transmigration in the RV

Madhav Deshpande mmdesh at umich.edu
Mon May 13 12:03:39 EDT 1996


	While reading the RV passages about Indra becoming Manu etc., one
need not necessarily think in terms of reincarnation or transmigration. 
The RV, and specifically in the context of Indra, says:  indro maayaabhiH
pururuupa iiyate (ref ???).  Indra, being a god, has the ability to assume
multiple forms with his maayaa 'the mysterious power'.  This is indeed
different from the karmically guided rebirth of the Upanizads.  It is more
like the incarnations of VizNu, a more self-motivated agentive appearance
of god as someone or another:  prakRtim svaam adhizThaaya sambhavaamy
aatmamaayayaa (BG) 
	An interesting example of lack of the idea of transmigration may 
be Vedic Yama, who is described as : yo mamaara prathamo martyaanaam (RV 
ref ???: Hey! I am relying on my memory here!) "he who was the first 
mortal to die".  He became a permanent gardian of the world of the dead, 
so much so that the KaTha Upanizad makes him say: anityair dravyaiH 
praaptavaan asmi nityam "I have attained this permanent abode by means of 
transient (sacrificial) materials".  This view is of course controverted 
by the Upanizads which look at the sacrifices as providing only a 
temporary stay in heaven.  But here we perhaps have a glimpse of the old 
Vedic view.
	It is, however, the case that there have been previous claims to 
discovering the ideas of karma and transmigration in the RV.  The late 
N.N. Bhide of Poona, a Sanskrit teacher of myself and Ashok Aklujkar, 
wrote an 83 page long essay in Sanskrit on this topic which won a gold 
medal from the University of Mysore.  It was also published from Mysore, 
and apparently has been reprinted more recently.  The exact details of 
this publication are as follows:

	The Karma Theory, Its origin, nature, proof and implications
	N.N. Bhide
	Navinam Ramanutacharya Sanskrit Prize Essay
	published by the University of Mysore, Mysore, 1950

	The title of the small book is in English, but the essay itself 
is in Sanskrit.  It was originally written and submitted for this prize 
in 1944.  The author, though writing in Sanskrit, refers to the western 
scholarship on this topic that was avaiable to him.  It would be worth 
looking up this work for the cited evidence and arguments.  One may or 
may not agree with its conclusions, but it is certainly a serious effort, 
in spite of its 'nationalistic anti-western' tone.  If anyone cannot find 
a copy and badly needs one, I can make a photocopy.  Contact me 
personally at mmdesh at umich.edu.

	Madhav Deshpande




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