How ancient are the Vedas?
Western Indologists as well as Indian historians have been trying to place the beginning of Vedas. Some place the Vedas to be atleast 12,000 years old while others place the timeline to be around 1500 BC. According to Indian seers and sages the Vedas are known to be "Apourusheya", which means "Not created/composed by humans". Sages describe Vedas as "aNaadi", which means they always existed in cosmos. Only, whatever has been perceived by Rishis has been written
To give an example in scientific terms, Einstein never created the process or law
which describes the theory of relativity. Einstein only developed the theory after observing
certain phenomena, which always existed. The Vedas are called "sruti", which is heard. The
Vedas have been transferred from teacher to disciple for generations.
Historians and Archeologists tend to date the four Vedas as Rig Veda followed by Yajur veda,
Sama veda and Atharvana veda. However according to Indian sages all four Vedas have always existed
in cosmos. Veda Vyasa (AKA Krishna dwaipayana) compiled and classified the hymns.
Rig Veda consists of hymns in praise of different devathas. There are some 10000
hymns in praise of devas. A group of hymns(Rik) is know as Sookta. There are some 1000 sooktas.
Sooktas are further grouped into what is known as mandala and Ashtaka. There are 10 mandalas and
8 ashtakas in RigVeda. Today, The major chunk of RigVedic brahmins reside on deccan plateau in Karnataka, Maharashtra and parts of Gujarat.
Click here to view the summary of creation hymn( nasadiya sukta) from RigVeda 10:129.
YajurVeda is derived from word "yajus". Yajus is the description of procedures involved
in performing rituals such as Yagna. RigVeda helps in praise of devathas while YajurVeda
facilitates in performance of Yagnas while chanting these hymns. Yajur Veda is divided
into two branches Sukla and Krishna Yajur Veda. The beauty of YajurVeda lies in its
presentation of Karmic and Vedic rituals. Sri Rudram is very soothing to listen to if chanted
by authentic practitioners in tandem.
The hymns of RigVeda are set to melodious chanting in Sama veda. The chanting can be very soothing
to hear. Sama veda could be the source of seven notes of music. Singing of the hymns as per
rules of Sama veda is supposed to propiate the Devas. Lord Krishna has declared that amongst
the Vedas I am Sama veda.
The Atharva Veda contains hymns which can ward off evil and hardship. The Atharva Veda puts some light on how life was in Vedic society. It is said that the mantras are very powerful and should be chanted with caution and only by priests who have mastered the Atharva Veda. There are hymns referring to Devathas not mentioned in other Vedas.
"In the beginning when Brahma created this world, there was no caste and
all were Brahmins.
The world got divided into classes as a result of men's choice of occupation." ...MahaBharata
Only a learned Vedantin can articulate the essence of Upanishads in hinduism.
Now for us average humans, Upanishads are the cream of Vedas.
Western scholars tend to date the time of upanishads as between 600 BC to 800 AD.
The Indian Sages regard the Upanishads to be as old as Vedas, which means they
always existed. The Upanishads provide a distinct description of the nature of
the Atman, and describe in detail the methods to follow to attain Moksha and immortality. There are as many Upanishads to each Veda as there are Shakhas.
The Upanishads are described as the Vedanta, the end of the Vedas, that which is suitable for those who are not bound by any formal religion.
As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, So,
O Lord, the different paths which men take, through different tendencies, various though they appear,
crooked or straight, all lead to Thee!" and "Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him;
all men are struggling through paths that in the end lead to Me.
Bhagavad Gita: The celestial song is considered as a compact guide to human
living. Gita is described as nectar of eternal wisdom and inspires humans to
supreme accomplishment and enlightenment. Gita provides a summary of the teachings from Upanishads. On the Kurukshetra battlefield, Lord Krishna enlightens
Arjuna on the nature of soul and its relation to Brahman the supreme being.
Adi Shankaracharya was born in Kaladi, present day Kerala. Some scholars place the time of his birth to be 509 BC. Western Indologists have computed the date to be around 788 AD. Shankaracharya studied under the guidance of Govinda Bhagavatpada, who was a
disciple of Goudapada. Shankara argued and won over many great scholars of his time belonging to
different faiths. During that time Vedic texts were only available in brief aphorisms.
The basic texts of Vedic knowledge was preserved in Brahma sutras of Vyasa. Govindapada instructed
that Shankara write a bhashya on Brahma sutras. Shankara wrote a brilliant commentary on
Brahmasutras which is considered as superhuman and accepted by all the learned acharyas.
He was first to write a commentary on Bhagavad Gita which was hidden inside Bhishma parva of MahaBharatha. ShankaraCharya also wrote treatise on Upanishads.
Shankaracharya has written beautiful
compositions in praise of God and shakti. ShankaraCharya is considered to be the greatest
exponent of advaitha and is revered by even modern sages such as Swami Vivekananda,
Swami Sivananda, Sri Chandrashekarendra saraswathi of Kanchi and sri Abhinava Vidyatheertha of Sringeri math.
