- Author: Roberto Calasso
- Translator: Richard Dixon
- Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
- Published: November 2014
- ISBN-10: 0374182310
- ISBN-13: 9780374182311
- Format: Hardcover
- Copyright: 2014
- Subject: RELIGION / Hinduism / Sacred Writings
In a mediation on the wisdom of the Vedas, Roberto Calasso brings ritual and sacrifice to bear on the modern world
In this revelatory volume, Roberto Calasso, whom The Paris Review has called “a literary institution,” explores the ancient texts known as the Vedas. Little is known about the Vedic people who lived more than three thousand years ago in northern India: they left behind almost no objects, images, or ruins. They created no empires. Even the hallucinogenic plant the soma, which appears at the center of some of their rituals, has not been identified with any certainty. Only a “Parthenon of words” remains: verses and formulations suggesting a daring understanding of life.
“If the Vedic people had been asked why they did not build cities,” writes Calasso, “they could have replied: we did not seek power, but rapture.” This is the ardor of the Vedic world, a burning intensity that is always present, both in the mind and in the cosmos.
With his signature erudition and profound sense of the past, Calasso explores the enigmatic web of ritual and myth that defines the Vedas. Often at odds with modern thought, these texts illuminate the nature of consciousness more than anybody else has managed up to now. Following the “hundred paths” of the Satapatha Brahmana, an impressive exegesis of Vedic ritual, Ardor indicates that it may be possible to reach what is closest to us by passing through that which is most remote, as “the whole of Vedic India was an attempt to think further.”
Calasso follows 2012's La folie Baudelaire with the seventh installment of an ongoing work, continuing in some measure the investigations of his marvelous Ka: Stories of the Mind and Gods of India (1998). Calasso takes the reader on a tour through the Vedic literature of India, especially the Satapatha Brahmana, an 8th century B.C.E. commentary on the Vedic rites. The desire for the self (atman) to become one with the divine (brahman) is, he points out in this careful, thoughtful, and detailed exploration, at the center of Vedic life. In the Vedas, sacrifice and the rituals that accompany it are the avenue which one travels to become divine: "The sacrifice is a journey—linked to a destruction. A journey from a visible place to an invisible place, and back." Soma, the intoxicating drink at the center of these rituals, enhances individuals' ability to achieve immortality and communicate with the gods; it enhances their ardor: "If soma is desired just as much by gods as by men, it will also become their factor in common. Only in rapture can gods and men communicate." Richard Dixon's supple and elegant translation brings Calasso's poetic meditations to life. Readers will return again and again for wisdom and insight. Illus. (Nov.)[Page ]. Copyright 2014 PWxyz LLC
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