CONCEPT OF DEITIES IN THE VEDAS.
अचिन्त्यस्याप्रमेयस्य निर्गुणस्य गुणात्मनः ।
उपासकानां सिद्ध्यर्थं ब्रह्मणो रूपकल्पना ।
Statue worship is only meant for the laymen, who are not capable of understanding the science associated with the concept of Brahma. The statue of a Deity is not pure imagination, but includes deep science behind it.
देवताः द्विविधाः प्रोक्ताः श्रौताश्रौतविभागतः । श्रौतधर्मैकनिष्ठानां श्रुतिसिद्धाः हि देवताः ।
अश्रौतधर्मनिष्ठानां श्रुतिसिद्धाः न देवताः । अश्रौतधर्मनिष्ठानां अश्रौत इव देवताः ।
There are two types of Devata: those conforming to the Vedas and those not conforming to the Vedas. People who do not accept Vedas, do not accept Vedic Deities – they have their own other Deities.
In Vedic parlance, GUNA (गुणम्) is properties or features of something perceptible. All perceptible objects and their features are describable. Everything describable are subject matter of thought. Where the mind cannot reach – beyond imagination (यतो वाचो निवर्तन्ते। अप्राप्य मनसा सह) - it is NIRGUNA (निर्गुणम्). Where we can superimpose characteristics to some abstract entity, it becomes SAGUNA (गुणत्वभावनया सगुणं भवति). When our mind extends these characteristics to make it gross (सगुणान् मनः स्थूलं भवति), it becomes a form. The concept of Deity comes from Atharvan Veda (9-4-2). Also this is one of the 16 special intelligent discourses (षोडशतापिनी – ताप + “अतइनिठनौ” 5-2-115 इति इनि) of the Atharvan Veda. Other specialized texts include Narada Shilpa Shastra, Twashta Shilpa Shastra, Shilpakashyapa, etc.
From symbolism, we get symbolic forms (प्रतीतात् प्रतीकः). Perception through superimposed symbolism (प्रतीतम्) leads to imagination of symbols (प्रतीक) and then to form (प्रतिमा). These are indescribable (अव्यक्त), expressed (व्यक्त) and physical manifestation (प्रकट) respectively. For example, when we look at the Sun and imagine the force that sustains the solar system (ज्योतिमण्डलान्तर्गत ब्रह्म), that is Perception through symbolism (प्रतीतम्). When we describe that through simile (अङ्गुष्ठमात्रः पुरुष), then it is imagination of symbols (प्रतीक). That which gives us a feeling of nearness to that form (सपर्यायामानन्दं प्रददाति), is called Deity (प्रतिमा). The sculpture leads to form Deities (शिल्पात् प्रतिमा जायन्ते). With the Deity, our devotion grows (प्रतिमायाः श्रद्धा सञ्चरति). From devotion, grows sincerity (श्रद्धातो निष्ठा). Sincerity is a type of meditation, which leads to knowledge (ततश्च ज्ञानम्). Knowledge leads to liberation from bondage (तस्मान्मोक्षो भवतीति). These are the five steps of VAASTU (पञ्च वास्तुसोपानानि).
For the laymen, devotion to the Deity leads to gradual perception of the concept behind it (प्रतिमायास्तत्त्ववोधो जायते). From realization of the general concept, grows focus on the specific concept behind the Deity (तत्त्ववोधात् देशवद्धश्चितस्य धारणा). This leads to propagation of different events related to the concept (धारणाया गाथा, कथा प्रसरति लोके). Such history helps the sculptor to put the thought into shape (गाथाया रूपाण्युत्पादयन्ति स्थापकाः). Thus, the concept is the essence of the form (रूपस्य भावो मुख्यः । भावात् प्रेरणा प्रसरति ।).
