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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Vedic Perspective - Matter and its Quality: Part 1/3

Part 1/3                              Part 2/3                     Part 3/3

I was searching for some reading material on Cognition / Buddhi and landed upon several different books and topics before i decided to write on this blog. Though it is well known to my close circle of friends let me add the disclaimer that its purely my amateurish interest on such topics that prompts me to blog on them and it is certainly not from a position of authority. 

If there are any factual mistakes please point them out and as a familiar couplet in Tamil goes 
"குற்றம் கலைந்து குறை பெய்து வாசித்தல் கற்றறிந்தார் மாந்தர் கடன்.", which means "It is the responsibility of the learned to remove the mistakes from what they are reading and take the right / correct ones".

So banking on your "responsibility" as per the above saying i am proceeding to the blog.

In the first part of this blog i actually want to touch upon the key sources of knowledge  / works the Hindu / Vedic system is dependent on. Despite  having a huge treasure trove of knowledge most of us are not familiar even with the names of the works leave alone the contents. Let me very briefly touch upon those.

Lets try to answer few of the questions below:

1. Just like Bible or Koran is there an Hindu equivalent and if yes, what is this?
2. If its available then what is that and who have written them for us?
3. What is the language it is written in?
4. What are the broad components / parts of this scriptures? 

Answer to the above questions are as follows:

1. Vedas are the most authoritative scriptures Hindus have and they are very popularly known as 4 Vedas... Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharvana Veda.

2. Unlike the scriptures of other religions where it is being told that it is the teaching of a prophet or messenger of god, Vedas are not written by any human being or even by God. They are called "Apourusheya" which means not created by man. 

Then where from did they appear. As per Hindu belief these Vedas are vibrations available eternally just like electromagnetic waves of say Radio FM or the satellite DTH. If you are capable of tuning to the same then you can receive it. Vedas are believed to be the "breath of god". 

But lets note that they are not god themselves. Vedas have a sound form but the supreme Brahman cannot be reached through actions or words hence Vedas cannot make you realize Supreme Brahman but can take you closer. I am sure some of you don't agree / want to discuss on this.

All the sages who have tuned themselves have revealed these vibrations and have told that they are not the creators. 

3. Lets come to question 3 as to in which language it is written? The most famous but a wrong answer is SANSKRIT. Yes. Vedas are not written in Sanskrit but in something called "Chandas" which is known as "metre". Lets see about this as a part of the next question.

4. Unlike our modern belief where in we "rationalists" think that we are scientifically advanced and the people of the stone age were hunting animals and so on, the hindu scriptures reveal that in Kali Yuga, which is currently running (we have entered Kali Yuga ~5000 years ago) large parts of mankind would lose most of their mental and physical capabilities like will power, memory etc. Hence sage Veda Vyasa segregated and compiled these 4 vedas for the benefit of the mankind and also created some more disciplines. So the bottom line is these 4 vedas were segregated and compiled by Sage Vyasa but not created by him and prior to this act we can assume that the vedas were not available in this form or format.

But lets come to the other disciplines which supports these 4 Vedas which have been the supporting knowledge streams for the Hindu Culture. I am not going to deal with them deeply but just give a overview.

There are 18 disciplines in all including the 4 vedas. Assuming Veda is a Man (purusha) then there are 4 Vedas which form the core,   6 Vedangaas which are organs of Vedas, 4 secondary limbs (Upangaas) and 4 Upavedas which are the supporting vedas. (Anga in sanskrit means part.)

Our knowledge stream is not limited to this but these form the core of the knowledge source in Hinduism. you may note that both Ramayana and Mahabharatha are not part of this and were part of "Itihasa". 

Lets see a little more about them:

1. Each Veda has 2 broad parts - Karma Kanda (which talks about rituals, procedure, actions) and Jnana kanda (This is also known as vedanta, which talks about philosophy and knowledge). Many of us are actually hooked on to the concepts of Vendanta aka. Upanishad and we tend to ignore the ritualistic part of the scriptures. 

2. Modern historians attribute a time frame like 3000 years or so for these vedas based on some evidence. Strong believers of hindu scriptures ignore these predictions and don't attribute any time for these vedas. If the age of the universe if 13billion light years then they say that the vedas have been there since then. I shall write a separate blog on the concept of time as per Hindus later.

