Friday, July 31, 2020

Veda - What does it signify ?

Original Article by: Vid. Chayapathy

English Rendering by: Mythily Raghavan

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                   What is ‘Veda’?  That the Vedas are the most ancient literature in the world and that it is a sacred text revered as the source of all Dharmas is well-known. Rig, Yajus, Sama and Atharva are the four classifications of this text. It is termed as ‘Shruti’ and also as ‘Brahma’.  It is deemed to beApourusheya’ (not coined by any human). It is eternal and most authentic.  It is also known as ‘Prabhu Sammita’ (that which is to be followed unquestioningly just as the diktat of an emperor). Termed as ‘Vedavakya’, doesn’t it stand as a synonym for authenticity even today?  It is believed to be the breath of Paramatman-the Supreme Lord.  

                With all such prevalent ideas does the title bear any sense?It is true. The above mentioned ideas imply that ‘veda’ denotes a compendium of literary work. But there are certain other references regarding Vedas which hint that the term signifies something broader in sense than just a ‘literature’.

Urdhvamoolam adhahshaakham ashvattham praahuravyayam |

Chamdaamsi yasya parnaani yastam veda sa vedavit ||


                It is said that there exists a peepal tree that is eternal, that which has its roots at the top and the branches extending downward, with ‘chandas’ as its leaves.  One who has realized such a tree is said to have realized the Vedas.

Jnaaninaam urdhvago bhuyat bhooyaat ajnaaninaamdhomukha:

Evam vai pranavastishtedyastam veda sa vedavit ||


                Pranava is directed upwards in Jnaanis (the realized ones) while in the case of Ajnaanis it tends downwards. One who is cognizant of this fact can be said to have understood the Vedas.

If the word ‘Veda’ refers only to a text then only he who is well versed with that text   should have been acknowledged as the knower of Vedas and not the one who has realized the peepal tree or Pranava as mentioned above.

There is a narration in Vedas - Rishi Bharadwaja earns a lifespan of four thousand divine years as the fruit of his penance. Even with such a long life he could hardly complete the study of the Vedas. Then Lord Indra, showing him four mountains, says that what he had learnt so far amounted to just a fistful of each of those mountains. Finally he declares “Anantaa vai vedaah”- Vedas are infinite and boundless. This statement should not be understood to mean that it is impossible to study the text part contained in a literary work. Again, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata which do not include any portion of the vedic text at all have earned the name ‘Veda’. ‘When Veda-purusha incarnated as Rama, Ramayana evolved in the form of Veda through Valmiki’ – so goes a saying. We do find a saying that Mahabharata is the fifth ‘Veda’. Sangita (music) is revered as Gaandharva’ veda’.  While the shaastra pertaining to dance is referred to as Natya’veda’, Koutilya’s  Arthashaastra is termed Artha’veda’. The ancient Bharatiya medical science is Ayur‘veda’. The science of archery is Dhanur‘veda’.

What then is meant by Veda?  The word veda has been derived from the root vida-jnaane. Hence veda means Jnaana. The term Jnaana is not to be perceived in the limited sense of ‘knowledge’.  The term Jnaana as used by the Maharshis refers to the ‘Jyoti’ visualized through tapas (penance) at the origin of life. It is that Effulgence, the source of the entire Universe, glowing with in the innermost core of all beings.

Na vedam vedamityaahu: vede vedo na vidyate

Paraatmaa vimdate yena sa vedo veda uchyate ||


Veda is not just a collection of words/hymns. Veda is not in Veda (the text). The knowledge through which one attains the ‘Atma-jyoti’ shining in the sphere beyond the subtle and the macrocosm is actually known as Veda. That knowledge which leads to such a state is also veda.

A beautiful example given by Sriranga mahaguru, who had realized the secret of veda, is worth remembering in this context. The term ‘coconut’ actually refers to the white kernel inside.  But the outer fibrous part and the inner shell are also referred to as coconut as long as they are associated with the kernel. Once they get separated from it, then comes the name fibre, shell etc. Similarly the core/essence of life - the Jnana is the actual Veda while even a vangmaya (text) carrying its directions and thus ultimately leading to it is also known by the name veda. But if it refrains from leading to that Jnaana and remains just a text/literature then it is dry and devoid of essence like the bare fibre or shell of a coconut devoid of the kernel.

When that Jnaana extends itself as the Universe then that branch of learning dealing with this extended creation is also Veda. It extols the creation immanent in the trigunas. And hence the advice of Lord Krishna in the Bhagavath Gita –trigunya  vishyaa vedaa: nistraigunyo bhavaarjuna. The Vedas depict the creation with the trigunas pervading it. Going beyond that creation, one attains the realization of Jyothi, the root of veda-says Krishna. Since creation is infinite the science of creation is also infinite and boundless.

This life-tree with the root at the top and branches downward has evolved from that Jnaana Jyoti. That is the reason to say that one who has realized this tree in its entirety has realized the veda. Likewise, it is the dictum of the realized souls that Pranava, the sprout of the Jnana Jyothi forms the seed for the veda and the universe. That is why in the case of ajnaanis, who focus their minds only on the extension and not the source, Pranava flows downward. On the contrary, in the case of those who fix their mind in the source, the Pranava-shakti flows upward leading them to the source.

The Raamaayana and Mahaabhaaratha are also vedas as they propagate the knowledge of the Effulgent Universal Source and its evolution and point towards that source. In the same manner gaana, naatya etc are also vedas as they have emerged from the naada and the stride evolving out of that Light. Artha shaastra and Ayurveda deal with the secret of life bound by the dictum of vedas and the promotion of health that suits such a life.  Thus they too can be considered as vedas.

The vedas consist of sounds that emanate on their own – without the bang of any objects- that are heard (shruti-gochara) during the journey through the yogic field. Such sounds are named ‘Shruti’. Thus vedas acquire the acclamation as ‘the breath of the Lord’ – Yasya nishvasitam vedaah.

That Supreme Light is the Sculptor who has carved the life and its development and hence to understand the secrets behind this sculpture one has to take refuge in vedas blooming directly from that source. It is therefore quite justified that the vedas are revered as the authority in this field.

Thus basically ‘Veda’ signifies that Light which is the source of both life and the universe.  In the next stage, the literature that points and leads to that Effulgence is also termed as ‘Veda’. Let these words be offered to that Light Supreme - the Source and the terminal point of the Vedas.

Note: Original kannada article selected from the book 'Samskruti Sourabha' published in the year 2014