Om Rsivandyaya Namaha, Salutations to the One who is worshipped by the seers, the rshis! Rshis are the ancient seers who won vision of the Supreme Lord and gifted the stories, mantras, prayers and rituals to humanity in order that they may worship aright and win the self-same vision.
rishi Hin., San. m. (from drish – to see) a seer, saint, an ascetic rich in spiritual austerity, a sage well-versed in the vedas. ‘The sage . . . arrives without travelling, sees without looking, does all without doing’. (Lao-Tzu) ‘I do not experience fear or greed, hate or anger. I ask nothing, refuse nothing, keep nothing.’ (NM) ‘He loves what God loves.’ (Sufi saying).
dirghadarsin mfn. (-rsi-rsii-rsi) Far-seeing, provident, wise. m. (-rsi)
duradarsin mfn. (-rsi-rsini-rsi) Long-sighted, far-seeing, (literally or metaphorically.) m. (-rsi)
sastradarsin mfn. (-rsi-rsini-rsi) Skilled in sacred science. esp. sastra S’ástra, and darsin who inspects.
sarvvadarsin mfn. (-rsi-rsini-rsi) All-seeing. m. (-rsi) A Budd’ha in general. E. sarvva all, and darsin seeing.
atidarsin Tatpur. m. f. n. (-rsi-rsini-rsi) Seeing very far.
sarvvadarsi -rsini -rsi (n), ALL-SEEING, a.
prapasyan -syanti -syat (t), agradarsi -rsini -rsi (n), FORESEEING
Rishis who visualised the mantras were not bound by the consequence or the coils of action (karma); they merge in Brahman and emerge from Brahman when the cycle of manifestation starts again. So, they are hailed as Ajah (unborn). The Veda acclaims them thus. Their very nature is immaculate purity. Therefore, they too are called Prasna. They yearned so agonisingly for grace that in the state of superconsciousness called samadhi, Brahman manifested out of self-will, and awarded them the vision of Brahma Yajna.
The Supreme Lord is All-seeing; He is the Person on whom all the hymns of the Vedas converge. The Vedas enable man to get the vision of that Lord and those who have earned that Vision are the Rshis. They were guided by the Vedas; many psalms, hymns and declarations emerged from them. As a result, the Supreme Lord Himself is referred to as the Great Sage (Maharshi) in the Brahma-Sutra. Among the 108 Names of Siva, the Supreme Lord, we find Maha-rshi and Mukhya-rshi (the Chief Sage, the foremost Sage). Even the Veda is personified and referred to as Rshi, for the same reason. Brahmam (the Vast Expanse) is another word which denotes the Supreme Lord as well as the Veda. Hence, all acts, undertaken with no other desire than the attainment of Brahmam, are also known as Brahma activity – Brahmayajna. A Rshi yajna is a sacrificial act – with no desire to earn the fruit ensuing therefrom – designed to gain the Vision of Truth.
RISHI: A great saint, fully knowing the omnipresence of God. A Rishi is not one who is a great scholar or a ritualist, but one who is free from evil tendencies. The following are the ancestry of various Rishis:-
- Vyasa was born of the fisherman caste.
- Sounaka was of the Sunaka clan
- Agasthya was born in a pot.
- Vishwamitra was a Kshathriya.
- Sootha was born in the fourth caste.
A Brahma-rshi is a sage who has realised the Supreme Self; a raja-rshi is a royal sage, and rshi-rna is the debt owed by man to the sages, seers and ancient law givers.
The word rshi is found in the word worship. Single pointed devotion, morality, virtue and character are essential elements of the path of worship. Another word which contains rshi is leadership! We understand that through their leadership, their penance, the rishis won vision of the Divine and laid down the path to follow in order that others might attain that vision also.
Vyasa and Valmiki underwent a long process of asceticism and study, as well as experience of spiritual bliss and thus lifted themselves up to the heights of rshihood, before they composed the epics and texts bearing their name. The question may be asked, “Why should they compose poetry, however exalted, after attaining rshihood? What was the urge that prompted them?” The answer is: “they were overcome with compassion, for the fellow-pilgrims struggling along the path they had traversed; they were full of agony at the plight of fellow-beings who were sweltering in the heat of worldly entanglements.” They desired to establish peace on earth and good-will among mankind. Their attention was ever on the Vedic message, Swayam theernah, paraan tharayathi. (Themselves having crossed the waters called the ocean of life, they help others to do likewise; themselves risen to the Divine, they helped them to rise.) (Sathya Sai Baba, 17-10-72)