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Veda and Vedic-literature

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By Acharya Balkrishna

The wisdom bestowed by Paramtm (The Supreme Being)at beginning of creation is called Veda.
Rgveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvaveda are the four vedas.
At the begining of the creation, The Supreme personality disclosed the knowledge of the four vedas in the antahkaraa (the inner seat of thought) of four Ris, namely-Agi, Vyu, ditya and Agira. Thus, these four Ris recieved the effulgence of knowledge and science. The wisdom of Rgveda was received by Ri Agi, Yajurveda by Ri Vayu, Samaveda by Ri ditya and Atharvaveda by Ri Agira
The subject of Rgveda is wisdom, karma (actions) of Yajurveda, in Smaveda it is devotion and in Atharveda it is science. These four vedas are the inceptive basis of all forms of knowledge and sciences.
The one who first received the knowledge of these four vedas is called Brahma. God gave the knowledge to these four Ris, because they were the holiest of all.
Rgveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvaveda consists of 10,552, 1975, 1875 and 5977 mantras respectively. In total the four vedas account for 20, 379 mantras.
Brahmana, Katriya, Vaiya and udra are the four varnas (class of men). Studying and teaching the vedas to others, performing and conducting yaja, giving and receiving dana (donation): these are the four karmas (actions) of Brahmana Varna. Protection of nation, imparting justice and administration: these are the actions of Katriya Varna. Business, agriculture and animal husbandry: these are the actions of Vaiya Varna. Those whose intellect is minimal and who do not become cultured even after taking formal education and are devoid of wealth and wisdom fall in the udra Varna. Serving the other varnas is the karma of the udra Varna.
The life of a human being is divided into four asramas (phases) namely- Brahmacarya, Ghasta, Vnaprastha and Samnyasa.
ika (the science which teaches proper articulation and pronuciation of vedic texts), kalpa (the laws governing the procedures for yaja, odaa samskra [the sixteen purificatory ceremonies] and personal and social conduct of a person), Vyakarana (Samskta grammar), Nirukta (the etymological interpretation of words in veda-mantras), Chanda (the science of various meters) and Jyoti (Vedic astrology)- these are the six limbs of the vedas.
yurveda, Dhanurveda, Gandharvaveda and Arthavaveda/ Sthpatyaveda are the four upavedas.
There are six schools of vaidik-daranas -Yoga-darana, Sakhya-darana, Vaisesika-darana, Nyaya-darana, Vedanta-darana (Uttara mmansa-darana) and Mimansa-darana (Purvammansa-darana).
a, Kena, Katha, Prana, Mundaka, Mandukya, Aitareya, Taittirya, Chandogya, Bhadranyaka and vetavatara-are the eleven vedic upaniadas.
Manusmti is the most prominent of the cra samhit (treatise on the code of conduct) that were formulated by Ris firmly on the basis of the vedas, it coveres the subjects such as- social rules, regulations and acara (conduct).
Brahmana-Grantha: are the texts explaining the subjects enumerated in the vedas. Aitareya-bramana, atapath-bramana, TnÎya-brahmana and Gopatha-brahmana: are the Brahmana-Granthas.
As one progresses in the study of treatises drafted by the Ris and starts to comprehend its knowledge, his level of knowledge begins to increase and his interest in its wisdom develops further. As has been said:
Yatha yatha hi puruah astram samadhigacchati. Tatha tatha vijanati vijanam casya rocate.
(Manu.-4.20)
Whenever a person gains a little-bit of knowledge he develops ego and he begins to feel proud of himself like an intoxicated elephant and considers himself as sarvaja (the all-knowing). Later, in the company of the truely wise, when he begins to comprehend bits of true wisdom, he realizes that nobody is as ignorant as him and all his ego vanishes:
Yad kicijjoaham dvipa iva
madandhah samabhavam, tada sarvajoasmtya- bhavadavaliptam mama manah. Yada kicit kicid budhajanasakaadavagatam, tada murkhoasmti jvara iva mado me vyapagatah.
(Bhathari-Ntiatakam-8)
This, indeed, is the glory and splendour of true knowledge.
Brahmamuhurta (The period before sunrise)
It has been the experience of the Ris that-early to bed and early to rise, makes a person healthy wealthy and wise. The 2-3 hours period prior to sunrise is very significant for sadhana (dilligent spiritual practice) and svdhyya (studying the holy text).
Yaja
In general, yaja means to donate, make sacrifices and to properly utilise things. The meaning of the word yaja is elaborate: it means, performing every auspicious act enjoined by God with the spirit of selfless exertion, sacrifice and austerity in order to give happiness, serenity and prosperity to family, society, nation and the world.
As the temprature registered is quite high and ghee and other materials burn very rapidly and also take subtle form, the yaja-kundas are specially designed.
Burning samdhas (wood) of special trees such as- ppala (ficus relegiousa), ama (mangifera indica) and palaa (Butea monosperma), produce lesser amount of toxic gases such as carbon-dioxide etc. and lesser coal and ash.
Burning cow’s ghee in yaja produces special gases, that quickly destroy the pollutants of the atmosphere to a great extent. No other ghee or oil possesses this quality.
Instead of performing Yaja at night, it should be done either after sunrise or in the evening before sunset because the rays of sun distributes the special disease-annihilating gases produced in the yaja, evenly in the atmosphere, which is not possible during the night-time.
Jala-acamana (the process of sipping holy water) purifies the body apart from developing divine thoughts. Therefore, Jala-acamana and aga spar (touchings specific parts of the body on recitation of concerned chants) are performed before commencing the yaja, as by reciting various mantras one comes to know the benefits, results and effects of the yaja and the mind becomes pure due to their contemplation.
Yaja might cause a little atmospheric pollution, yet, the special air created due to yaja, destroys the micro-organisms responsible for a great number of diseases.
The benefits derived by offering oblations of ghee along with the havana materials (herbs and shoots of plants) in the sacred fire is altogether different from those of merely burning ghee.
Scented, disease repelling, nourishing and aromatic materials are generally used in yaja.
To speak softly and only the truth, to claim only genuine things as one’s own, to speak and act as per the actual thoughts in the mind, to develop the ability to sacrifice everything for the family and nation, offering pure and ethnically prepared ghee and havana materials in the fire- these are the meanings of the word ‘svaha’.
Three samdhas, dipped in ghee, are specially offered in the yaja fire . By dipping these samdhas in ghee, they burn faster.
Performing yaja benefits a person spiritually, mentally and physically and develops the virtues of sacrifice, happiness and serenity.

(Extracted from the book: “Divine Transformation: Building Blocks for Enlightened Life, Ideal Nation and Peaceful World”. Author: Acharya Balkrishna).