The Rig Vedas and other Hindu texts are rich in symbolism. Subsequently, the true meaning of Hindu myths is often misunderstood. This article attempts to enlighten readers somewhat and explain what the eight vasus of the Rig Veda relate to.
In ancient Sanskrit, the name vasu means dweller. The Rig Vedas mention the Vasus are attendant deities of Indra. In the early myths, Indra was the most important of the Gods. In later texts, the eight vasus are described as demi Gods associated with Vishnu.
Lord Vishnu and Indra before him, represent supreme consciousness. Thus the eight vasus are fragments of consciousness that reside within the energy centres of the human body. This will make more sense later when I explain the myth of the eight Vasus given in the Mahabharata.
Who are the eight Vasus in Hindu mythology?
The eight vasus named in the Rig Veda are given below. Some of their names are changed slightly in the Upanishad Brihadaranyaka and completely in the Mahabharata. Regardless of the change in names, the demi-gods still have the same meanings:
Agni – the primary fire God of the Vedas, Agni is recognised as the principle destructive force in early myth. He was later replaced by the Supreme deity, Lord Shiva who was subsequently promoted to the Trimurti. Agni is both honoured and feared because of his ability to destroy in order to create.
Aha – there is little information about Aha other than he is “pervading.” He is also known as Antariksa in later myths, who is considered to be the “ether” or space God.
Dhruva – means motionless and is the name of the polestar named in ancient Sanskrit literature that is protected by the “Seven Sages” – the chakras.
Dyaus – the Sky God is described as wise energetic and righteous. Together with his consort, Prthivi (Mother Earth) is the Father of other gods and preservers of all creatures on Earth.
Prthivi – Mother Earth, the consort of Dyaus is associated with fertility, reproduction and supporting nature.
Soma – a moon god that provides inspiration to poets and confidence to warriors. He is also a hallucinogenic plant.
Surya – the sun God is known for his vitality and courage. He represents the light of the soul and rides a chariot drawn by seven horses indicating he has ties with the chakras.
Vayu – a destructive wind God that was once a member of the Holy Hindu trinity before being replaced by Shiva. Nevertheless, he is a constant companion of Vishnu and Lakshmi.
The myth of the eight Vasus
The Mahabharata tells the story of how the eight vasus are cursed for stealing the cow of the wise sage, Rishi Vashishta. As punishment they are banished to live on Earth as mortals.
When the eight vasus begged for mercy, the Rishi Vashishta agreed the time on earth for seven of the vasu would be shortened. However, Prabhasa (originally Dyaus), who was persuaded by his wife to steal the cow in the first place would remain on earth to suffer the consequences.
The symbolism within the story of the eight vasus is quite straightforward. The cow represents “divinity” or “wealth” (consciousness in other words), the wife (feminine principle) represents emotional desires and the eight vasus are subsequent energies. The seven energies that return to “paradise” after a short time reflect energy that passes through the chakras whilst Prabhasa is manifesting energy which always remains in Earth.
“He who committed a crime out of desire for his wife will never know the pleasure of a woman. Even without a wife and sons, he will spend his entire life struggling to serve his household. And in the end he will die at the hands of a woman, for his desire for a woman made him turn vasus into criminals.”
The seven chakras
The chakras play a pivotal role in distributing energy in accordance with our thoughts, emotions and actions. How energy is distributed impacts on how we feel, shapes our personalities and manifests as our experience of reality.
Therefore, because the eight vasus betrayed Rishi Vashishtas by stealing his cow, they are condemned for trying to obtain an experience born from desire. And oftentimes the actions we perform out of desire betray us and restrict us from obtaining higher consciousness.
Despite Vashishtas leniency to the seven vasus, the brothers appeal to Ganga – the Mother of all Beings – for help. Ganga promises to give birth to them through her womb and free them of their curse in her waters. Ganga drowned the seven vasus and released them, but when she tried to deliver Prabhasa she was stopped by Vashishta’s curse.
Prabhasa’s devotion to his wife (emotions of desire) became his undoing. He is later considered to be the cause of all suffering and the catalyst for the Kurukshetra war.
Great wars in myth represent the battle you must face with yourself – with the demons of your subconscious mind that lead you to temptation. Desire drives us to commit actions that do not serve us. Sometimes we do not even deserve the objects of our desire.
Consciousness has a divine plan for us. We can only reach our true potential by expanding conscious awareness and communicating with our higher conscious self – the gods of myth.
The subtle energies which are represented by the eight vasus help us to attain higher states of consciousness. Wisdom must be kept pure, hence why the eight vasus are described as assistants to Indra and Vishnu.