This is the second installment of our ‘Word of the Month’ series – वाग्वेद (vāgveda). Every month a particular Sanskrit word, preferably related to the theme of that month’s issue, is highlighted and its detailed etymological explanation is presented. The purpose is to facilitate a deeper understanding of the word and all that it means and suggests.
अदिति (aditi) is one of the outstanding godheads of the Veda. She is hymned as the Supreme Mother who leads her children to joy and strength, to Bliss which is the ultimate goal and the true intimate nature of creation. The Mother of all gods, she is the most luminous and possessor of the Truth-light (Rigveda, 1.136.3). She is present everywhere in her mighty extension as the infinite being. She is the आद्याशक्ति (ādyāśakti), the Transcendent Mother, पराशक्ति (parāśakti), the Supreme Mother, and the महाशक्ति (mahāśakti), the Mother of the cosmos, as described in the vision of the Tantra.
Let us look at the word अदिति (aditi) in its root-sense.
The word अदिति (aditi) is constituted of two components: अ (a) and दिति (diti).
- The sound ‘अ a’ here is a negative prefix meaning ‘not’.
- The word ‘दिति diti’ is derived from a lost root ‘दि di’ which means to cut, split or separate or divide. It is important to note that the fundamental experience associated with the seed-sound द (da) is a forceful motion which splits, divides, separates. So, दिति (diti) refers to division, split, separation, duality etc.
- The word अदिति (aditi) – ‘not diti’ or ‘not divided’ thus refers to that which is indivisible.
- Hence अदिति (aditi) is the undivided consciousness. In the Vedic tradition अदिति (aditi) is identified as the mother of gods, the infinite mother, the supreme Prakriti, in opposition to दिति (diti) the divided consciousness from whom all the दैत्य (daitya-s) or demons are born.
Aditi, the Mother of all Gods
“The Gods are born from Aditi in the supreme Truth of things, the Dasyus or Danavas from Diti in the nether darkness; they are the Lords of Light and the Lords of Night fronting each other across the triple world of earth, heaven and mid-air, body, mind and the connecting breath of life.” (Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 15, p. 232)
अदिति (aditi) is the infinite consciousness and is the source of all cosmic forms of consciousness from physical upwards. She is one and self-luminous, free from duality.
The word अदिति (aditi) can also be derived from the root अद् (ad) meaning ‘to eat’. ‘To eat’ also means: ‘to swallow’, ‘to envelope’, ‘to encompass’, ‘to embrace’. So, in this sense अदिति (aditi) is ‘the all-encompassing or enveloping consciousness’; the vast infinite consciousness having the power to clothe itself in finite forms.
The word आदित्य (āditya), derived from अदिति (aditi), means: born from or belonging to अदिति (aditi). The other word equivalent to आदित्य (āditya) is अदितिज (aditija) meaning aditi-born.
अदिति (aditi) is full of gods, अदितिः देवतामयी (aditiḥ devatāmayī). Each goddess is a form of अदिति (aditi), the infinite Conscious-Force, the executive Energy, the Will or Law, the Maya, the Prakriti, the Shakti which is behind all happenings. This supreme Energy formulates itself in different forms like Durga, Lakshmi, Sarasvati, Kali etc. as the Mother of the worlds.
“Aditi is the infinite Light of which the divine world is a formation and the gods, children of the infinite Light, born of her in the Ritam, manifested in that active truth of her movement guard it against Chaos and Ignorance. It is they who maintain the invincible workings of the Truth in the universe, they who build its worlds into an image of the Truth.” (Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 15, p. 475)
अदितिर्न उरुश्यत्वदितिः शर्म यच्छतु
aditirna uruśyatvaditiḥ śarma yacchatu
May Aditi make us vast (uruśyatu); May Aditi bestow (yacchatu) on us (naḥ) the true happiness (śarma). (Rigveda, 8.47.9)
Cover image: East Indian lotus Nelumbo nucifera ‘Alba’ ; Spiritual significance given by the Mother: Aditi-the Divine Consciousness – Pure, immaculate, gloriously powerful. Photo by Suhas Mehra