muni मुनि

Definition: Occurs in one hymn of the Rigveda where it seems to denote an ascetic of magic powers with divine afflatus (devesita), the precursor of the strange ascetics of later India* This agrees with the fact that Aitaśa, the Muni, is in the Aitareya Brāhmaṇa regarded by his son as deranged, a view not unjustified if the nonsense which passes as the Aitaśapralāpa, ‘ Chatter of Aitaśa,’ was really his. The Rigveda calls Indra the ‘ friend of Munis,’ and the Atharvaveda refers to a ‘ divine Muni ’ (deva muni), by whom a similar ascetic may be meant. In the Upaniṣads6 the Muni is of a more restrained type: he is one who learns the nature of the Brahman, the Absolute, by study, or sacrifice, or penance, or fasting, or faith (:śraddha). It must not of course be thought that there is any absolute distinction between the older Muni and the later: in both cases the man is in a peculiar ecstatic condition, but the ideal of the Upaniṣads is less material than the earlier picture of the Muni, who is more of a ‘ medicine man ’ than a sage. Nor would it be wise to conclude from the comparative rareness of the mention of the Muni in the Vedic texts that he was an infrequent figure in Vedic times: he was probably not approved by the priests who followed the ritual, and whose views were essentially different from the ideals of a Muni, which were superior to earthly considerations, such as the desire for children and Dakṣiṇās.


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