When the whole
world was engulfed in the darkness of absence of knowledge, our country, the
Bharath was resplendent with the light of knowledge of self and our great Rsis
were engaged in the highly evolved discussion about Atman and how to attain
that. The Rsis declared “we understand there is an omnipotent, omniscient power
beyond all this light of knowledge and only those who understand and experience
the presence of this power can truly win over the death and be not born again”.
The sublime truths resulting in the bliss experienced by these great souls are
the Vedas. The Vedas, the oldest religious literature of the world, are eternal
as they are not the creation of man. The Vedas represent the permanent edifice
of ancient India’s spiritual heritage and ethical values and deal with social
laws, administration of the country, state-society inter relationship and basic
codes of human conduct in all walks of life.
The Vedas are
considered as authorities by Hindus and all the theological philosophies like
Advaita, Visistadhvaitha and Dwaitha etc are based on Vedas. The age of Vedas
has not been authoritatively established even though some assessment has been
made by Western and Indian Scholars. Some may say the Vedas are as old as eight
thousand or nine thousand years, but the Vedas are as new as in the olden days.
The Vedas are called Srutis because they have been handed over from generation
to generation orally through thousands of years. The methodology adopted for
such an enormous task without written material is really fantastic and
incomparable to any other system of maintenance of literature. An elaborate
procedure based on strict discipline of chanting supported by study of six
parts of Vedas called Angas like Siksa (Phonetics); Vyakarana (grammar);
Nirukta (lexicon, etymology); Kalpa (manual of rituals); Chandas (prosody);
Jyotisa (astronomy-astrology) has been used.
Brahman. Veda mantras are potent sources of power and energy. Vedas should be
learnt with precise utterance and proper pronunciation and written words may
not indicate the correct accents and appropriate articulation of sounds. Veda
Mantras follow chronological measures of metres, resonances and sound waves.
The sound waves of the Veda mantras send a vibratory sensation through the
network of myriad nerve centres in the human body and mind.
These can be
acquired only from a guru through direct adhyayana and repeated recitations
through live and direct personal learning. Learning of Vedas is not mere
understanding of the words or their meaning, it has to be meditated upon and to
experience the truths revealed therein. The Guru has to impart and transfer
such an experience to the disciple.
The four Vedas
are Rg Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda. The root Rk means Stotra
or hymn. Rgveda consists of mantra (hymn) in praise of deities. Rg Veda treats
the deities of creation like Maruts, Brahaspati, Rudra, Mitra, Varuna, Soma,
Yama and other Gods giving prominence to Agni, Indra and Aditya.
Yajus is derived
from the word “yaj” meaning worship and Yajus means the method of worship. The
Kausitaki Brahmana of Rg Veda mentions that the Yajur Veda and Sama Veda have
emanated from Rg Veda. The Yajur Veda tells in prose the procedure, rules and
regulations governing sacrifice for conducting various rites.
revealed by the Rsis have been compiled by the Great Rsi Veda Vyasa into four
groups called Rg, Yajur, Sama and Atharvana Vedas. Each of the Vedas are normally grouped into Samhita (Prayers to Gods),
Brahmana (Procedures for conducting Yaga) and Aranyaka (Upanisads which deals
with discussion about Atman, Brahman etc). There are two divisions of Yajur
Veda called Krishna (Black) Yajur Veda and Shukla (white or pure) Yajur Veda. In
Krishna Yajur Veda the Samhita and Brahmana are not separate entities. The
Brahmanas are found in between the Samhitas also whereas in Shukla Yajur Veda
there is a clear distinction between Samhita and Brahmana. The Samhita consists mostly slokas or mantras in praise of various
deities and the Brahmanas deal with the procedures to be adopted for doing the
yagnas. The Aranyakas deal with methods to be adopted for spiritual elevation
of man i.e. attaining the highest state of salvation that is Mukthi or Moksha
after which there is no rebirth.
Veda was revealed to the sage Sri Yogeeswara
Yagnavalkya (give hyper link) directly by
Lord Surya. The details of how this Veda originally had been given to Sri
Yogeeswara Yagnavalkya will be seen elsewhere in this site. Sri Shukla Yajur
Veda originally had 15 Sakhas out of which only two Sakhas or branches, called
Madyandina and Kanva Sakhas are available at present. Madyandina Saha is more
prevalent in North India whereas Kanva Sakha is found mostly in South India. The book Charana Vuyha Tantram lists
all the 15 Sakhas.
In both the
Sakhas the Brahmana is called Sathapatha Brahmana. The name Sathapatha
literally means hundred paths. In the Indian tradition the word “sata” does not
indicate the exact number of one hundred, sometimes it means anything near
about one hundred. The Brahmanas are the earliest annotations of the hymns of
Samhita and serve as manuals for the performance of Vedic Sacrifices involving
the usage of hymns. In addition they also have some narratives and anecdotes to
explain the significance of the statements in Samhita and their usages in
particular contexts. Brahmanas thus enumerate the mental and physical
activities in consonance with the righteousness to reveal the nature of dharma
which will lead to other realizations by man like wealth (artha), enjoyment (kama)
and attainment of self (moksha). The Samhitas and Brahmanas are considered as apaurusheya meaning not created by man
but revealed to him by God. The Brahmanas elaborate the procedure to construct
altars which involve very detailed geometry and also mentions a system of
remembering the number of times a sacrifice is to be made. The numbers some
time run to thousand and millions and hundred millions. It shows the highly evolved
system of arithmetic and geometry during the Vedic period! This arithmetic and
geometry has come handy in constructing the temples of gigantic proportions
without any fault!
Yajurveda has three sakhas (branches) existing now and out of this only for one
sakha, namely Taittriya the Brahamana is available whereas in Shukla Yajur
Veda, Brahmanas are available in both
Madyandina and Kanva Sakhas. Both the Brahmanas are called by the same name
Sathapatha Brahmana. Both Sathapatha Brahamanas are divided into Kandas,
Adhyayas, Brahmanas and Kandikas. In Madyandina Sathapatha Brahmana an
additional sub division called Prapathakas exists where as it is not found in
Kanva Sathapatha Brahmana. Madyandina Sathapatha Brahmana contains 14 Kandas,
100 Adhyayas, 68 Prapathakas, 436 Brahmanas and 7179 Kandikas whereas Kanva
Sathapatha Brahmana contains 17 Kandas, 104 Adhyayas, 435 Brahmanas and 6806
The word "Aranyaka" is
derived from "aranya". "Aranya"means a forest. Neither in
the Samhita nor in the Brahmana is one urged to go and live in a forest. Vedic
rites like sacrifices are to be preformed by the householder (grhastha) living
in a village. But after his mind is rendered pure through such rites, he goes
to a forest as a recluse to engage himself in meditation. It is to qualify for
this stage of vanaprastha, to become inwardly pure and mellow, that Vedic
practices like sacrifices are to be followed.
The Aranyakas prepare one for
one's stage in life as an anchorite. They expound the concepts inherent in the
mantras of the Samhitas and the rites detailed in the Brahmanas. In other
words, they explain the hidden meaning of the Vedas, their metaphorical
passages. Indeed, they throw light on the esoteric message of our scripture.
For the Aranyakas, more important than the performance of sacrifices is the awareness
of their inner meaning and significance. According to present-day scholars, the
Aranyakas incorporate the metaphorical passages representing the metaphysical
inquiries conducted by the inmates of forest hermitages.
A number of
books in English and Sanskrit are available and they are given under