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Ancient India - Index

Hinduism Hindu Religious Texts



Hindu Religious Texts of Ancient India

The Rig Veda

HYMN TO INDRA (excerpt)

The Vedas are collections of hymns dating back to the Aryan period of Indian history. The Rig Veda is the most important of the these collections. It is very likely that some of these hymns originated well before the time the Aryans came to northwestern India as a warrior elite. It was probably compiled into its present form between 1200 and 900 BC but was probably not written down until 600 BC. The selection below is among the oldest in the collection and celebrates the victory of Indra, one of the most important gods, over Vritra, the dragon of drought.

I will declare the manly deeds of Indra, the first that he achieved, the thunder wielder.
He slew the dragon [1], then disclosed the waters, and cleft the channels of the mountain torrents.
He slew the dragon lying on the mountain: his heavenly bolt of thunder Twashtar [2] fashioned.
Like lowing cows in rapid flow descending the waters glided downward to the ocean.
Impetuous as a bull, he chose the Soma [3], and quaffed in threefold sacrifice the juices.
Maghavan [4] grasped the thunder for his weapon, and smote to death this firstborn of the dragons.
When, Indra, thou hadst slain the dragons' firstborn, and overcome the charms of the enchanters,
Then, giving life to sun and dawn and heaven, thou foundest not one foe to stand against thee.
Indra with his own great and deadly thunder smote into pieces Vritra worst of Vritras.
As trunks of trees, what time the axe hath felled them, low on the earth so lies the prostrate dragon.
He, like a mad weak warrior, challenged Indra, the great impetuous many-slaying hero.
He, brooking not the clashing of the weapons, crushed Indra's foe, the shattered forts in falling [5],
Footless and handless, still he challenged Indra, who smote him with his bolt between the shoulders.
Emasculate yet claiming manly vigor, thus Vritra lay with scattered limbs dissevered. . .
Nothing availed him lightning, nothing thunder, hailstorm or mist which he had spread around him: [6]
When Indra and the dragon strove in battle, Maghavan gained the victory forever.
Whom sawest thou to avenge the dragon, Indra, that fear possessed thy heart when thou hadst slain him;
That, like a hawk affrighted through the regions, thou crossedst nine-and-ninety flowing rivers?
Indra is king of all that moves and moves not, of creatures tame and horned, the thunder-wielder.
Over all living men he rules as sovereign, containing all as spokes within the felly. [7]

[1] The Dragon is Vritra or clouds. In slaying the clouds, Indra brings rain.
[2] Twashtar is the god's blacksmith.
[3] Ambrosia is an intoxicating drink which only the gods could have.
[4] "Maghavan" means "Lord Bountiful" and is another name for Indra.
[5] Perhaps a better word for "forts" would be "prison." The clouds have imprisoned the rain.
[6] Vritra attempts to save himself from Indra through the use of magic.
[7] The rim of a spoked wheel. The world as a wheel is one of the most common images in Hindo thought.

The Upanishads

FIRST KHANDA (excerpt)

The Upanishads are a continuation of the Vedic philosophy, and were written between 800 and 400 B.C. They elaborate on how the soul (Atman) can be united with the ultimate truth (Brahman) through contemplation and mediation, as well as the doctrine of Karma-- the cumulative effects of a persons' actions.

1. Let a man meditate on the syllable Om, called the udgitha; for the udgitha (a portion of the Sama-veda) is sung, beginning with Om.

The full account, however, of Om is this:-

2. The essence of all beings is the earth, the essence of the earth is water, the essence of water the plants, the essence of plants man, the essence of man speech, the essence of speech the Rig-veda, the essence of the Rig-veda the Sama-veda, the essence of the Sama-veda the udgitha (which is Om).

3. That udgitha ( Om) is the best of all essences, the highest, deserving the highest place, the eighth.

4. What then is the Rik ? What is the Saman? What is the udgitha ? This is the question.

5. The Rik indeed is speech, Saman is breath, the udgitha is the syllable Om. Now speech and breath, or.Rik and Saman, form one couple.

