4. aprill, 2024

Veda - The Foundation of Sanātana Dharmā

Veda - The Foundation of Sanātana Dharmā

(Insights from Sri Aurobindo)



Sanatana[1] Dharma[2] is an all-encompassing way of life that seeks to transcend falsehood and limitations[3], awakening the divine essence within all of existence.It offers a multitude of paths for individuals to connect with the Divine. The profound wisdom of Sanātana Dharmā possesses the potential to transform the world. In a world where many faiths rely on belief and profession, Sanātana Dharmā stands as a living ethos, urging not just belief but a life lived in harmony with its profound vision. Rooted in the ancient traditions of this land, it has held the noble purpose of humanity's salvation throughout the ages.

In order to understand the ancient roots and core principles of Sanātana Dharmā, one must immerse in the Veda[4] - the very foundation of Sanātana Dharmā. Veda, in its deeper essence, stands as a profound mantric expression, conveyed through symbols and words infused with spiritual and occult power. Through the passage of countless centuries, numerous efforts have been made to unearth the hidden profundity within the Vedic Mantras. Unfortunately, the Veda has often been subject to misconceptions and misinterpretations, causing it to lose some of its intrinsic significance in the eyes of contemporary humanity. In our quest to fathom what the Veda, as the foundation of Sanātana Dharmā, truly intends to convey, the illuminating wisdom of Sri Aurobindo (1872- 1950), often recognised as the Rishi of India's renaissance, becomes invaluable.

Sri Aurobindo's profound insights into the Veda unravel its esoteric significance, revealing a treasure trove of wisdom concealed within the very fabric of its Mantras. His wisdom serves as a guiding beacon, shedding light on the path forward for Sanātana Dharmā and its enduring legacy.


Sri Aurobindo and the Veda[5]

The ultimate aspiration of Sanātana Dharmā is to facilitate the realisation of the Divine whain one's inner life and throughout outer existence. It is a journey that seeks to elevate the human to the level of the Divine, bridging the chasm that separates them. Sri Aurobindo firmly believed that the Veda held the potential to construct this bridge. Yet, he could discover that throughout history, the Veda had suffered from misunderstanding and misrepresentation, failing to be presented in its true, pristine form. Consequently, the profound truths concealed within the Veda needed to be unveiled and brought to the forefront. Ultimately, the key to realising Sanatana Dharma's lofty goals lies in discovering and embracing the divine within, in all its splendour and purity. Sri Aurobindo made an extraordinary contribution to the field of Vedic studies by unveiling the esoteric meanings hidden within Vedic hymns. In doing so, he challenged the prevailing Western scholarship's historical method, which often dismissed Vedic hymns as mere remnants of a primitive sacrificial liturgy. According to Sri Aurobindo, the Vedic hymns were not to be reduced to mere imagery; instead, they possessed profound esoteric significance that needed to be deciphered.

Sri Aurobindo emphasised the pivotal role of key terms like "rtam", "kratu", "shravas" and "ketu" in unlocking the esoteric structure of Vedic doctrine. He argued that a proper interpretation of these words was essential for grasping the true knowledge encapsulated in the Vedas. Sri Aurobindo believed that only those with the vision of a Rishi, a mystic seer, could truly penetrate the secret chamber of the Vedas and comprehend their hidden truths. In his own words, "The words of the Veda could only be known in their true meaning by one who was himself a seer or mystic; from others the verses withheld their hidden knowledge." (CWSA, 16: 7-8)


Sri Aurobindo's Vision

In Sri Aurobindo's exploration of Sanātana Dharmā, his quest extended beyond the realms of science, religion, or even Theosophy. His pursuit was singular and unwavering - he sought the Veda, not merely to comprehend the essence of Brahman but to unravel the mysteries of Brahman's manifestation. In his words, it was not about finding a lamp on the way to a forest, but about discovering a radiant beacon that could illuminate the path to joy and action in the world. Sri Aurobindo's aspiration was grounded in a pursuit of truth that transcended human opinion, a knowledge that all thought aspired to attain, as encapsulated in the Sanskrit aphorism: "yasmin vijnate sarvam vijnatam."

Sri Aurobindo firmly believed that the Veda served as the foundational cornerstone of Sanātana Dharmā. He regarded it as the concealed divinity within Hinduism, but one that remained veiled and shrouded in misinterpretation. To him, the Veda was not an enigma beyond reach; it was, in fact, a body of wisdom that could be known and discovered. He placed immense significance on the revelation and application of this knowledge, perceiving it as essential for both India and the world's future. However, the application was not to lead to a renunciation of life but to empower life in the world, harmonising it with the divine. Sri Aurobindo, possessing the stature of a Rishi, possessed the capacity to see the authentic essence of Vedic mantras. He interpreted the hymns based on the insights granted to him through his seer-like vision. Poet Subrahmania Bharati, who studied the Veda alongside Sri Aurobindo, attested to the uniqueness of his interpretive approach, quoting Sri Aurobindo as saying, "It was shown to me", in a literal sense. Sri Aurobindo attributed his profound insights to Sri Krishna, who had revealed to him the genuine meanings of the Vedas. He also claimed that Sri Krishna had shown him a new Science of Philology, unveiling the origins of human speech and enabling the development of a fresh interpretation of the Vedas based on this knowledge.

