Most of us know the term “vedās”, but how many of us know what they are? How many of us at the least attempted to know what they contain? I have been trying to familiarize the core of the vedās, since few years. The following is my understanding put in simple terms.
The word VEDA comes from the root “VID“. Most of the sources described “Vid” means “To Know“, and hence Veda meant Knowledge. But, I am afraid I have to differ with this popular notion. As per my search, I am most inclined to associate ‘Vid’ as a root word for WISDOM rather than Knowledge. The root for knowledge should be “JÑA” and hence Knowledge is indicated by “Jñānaṃ“. What is the difference? Knowledge is accumulation of information, whereas WISDOM is something that occurs after assimilating the “Knowledge”. It is a post-state of processing the knowledge.
Hence VEDA is a compendium of “WISDOM” rather than “Knowledge”. If VEDA were associated with Knowledge, then the unfortunate association of VEDA with the “BOOKS of VEDA” will be occurred. For example, take the subject of Mathematical Science. Is a Maths text book “the science of MATHS”? If so, then buying a textbook should make us owners of the science of maths. But, the case is not so! We have to struggle to understand each page and make the “subject” an integral part of “ourselves”. Only then can we obtain the science of maths. So, now try to answer- where is this MATHS? Is it the BOOK or is it a post-state of interaction with the text book? It would be the later. Similarly, a Vedic book or an oral collection of HYMNS is not VEDA. The post state of practicing the “Way of LIFE” as prescribed by the Vedic seers, bestows upon us with the WISDOM of the VEDA.
So, we have established that VEDA is wisdom, and is not mere physical information. Then, what does this wisdom comprise of? Let us explore further.
In the above example, if I ask you – “Where is the science of Maths, is it inside the text book or is it inside you?” what would your answer be? For me, as I understand, the wisdom of MATHS lies inside us. The Maths text book was just a means that awoke this wisdom. How can this be? Well, let us prove this by disproving the other option. Let us say, there is no wisdom of Maths inside us at all and we want to learn from the basics. There is a teacher (maths book) and a student (we, having nill information about maths in us), in this scenario. Because, we have nothing inside us – in relation to maths, Teacher has to start the process of giving us something as input. The basics for maths are numbers (or arithmetic, etc.). Teacher would say “1 – this is ONE, a number” or “1 + 2 = 3, this is addition”. Because we assumed that the student has no information of MATHS in him, he would question “What is a number?” or “What are we adding here? and what does addition mean as such?”. And I guess you can extend this gedanken experiment (thought experiment) further and you will then realize that unless there is already a pre-existing element of a subject inside a student, a teacher can never impart the knowledge or wisdom in him. All that a teacher can do is awaken the existing wisdom bud to bloom. A teacher can never make a student understand “what a number is”. The sense of number or number-consciousness should be inside the student by default!The same is true if you have to convey any information to another person. If other person has never seen a rose, you can never make him understand what it is. But, if he has already seen it, you can describe volumes and volumes of artistic beauty of that rose, without any trouble and he would appreciate too!
Thus, WISDOM lies inside us. It is all around us. This is the fundamental principle of VEDA. That is why they are called “APAURUSHEYA” – “IMPERSONAL WISDOM“. Why “impersonal”? Because, this wisdom does not belong to any individual person. Can you say that the “sense of number” or “taste of a sweet” belongs to only one person? Similarly, the result of you adding “1+2=3” is same as any one else adding them. The sense of number, addition, etc., lies in all of us and around us (nature is full of these mysteries). Then how did the sages “discover” (rather than invent or compose, discover or “realized” suits better here) these vedas? Again, let us bring the math example here. Why does a person solves better and understands “higher” laws of maths than the other? I would say it depends on the state and capacity of the individual mind or intellect. We as humans, have many layers of existence – Physical body, Vital force, Prana (life force), Mind, Intellect, Ego, etc. When all these “vehicles” are trained and purified (of the impure ignorance), then the person will be called a sage and he can “SEE” the truths of the existence. He would then utter-forth impersonally, the TRUTH of the existence in the means that he is acquainted with (different locations of the world have different scriptures, having different clothing of objects, but of the same TRUTH). He will be called the SEER of that particular utterance.
