Friday, May 16, 2008

What are Vedas?

The Vedas refer to ancient knowledge of supreme authority. The Vedic literature is meant for the upliftment of the entire humanity. One can find in them an unceasing vibrant charm which has withstood the tests of time. Vedas are apauruseya and have not been composed by any person or agency. Vedic poets are called seers of the Mantras and are not to be construed as the original authors of the Vedic Mantras.

The Vedas are the most sacred and revered scriptures which constitute the ultimate authority for the Hindu philosophy. The term “Veda” derived from the root “Vid” refers to universal knowledge propagated by inspired and enlightened Rishis for the social and spiritual benefit of the entire humanity cutting across race, religion, caste, creed or color. The Vedas are known as ‘Akshara Brahman’, meaning eternal reality which hold relevance at any point of time.

The Vedic literature has two major parts, Samhita and Brahmana. Samhitas are also called Mantras. These are collections of hymns, prayers, incantations, benedictions, invocations, sacrificial formulas and litanies. Brahmanas are dissertations on the Mantras offering detailed exposition. They are voluminous prose texts of theology dealing with special observations on sacrifices, rites, rituals, ceremonies and their mystic importance.

The Brahmana literature may be classified into three parts, viz, Pure Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanishads. While pure Brahmanas present details pertaining to sacrifices, Upanishads consist mainly of philosophy. Aranyakas lie midway between the Brahmanas and the Upanishads explaining the Vedic occult science. Though some Aranyakas and Upanishads can be construed to be independent texts, there is a common ideology and uninterrupted thought holding them together as Brahmanas.
Mantra literature and pure Brahmanas are described as books of work (Karma Kanda) while Aranyakas and Upanishads are designated as Books of knowledge (Jnana Kanda).
The Vedas are four in number constituting the Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva. They are the repository of the rich Indian knowledge and ancient wisdom. The scope of Vedas encompasses the three-fold aspects of Karma (action), Upasana (meditation) and Jnana (Knowledge) . Thus physical activities, mental endeavors and spiritual pursuits are covered in the Vedas. They are oriented towards achieving universal development, peace and welfare. They inspire one to scale heights of excellence in his chosen field of activity.