Sri Aurobindo's experiences and revelations were not mere rhetoric; they echoed the profound connection that great seers and Rishis had with the truth, which, in their unique spiritual journey, invariably revealed itself to them.


The Vedic Symbolism

Vedic wisdom is richly encoded in symbolism, spanning spiritual (adhyatmika), cosmic (adhidaivika), psychological and physical levels (adhibhautika). It reveals the highest spiritual truths, cosmic laws, and the workings of cosmic forces within the human psyche and the physical world.

The Mantras of the Veda, therefore, have a double significance exoteric and esoteric. The exoteric meaning is what is commonly understood, but the symbols themselves carry a deeper, esoteric meaning that is part of the secret teaching and knowledge. This esoteric layer of the Veda requires a more profound interpretation, as Sri Aurobindo suggests, giving constant and straightforward meanings to the words and formulas employed by the Rishis.

These symbols are keys to understanding the universal law that operates at each level of existence. For example, the idea of yajna which is very central to the Vedic system of yoga, is not merely an act of fire oblation, but it is purely symbolic and primarily esoteric, representing "self-fulfilment through self-offering".

Similarly, Sri Aurobindo in his interpretation of the Veda has provided the deeper spiritual significances of many keywords which help diving deep into the secret chamber of the Veda.

Here follow few words with their deeper significances, as revealed by Sri Aurobindo:[6]

  • Amrita: The nectar of immortality.
  • Anna: Symbolic of the physical reality of the Brahman, representing food and matter.
  • Apas: The divine outpourings of luminosity.
  • Ashva: The symbol of life's swiftness and vital action.
  • Dhenu: A nourishing symbol.
  • Dhii: Represents the swiftness and subtlety of thought.
  • Ghrita: Signifies the clarified and purified mind.
  • Go: Symbolises a ray of truth and spiritual illumination.
  • Hiranya: Represents the light of truth, the true wealth.
  • Soma: Signifies divine ecstasy.
  • Pashu: Represents animal impulses.
  • Ratha: Symbolises the movement of energy.
  • Rita: Stands for the truth in action, regulating right activity.
  • Samudra: Signifies the infinite and eternal existence, flooding higher consciousness onto mortal minds.



The Veda, as the foundational text of Sanatana Dharma, is profound with both exoteric and esoteric significance. Its symbols and words convey a spiritual and occult power that can only be unlocked through deep interpretation. Sri Aurobindo's insights into the Veda provide us with a deeper understanding of its esoteric meaning and the significance of the key words of the Veda, symbols used therein and the Vedic deities. In a deeper sense Veda is not a static text but a living, spiritual experience that continues to inspire seekers of truth and wisdom. There lies the sanatanatva or eternity of the Veda and the Sanatana Dharma.



Sampadananda Mishra (PhD) is a devotee of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, and is a well-known author, researcher and public speaker in the field of Sanskrit, Indian Knowledge System, Education, Yoga and spirituality. He is a President of India Awardee and has received Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award for his contribution to children's Literature in Sanskrit.


[1] The word सनातन – sanātana has two components: सना+तन. सना sanā in Sanskrit means eternity. The suffix तन tana is added to a word in the sense of belonging to. So the word सनातन sanātana means that which belongs to eternity.

[2]  The word धर्म dharma in Sanskrit comes from the root-sound धु dh meaning 'to hold' (धारणात् धर्म इत्याहुः – dharaṇāt dharma ityāhuḥ). Dharma is the guiding principle that maintains or upholds the coherence and growth of life and development within defined parametres and regular patterns. Sanatana Dharma is therefore, the timeless law of life that meticulously and steadfastly upholds the unity and advancement of all life in the universe through a systematic framework.

[3]  ॐ असतो मा सद्गमय। तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय। मृत्योर्मामृतं गगय ॥ ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥

om asato mā sadgamaya. tamaso mā jyotirgamaya. mṛtyormāmṛtam gamaya. om śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntih

Guide me from the unreal to the Real. Lead me from darkness to Light. Take me from mortality to Immortality. Om, may there be peace, peace, peace. (Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad, 5.1.1)

[4]  The word वेद veda in Sanskrit comes from the root-sound विद् vid meaning

  1. 'to exist' (सत्ता sattā ), 2. 'to know' (ज्ञान – āna ), 3. 'to gain' (लाभ - lābha). Based on this the word वेद veda refers to सच्चिदानन्द - saccidānanda = Sat, Chit and Ananda (the greatest gain आनन्दान्न परो लाभः ānandānna paro lābha).

[5] Sri Aurobindo had limited or almost no exposure to the Veda prior to his arrival in Pondicherry (1910). He possessed extensive knowledge of the Upanishads and various other Vedic texts, but the Vedasamhita itself was unfamiliar to him. However, upon his acquaintance with the teachings of the Vedasamhita in Pondicherry, he realised that Veda was a confirmation to what experiences he already had. (Refer CWSA, 36: 98)

[6] Cf. Sri Aurobindo's Vedic Glossary, compiled by A.B. Purani, published by Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1962