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Rishi (Sanskrit: ṛṣi, Devanagari: ऋषि) denotes the composers of Vedic hymns. However, according to post-Vedic tradition the rishi is a "seer" to whom the Vedas were "originally revealed" through states of higher consciousness. The rishis were prominent when Vedic Hinduism took shape, as far back as some three thousand years ago.

It has often been asserted that some of the ancient rishis were in fact women.[1] According to the late Vedic Sarvanukramani text, there were as many as 20 women among the authors of the Rig Veda, known as rishika. However, this has been disputed as post-factum fabrication.[2][3]

One of the foundational qualities of a ṛṣi is satyavāc (one who speaks truth) when composing Vedic hymns. According to tradition, other sages might falter, but a ṛṣi was believed to speak truth only, because he existed in the Higher World (the unified field of consciousness). Ṛṣis provided knowledge to the world which included the knowledge of Vedas.

A modern writer alleges: "As the rishis described it, awareness begins in an unbounded state with pure consciousness and then cascades, plane by plane, until it reaches the physical world. That each level is within you, and the choice of boundaries - or unboundedness - is yours alone. Therefore journeys to heaven and hell are daily occurrences, not far-off possibilities." [4] "To the rishis, bliss (ananda) was more than the expansive feeling of ecstasy. It was the basic vibration, or hum, of the universe, the ground state from which all diversity springs... the possibility for creation to manifest. Bliss itself is far from the feeling of happiness or even joy, though in diluted form it can be experienced as both. It is simply the vibratory connection that allows pure consciousness to enter into creation".[5] "The seer, or observer, is rishi. The process of projecting is devata. The thing projected/created is chhandas. In a movie house, the audience is the rishi, the machine run by the projectionist is the devata, and the images on the screen are the chhandas. It's not so important to remember these terms, but ancient sages hit upon a universal rule of consciousness, called three-in-one. If you occupy any of these roles - seer, seen, or the process of seeing - you occupy all of them. These modest-sounding words have the potential to revolutionize the world."[6]



In Indian tradition, the word has been derived from the two roots 'rsh'. Sanskrit grammarians (cf. Commentary on Unādi-Sutra, iv, 119) derive this word from the second root which means (1) 'to go, to move' (- Dhātupāṭha of Pānini, xxviii). V. S. Apte[7] gives this particular meaning and derivation, and Monier-Williams[8] also gives the same, with some qualification. Another form of this root means (2) 'to flow, to move near by flowing'. (All the meanings and derivations cited above are based upon Sanskrit English Dictionary of Monier-Williams)[9]. Monier-Williams also quotes Tārānātha who compiled the great (Sanskrit-to-Sanskrit) dictionary named "ṛṣati jñānena saṃsāra-pāram" (i.e., one who reaches beyond this mundane world by means of spiritual knowledge).

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