Ecstatic Visions and the Fire Sacrifice


1.     Vedic Religion

a.     Devas: Many supernatural beings – some more important than others; some related to natural phenomena, others not.

b.     Agni: pervades world as heat, identified with sacred cow, the sun, dawn, fire hidden in the stomach. Particularly the sacrificial fire.  Transports dead to realm of yama; transports and purifies all offerings to realm of the gods.

c.     Soma: link between human and divine, brings ecstasy and understanding of the divine realms.  Identified with Agni and with the moon, which contains ambrosia of immortality (amrita)

d.     Indra: empowered by soma, destroys obstacles with thunderbolt. Destruction of the snake Vritra

e.     Rta: Cosmic Order, energy.

2.     Vedic Religion: A Visionary Dimension and a Sacrificial Dimension

Visionary Dimension

a.     Visionary: Rishis – “seers.” And soma.  Seeing beyond ordinary appearances.  Direct hearing (ri) of the ultimate truth and forces of the universe

b.     Hymn of Origins (10.129) (Koller p.39)

                                        i.  Questioning about nature and origins of reality– How does existence come from non-existence?  Seers take them as two parts of a prior and unified reality.  There is a ground of all existence and non-existence.  THAT ONE.  Beyond duality

                                       ii.  Uncertain.   Expresses wonder, astonishment

                                     iii.  Primordial reality is unfathomable, to be known it must be manifest

Sacrificial Dimension

3.     Yajna = “sacrificial celebration.”  Worshipping and participating in the powers of existence.

a.     The Purusha Sukta: Sacrificial celebration of the primordial person

b.     A world-creating yajna – affirming yajna as power of creation, in which human being s participate.

4.     The early Vedas are liturgical texts – songs of celebration.  Yajna itself an act of worship.  Yajna Bhagvan is a god to be worshipped.

a.     A mysterious powerful source of all things

                                        i.  How to access its creative energies, insure that they serve to sustain, transform, vitalize creation

                                       ii.  Vedic Sacrifice

b.     Acts and worship in the sacrifice have hidden ties with cosmic realities.

                                        i.  The priest, by manipulating these tokens, can bring about desired effects in the outer world.  Priest knows  secret correspondences between symbols in ritual and cosmic powers to which they refer.

5.     The growing centrality of the Fire Sacrifice

a.     At first: Sacrifice as link to gods, ensuring their divine influence over the order of the universe

b.     Gradually: Decreasing emphasis on the gods and increasing emphasis on efficacy of the ritual itself in securing cosmic order, based on the correspondences between the cosmos and the sacrifice