by Swami Krishnananda
Now the Upaniṣhad goes to another kind of meditation, the meditation which requires the identification of the Veda with a cow. ‘The Veda is like a cow’, says this Upaniṣhad. What is this cow? The cow has four nipples through which the milk oozes out. Likewise is the Veda with four nipples. It exudes milk, the milk of knowledge, just as the milk of nourishment is given by the cow through its nipples. This is a symbol. If you cannot think of anything abstract, you can think of your own cow and compare its function of secreting milk with the capacity of the Veda to secrete knowledge. Vācam dhenum upāsīta: ‘The Veda is to be meditated upon as the cow.’ Tasyāś catvāraḥ stanāḥ: ‘There are four nipples for the Veda, like those of the cow.’
Svāhā-kāro vaṣat-kāro hanta-kāraḥ svadhā-kāraḥ: These are all peculiarities of the application of Vedic Mantras in sacrifices. When a Mantra is chanted in a particular sacrifice, it is concluded with a particular colophon. This colophon, or completing part of the Mantra, is fourfold. Svāhā, Vasat, Hanta and Svadhā—these are the ways in which a Mantra is concluded when it is utilised for the purpose of offering oblations in a sacrifice. Indra-e-svāh, etc. means, these oblations we give to Indra. According to the nature of the recipient, the colophon varies. To some it is Svāhā, to certain others it is Svadhā, Hanta or Vasat.
Tasyai dvau stanau devā upajīvanti: ‘Two nipples of this cow are connected with the gods, the celestials in heaven.’ Svāhā-kāraṁ ca, vaṣat-kāraṁ ca: When any oblation is offered in the sacrifice towards gods, then Svāhā or Vaṣat is the word used to complete the chant of the Mantra in the sacrifice. So, ‘Svāhā and Vaṣat are the two nipples of the cow of the Veda which have correspondence with the gods in heaven’, in paradise. Hanta-kāraṁ manuṣyāḥ: ‘But, when an offering is made to a human being, the word Svāhā or Svadhā is not used. What is uttered is Hanta.’ You offer anything to a human being by recitation of a particular Mantra. For instance, when a sacred offering is given to a guest, a particular chant is taken resort to and it concludes with Hanta. It implies a sentiment of sympathy or readiness to serve or to give hospitality to people who have come as guests—hanta-kāraṁ manuṣyāḥ. Svadhā-kāraṁ pitaraḥ: But if you offer any oblation to the ancestors, the forefathers, not to the gods, not to human beings, then the Mantra ends with Svadhā. So, ‘Svadhā is the term used for Pitṛs’. All the Mantras in the Veda are of this kind. Either they are used for offering to Pitṛs, to human beings, or to the gods. So, these four ways of chant endings are like the four nipples of the cow of this great reservoir of wisdom which is the Veda.
Tasyāḥ prāṇa rṣabhaḥ: The cow is associated with a bull. The bull is always with the cow and cow is with the bull. So, this cow has a bull with it, and ‘this bull is the Prāṇa’. Just as the ox or the bull is responsible in some way for the secretion of milk from the cow, Prāṇa is responsible for the chant of the Mantra. It is the Prāṇa that actually comes in the form of the chant. If the Prāṇa is not to operate, there will be no chant of the Veda. So, in certain parts of this Upaniṣhad we have been already told that the Veda is nothing but Prāṇa manifest in some form. A particular modulation of the voice is the Veda, and what is modulation of the voice but a particular manifestation of Prāṇa itself. So, you can say that it is the Prāṇa that vibrates through the Mantra of the Veda. The force of the Mantra is nothing but the force of the Prāṇa, ultimately. Hence the bull of the Veda is Prāṇa and the Veda-cow is taken care of, protected and enabled to secrete the wisdom or the Vedic knowledge by its very presence. Mano vatsaḥ: ‘The calf is the mind.’ If the calf is not there, the cow will not yield milk. It will give a kick. What is this cow? The Veda is the cow. Who is the bull? The Prāṇa is the bull. Which is the calf? The mind is the calf. Just as the connection of the calf with the udder of the cow becomes responsible for the secretion of the milk through the udder, so the thought generated in the mind at the time of the chant of the Mantras of the Veda becomes responsible for the manifestation of knowledge. If the mind is absent, knowledge will not manifest itself in spite of the chant. So, this is a beautiful combination for the purpose of contemplation. The bull, the cow and the calf; the Prāṇa, the Veda and the mind—these three have to be combined in a blend as one organic force for the purpose of the realisation that we expect through these processes of contemplation.As we have already observed, these are methods of meditation. These are symbols. They do not represent in themselves the goal that is aspired for through meditation. Just as the road is not the destination, the symbol is not the goal. But the road is necessary to reach the destination. Likewise, the symbol is necessary to drive the mind along this path of contemplation to the realisation of the ultimate goal.