3. Briefly about the four vedas:
  • Rig veda was given by Vyasa to sage Sage Paila which extols devatas or angels.
  • Yajur Veda was given by Vyasa to Sage Vysampayana which deals with ritualistic procedures of Yajna.
  • Sama Veda was given by Vyasa to Sage Jaimini, which has music and peace through very melodious hymns.
  • Atharvana Veda was given by Vyasa to Sage Sumanthu, which deals with warding of evils, hardships and enemies. This has components of so called black magic and tantra too.
4. Now lets get to the Organ of Vedas (Vedangaas) which are 6 in all.
  • Seeksha is the Nose and Lungs of Veda Purusha and deals with Euphony and Pronounciation - Tone, Duration, Pitch, Evenness, Compounding of words
  • Vyakarna is the mouth of the veda Purusha deals with Grammar. This has its origin from Lord Nataraja's (Shiva) Damru sound through 14 hymns. You may like a related blog on this topic and the interesting link to Islam and Shaivism.
  • Chandas is the feet of Veda purusha which deals with the metre. The hymns that were recited all comply to a rule of how many letters per pada and how many pada per line of hymn. For example Gayatri mantra is made of 3 padas and each pada has 8 letters / aksharas. Valmiki Ramayana is written in Anushtub Chandas. It is because of this we find the recitation of vedas / mantras or slokas being so synchronised, measured and soothing. 
  • Nirukta are the ears and are equivalent to the dictionary of Vedas.
  • Jyotisha are the eyes of Vedas. This is an important part of veda and a science which is misunderstood and misused currently. Both Astrology and Astronomy are parts of this discipline. One branch of Jyotisha is called "Hora Sastra" which deals with time. It is believed that the word Hour has its root in "Hora" which is in sanskrit.
  • Kalpa - Arm of Vedas.

5. Now lets look at Upaangas  - Secondary limbs of Vedas. 
  • Meemamsa  - Deals with Analysis & Interpretation and is divided as Poorva Meemamsa - Karma Kanda and Uttara Meemamsa - Jnana Kanda/ Brahmasutra in Upanishads. 
  • Nyaya Tarka - Deals with Logic, Tatva - Philosophy. There are very interesting aspects of logic such as Aarambha Vaada, Parinaama Vaada, Vivartha Vaada. This is one of the best topics i have read.
  • Puraana is the Magnifier of Mythology.  There are 18 puranaas which has about 400000 granthas. Each Grantha is a sloka with 32 syllables. 
  • Dharma Shastra deals with Codes of Conduct. Manu Dharma which is basis of the judicial system is part of Dharma Sastra.

6. Now lets look at Upavedas which are 4 in number.
  • Ayurveda deals with Science of Life. Most of us are familiar with this.
  • Arthasastra deals with Science of Wealth & Economics. Chanakya made this pretty popular. 
  • DhanurVeda Science of Weaponary 
  • Gaandharva Veda Treatises on Arts, Music. You may be knowing that there are 64 art forms and there is a treatise on each of them.

Our topic of discussion is part of the Nyaya-Tarka which is part of the Upaangas as described above. So part 1 deals with the context of this discipline among the 18 disciplines in Hindu scriptures.

Lets go to Part 2.
Part 1/3                              Part 2/3                     Part 3/3

Happy reading!


  1. Another blog-trilogy well written, Ragu! You may consider publishing this as 'Vedas for Dummies' :)

    You are very well read and knowledgeable and I learnt so much just reading some of your blogs. I can't wait for your blog on Hindu concept of time. Not sure if you have written it already.

    In this blog, since I read your exhortation about reader's responsibility so I feel its my duty to offer my 2 cents to you :)

    Vedas were actually written in Vedic / Sanskrit only. In fact the word 'Veda' comes from the Sanskrit word root 'vid', meaning 'to know'. Chandas are various forms of composition of the syllables in the Vedas, much like Couplet, Sonnet, Free Verse or Limerick in English poems.

    Please forgive me for my ignorance if I am wrong but please do correct my knowledge. Let me emphasize that I claim to be no expert and I am just another reader with amateurish interest.

    Please keep writing as your blogs are very enlightening and thought provoking as well as witty and cynical in true blue Ragu style. :)



  2. @AShish: My understanding has always been that Vedas are actually vibrations that always existed and is equivalent to God's breath. This means it has existed along side of God.

    They were never written and are composed with Chandas / metre only. As a rule this cannot be read from a book. It has to be heard and memorized meaning - Shruti / Shrunauti. Sanskrit as a language came later is what my understanding is. Most of my grandfather's books are not in Sanskrit but in Grantha a script followed before the times of sanskrit.

    What we find it difficult to comprehend is that Sanskrit as a language refers more to the script aligned with primordial sounds for its roots, meaning and construction...

    May be i am wrong!