All perceptions can be divided into two categories: directly perceptible or macro objects (भावप्रत्यय) and indirectly inferred or quantum objects (उपायप्रत्यय). The latter has two divisions: quantum mechanically observables (देवाः) and beyond quantum (प्रकृतिलयाः). Devaah means observables (दिवति भासति इति देवम्, दिव्यति यत् क्रीडति सर्गादिति, दिव्यत्यनेनेति - दिवुँ॒ परि॒कूज॑ने, कूजँऽ अव्य॑क्ते॒ शब्दे॑). Astral bodies are known to emit sounds. These make others visible through emitted radiation (इरावती धेनुमती हि भूतम् – इरावती उपदर्शितवती - ईरँ॒ गतौ कम्प॑ने च, धेनुमती – विकिरणवती). Up to quarks, all quantum observables are covered under the category DEVAAH (देवाः).
If we analyze the etymology further, we will find that they are basically a combination of dispersing and moving forces that operate in ways conducive to the natural principles of evolution. The word Devaah has also been defined to mean that which gives, radiates, heats up, posited in space, a body with the above characteristics (दिवुँ क्रीडाविजिगीषाव्यवहारद्युतिस्तुतिमोदमदस्वप्नकान्तिग॒तिषु॑).
This can be explained as follows:
1) क्रीडा – The one who consider life as a play is DEVA
2) विजिगीषा – The one who has winning attitude is DEVA
3) व्यवहार – The one who is excelled in communication, conducts, commerce, customs, civility is DEVA
4) द्युति – The one whose life is bright is DEVA
5) स्तुति – The one who can praise others (humans, animals, nature) genuinely is DEVA (Genuine praise is very vital part of positive psychology! Those who have studied HR subjects, must be knowing this)
6) मोद – The one who is constantly working for establishing delight in society/ecosystem
7) मद – The one who is able to take pride of self and at the same time can sacrifice it.
8) स्वप्न – The one who has dream/a lofty selfless goal to be meditated on for betterment of mankind
9) कान्ति – The one from whose life, spiritual splendor is constantly radiating.
10) गति – The one who is constantly changing, गमनशील.
Aitareya Braahmana says “यज्जायते तदाभिर्देवताभिः” – the constituent causes of all objects in the universe are Devataa. Similarly, Paashupata Sootra says, “शक्तिप्रचयोऽस्य विश्वम्” – the universe is the totality of the different forces. Thus, Devataa stands for the constituent causes for all matter and energy in the universe.
As described in Vedas and in Shatapatha Braahmanam, there are 33 categories (कोटि here means type or category and not 10 million) of Devaah. These 33 categories are related to fundamental “particles” of Nature. Of these the first 8 are the gluons of modern particle physics (अग्निश्च जातवेदाश्च। सहोजा अजिराप्रभुः। वैश्वानरो नर्यापाश्च। पङ्क्तिराधाश्च सप्तमः। विसर्पेवाऽष्टमोऽग्निनाम् । एतेऽष्टौ वसवः क्षिता।). The next 11 are varieties of electromagnetic forces: स्वानभ्राट् । अङ्ग्धारिर्बम्भारिः। हस्तः सुहस्तः। कृशानुर्विश्वावसुः। मूर्द्धन्वान्त्सुर्यवर्चाः। कृतिरित्येकादश । The next 12 are types of nucleic radiation that constitutes stars and galaxies (आदित्य - आददानां यान्ति). They are: विवस्वान्, अर्यमा, पूषा, त्वष्टा, सविता, भगः, धाता, विधाता, वरुणः, मित्रः, शक्र, उरुक्रमः. The last two are the neutrino-antineutrino pairs: नासत्यौ, दस्रौ ।
अर्थमिच्छन्नृषिर्देवं यं यमाहायमस्त्विति । प्राधान्येन स्तुवन्भक्त्या मन्त्रस्तद्देव एव सः ।
When any person, desirous of any object, does STUTI by collecting the particles required for that object, the product becomes its Devataa. The Vedas describe the manner of getting the desired results through STUTI, which has been wrongly interpreted as prayer and Yajna. STUTI has been defined as: classification and nomenclature, physical characteristics, chemical interactions and interactive potential (स्तुतिस्तु नाम्ना रूपेण कर्मणा बान्धवेन च ।). Yajna implies assimilation through confinement (य॒जँ॑ देवपूजासङ्गतिकरणदा॒नेषु॑).
