Oriental Department, January, 1896
A question has been asked about the meaning of the frequent references to the Vedas; whether they have any settled correspondences, as for instance in the second part of the Taittiriya Upanishad, which has been translated under the title: “The Five Veils.” The most general use of the names of Vedas, as symbols, or as indicating correspondences, is that exemplified in the fifth question of the Prashna Upanishad, where the Rig, the Yajur, the Sama are connected with the three measures of the mystic syllable, and thus with the three worlds, or the three modes of being—waking, dreaming, dreamlessness. They are used in the same way to refer to any threefold series: “the Rig, to this world; the Yajur, to the middle world; the Sama, to the world the seers tell of;” and used in another way they are connected with the different members of a fivefold series. Thus, in a fable in the Chhandogya Upanishad, where the sun is said to be divine honey, the sky the beam it hangs from, and the mid-space the honey-comb, the Rig Veda is said to be the flower that contains the honey-streams of the eastern rays; the Yajur Veda is the flower of the southern rays; the Sama Veda the flower of the western rays; the “story and tradition” mentioned in connection with the Atharva Angirasa—the oldest name for the fourth, Atharva, Veda—of the northern rays; and the Eternal, wherewith the “secret instructions” are connected, of the upward rays. It would be out of place to dwell on this fable here, but it will have been seen that the Rig, Yajur, Sama, Atharva Vedas, with the Secret Instructions as fifth, are used as mnemonics for the members of a fivefold series. In the same way the four Vedas, Yajur, Rig, Sama, Atharva-Angirasa, and Instructions as the fifth, are used, in the passage of the Taittiriya Upanishad to which the question referred, to indicate five impulses of mind, which run parallel to the five vital breaths, or the five moral and intellectual qualities, in the vital and intellectual veils respectively What these five impulses of mind are, we are not told in so many words; we are left to work out the correspondences for ourselves. Thus the impulse symbolized by the Secret Instructions corresponds to the upward-life or ether in the vital veil, to union with the Eternal, in the moral or intellectual veil, and to Bliss, in the spiritual veil. In another Upanishad, five impulses of mind are mentioned, thus: intending, imagining, discerning, willing, and aspiring. These would fit in very well as the five characters or impulses of the mind, in the passage we are considering, but the correspondences are not always quite rigidly maintained.