This is the origin of VEDA. All the SEERS, who thus realized the TRUTH trained the disciples who desired to see the same TRUTH, through different paths. The wisdom of all these paths put together is called VEDA. Thus, VEDA is not only the so many thousands of mantras of existing collection, but also includes the wisdom of UPANISHADS, BRAHMANAS, ARANYAKAS, YOGAS, TANTRAS, MANTRAS, YANTRAS, everything. This is because, the source of inspiration is same – i.e., NATURE!
This “wisdom” is four-fold. The four-fold nature of the wisdom is represented by BRAHMA, the CREATOR, having four heads and HE being represented as the Father and the lord of Goddess Saraswati – the flow of wisdom! It is said that the four vedas have originated from the four mouths of Brahma, to symbolically represent teh four-fold nature of it. So, our seers discovered this play of wisdom in its four-fold fashion and categorized it in similar fashion. But this categorization is not understood by many scholars. Most of them attribute it to the ignorant meanings associated by the western translators. But, after going through the following, may be I would have given a different and yet a reasonable perception to see how the categorization occurred.
- Rig Vēda:
In its simplest terms, a collection of ‘Riks’ is called a Rig Veda. This veda takes its name from the word ‘Rik’. ‘Rik’ means a mantra of the veda. A mantra is a collection of syllables confined to a meter and other constraints. This confinement is not imposed by the “seer”, but is a natural “impersonal” output of the seer in the state of highest realization, and hence should be unlocked with great care (using six keys as mentioned in 5) Vedic mysticism and Indian Trinity)RIK comes from the root sound of “RRRRRRR”. This is the sound of vocal cords rumbling (not the tongue producing the sound ‘r’). Master .E .K, calls this a “Trill of Vocal Cord”. When you speak, this ‘rumble’ is by default existing. So, no word or a syllable can be uttered physically without the ‘rumble’ of our vocal cords. So, the very syllable/word/sentence that you utter, is actually the rig veda. That means, the TRUTH expresses through the seer of the rig veda, through his very utterance. And, if some one can meditate upon this ‘rumble’, i.e., if one can meditate upon the sounds produced by the vocal utterances of a person (or ourselves) who recites the “riks” of this veda, then such a person can directly perceive the TRUTH in his state of existence. This is a grand expansion of our regular interaction. Generally, we speak something and other person gets the idea of what we spoke. But some concepts are hard to convey – because of limitations. A seer is the one who crossed these limitations and his utterance, is not a mere statement but the TRUTH of NATURE itself. Thus, meditation/ the state of oneness is very essential to realize what the sage has uttered in particular mantra.
Also, ‘RIK’ implies a “Ray of LIGHT”. This ray is nothing but the ray of TRUTH.
Thus, Rig Vedic mantras are to be recited in prescribed format and meditated upon the vocal sounds that emerge from those utterances, so as to let the LIGHT shine into our minds and intellect.
- Sāma Vēda:In its simplest terms, this is a collection of hymns called “Sāmās”. Sāma means a song. So, Sāma veda is “sung” rather than “recited”. But, what is so special about song? Sāma actually means a “Pulsation” or a “Periodic Repetition”. Any thing that periodically repeats, is a SONG or is called MUSIC. What repeats in us? ALmost everything. Our heart beat, wake and sleep, breath, etc. All these functions are said to be carried out in our body (or in cosmos – the air currents, water currents, seasons, etc.) due to what is called as “Prāṇa”. The pulsation is a characteristic feature of this Prāṇa. And the physically visible representation is given by BREATH – the air we breath in and out to exist! Thus, “SĀMA” implies our “BREATH”. So, the wisdom that sprouts through the pulsation of this Universe or “Breath of this Universe” is known as “Sāma Vēda”.
You see, Rig Veda and Sama Veda have an intimate relationship. Only through breath can you utter a vocal sound and only through uttering a vocal sound, can you “sing” methodically. Thus, Rig Veda and Sama Veda follow each other in succession! That is why, you can notice that the whole Sama veda is a part of rig veda – i.e., all the mantras of Sama veda are from Rig veda, but the way they are uttered is different and here in lies the entire key to the wisdom!