The Shatapatha Braahmanam goes on to explain other Deities as different expressions of the same principle. Since the creation reflects God’s image, all powers on Earth must exhibit the same principle that is inherent in Him. Let us take the example of electricity, which is also a force. Sometimes we call it power because we get things done through it. We have not seen electricity just like we have not seen God. All we see is the effects of electricity. Electricity in itself can be of no use unless we attach specific gadgets to tap its power to our advantage. If we want light, we attach a bulb to electricity. If we want heat, we use a heater. If we want fresh air, we use a fan. If we want ice, we use a freezer. Each of these functions could be performed only when a specially designed implement is attached in a specific way to the electricity supply point. Mere availability of electricity without use of the implements will not serve our purpose. Similarly, we use different forms of secondary Gods (implements) and perform the different types of worship (attach the implements in a specific way) to the Absolute God (to the electricity supply point). This is the only scientific way of getting His blessings. Different Deities are like different gadgets for getting the desired results.
Just like we have atoms, molecules and large compounds in physics, the forces representing Deities also come in various forms. Of these, those who appear in groups are called GANADEVATAA (गणदेवता). There are 8 groups of GANADEVATAA, out of which, three categories (वसु, रुद्र, आदित्य) have already been described above. The others are: 10 विश्ववसवः, 36 तुषिता, 64 आभास्वरा, 49 अनिलाः, 220 महाराजिक, 12 साध्याः. Of the 49 अनिलाः, Ganapati (गणपति) is the first and Hanuman (वजरङ्गबली हनुमान) is the last. They are various types of gravitational interaction, spreading all over the universe.
Before constructing a Deity, various aspects are kept in mind like: the stone on which the Deity is to be carved (शैलम्), the compositional diagram (खिलपञ्जर), the carving mechanism (शैलभेदनम्), the disposition of limbs or parts (अङ्गप्रयोग), the determination of the characteristic (भावनान्यास), and synthesis of all the above (सम्बन्धप्रबोधन).
The general principles of form creation revolves around imitating the Nature through universal principles (यद्देवाः अकुर्वन् तत् करवाम). Just like Earth is the base for all life forms, the background panel forms the base for the Deity. Then a central point is chosen, which represents the vital point (मर्म). It represents a unitary principle – full, but undifferentiated whole of the universe. From it emanate various rays akin to solar radiation that sustains life. Through that point, a vertical line is drawn. Around this line, two over-lapping circles are drawn to represent Purusha and Prakriti. All limbs or parts are drawn with reference to these circles. When the limbs of the Deity are drawn fron the central point, they become harmonious. All limbs are drawn to achieve harmony. The creation of the image starts from the navel. Circles indicate Tejas (तेजः) and squares indicate water (अप्). Diagonals represent winds (वायुः). A rhombus shape represents Earth (पृथ्वी). Other lines also have symbolic representations. It represents a unitary principle – full, but undifferentiated whole of the universe. For clay images, these are not necessary.
The conception of the composition is most important. This is akin to conception of creation (प्रजाकामो वै प्रजापतिः स तपोऽतप्यत, स तपस्तप्त्वा मिथुनमुदपादयत्, रयिश्च प्राणश्चेति. एतौ मे वहुधा प्रजाः करिष्यत इति). According to the differences of mental modifications differences arise in the conception of divinities (वृत्त्या दैवचिन्तने भेदः सञ्जायते). These are manifested by the sculptor. Here 9 aspects are considered: Composition, ornamentation, gestures, weapons, postures, vehicles (vAhana), secondary divinities, enemies and devotees (न्यासोऽलङ्कारमुद्राऽऽयुधबाध्रकक्ष वाहनोपदेवारिस्तुवक क्रमेण रूपनवाङ्गम्). There are four parts of the Deity: base or constitutional part (पार्थिवाङ्ग), the vital part (जैवाङ्गम्), the living or breath principle part (प्राणाङ्गम्) and the divinity part (देवताङ्ग).
