SOMA in the Rig Veda is Not a Plant to Drink! / by R.L.Kashyap


Soma in Vedas – R.L. Kashyap

Soma is an enigmatic deva. The Occidentals have treated Soma as nothing but a plant whose creepers, on being squeezed, yield a juice which is intoxicating. There are numerous passages where Soma occurs with the word  “suta” meaning pressed or squeezed. It is said that Indra drinking this juice becomes intoxicated and in his intoxication kills the adversary Vrtra. There are some references to Indra killing Vrtra after drinking Soma. The verses on Soma number more than 1,200, including all the verses in the entire ninth mandala of Rig Veda consisting of 114 suktas or 1,108 verses. Reading carefully all the epithets to Soma in these verses gives a completely different picture. Let us begin with what Rig Veda has to say about whether the Soma is a herb or not, by quoting the famous verse (10.85.3) in the hymn titled, “marriage of Surya”.

We see double-entendre of RigVeda in (10.85.3).
Rig Veda 10.85.3:

“One thinks one has drunk the Soma
After one has crushed the herb;
None ever drank of the Soma
Known to the men of wisdom braahmana.”

Laymen or those addicted to rituals may regard Soma as a creeper which is crushed for getting its juice for use in the ritual. But to the wise poets of RigVeda, Soma is not something to be drunk.

The clue to its deeper meaning is indicated by common epithet for Soma, vanaspati, the lord of vana; vana means in Sanskrit both herb and delight. Kena Upanishad (4.6) uses vana in the sense of delight. Soma in the deeper sense is the Lord of Delight, the Delight of Existence. In Rig Veda, every aspect of existence has an inherent delight, the idea popularized later in the Taittiriya Upanishad. Every action exerts a pressure on existence; this squeezing, suta, releases the Soma or bliss contained in that aspect of creation. We feel joy in work because of this released delight, Soma.

Here we recognize that action is done primarily by the devas and the humans are only subsidiary players; we should free the released Soma from our claim. This declaration, ‘this is not mine’, is the way of purifying the Soma, purifying it of our attachment. This purified Soma is offered to the deva, especially lndra, the Lord of Divine Mind.

This delight exhilarates Indra who takes steps to destroy the forces of ignorance, like Vrtra and Vala, the kill-joys or misers who do not want the supreme knowledge go and the energies aapah (waters) from reaching all human beings.

We will quote some verses in Rig Veda which bring out the power of Soma. Rig Veda speaks of Soma in (9.96) in the Vibhutiyoga style as in Bhagavad Gita :

“Brahman among devas, leader among the seer-poets,
Sage among the wise, the bull among the animals,
The falcon among vultures, the axe in the woods,
Soma sings over the purifier. ” (9.95.3)

“By Soma are Adityas strong and by Soma the earth is mighty;
This Soma is placed in the midst of all these Constellations (nakshatra).” (10.85.2)

“Soma advances heroic with his swift chariots
By the force of subtle thought,
To the perfected activity of Indra. ” (9.15.1)

“You are the ocean, you reveal everything;
Under thy law are the five places;
Thou transcends Heaven and Earth;
Purifier, there are the Lights, there the Sun. ” (9.86.29)

“Giving birth to the luminous world of heaven
Giving birth to the Sun in the Waters,
The Brilliant one Hari clothes himself with the Waters and the Rays.” (9.42.1){meaning God pervades in water and in knowledge etc}
“giving birth” means manifesting these energies in the human being.

Rig Veda 8.79.2: –
“ Soma clothes the naked, he doctors the sick; by his grace the blind see, the lame walk.”

Soma is connected to moon. The, “cool moon-rays  which cause delight among lovers’, is a common phrase.
“Those who are utterly perfected in Works ,
Taste the enjoyment of his honey-sweetness.” (Rig Veda 9.83.4)

“His swift ecstasies foster the soul that purifies him;
He ascends to the high level of Heaven by the conscious heart.
This is the supreme dappled bull that makes the Dawn to shine out.” (9.83.3)

We can combine all the different quotes and understand why persons who merely squeeze the Soma herb cannot know this delight. Only the person who has done tapas can release the delight. Delight encompasses everything. Delight makes the Sun shine as the Taittiriya Upanishad declares. Delight is the basis of everything. Soma denotes the delight released from works, Ananda refers to Delight in its entirety. Soma’s connection with Knowledge and Light is contained in many hymns.

“Soma, we know thee pre-eminently with our understanding.
You lead us along the straight path. ” (1.91.1)

“You are the master of all-existence satpati.
You are the slayer of Vrtra (demon) and the auspicious will in action. ” (1.91.5)

“Soma, thou hast generated all the delights Vana,
The energies aapah and the Light go.
You have dispelled the darkness with thy Light;
You have extended the vast Mid-world (in Man)” (1.91.22)

Rig Veda 9.83.1:-
He tastes not the delight (rapture-ecstasy) who is unripe (atapta tanu); And whose body has not suffered in the heat of fire (of Yoga/Union).


R. L. Kashyap WEB BIO : “Rangasami L. Kashyap (born March 28, 1938) is an Indian applied mathematician and a Professor of Electrical Engineering, who worked at Purdue University, USA. He developed (with Harvard professor Yu-Chi Ho) the Ho-Kashyap rule, an important result in pattern recognition. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, the International Association for Pattern Recognition, and the Indian Institute of Electronic and Telecommunication Engineers. He has also authored translations of the Rig Veda.” He is now working as the Director of his own Sri Aurobindo Kapali Sastry Institute of Vedic Culture, dedicated to Research and dissemination of Vedic Thought. He is the author of several important books.
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