Shankara travelled the entire country and established four monasteries in the four corners of
India. ShankaraCharya debated and transformed Shaktas, vaishnavaites, shaivaites, atheists, Buddhists and
Jains with his vast knowledge of Vedas and sharp intellect. Advaita philosophy became
pre-eminent during Shankaracharya's time.
Click here to view the Nirvana Shatakam with translation
Advaita means non-dualism. Jeevatma is not fundamentally distinct from the Brahman. Brahman alone is real and absolutely homogeneous. All this appearance
of plurality is just an illusion.
Defined as qualified non-dualism. Brahman alone exists but characterized
by elements of plurality. Whatever is seen are his manifestations or attributes. The Jiva(soul) should completely surrender itself to the Lord Narayana the creator of the universe. Sri RamanujaCharya (1017 - 1137 AD) is the proponent of Visishtadvaita. The followers of Visishtadvita are known as sriVaishnavas, who are spread out over Tamilnadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh in southern India.
Dvaita: The essence of dvaita (dualism) is that the difference between the Jivatma(individual soul) and Ishvara(creator) is eternal and real. Sri MadhvaCharya(AKA Mukhyaprana 1238 - 1317 AD) is the proponent of dvaita also known as Tatvavada. Sri Madhvacharya has written commentary on Vedas, Upanishads and Gita. The followers of Madhva Sampradaya are spread-out over Karnataka, Andhrapradesh, Maharashtra and Tanjavur/Kumbakonam belt in Tamilnadu. Sri VyasaTheertha(AD 1460-1539) thru his great work Nyayamritam further helped in propagating Dvaita siddhanta. VyasaTheertha AKA VyasaRaya is considered as one of the foremost dialecticians of Dvaita. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu(Gaudiya sampradaya of Bengal/Orissa region), Nimbarka and Vallabhacharya were greatly influenced by MadhvaCharya's dvaita philosophy.
Saktha is one who is a follower of shakthi. Shaktism considers Devi or the mother goddess as the Supreme Brahman, All other forms of divinity, female or male are considered to be her diverse manifestations.
The mother Goddess AKA Amba represents the cosmic energy of the universe.
is a spiritual path to attain peace, concentration and realization of God.
Sri Vidya rituals involve worshipping Goddess- Lalitha, who is the unified form
of Siva and Sakti. Sri Vidya involves use of mantra, Chakra and upasana.
is a representation of mother Goddess. A schematic representation of the universe with 43 triangles
used in the worship of mother goddess. Place the mouse pointer on the left image.
Bhakti: In hinduism bhakti is defined as devotion to God. There are various kinds of bhakti. Sakamya and Nishkamya are examples. Sakamya bhakti is devotion with
desire for material gains. Nishkamya Bhakti is unconditional devotion to God with no expectation of gaining material benefits.
Asvalayana Grihya Sutra: A grihya sutra describes the domestic rites one should follow during their lifetime. The important rituals amongst them being conception, initiation, marriage, death etc. Also various rituals are to be followed during festivals. Sage Asvalayana, a disciple of Sage Saunaka is supposed to have compiled these sutras around
2900 BC. These sutras are popular amongst Rigvedins of deccan plateau, majority of whom live in Karnataka, Maharashtra and parts of Gujarat. The Asvalayana srauta sutra describes the procedures for conducting vedic rituals during Yajnas.
Baudhayana Grihya Sutra: A treatise on domestic rites which is very
popular amongst Krishna Yajurvedins of south India. Baudhayana compiled the treatise around 800 BC. Baudhayana has also compiled information on srauta ceremonies during vedic yajnas. The concept of "pythagoras" theorm was explained by Baudhayana 300 years before pythagoras actually propounded the theorm.
Smarthas are a sect of brahmins who follow advaitha philosophy. The Smarthas
are followers of Smriti which can be traced to Vedic rituals. They are exponents
of karma kanda and worship the six main deities Shakti, Shiva, Vishnu, Surya, Ganesha and Kumara(Skanda). Adi Shankaracharya was the principal proponent of smarta sampradaya. Sri MadhvaCharya and Sri RamanujaCharya were
smarthas before they propagated their interpretation on vedic philosophy.
Majority of Smarthas reside in Karnataka, Andhra pradesh and Maharashtra. The Iyers of Tamilnadu and Nambootharis of Kerala also follow the Smartha tradition.
is the analysis of meaning of what is described in Vedas.
The Vedas consists of four parts: samhita, brahmana, aranyaka and
upanishad. Mimamsa is about the studies the first three AKA purva mimamsa.
The upanishad is not part of mimamsa and known as Vedanta AKA uttara mimamsa.
Purva mimamsa interpretes Vedas as ritualistic and advocates karma rituals.
Prabhakara( 600 AD?) and Kumarila Bhatta ( 780 AD? ) were well known exponents of Mimamsa in medieval India.
is a yogic practice which consists of various techniques of breathing (Pranayama) used for personal well being and spiritual development.
