The Vedas, Vedangas, Upangas, and Upavedas – An introduction (The Vedas-2)

In the previous post on the Vedas we looked at how the vedas were “Apourusheyam” (Read here) i.e not the revelations of one prophet or messiah but rather timeless truths that have no single authorship and that the Vedas are the fundamental books of Sanatana Dharma – all other books and commentaries like the Bhagavad Gita etc. are merely commentaries or at best derivatives of the vedas. In this post we look at the 18 sub-divisions of the Veda (Referred to as the Vidya Sthanas).

It is often the practice to call all of these under one name – “Dharma Shastras” because they are repositories of both Vidya (Knowledge) and Dharma (Codes of right conduct). In the chart below I have made an attempt to depict the Vedas and their subdivisions in a single chart:

Veda-vidyastahnasIn discussing the Vedas, one often talks of the Veda-Purusha or Veda-Maata – i.e. the personification of the Vedas in terms of the human body. In Sanatana Dharma the use of the body to explain dharmic and scientific concepts is an established practice – Thus you have the “Vastu-Purusha” for example. The Temples of Sanatana Dharma are also symbolic expressions of the human body with the consecrated deity representing the Atman or Soul (being a part of and derived from the Universal Paramatman/Consciousness).

The table below shows the six (6) vedangas of the Vedas and their purpose/purport:

Vedangas Represented by/as Purport
Shiksha Nose The life-breath of the Vedas
Vyakarana Mouth Sound (Grammar)
Chandas Feet Metric Composition Refers to the
Nirutta Ears Vedic Dictionary. Presents the true meaning of each word.
Jyotisha Eyes Astronomy and Astrology.
Kalpa Hands Action. Induce one to action

More about the Vedas and the Vedangas in the subsequent posts

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The Vedas are the authoritative texts of Sanatana Dharma (1)

What is the authoritative book on which your religion is based? If this question was posed to a Christian, he/she would say “The Bible”, a muslim “The Koran”; a parsi “The Zend Avesta”; a Buddhist “The Dhammapada”; a Jew probably “The Torah” or “The Tanakh” or “The Hebrew Bible”; a Sikh “The Granth Sahib”

If we were to pose this question to a practitioner of Sanatana Dharma (erroneously referred to as the Hindus) what would his/her answer be? In all probability we would not receive one standard answer – some would say Bhagavad Gita, someone else the Ramayana, someone the Upanishads and so on.

The reason for this is very simple – Sanatana Dharma is the only religion in the world where parents of children do not provide even a basic foundation or grounding in the tenets and principles of their own “Dharma”. I choose not to use the word religion because the word does not capture the true essence of Sanatana Dharma – This “Dharma” was, is, and never will be a religion

Religion means rituals whereas “Dharma” refers to those principles one must follow in life to be CONTENTED and HAPPY. This is probably the reason why even the Supreme Court of India observed that Hinduism is a way of life. This is one major difference between Sanatana Dharma and all other religions.

Besides this, there is one other major difference between Sanatana Dharma and all other religions – All other religions are “Pourusheyam” i.e. “Revealed Texts” – there is one founder or Prophet, or Saint whose commandments form the core of that religion’s beliefs, principles, and practices. Sanatana Dharma however is “Apourusheyam” i.e. not revealed by any one “purusha” or human being – they are timeless, limitless “Truths” that have existed before the time of creation itself and will do so forever.

Therefore, if one were to look for a book or rather a single source of authority in the ocean of Sanatana Dharma then one must look for a book that is truly “Dharma-Pramana” (that which establishes the TRUTH). If this be the criterion, then the Vedas alone pass muster – the Bhagavad Gita is but a small speck in the ocean of Sanatana Dharma – it derives from the Vedantas (Upanishads) and is not even a commentary on the vedas in their entirety.

The Kanchi Paramacharya Chandrashekarendra Saraswathi in the second volume of his “Deivathin Kural” (The voice of God) uses the two quotes below (in Tamizh) to establish what constitutes “The Vedas” (Translation appears below the image)

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The Vedas are four (4) in number (Rig, Yajur, Sama, Atharva), then the six (6) Vedangas – angas or limbs or divisions of the vedas (more about each of these in subsequent posts), followed by Mimamsa (vedic interpretations), Nyaya (logic), Puranas (Mythology), and Dharmashastras (Codes of Conduct) making it Fourteen (14) in total. To these 14 may be added the 4 Upa-angas (ancillary limbs) namely Ayurveda (Science of Life), Artha-Shastra (Science of Wealth and Economics), Dhanur-Veda (Science of weapon-making and warfare) and Gandharva-Veda (Writings and treatises on the fine arts including music, dance, drama) bringing it to a grand total of 18 – these form the “Vidya-Sthanas” – “…that in which knowledge and wisdom are enshrined”

I will conclude this post with a beautiful conversation between Hanuman (representing the embodied Atman) and Rama (representing the Supreme Divinity – Paramatman) that appears in the beginning of the Muktiko-Upanishad of Sukla Yajurveda which epitomizes the great vastness of the Vedas…

Hanuman asks Rama: “Tell me Raghava, how many are the vedas, and how many their branches and how many the Upanishads?”

Rama replies: “The Vedas are four (4), their branches many and so also the Upanishads – The Rig Veda has 21 branches, the Yajur Veda 109, the Sama Veda a 1,000 and the Atharvana Veda 50 – each of these branches has its own Upanishad (Vedanta)…

Subsequent posts will look at other aspects of the Vedas.

References:

  1. Deivathin Kural Volume-2; Vanathi Publications; 2016 edition/Reprint
  2. Thirty Minor Upanishads – Translated by K. Narayanaswmi Aiyar; 1914 edition. Printed by Annie Besant, Vasanta Press; Adayar; Madras.

Akrura’s hymn to Krishna (10)

This will be the last post in this series on Krishna. This post draws from Chapter-40; Skandha-10 of the Bhagavata in which Akrura (who is actually an envoy of Kamsa) realizes Krishna’s true nature and then composes a hymn extempore, revealing to the world the true nature of Krishna. These verses clearly show that Krishna is that indwelling atman, spirit, soul within each individual – that which pervades and invades every sentient and insentient being in the Universe.

Below is a free translation of a few select verses (the operative word is “FREE”)

  1. You are that primordial being, the Purusha from whom everything has evolved and into whom everything subsides
  2. The elements – earth, water, fire, sky, air, and space are but parts of your being
  3. You are pure and transcendent, not bound by even Prakriti and therefore unattainable through the intellect but easily grasped when the seeker submits to your will.
  4. Those who have developed the highest spiritual insight realize “YOU” as “YOURSELF” as that one Lord and Universal being
  5. Those who need the help of symbols worship you as that indweller in either the body, nature, or Devas
  6. Those who see everything as manifestations of  your supreme Maya serve YOU through the SERVICE of fellow beings
  7. Those devoted to the rituals of the Vedas see you in the fire of their yagnas
  8. Those who attain you through a Quantum leap in Jnana (knowledge) drop everything and adore you as the all pervading Supreme
  9. Just as all rivers fed by rain wander into the ocean, so also do all paths lead to YOU and YOU alone.
  10. Each one has come from you and remain strung together like the beads of a necklace – separate yet interdependent; interdependent yet held together by you
  11. Salutations to you, who are all of this but still remain a witness to this play, unattached and pristine
  12. Salutations to you who are Pure Consciousness beyond the grasp of Time, Karma, and Nature, infinite and inscrutable
  13. Protect me for I have surrendered myself to thee…