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We are all aware how the gods became immortal after consuming Amrit but I came across another interesting story about how they gained immortality even before drinking the elixir. Shatapatha Brahmana 2.2.2 mentions the following story:

  1. Now the gods and the Asuras, both of them sprung from Pragâpati, were contending with each other. They were both soulless, for they were mortal, and he who is mortal is soulless. Among these two (classes of beings) who were mortal, Agni alone was immortal; and it was through him, the immortal, that they both lived. Now whichsoever (of the gods) they (the Asuras) slew, he, indeed, was so (slain).

  2. Thereupon the gods were left inferior. They went on praising and practising austerities, hoping that they might be able to overcome their enemies, the mortal Asuras. They beheld this immortal Agnyâdheya (consecrated fire).

  3. They said, 'Come, let us place that immortal element in our innermost soul! When we have placed that immortal element in our innermost soul, and become immortal and unconquerable, we shall overcome our conquerable, mortal enemies.'

  4. They said, 'With both of us is this fire (Agni): let us then treat openly with the Asuras.'

  5. They said, 'We shall set up (or, establish within ourselves, â-dhâ) the two fires,--what will ye do then?'

  6. They replied, 'Then we shall lay it down (ni-dhâ), saying, Eat grass here! eat wood here! cook pap here! cook meat here!' Now that fire, which the Asuras thus laid down, is this same (fire) wherewith men prepare their food.

  7. The gods then established that (fire) in their innermost soul; and having established that immortal element in their innermost soul, and become immortal and unconquerable, they overcame their mortal, conquerable enemies.

Not sure when this incident happened and why did they need to drink the Amrit later. Perhaps they lost their immortality after the curse of Durvasa and it had to be regained through Amrit in the previous Manvantar. But irrespective of that, I want to know which Kalpa or Manvanatar did the gods FIRST become immortal? Are there any details mentioned in any other scriptures?

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    What does the translator translate as "soulless" in the 8th verse? – Surya Oct 4 '18 at 16:59
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    Once again, look who the translator is. A Western Orientalist from the 1880s. Find a good translation by an Indian who knows Sanskrit... – Swami Vishwananda Oct 5 '18 at 4:28
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    @SwamiVishwananda why don't you help with the trans;lation if you have a better one? Anyhow the question is not about the presence or absence of soul it is about immortality through Agni if the other translation helps with that please feel free to share. – Dr. Vineet Aggarwal Oct 5 '18 at 5:17
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    @Surya not sure but I am more interested in the immortality bit. This incident would imply they were immortal even before having Amrit. – Dr. Vineet Aggarwal Oct 5 '18 at 5:18
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The Ribhus, a group of three Gods in the Rig Veda, are said to have been mortals and to have attained immortality. They are said to be the sons of Sudhanvan, a descendant of Angiras.

Rig Veda I.110 explains their attaining immortality.

  1. THE holy work I wrought before is wrought again: my sweetest hymn is sung to celebrate your praise. Here, O ye Ṛbhus, is this sea for all the Gods: sate you with Soma offered with the hallowing word.
  2. When, seeking your enjoyment onward from afar, ye, certain of my kinsmen, wandered on your way, Sons of Sudhanvan, after your long journeying, ye came unto the home of liberal Savitar.

  3. Savitar therefore gave you immortality, because ye came proclaiming him whom naught can hide; And this the drinking-chalice of the Asura, which till that time was one, ye made to be fourfold.

  4. When they had served with zeal at sacrifice as priests, they, mortal as they were, gained immortality. The Ṛbhus, children of Sudhanvan, bright as suns, were in a year's course made associate with prayers.

David Frawley says

Vedic Gods are sometimes spoken of in human forms or as having been ancient sacrificers. These include the Maruts and the Adityas. The Angirasas, a Vedic family of seers, are equated with Gods like the Adityas in the Brahmans.

So it was in the very 1st Mandala of Rig Veda, it was mentioned about attaining immortality. It is an allegorical story. In Brahmanas, this story might have been narrated differently.

We have to remember that Agni or Sun or Indra are equated as the BRAHMAN in Rig Veda.(I.164.46)

  • Hmm interesting.. are you implying that the gods became immortal by conducting sacrifices through Agni? – Dr. Vineet Aggarwal 2 days ago
  • The words sacrifice, Agni, etc, used in Rig veda were used as epithets to indicate deep spiritual meanings but shall not be understood literally @Dr.Vineet Aggarwal – srimannarayana k v 2 days ago
  • Yes that can be one point of view but I am interested in knowing what this verse means by whichever logic you believe in. Ultimately whichever interpretation we use should give us some meaning. – Dr. Vineet Aggarwal 2 days ago
  • From the composers of Rig veda, who heard the mantras, to the composers of Brahmanas, there was a deterioration in understanding the deep meaning of epithets. Here attaining immortality can also indicate Moksha or self realisation attained by seers of that era. Those seers might have got distracted, like Sage viswamitra, in pleasure seeking and finally returned to Savitr, indicating attaining of realisation. In Brahmanas these epithets were described literally. @Dr. Vineet Aggarwal – srimannarayana k v 2 days ago

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