AKA Samkhya. One of the schools of Indian Philosophy. Sage Kapila is said to be
the original proponent of Samkhya. It rejects the idea of producing anything
out of nothing. Both Purusha and Prakriti are real. Purusha is consciousness,
all-pervading, inert and eternal. Prakriti is the creator with purusha.
Sankhya system is silent about the existence of Supreme Brahman.
is the primordial sound of creation, The most sacred mantra for humans. Aum has a profound
effect on body, mind and surroundings of the chanter. Aum represents the brahman, the supreme God of the universe.
is a school of Indian philosophy which generally involve the worship of Shiva and Shakti.
Tantrism refers to rituals that focus on the arousal of the kundalini force.
In tantrism the human body is considered as a vehicle of the divine and an instrument for attaining moksha(Salvation).
The Tantras are presented as dialogues mostly between Shiva and his consort shakti.
Submission to a teacher is a absolute must in Tantrism.
The teacher initiates the pupil by communicating a mantra.
A mantra is believed to harbor units of cosmic energy, and this energy is harnessed
when a mantra is chanted correctly. The chanter may do a getsure of Mudra as he/she chants the mantra.
According to Vedas, Human speech is referred to as Vak and
is classified into Para, Pashyanthi, Madhyama and Vaikhari.
Para is described as the seed of sound ( in non-vibratory state ) which is inaudible to human ear. Pashyanthi is the stage where sound has a form but still inaudible
to human ear. Rishis and Yogis can perceive sound at this stage. Madhyama is the stage where the word arises as a thought and the speaker is aware of it.
Vaikhari is verbalized and articulated sound which comes out as speech.
involves Mani, Japa and Aushadha. Mani could be wearing a gem stone according to one's horoscope or wearing a Rudraksha mala. Japa involves meditation or chanting mantras and invoking God's grace. Aushadha involves taking herbs and minerals, Marma therapy, Aroma therapy and performing Yoga.
Darshanas: Indian philosophy has two points of view known as Asthika
and Nasthika. Asthika means one who accepts the authority of Vedas. Nasthika is one who doesn't accept the authority of vedas.
These views are known as darshanas.
|There are six( shat ) Asthika darshanas:|
Sankya, Yoga, Nyaya ( Tarka shastra), Vaisheshika, Poorva Mimamsa, Uttara Mimamsa ( Vedanta).
|There are three Nasthika darshanas: Carvaka ( Chaarvaaka), Jaina and Bauddha.|
|Bauddha darshanas are divided into what is know as Bhedas which are four :
Madhyamika, Vaibhasika, Sautaantrika and Yogachara.|
Classification of Upanishads: There are 108 Upanishads out of which 10
Upanishads are considered as major Upanishads.
|1. Ishavasyopanishad||6. Mandukyopanishad|
|2. Kenopanishad||7. Taittareyopanishad|
|3. Katopanishad||8. Brihadaranyakopanishad|
|4. Prashnopanishad||9. Chandyogyopanishad|
|5. Mundakopanishad||10. Aittareyopanishad|
Vedanga Jyothishya AKA Indian astrology is the oldest form of astrology.
In Hindu puranas there are references to Sage Naarada and Sage Garga having
taught astrology to their disciples.
During Vedic period there is a reference to brihat Parashara Hora Shastra.
Sage Parashara taught this to his disciple Maitreya and Maitreya propagated
it to his disciples. Sage Bhrigu propagated what is known as the Bhrigu Samhita
which describes predictive astrology.
Indian astrology has three branches called Siddhanta, Samhita, and Hora.
- Siddhanta ( Ganita) is the study of arithmetic, trigonometry, algebra(Beeja Ganita), geometry and astronomy and its application to
- Samhita deals with general astrology, which computes geo-political events such as drought, war, diesease, earthquake etc and Vaastu, The science of building dwellings.
- Hora ( phalita) AKA predictive astrology, is divided into sub categories:
- Individual horoscope ( Jaatak )
- Muhurta : selecting an auspicious time to start some important event such as
wedding, thread ceremony or naming ceremony etc.
- Sakuna : predict events based on omens as indicated by the action of birds.
- Nimitta : Foreboding sign such as a dog howling.
- Swar Shastra: phonetic astrology based on names and sounds
- Prashna: questions are answered based on time and place it was asked.
- Nadi shastra: Predict a individual's past, present, and future based on writings by
ancient Indian sages.
- Jaimini Sutras: timing of events based famous Indian astrologer Jaimini.
Indian puranas(mythology) refer to events with predictive astrology long before Indian and Babylonian civilizations interacted with each other. Mahabharata has references to Sakuna and Nimitta which means Indian astrology is much older than 3200 BC. Shuchi, King of Magadha compiled a treatise on Vedanga Jyotishya in 1250 BC. This is the earliest known treatise on Astrology.
AryaBhatta ( 475 AD ), Varahamihira ( 505 AD), BrahmaGupta ( 598 AD) and Bhaskaracharya( 1114 AD ) are
some of the well known medieval Indian Mathematician/Astrologers.