The Vedas as the Source of Valid Knowledge
Brahma, the Source of the Vedas for the human beings
The Vedas are very exhaustive scriptures. They are also the most authoritative scriptures of Hinduism. They are authoritative texts because whenever there is a doubt or dispute as to a particular opinion, hypothesis or belief, scholars refer to them to ascertain truth. This tradition has been followed in Hinduism for centuries and for all good reasons. It is not possible to validate all knowledge through direct experienced, especially transcendental truths that are beyond the mind and the senses. Transcendental truths can be validated only by transcendental knowledge and the Vedas possess such knowledge. Some knowledge is validated by direct experience (pratyaksha). Some knowledge is validated indirectly by the experience of others or by inference (paroksha), and some knowledge is validated by the scriptures which are considered an authority and in Hinduism the Vedas perfectly qualify for that purpose.
Each Veda contains several sections and thousands of hymns. Some of the Vedic hymns, especially the hymns of the Rig Veda, are considered at least 6000 to 8000 years old. Most Vedas have been composed before 1500 B.C.E. Since the Vedas were inviolable, they were never edited or changed since the ancient times. Through the history of Hinduism, the purity of the Vedas remained intact and we have strong evidence to suggest this. The Vedas were preserved for the posterity by not one particular group or institution but by several lineages of Brahmana families, and they all preserved the same text. We can therefore confidently say that we have the same Vedas today that were once used to perform sacrificial rituals on the banks of the extinct River Saraswathi thousands of years of before.
The Vedas are believed to be revealed scriptures, because they are considered eternal and divine. According to Hindu beliefs, no one created the Vedas. They exist eternally in the highest realm of Brahman, as part of His universal consciousness. They are revealed to the humans to enable them to perform their obligatory duties. The Vedas provide you with a glimpse of the inner workings of the universe. They let you know why and how your world exists when it comes to an end and how you should conduct yourself in this world to avoid harm to yourself. It is a knowledge couched in great symbolism and unless you are well versed in the knowledge of the scriptures you may not find them useful at all. It is a like a treasure hidden in the earth. Unless you dig deep, you will not find it. Since they were not written by any human beings but were only heard in deep meditative states, they are commonly referred to as "srutis" or "those that were heard"."
The principal Vedas were originally only three in number, namely, the Rig Veda, the Yajur Veda and the Sama Veda. Atharva Veda, the fourth one was added later on. Together the first three were called "trayi vidya," which constituted the threefold knowledge. The name 'Rig Veda' was derived from the root word 'Rik' which means 'to worship.' The name Yajur Veda came from the root word 'Yaj' which also means the same. But in course of time the Rig Vedic hymns became popular as hymns for chanting and recitation, while the hymns of the Yajur Veda became associated more with the sacrificial ritualistic aspects of yajna worship.
The name 'Sama Veda' came from the root word 'Saman' meaning music. Most of the 1549 hymns of the Sama Veda are derived from the Rig Veda. But in the Sama Veda they acquire a musical connotation as the priests sing them according to specific meters. During the yajna or sacrificial worship the priest would chant hymns from all the three Vedas systematically. The Hotri priest would chant hymns from the Rig Veda. The Adhavaryu priest , would busy himself with the chanting of the hymns from the Yajur Veda and the performance of various sacrificial acts according to detail specifications, while the Udgatri priest would sit and sing the hymns from Sama Veda to the accompaniment of some musical instrument such as the lute or vina.
The Atharva Veda was recognized as the fourth Veda during the later Vedic period. It contains hymns which deal mostly with the practical and philosophic aspects of human existence The hymns deal with such themes as social conduct, success in trade and agriculture, relationships, human welfare and such practical matters.
Each Veda is divided into four parts. The first part is called the Samhita, which is the mantra proper. The second part is called the Aranyaka. The third part is called the Brahmana, which deals with the sacrificial and ritualistic aspects of the Vedas in prose form. The fourth part is called the Upanishad, which deals with the esoteric mystic aspects of the Supreme Self and the inner self.
The Vedas throw considerable light on the scope and nature of Vedic religion and the life of the early Aryans. We have presented through the following links a few sample hymns from the Rig Veda and representative links to different Vedas to help you know with the basic concepts of the four Vedas. We have also added the complete translation of the four Vedas from our sacred Scripture's archives.
Suggestions for Further Reading
- Yajna - Vedic Sacrifices in Hinduism
- A Treatise of the Vedanta
- Symbolic Significance Of The Vedic Gods and Goddesses
- Symbolic Significance of Vahanas or Vehicles in Hinduism
- Who Is Brahman And What Is Self-realization?
- Mantra, Tantra and Yantra in Hinduism
- The Role of Archakas, Temple Priests, in Hinduism
- Hinduism - Gods and Goddess in the Vedas
- Yajna - Vedic Sacrifices in Hinduism
- Perspectives on What Karma Means
- What is Vedanta?
- The Symbolism of Time or Kala and Death in Hinduism
- About the Vedas and Vedic Literature
- Developments in the Early Vedic Tradition
- Essays on the Vedas
- Mantras in Hinduism
- The Mantra Tradition of Hinduism
- Hymns from the Rig Veda
- Ritual and Spiritual Aspects of the Vedic Tradition
- Significance of the Vedas in Life and Liberation
- The Vedas as the Source of Valid Knowledge
- Hinduwebsite.com - Internal Links to Vedas and Vedic Resources
- Yajna - The Vedic Sacrifice