In the Hindu Veda, the central ritual act is the fire sacrifice. Hindu myth explains the metaphysical logic of this ritual, relating the archetypal sacrifice whereby the universe came into being as God’s own self-revelation. In Vedic thought, the sacrifice is God, and the sacrifice also functions as a unifying metaphor, linking all things to God, who is embodied in the sacrifice. The Veda teaches that the gods discovered the “secret of the sacrifice,” and in that way they became the gods. In an awesome verse that has enthralled people for generations, the Rg Veda asserts: “With the sacrifice the gods sacrificed to the Sacrifice.” (Rg Veda 10.90.16)
A Vedic creation myth discloses the secret of the sacrifice. Prajapati was alone, and he desired to become many. He kindled himself, producing Fire (Agni). This Fire, however, was dangerous; it was a consuming Fire, and the Fire’s hunger threatened even Prajapati himself. Prajapati was concerned; his speech departed from him. He produced milk from his own body. Then he hesitated, considering whether or not to offer the milk to the Fire. At that critical moment, he heard a voice say: “Juhudhi!” (Sanskrit for “Offer the sacrifice!”).
Prajapati heard “Juhudhi!” and asked: “Who are you?” The voice answered: “I am your own voice.” Prajapati realized that his “own” (sva) voice “spoke” (aha), so he said, “Svaha” (“my own spoke”), and he offered the milk to the dangerous, consuming Fire. From this oblation, the Fire’s threatening hunger was appeased. Prajapati’s act of self-sacrifice thus tamed the Fire of destruction, assuring the stability of Creation, and a subsequent series of similar oblations gave rise to the world as we know it. (See H.W. Bodewitz, The Daily Evening and Morning Offering (Agnihotra) According to the Brahmanas (Brill 1976), pp. 14-18, 30-33)
The foregoing myth relates an important secret: Prajapati heard “Juhudhi!,” but he said, “Svaha.” Thus, in the Vedic tradition, Svaha is the spoken mantra associated with any sacrificial act, but Juhudhi is the unspoken soul of Svaha. Juhudhi is the word Prajapati hears in thought when he utters out loud the word Svaha, and likewise the Vedic priest waits to hear the inner voice whisper “Juhudhi!” (“Offer the sacrifice!”) before uttering Svaha and making each oblation. The Vedic commentaries add that Prajapati avoided death by his act of sacrifice, and, therefore, one who sacrifices, knowing the secret — knowing “Juhudhi!” when saying “Svaha” — likewise avoids death.
Interestingly, the Sanskrit word Juhudhi is, phonetically, almost identical to Djehuti, which was the ancient pronunciation of the name Thoth, the Egyptian god of the scribes. Moreover, Thoth is the god that the Torah calls yhvh (“Yahweh,”). (For an explanation of Yahweh’s hidden identity as the Egyptian god Thoth, click here.) Thus, an act of sacrifice, performed according to the precepts of the Vedas, is a powerful expression of the name yhvh. The “Sacrifice” refers, of course, to the ritual fire offering, but in its essence, “to sacrifice” means to pour oneself out, just as the priest pours out the liquid butter into the fire-pit. To sacrifice means to give, and according to the Vedas, the act of sacrifice is God’s own form and name.
Many spiritual seekers yearn to know and repeat God’s name. To repeat God’s name with the tongue and lips is a powerful practice. But one can physically and spiritually become the name by an act of self-sacrifice. Spiritual seekers desire the intimacy of God’s presence, without any barrier of separation. The Veda teaches that we gain that intimacy through sacrifice — through giving, that is. In Hebrew scripture, the divine name associated with mercy (yhvh), the name that is also the name of the Jewish people (Yehudi) (see here) (also here), is the name of the Egyptian god Thoth. But in Sanskrit scripture, Thoth’s name (Djehuty) is a verb, not a noun; it is an action, not a concept. It is the act of giving. When we give, we are uttering God’s name in a most awesome way. By giving, one makes oneself into a sacrificial act, and as a result, one is the name yhvh.
“From the rising of the sun to its setting, My name [yhvh] is great among the nations, and incense offerings are presented to My name in every place, and also pure wheat offerings, for My name is great among the nations, says yhvh, Master of Legions.” (Malachi 1:11) It is time for us to stop creating false divisions based on religion and culture; it is time for us to start seeing one another as a single human family.
The foregoing is based on the ideas in Torah Nondualism: Diversity, Conflict, and Synthesis in the Pentateuch.
To read the entire book, please click here.
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Copyright © 2011 James H. Cumming