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The Vedas
 

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A Brief Introduction
The Vedas are considered the earliest literary record of Indo-Aryan civilization, and the most sacred books of India. They are the original scriptures of Hindu teachings, and contain spiritual knowledge encompassing all aspects of our life. Vedic literature with its philosophical maxims has stood the test of time and is the highest religious authority for all sections of Hindus in particular and for mankind in general.

Veda” means wisdom, knowledge or vision, and it manifests the language of the gods in human speech. The laws of the Vedas regulate the social, legal, domestic and religious customs of the Hindus to the present day. All the obligatory duties of the Hindus at birth, marriage, death etc. owe their allegiance to the Vedic ritual. They draw forth the thought of successive generation of thinkers, and so contain within it the different strata of thought.


Origin of the Vedas
The Vedas are probably the earliest documents of the human mind and is indeed difficult to say when the earliest portions of the Vedas came into existence. As the ancient Hindus seldom kept any historical record of their religious, literary and political realization, it is difficult to determine the period of the Vedas with precision. Historians provide us many guesses but none of them is free from ambiguity.


Who wrote the Vedas?
It is believed that humans did not compose the revered compositions of the Vedas, which were handed down through generations by the word of mouth from time immemorial. The general assumption is that the Vedic hymns were either taught by God to the sages or that they were revealed themselves to the sages who were the seers or “mantradrasta” of the hymns. The Vedas were mainly compiled by Vyasa Krishna Dwaipayana around the time of Lord Krishna (c. 1500 BC)

Classification of the Vedas
The Vedas are four: The Rig-Veda, the Sama Veda, the Yajur Veda and the Atharva Veda, the Rig Veda being the main. The four Vedas are collectively known as “Chathurveda, ” of which the first three Vedas viz., Rig Veda, Sama Veda and Yajur Veda agree in form, language and content.

Structure of the Vedas
Each Veda consists of four parts – the Samhitas (hymns), the Brahmanas (rituals), the Aranyakas (theologies) and the Upanishads (philosophies). The collection of mantras or hymns is called the Samhita. The Brahmanas are ritualistic texts and include precepts and religious duties. Each Veda has several Brahmanas attached to it. The Upanishads form the concluding portions of the Veda and therefore called the “Vedanta” or the end of the Veda and contains the essence of Vedic teachings. The Upanishads and the Aranyakas are the concluding portions of the Brahmanas, which discuss philosophical problems. The Aryanyakas (forest texts) intend to serve as objects of meditation for ascetics who live in forests and deal with mysticism and symbolism.

The Mother of All Scriptures
Although the Vedas are seldom read or understood today, even by the devout, they no doubt form the bedrock of the universal religion or “Sanatana Dharma” that all Hindus follow. The Vedas have guided our religious direction for ages and will continue to do so for generations to come. And they will forever remain the most comprehensive and universal of all ancient scriptures.

The Vedas are not texts of empty eulogy and ritualism, extolling the virtues of gods and goddesses who appear more like human beings with the same number of defects as we find in ourselves. The texts are impregnated with tremendous degree of divine wisdom. They reveal innumerable secrets to those who have the interest like Shri Aurobindo to unravel the hidden key and try to understand their true meaning. Those who have any doubts in this regard should read his book, the Secret of the Vedas to understand what the Vedic texts actually means. Those who do not have the time or opportunity should go through the article on the hidden symbolism of Hinduism.

Throughout the Samhita, Rigveda talks of strength, vigor, determination, ready to attack the evil ones and promote the protection of noble ones. We Hindus have to recover that spirit in our daily life. For long, we have lived and suffered as Dhimmis, slaves, struggling just to survive under dishonorable conditions. That time is now over, the Hindu Race is rising and will rise to the top of the world with the principles of Veda firmly in our minds. No weakness, no meanness, but strength and boldness in our daily behavior.
Grant us your friendship, have mercy upon us! Do not overwhelm us with
your fierce attack! May your anger and evil intention be assuaged! Let
the brown dice proceed to ensnare another!

Rig Veda X, 34, 14

I hymn the self-luminous wise Lord to be praised and glorified above all forever, Varuna the mighty! I beg him for renown, the God who shows love to all those who adore him.

Rig Veda II, 28, 1

With reverence and care we sing your praises. Happy we feel in your service, O Varuna! We hymn you like the fire that arises each dawn to usher in the day with its promise of riches.

Rig Veda II, 28, 2

O Leader of heroes, whose words reach far, may we ever abide in your shelter, O King! O sons of the Infinite, Gods ever faithful, forgive us our sins; grant us your friendship.
 

Rig Veda II, 28, 3

The God Varuna made the rivers to flow. At his Order they run and he sustains them. They cease not flowing and never feel weary. They move with swiftness like birds in full flight.

Rig Veda II, 28, 4

'Unknowable and constant, It should be realized in one form only. The Self is free from taint, beyond the akasa, birthless, infinite and unchanging.'

Yajur Veda, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad IV, IV-Death and the Hereafter, 20


'The intelligent seeker of Brahman, learning about the Self alone, should practise wisdom (prajna). Let him not think of too many words, for that is exhausting to the organ of speech.'

