Thursday, October 27, 2016

[Happy Diwali 2016] Vedas - 3 or 4?

|| Hari OM ||

Wishing you a Very Happy Deepavali and 
A Prosperous New Year - 2016


The Vedas - 3 or 4?

There is a popular way of describing verses and associating with one particular veda-s. In order to distinguish verses of different veda-s, verses in each veda are called differently

rig vedic verse is called as rik (ṛk),

yajurvedi mantra as yajus, and

sAmavedic mantra as sAman

Note: atharvavedic mantra as not known by any different name like atharvan, etc.

Based on this classification, some say that atharva veda is late text and so cannot be compared to other three veda-s. In order to support their claim, they also cite verses from shAstra-s which say there are three veda-s like BG 9.20.

Some historians believe that rg veda is oldest and atharva veda is youngest amongst veda-s.

However, this understanding of classification is wrong. Kanchi Paramacharya says, ṛg veda manDala 10 contains the name of atharva veda and hence atharva veda is as old as ṛg veda.

There are only three styles to sing a vedic mantra - padya (poetry), gadya (prose), sāma (singing in an intonation which is pleasing to the Gods).

ṛk-s are padya पद्य (poetic) in nature,
yajus are gadya गद्य (prose) and
sāman-s are geya गेय i.e. that whose intonation is pleasing to the Gods.

There are many ways to categorize vedic mantra-s. This categorization is based on mantra. ṛg veda contains majority of sloka-s sung in ṛk way (Hence it is called as ṛg veda). yajurveda contains maximum number of yajus and sāma veda contains maximum number of sāmans. Atharva veda contains all three types of mantra-s - ṛk, yajus and sāma

So a rik verse i.e. verse sung in rg style can be present in yajur veda too. Likewise atharva veda contains yajus. So when one talks of yajus mantra-s (in general), they mean all the mantra-s sung in yajus style and not of yajur veda. It does not mean mantra-s of yajurveda. Traditional Brahmins are aware of this classification. Similarly, gAyatrI mantra is called as trI-padI and it covers three veda-s. Here, those well versed in tradition do not interpret the word 'veda' as proper noun i.e. it is associated with a particular veda. The word 'veda' means vidyA. trIpada (trIpadI) means sung in three different styles.

sAmaveda has most verses similar to rig veda but they are sung in a different way so as to please deva-s. It is believed that sAma veda has 95 mantra-s not found in rg veda. Singing originated from sAma veda. The sargama (7 basic sounds used in traditional Indian singing), sA, re, ga, ma, pa, dha, ni originated from sAma veda.

Ways of classification of vedic mantra-s are

1. karma-kāṇḍa

Vedic mantra-s are used in yajna-s. The one who is qualified to perform yajna is called as ṛtvika. There are four gaṇa-s of ṛtvika-s - hotṛgaṇa, adhvaryugaṇa, udgātṛgaṇa and brahmagaṇa. vedic mantra-s to be used by these four gaṇa-s are divided into four saṃhitā-s. saṃhitā useful for hotṛgaṇa is called as ṛgveda. Since this veda contains maximum number of ṛk-s (padya, poetry), it is called as ṛgveda. In order to conduct a yajna, saṃhitā useful to adhvaryugaṇa is called as yajurveda. In these veda, yajuḥ type of mantra-s i.e. gadya or prose are found to be maximum in nature hence this veda is called as yajurveda. In a yajna, those mantra-s which are useful to udgātṛgaṇa-s are called as sāmaveda as they have maximum number of sāma i.e. verses taht can be sung in intonation pleasant to Gods. In order to protect a yajna, someone has to kēp a watch on the entire process. Such a Brāhmin is called as brahmagaṇa. Mantra-s suitable to him are present in atharva deva. Since mistake can be done by either of three styles, atharva veda has mantra-s of all three types to correct or repent mistakes.

2. Based on application

In this category, mantra-s called categorized into matra and braahmaṇa. Those verses used in yajna-s are called as mantra-s. mantra-s used to perform yajna by the way of step-by-step procedure, stories, explanations and stuti-s, to explain procedure, further explanation, inner meaning, etc - all these is done by sloka-s is called as brāhmaṇa-s.