So, one needs to meditate upon his breath and the periodicity that lies in uttering a Sama Veda to realize the TRUTH as seen by the seer of Sama Veda.
- Yajur Vēda:
It its simplest terms, this is a collection of “Yajūs”. “Yaj” is the root word that symbolizes “Yajña”, and thus “SACRIFICE”. What is a sacrifice? It is an act of selflessness. SUN shines on the entire world and he does not get anything back in return. This act of shining of SUN is called a YAJÑA. Similarly, the creation was created by the creator and he does not get anything in return. Thus, the process of creating the creation is called a Yajña. Any sacrifice happens only through the process of ‘ACT’, by very definition. This ACT is called a “RITUAL”. Thus, a sacrifice and a ritual are interdependent elements and are grandest of the elements. Without the ritual of creation, this creation would not have occurred. Without the ritual of copulation, we would not have been born! Thus, the elements of sacrifice and ritual exist in this Universe, for us to learn by the way of mimicking.The physical fire rituals or other rituals we see in temples and on some holy occasions, are but pictorial physical representation of the grand mysteries of Universe. For example, in a fire ritual – the way you arrange the fire-bricks, the way the priests sit (on East, West, etc.,) and the elements used – like Clarified Butter, Wood sticks, etc., all these represent the Ritual of UNIVERSE. For instance, the clarified butter is called “Ghritam”, meaning that which is condensed, and hence our physical and mundane world. Wood is called “Idhma” meaning fuel, which represents our life force. And Fire is called “Agni”, meaning the ONE hidden in all the organs (aṃgās) – i.e., the SELF. Thus, the symbol there is to use the physical body as a means to burn the life force to awaken the SELF and realize the LIGHT! Similarly, all other rituals need to be understood with proper keys. Without the keys, people will keep making their own understandings and call this grand compendium to be – “a book of mundane rituals and hence is of no use to the one who is on the spiritual path” or “would say that the vedic seers used to cut COWS and HORSES and eat them”. Such demonic ideas occur only by the self inflicted ignorance and no actual TRUTH is attached to such foolish statements!
Thus, the wisdom pertaining to the RITUALISTIC SACRIFICES (of NATURE) is called Yajur Veda. One needs to meditate on every “dynamical” aspect of this creation and the beings there in to realize the rituals that are acting all over and realize the TRUTH through those grand sacrificial rites!
- Atharvaṇa Vēda:
In its simple terms, this is something like an “Applied Science”. Atharvaṇa Veda is known as “Lower LIP” (Ataḥ = Lower). What is the function of lower lip or lower Jaw? It moves and helps in physically uttering the word. Similarly, the wisdom in this veda lets us “USE” the wisdom of the above three vedas in practicality of daily life. Without this veda, the other three vedas remain just a speculative aspects. And practical utility is very important. A theoretical knowledge of “RICE” will not fetch you rice and satisfy your hunger. You need to know the art of cooking the rice. What is the use of reciting the name of rice thousand times if you can not cook? Same is the situation here. Only with the help of Atharvaaṇa Veda, can you actually “Utilize” the wisdom in all the three vedās.
Thus, Atharvaṇa Veda is a compendium of wisdom pertaining to the practical utility of all the vedas. One must meditate upon this practical use and realize the TRUTH in day to day life!
Thus, we have ONE wisdom called “The VEDA“. It is fourfold – Rig, Sama, Yajus and Atharvaṇa. Most people think that Veda Vyasa categorized the veda into these four categories. But, if you read the “Aditya Hridayam” of Ramayana, composed by sage Valmiki, you will see the description that “Rig, Yaju, Sama Prāragaha“. So, even far before Veda Vyasa, this classification existed. And as I pointed out, this classification is through the fundamental mode of the Vedic-Wisdom, rather than something made for convenience. This Veda has branched into many branches of wisdom over the time and every branch of wisdom can be traced back to the One WISDOM, the VEDA – which is the wisdom of the oneness of this whole cosmos!
This is the short story of “The Veda”, as I understand!