out the Asura-s and likewise calls on him to exclude his rivals from his space. This association with the vyāhṛti-s also extends to Viṣṇu’s wife in the incantation seen in the Mahānārāyaṇopaniṣat of the late AV tradition that you all know very well:
OṂ bhūr lakṣmī bhuvar lakṣmīḥ suvaḥ kālakarṇī tan no mahālakṣmīḥ pracodayāt ॥
This incantation is notable in placing Kālakarṇī in suvar. This is from her association with visible time in the form of the apparent movement of the sun in the sky. As you all know well from your Āgamika practice she is none other than the gigantic, dreadful, fanged, death-dealing eponymous goddess, armed with a bow, arrows, axe, sword, cakra, trident and a cleaver, emitted by Rudrāṇī from her mouth to terrorize the gods for their support of Prajāpati Dakṣa. The fourth vyāhṛti mahat is subliminally hinted by her name Mahālakṣmī, encompassing the wider space.

Coming the the AV vyāhṛti-s, the coupling OṂ BHŪR JANAT ॥ expiates ṛk errors and is offered in the Gārhapatya; OṂ BHUVO JANAT ॥ expiates yajuṣ errors and is offered in the Dakṣiṇa; OṂ SVAR JANAT ॥ expiates Sāman errors and is offered in the Āhavanīya; OṂ BHŪR BHUVAḤ SVAR JANAD OM ॥ expiates Atharvan errors and is also offered in the Āhavanīya. Here the JANAT is seen as regenerating the flawed incantations. Vrishchika, it may interest you that the AV tradition uses a metallurgical analogy of fusing metals for the welding role of these vyāhṛti-s, unlike the medical analogy of the Aitareya that you noted. The AV also holds that the same combination of vyāhṛti-s are the incantations uttered by the brahman before he asks the udgātṛ to sing the stoma to the god Bṛhaspati in the somayāga. Likewise he utters the entire gamut of vyāhṛti-s OṂ BHŪR BHUVAḤ SVAR JANAD VṚDHAT KARAD RUHAN MAHAT TAC CHAM OM when urging the udgātṛ to sing the song of the Indravant-s derived from the famous Evayāmarut ṛk to the Marut-s and Viṣṇu that was composed by your illustrious ancestor, O Indrasena (pra vo mahe matayo yantu viṣṇave marutvate girijā evayāmarut । pra śardhāya pra yajyave sukhādaye tavase bhandadiṣṭaye dhunivratāya śavase॥). As an aside that mantra-s is notable in more than one way but you may note the phrase girijā — Viṣṇu emerging from the mountain — a mythologem that presages his emergence from the pillar in the later Nṛsiṃha cycle — but here he emerges with the marching troop of the Marut-s to head for battle, evidently to join Indra in the battle against the Dānava-s.

In the purely AV performance, as we did earlier today (or in the muttered incantation of the brahman), it is deployed with the Indravant ṛk which illustrates the connections to various vyāhṛti-s. With Agni we are connected to Bhūr, with Vāta (Vāyu) Bhuvas, with Viṣṇu, the realm of the Āditya-s. All the special vyāhṛti-s can be seen as having deep connections with Indra and the Indravant-s. As we saw before the two praṇava-s at the beginning and the end are the mark of Indra. Janat indicates the emergence of Viṣṇu and the Marut-s from the mountain, which is a metaphor for the world axis — thus on one hand it represent the origin of time that Viṣṇu manifests as. On the other birth of the Marut-s that made the universe manifest. That manifestation and the growth of the universe, which is how the sons of Rudra manifest is indicated by Vṛdhat. Karat is action of filling the universe, as the ancient Bhārgava, Uśanas Kāvya, is quoted by Agastya Maitrāvaruṇi: karat tisro maghavā dānucitrā : Maghavan made three realms fill with glistening droplets. Ruhat, stands for the ascendance of the gods, manifesting as the rising sun in which they are worshiped. Mahat, as we saw before represent the great expanse of the universe. Finally Tat and Śam are the bliss that one attains from the gods upon the success of the ritual.”

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