Vedas and their purpose

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura

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– What is the purpose of the Vedas?

– Vedic literature teaches one to engage in pure bhakti – pure devotional service. According to the nature and qualification of its so-called followers, Vedic literature has recommended various processes such as karma and jnana. Due to the faults of these followers, various opinions have cropped up. Actually, the Vedas are the only evidence and the instructing spiritual master of mankind. On account of misinterpretation, various opinions other than pure devotional service have been preached. (Bhagavatarka-marici mala 1-6)

– Is the purpose of the Vedas to attain Brahman?

– The Upanisads, the Brahma-sutra, and the Bhagavad-gita are pure devotional literature. According to necessity, discussions about karma, jnana, mukti, and Brahman are found at particular places, but in the conclusion, nothing other than pure devotional service has been instructed. (Bhagavad-gita introduction)

– What is transcendental literature?

– If a blind person guides another person, both of them fall into a ditch; similarly the mundane authors and their blind followers are misguided and regrettable. The Vedas and literature in pursuance of the Vedas are to be understood as transcendental literature. (Caitanya-siksamrta 1/2)

– What should we accept as Vedas?

– It is not that if one gets a book of Vedas from anywhere, it should be accepted everywhere. Whatever the Acharyas of the authorized sampradayas have accepted as Vedas, we should accept, and whatever they have rejected as false, we should reject. (Jaiva Dharma Chapter 13)

– What have the Acharyas accepted as Vedic literature?

– The Acharyas have accepted the following as Vedic literature: 11 Upanisads (Isa, Kena, Katha, Prasna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Taittiriya, Aitareya, Chandogya, Brhad-aranyaka, and Svetasvatara), which are full of spiritual knowledge; a few tapanis (such as Gopala-tapani and Nrsimha-tapani), which help one to worship the Lord; and the 4 Vedas (Rg, Sama, Yajur, and Atharva), which are divided into brahmanas and mangalas. Since these Sastras have been received through disciplic succession, they are authentic Vedic literature. (Jaiva Dharma Chapter 13)

– When was the Veda written?

– During the rule of the Prajapatis, no Sastras were written; there were only a few pleasing words. In the very beginning, pranava was manifested. Written script had not yet been introduced. There was only one syllable with anusvara added to it to produce om.

When the Manus rule began, other syllables like tat sat were introduced.

During the rule of the devatas, ancient mantras were composed by joining small words together. The performance of sacrifices began at this time. Gradually ancient poetic meters like Gayatri appeared.

Caksusa Manu was the 8th generation after Svayambhuva Manu. It is said that Lord Matsya appeared during his reign and delivered the Veda. Perhaps during this time many poetic meters and verses of the Veda were composed, but they were only in sound vibration, not written. They were passed on by hearing.

After the Veda had remained in this unwritten state for a long time and the number of verses gradually increased, it became difficult to grasp. Then the sages, headed by Katyayana and Asvalayana, composed the sutras of the Veda after careful consideration to make memorizing them easier. Still, many other mantras were composed after this.

When the one Veda became greatly expanded, then Vyasadeva, after duly considering the subjects, divided the Veda into four and wrote them in book form. This took place a few years before King Yudhisthira’s reign.

Vyasadeva’s disciples then divided those works amongst themselves. Those rsis, who were disciples of Vyasadeva, divided the 4 Vedas into different branches so that people could easily study them. (Sri Krsna-samhita introduction)

– What is amnaya?

– Amnaya is Vedic literature consisting of spiritual knowledge received through disciplic succession coming from Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe.

– Which are the principal sastras?

– The eleven Upanisads: Isa, Kena, Katha, Prasna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Taittiriya, Aitareya, Chandogya, Brhad-aranyaka, and Svetasvatara, which are the crest jewel of the Vedas, as well as the Brahma-sutra [Vedanta-sutra], which consists of 4 chapters and 16 divisions, are the principal sastras among all sastras. (Caitanya-caritamrta Adi 7/108)

– Are the Atharva-veda and Brhad-Aranyaka Upanisad modern? What is Jaimini’s conclusion?

– The Rg, Sama, and Yajur Vedas are the most widely respected. The Mundaka Upanisad states: tasmad rcah sama yajumsi, "The mantras of the Rg, Sama, and Yajur Vedas emanated from the Supreme Lord." It seems that all the ancient verses were compiled in these 3 Vedas. However, we cannot neglect the Atharva Veda or consider it modern. In the Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad (4.5.11) the following verse is found:

asya mahato bhutasya nisvasitam etad yad rg-vedo yajur-vedah sama-vedo ‘tharvangirasa itihasah puranam vidya upanisadah slokah sutranyanuvyakhyananyasyai vaitani sarvani nisvasitani

"The Rg, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva Vedas, the Itihasas or histories, the Puranas, the Upanisads, the slokas or mantras chanted by the brahmanas, the sutras or Vedic statements, vidya or transcendental knowledge, and the explanations of the sutras and mantras are all emanations from the breathing of the great Personality of Godhead."

The Brhad-aranyaka cannot be considered modern, because it was composed before the writings of Vyasadeva. The above-mentioned verse describes that the Itihasas and Puranas, which are both Vedic literature, contain ancient topics similar to those found in the Vedas.

Jaimini Rsi presented arguments to establish that the Vedas are for the eternal benefit of the neophytes. Swanlike personalities should accept the purport of swanlike Jaimini’s teachings. The purport of his teachings is as follows: All truths discovered are related to the Supreme Lord and are therefore eternal.

Those who describe the Vedic truths as temporary by citing the examples of kikata (low-class residents of the province of Gaya, Bihar, mentioned in the Rg Veda 3.53.14), naicasaka (low-class persons, mentioned in the same verse), and pramangada (low-class sons of money lenders, also mentioned in the same verse) are not aspiring to understand the truth. This is Jaimini’s conclusion. (Sri Krsna-samhita introduction)

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Natural Brotherhood (Bhaktivinoda Thakura):

BhaktiVinoda Thakura

"Gradually, when the offensive portions of the established religions are destroyed, there will be no more differences in the bhajana performed by the various Sampradayas nor any quarrel between them.

Then as brothers, the people of all castes and countries will spontaneously chant the Holy Names of the Supreme Lord together.

At that time, no one will hate anyone or consider others dogeaters; nor will anyone be overwhelmed by the pride of high birth.

The living entities will not forget the principle of natural brotherhood."

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2 Responses to “Vedas and their purpose”
  1. deepak das says:

    Hare Krishna
    Sir i want to know do the vedic scriptures
    among many rituals have any rituals which allow animal sacrifice?If
    yes how does animal sacrifice help us to know the Ultimate Truth
    Ishwar and Self?Also does the Vedas indicate anywhere that Lord
    Krishna is the Ultimate truth.I mean Vedas mention many deities and
    God names.How do we know that Lord Krishna is the main.
    Hare Krishna

  2. Dasa says:

    Dear Deepak Das Ji, your questions have been replied in the books by Sri Bhaktivinod Thakur. Please read his Sri Caitanya Siksamrita. You can find this book online.

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