Ornamentation gives an attractive form to rejoice. From this arises delight, which leads to contemplation (concept of the specific image). From such understanding one attains bliss (यथा उपनिषदि – चक्षुषा रूपग्रहणं श्रोत्रे शव्दग्रहणमित्यादि । अथर्वन् वेदे च – रूपं रूपं वयोवय इत्यादि). Hand gestures manifest the emotional attitude of the image (करमुद्रा रूपस्य भावं ज्ञापयति). The weapons indicate the power of the Deity (बाध्रं बलं ज्ञापयति रूपे). The vehicles (vAhana) reveals the nature of the Deity (वाहनं रूपस्य प्रकृतिज्ञापकविशेषः). These are detailed in Aitareya Braahamanm. The intention to worship is the cause for the imagination of the particular form of God, which is to be worshipped (सङ्कल्पात् विकल्पः).
Indra causes rain by attracting moistures from all around. Thus, his mount is Airabata, whose nature is attraction (वृहद्धिजालं बृहतः शक्रस्य वाजिनीवत इति अथर्वणे 8-8-6). Yama extracts the life of living beings. Hence his mount is the buffalo (प्राणो वै महिष इति शतपथे). Vaishwaanara becomes enkindled by the sacrifices. Hence his mount is a ram (मेष इव वै सं च वि चोर्वच्यसे इति अथर्वणे 6-49-2). Rudra propagates Dharma. Hence his mount is Dharma-bull (वृषभोऽसि स्वर्ग ऋषीनार्षेयान् गच्छ इति अथर्वणे 11-1-35). Vishnu bestows liberation. Hence, his mount is the radiative Suparna (द्वा सुपर्णा सयुजा सखाया समानं वृक्षं परिषस्वजाते इति अथर्वणे 9-9-20). Amba destroys enemies. Hence her mount is a tiger (एनां व्याघ्रं परिषस्वजानाः सिंहं हिन्वन्ति महते सौभागाय इति अथर्वणे 4-8-7). Ganapati bestows intelligence, thereby removing obstacles. Hence his mount is a mouse, which knows the nature of even the most compact solids to cut through it (आखु करीषं सम्भरत । आखवो ह वा अस्यै पृथिवै रसं विदुः – शतपथ 2-1-1-7). Etc.
By transgressing the grid, the image becomes imperfect. The sculptor becomes possessed with evil spirit. For example, a Ganapati riding a bike, not only makes the worship meaningless, but becomes harmful not only for the organizers, but also the sculptor. This is because, Deity worship is based on a sequential effect to replicate the universal mechanism.
From Yajna (यज्ञ), emanates Dhwani (यज्ञात् ध्वनिः). From Dhwani arises the Divine attributes (ध्वनेर्लक्षणम्). From this comes the archetype form (लक्षणाद्रूपम्). From this arises the specific nature or bhava (रूपाद् भावः). From this arises quality (भावाद् गुणः). From quality arises action (गुणात् क्रिया). From action arises religious practices (क्रियाया आचारः). From these practices arise methods (आचारादुपायः). From methods come ritual performance (उपायाच्चेष्टा). From this arises doctrines like Sanatana Dharma, Christianity, Islam, etc. (चेष्टाया मार्गः). This gives rise to different forms (मार्गाद्रूपाणि). This leads to various Deity forms like Vishnu, Mahavira, Buddha, Christ, etc. (रूपात् प्रतिरूपाणि). This order of worship is prescribed by the Vedas.