Brahman and Ritam
anandhudli at HOTMAIL.COM
Fri Apr 3 10:59:10 CST 1998
Vivek Anand Ganesan wrote:
> I read about this term called "Ritam" in an English translation of
>the Vedas. The author maintains that "Ritam" was the primordial
>"Brahman" i.e. "Ritam" was the Universal Existence present in the
>Samhitas before the more intellectual concept of "Brahman", discussed
>in the Aranyakas and Upanishads. Is there any truth to this claim?
> I know that the implicit assumption made above is that the
>Upanishads are later than the Samhitas. Granting this "unorthodox"
>assumption, would the claim stated above have validity?
R^ita has several different meanings as used in the Vedas.
Some of these are "what is right or proper", "truth" (as opposed
to anR^ita (untruth), "sacred order", "dharma", etc. But the
interpretation of R^ita depends on the context. SaayaNa, who wrote
commentaries on the vedas, has interpreted R^itaM satyaM as
atayantasatyaM, "absolute truth".
R^itaM (R^itagaM) satyaM paraM brahma puruShaM kR^iShNapiN^galaM
uurdhvaretaM viruupAxaM vishvarUpAya vai namo namaH ||
(MahAnArAyaNa upanishad, a verse extolling umA-maheshvara),
So SaayaNa here takes R^ita as an adjective that qualifies
satyaM (truth). satyaM qualified by R^itaM indicates the
Absolute truth, pAramArthika satya.
Next, considering the aghamarShaNa mantras that are used in the
daily sandhyaavandana, these are the mantras from the R^ig Veda,
(MaNDala 10, suukta 190, 1-3). These three R^iks (verses) are said
to rid one of sins, and begin with, "R^itaM cha satyaM chaabhidhaat-
tapaso .adhyajaayata ..."
In the R^ig bhaashhya of these aghamarShaNa mantras, SaayaNa
interprets R^itaM as "maanasaM yathaarthasaMkalpanaM",
meaning "true or real mental volition or will." He interprets
satyaM as "vaachikaM yathaarthabhaaShaNaM", that means "true
speech that is expressed by words."
Thus we see that R^itam is interpreted differently in different
Regarding the claim that R^itam of the Samhitaas became the
Brahman of the upanishads later, I cannot comment because
the theory that Samhitaas were "composed" earlier and later
the AraNyakas and upanishads were "composed" is by no means a
But if the speculation is that R^itaM is subordinate to Brahman,
this may have a basis in advaita. For example, we read in the
GaNapati atharva shiirSha upanishad, "R^itaM vachmi | satyaM
vachmi |" Shrii upaniShad Brahma Yogin who has written commentaries
on this (and 107 other upanishads), interprets R^itam vachmi as
"vyAvahArikarUpeNa tvAmeva satyaM vachmi", which means " I say
that You (GaNapati) alone are the vyAvahArika satya of the
world (R^ita)." vyAvahArika satya is the apparent reality of the
world, but not the absolute reality that is Brahman. Thus
R^ita is equated with vyAvahArika satya of advaita. The word
satya in "satyaM vachmi" is interpreted as the pAramArthika satya or
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