Yajur Veda, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad IV, IV-Death and the Hereafter, 21


That great, unborn Self, which is identified with the intellect (vijnanamaya) and which dwells in the midst of the organs, lies in the akasa within the heart. It is the controller of all, the lord of all, the ruler of all. It does not become greater through good deeds or smaller through evil deeds. It is the lord of all, the ruler of all beings, the protector of all beings. It is the dam that serves as the boundary to keep the different worlds apart. The brahmins seek to realize It
through the study of the Vedas, through sacrifices, through gifts and through austerity which does not lead to annihilation. Knowing It alone one becomes a sage (muni). Wishing for this World (i.e. the Self) alone, monks renounce their homes.

Yajur Veda, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad IV, IV-Death and the Hereafter, 22


The knowers of Brahman of olden times, it is said, did not wish for offspring because they thought: 'What shall we do with offspring-we who have attained this Self, this World?' They gave up, it is said, their desire for sons, for wealth and for the worlds and led the life of religious mendicants. That which is the desire for sons is the desire for wealth and that which is the desire for wealth is the desire for the worlds; for both these, indeed, are but desires. 'This Self is That which has been described as Not this, not this. It is imperceptible, for It is not perceived; undecaying, for It never decays; unattached, for It is never attached; unfettered, for It never feels pain and never suffers injury.

Yajur Veda, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad IV, IV-Death and the Hereafter, 22
(cont)


'Him who knows this these two thoughts do not overcome: For this I did an evil deed and For this I did a good deed. He overcomes both. Things done or not done do not afflict him.'

Yajur Veda, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad IV, IV-Death and the Hereafter, 22
(cont)

In the Rig Veda, the universal truths propounded explain the universal order of life in three planes

* Internal ( to the Soul )
* External ( to the body in terms of Dharma or worldly life )
* Spiritual ( in terms of the cosmos )

The universal order of life in these three planes is then linked to the Supreme encompassing the three planes. Thus all terms / names mentioned such as Indra, Agni, Vayu etc. have exoteric and esoteric significance in each of the three planes as understood by the individual Soul depending on the spiritual evolution of the Soul 

The Sama Veda consists of hymns (many of them common with the Rig Veda) which when sung in the appropriate manner will strike a chord in enabling one to understand the universal truths and order of life depending on their stage of spiritual evolution. The source of the musical patterns of the Sama Veda hymns is derived from the vibration / sounds of the cosmos. This reveals that spiritual evolution can be achieved through music (by hearing as well as singing).

 The Yajur Veda consists of hymns from the Rig Veda along with other hymns which when recited in the performance of a yajna / havan will enable the Soul or the beneficiaries to understand the universal truths of the Veda in any or all of the three planes of its meanings depending on the individual's stage of spiritual evolution. Though the Yajur Veda is associated with performance of Yajna for worldly gains, it is understood that the individual beneficiaries will ultimately evolve spiritually and subsequently undertake these Yajnas for the spiritual and material benefits of mankind as a whole. The Yajur Veda has two distinct schools of presentation and following as explained below.

 This Veda is followed in the Northern parts of India and has mantras in the form of the Veda and Brahmanas (explanatory notes to the mantras) presented in the Satapatha Brahmana. The Shukla Yajur Veda is said to have been taught by the "Sun" to sage Yajnavalkya and hence the name "Shukla" or "White" Yajur Veda.

 This is followed in the Southern parts of India and has Veda mantras and Brahmanas intermixed - that is, the Brahmanas follow the mantras as explanatory notes in the Veda text itself. Since Shukla Yajur Veda is known as "White", this Yajur Veda has been denoted as "Krishna" or "Black" Yajur Veda. Both the versions are accepted as authentic and both schools are practised widely.

 The Atharva Veda, when understood in the external plane, is generally known to contain hymns common to the Rig Veda including others for the sole purpose of performing "Magic" or to communicate with ghosts and spirits or for curing ailments. However, when viewed in the spiritual plane, the Atharva Veda expounds universal truths of the oneness of the universe, the way to live in communion with the world of evolved souls, to pray for a healthy life and finally to merge with the Supreme.

 All the Vedas provide the same knowledge to experience the Supreme through different paths.

  • The Rig Vedi would approach this goal through prayer and intellectual pursuits.
  • The Sama Vedi through musical renderings of the hymns
  • The Yajur Vedi through Yajna and invocation of Agni to carry the message of the hymns to the Supreme.
  • The Atharva Vedi through tantra or other rituals.

All the Vedas provide the same knowledge to experience the Supreme through different paths. The Rig Vedi would approach this goal through prayer and intellectual pursuits. The Sama Vedi through musical renderings of the hymns The Yajur Vedi through Yajna and invocation of Agni to carry the message of the hymns to the Supreme. The Atharva Vedi through tantra or other rituals. The Vedas propound and accept all forms of religious practice in the pursuit of understanding and merging with the Supreme. Hence it is highly secularand tolerant in its teachings by ultimately preaching.

"May Happiness and Peace come to One and All irrespective of Faith, Creed, Colour and Social order of the Society including Beings of other forms of evolution."

 
 

 

 

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Last updated on 31-03-2007