Veda in Indian Tradition

Discussion in 'India' started by garry420, Nov 25, 2015.

  1. garry420

    garry420 Well-Known Member

    In the Indian tradition coming down to us through the ages, all the Veda Samhitās and particularly the Rigveda Samhita are considered as repositories of the eternal spiritual knowledge. The Veda is worshipped as a person - Veda Purusha. It antedates all the other books of knowledge like the purāņās, Upanishads and so on. Moreover, the important scriptures such as the Bhāgavata Purāņa or the Mahābhārata or the classical scriptures in the language Tamil like Tiruvāymozhi claim that they are giving in an easy way the essentials of the knowledge in Vedās, which is difficult to understand.

    The Upanishads, the books of spiritual knowledge to the moderns, quote many verses from the Rigveda. The oft-quoted verse from the Shvetashvatāra Upanishad describing all human beings as the children of immortality amŗtasya putrāh is in RV (10.13.1). The older Upanishads, like Chāndogya and Bŗhadāraņyaka, appeal to the Rigveda to support their own positions by declaring “so said a Rik”.

    Rigveda Samhita itself declares in many verses that it contains a secret knowledge; see RV (4.3.16) and RV (5.62.1). Some of the relevant phrases are: the words of secrecy ninya vāchāmsi, apīchyam, guhyam, hidden in the Cave and so on [2;16, Vol. 4].

    In Rig vedic times, this secret knowledge was handed down from the teacher to the chosen disciples. Most persons of these times did not have access to this secret knowledge. The ordinary person of these times heard these mantrās recited at the communal rites yajňās and derived the benefit from them depending on his faith in them.

    Rigveda itself says in RV (1.64.39) and (7.61.5) that this secret will remain sealed for most people. The secret is not of the kind which can be told in a few words. It reveals itself only to those who have intense aspiration for understanding it and have undergone appropriate spiritual practices. RV declares; it will not be revealed to one whose being is not purified by the fire of yoga as declared in RV (9.83.1), also (1.24.12).

    Still there are many verses which display their meaning in clear terms, some of which appear in the boxes in these pages.

    There is a misconception about the Rigveda Samhita that it is a book of rituals, and is devoid of wisdom. None can point out the details of a single rite or ritual in the Rigveda. Rigveda does contain words connected with rituals like purohit etc. But if one reads the Rigveda carefully one sees that the rites mentioned in the Rigveda are symbolic and the performer of these rites is the God Agni and not any human priest or a human patron. The Brāhmaņa books which give the details of the rites explicitly declare [Shatapatha Brāhmaņa, 10.5.4-16] that one should understand the symbolic character of the rituals. Yāska, the earliest commentator on the Rigveda, who lived much earlier than 2000 BCE declares that Rigveda can be understood at three different levels, of which the deepest is the spiritual symbolic interpretation. The book Bŗhaddevata, later than the Brāhmaņa books, declares existence of the mystic school of interpretation of Rigveda in [6.61-62]. Relation of the Upanishads to Rigveda has already been mentioned. Mahābhārata mentions the symbolism of Rigveda in Ashwamedha Parva (11.7-20) and other places. The vedāntic commentator Sri Madhwachārya (1600 CE) and his disciple, the famous Sri Rāghavendra Swami, emphasize its spiritual character. This tradition has been continued in modern times by Sri Aurobindo, Sri Kapāli Sāstry and others by their detailed commentaries and explanations. Thus the spiritual-symbolic interpretation has the support of not only the ancient books but also that of the moderns.

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