3. Based on type of mantra-s

We have already explained this type of classification. Here, the style of mantra is taken into account viz ṛk, yajus and sāma. Since ṛg veda contains maximum number of ṛk-s, it is calleda s ṛgveda. Similarly, yajurveda is so called as it contains maximum number of yajus and sāma veda contains maximum number of sāman-s. Atharvaveda contains all three types of mantra styles - ṛk, yajus and sāma. Hence when shāstra-s describe veda-s as vedatrayī i.e. three veda-s, all four veda-s are referred to.

4. Based on content or literature

Here the mantra-s are divided into four parts - saṃhitā, brāahmaṇa, āraṇyaka and upaniṣad. The mantra part of all four veda-s is called as saṃhitā. So there are five saṃhitā-s - ṛgdeva-saṃhitā, kṛṣṇa-yajurveda-saṃhitā, śukla-yajurveda-saṃhitā, sāmaveda-saṃhitā and atharvaveda-saṃhitā. In brāhmaṇa-s, step-by-step procedure of application of saṃhitā mantra-s, further explanation, phalaprāpti (fruits of yajna), etc are given. In āraṇyaka grantha-s, spiritual significance of various step-by-step procedures, mantra-s, phalashruti, etc are given. They indicate retirement and were told in araṇyaka, hence are called as āraṇyaka. The last part or the essence of veda-s is called as vedānta or upaniṣad. It teaches renunciation of karma and gives knowledge about highest truth - Brahman. Upaniṣads give brahma-vidyā.

General explanation given about categorization of Vedas
Following is the general explanation that is commonly given to explain categorization or division of veda-s. This explanation is repetitive, but is given for readers to get acquainted with standard replies to avoid confusion.

veda-s are divided into two main categories or groups. First one is mantra samhitā simply known as 'samhitā' and another group is brāhmaṇa as known as brāhmaṇagrantha. The word, according to Śrī Yaskāchārya jī, who developed nirukta, is that the word mantra has originated from the root 'man' (मन् ). The root word is called as 'dhātu' in sanskrit.

Pāṅchrātra saṁhitā, an āgamic text, defines mantra as 'that which protects when repeated' meaning by continuous repetition of any mantra, one gets protectd by it. The collection of mantra-s is called as samhitā.
Brāhmaṇa grantha-s give a direction on how to apply or use the mantra-s (given in saṁhitā). They give detailed explanation on the application of mantra. They are like a commentary on mantra, giving further insight into the dēper meaning of mantra. Brāhmaṇa grantha-s are divided into three parts - brāhmaṇa, āraṇyaka and vedānta or upaniṣada (Upanishad). Brāhmaṇa part deals karma kāṇḍa (vedic rituals, Yagna, Havana). Āraṇyaka deals with inner meaning of mantra-s and with the upāsanā kāṇḍa. The last i.e. vedānta covers the Jñāna kāṇḍa. Upanishads talk about the highest truth, the true import of the veda-s. vedānta means end of veda-s, after knowing which nothing more needs to be known. Here knowing refers to Direct Experience of one's True Nature.

To sum up:

Vedas are divided into four parts – samhitA, brAhmaNa, AraNyaka, upanishad (vedAnta)

samhitA-s are collection of mantras used for vedic rituals. They form major part of veda-s. Traditionally when one says 'veda' it means samhitA part.

brAhmaNa-s explain which and where a mantra or a collection of mantra-s are to be applied. They are further split into AraNyaka-s and vedAnta.

AraNyaka-s give inner meaning behind any ritual or practice. It is more connected with inner or mental practice.

vedAnta, i.e. veda-anta, as the name suggests is the end part of veda-s. anta means end. Here 'end' does not literally mean the 'end part' or the ‘last portion of veda’. It means the core or essence. Certain section found in samhitA and brAhmaNa-s are known as upanishads (vedAnta). For e.g. IshA upanishad is in the samhitA part, still it is called as an upanishad. samhitA-s are collection of mantra-s used for vedic rituals (yaGYA-s). 

आ नो भद्राः करतवो कष्यन्तु विश्वतो.अदब्धासो अपरीतास उद्भिदः |
ā no bhadrāḥ kratavo kṣyantu viśvato.adabdhāso aparītāsa udbhidaḥ |

MAY powers (thoughts / intelligence) auspicious [in nature] come to us from every side, never deceived, unhindered, and victorious - RV 1.89.1

OR Let Noble thoughts flow from all Directions - RV 1.89.1
|| Hari OM ||

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