6. And that couple is joined together in the syllable Om. When two people come together, they fulfil each other's desire.

7. Thus he who knowing this, meditates on the syllable ( Om), the udgitha, becomes indeed a fulfiller of desires.

8. That syllable is a syllable of permission, for whenever we permit anything, we say Om, yes. Now permission is gratification. He who knowing this meditates on the syllable ( Om), the udgitha, becomes indeed a gratifier of desires.

9. By that syllable does the threefold knowledge (the sacrifice, more particularly the Soma sacrifice, as founded on the three Vedas) proceed. When the Adhvaryu priest gives an order, he says Om. When the Hotri priest recites, he says Om. When the Udgatri priest sings, he says Om, -- all for the glory of that syllable. The threefold knowledge (the sacrifice) proceeds by the greatness of that syllable (the vital breaths), and by its essence (the ablations).

10. Now therefore it would seem to follow, that both he who knows this (the true meaning of the syllable Om), and he who does not, perform the same sacrifice. But this is not so, for knowledge and ignorance are different. The sacrifice which a man performs with knowledge, faith, and the Upanishad is more powerful. This is the full account of the syllable Om.

The Bhagavad-Gita


The Bhagavad Gita, usually considered part of the sixth book of the Mahabharata (dating from about 400 or 300 B.C.), is a central text of Hinduism, a philosphical dialog between the god Krishna and the warrior Arjuna. This is one of the most popular and accessible of all Hindu scriptures, required reading for anyone interested in Hinduism. The Gita discusses selflessness, duty, devotion, and meditation, integrating many different threads of Hindu philosophy.

A disciplined person, enjoying sense objects with senses that are under control and free from attachments and aversions, attains tranquillity. (2.64)

All sorrows are destroyed upon attainment of tranquillity. The intellect of such a tranquil person soon becomes completely steady and united with the Supreme. (2.65)

There is neither Self-knowledge, nor Self-perception to those who are not united with the Supreme. Without Self-perception there is no peace, and without peace there can be no happiness. (2.66)

Because the mind, when controlled by the roving senses, steals away the intellect as a storm takes away a boat on the sea from its destination ¾ the spiritual shore of peace and happiness. (2.67)

Therefore, O Arjuna, one’s intellect becomes steady whose senses are completely withdrawn from the sense objects. (2.68)

A yogi, the person of self-restraint, remains wakeful when it is night for all others. It is night for the yogi who sees when all others are wakeful. (2.69)

One attains peace, within whose mind all desires dissipate without creating any mental disturbance, as river waters enter the full ocean without creating any disturbance. One who desires material objects is never peaceful. (2.70)

One who abandons all desires, and becomes free from longing and the feeling of 'I' and 'my', attains peace. (2.71)

O Arjuna, this is the superconscious state of mind. Attaining this state, one is no longer deluded. Gaining this state, even at the end of one’s life, a person becomes one with the Absolute. (2.72).


Lord Krishna said: The natural faith of embodied beings is of three kinds: Goodness, passion, and ignorance. Now hear about these from Me. (17.02)

O Arjuna, the faith of each is in accordance with one’s own natural disposition that is governed by Karmic impressions. A person is known by the faith. One can become whatever one wants to be, if one constantly contemplates on the object of desire with faith. (17.03)

Persons in the mode of goodness worship celestial controllers; those in the mode of passion worship supernatural rulers and demons; and those in the mode of ignorance worship ghosts and spirits. (17.04)

They who practice severe austerities without following the prescription of the scriptures; who are full of hypocrisy and egotism; who are impelled by the force of desire and attachment; who senselessly torture the elements in their body and also Me who dwells within the body, know these ignorant persons to be of demonic nature. (17.05-06) •• Freewalt Family •• Search •• Terms of Use

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