There seems to be apparently differing views on what exactly is meant by Vedas. In this article, we shall attempt to authoritatively clear this confusion.
Now Vedic literature includes several texts:
a. Veda Mantra Samhitas – Rik, Yajuh, Sama, Atharva
b. Brahmans associated with each Mantra Samhita
d. Upanishads (actually part of above)
e. Upavedas (each Mantra Samhita has an associated Upaveda)
In reality, only the Mantra Samhitas are the divine Vedas. Other texts like Brahmans, Aranyaks, Upanishads, Upavedas, 6 Darshan, Geeta, etc are texts written by sages. But they are human creation and not divine. So these should be accepted only to extent that they comply with Vedas (Mantra Samhitas) and understood in context of these.
Doubt: Even Brahmans are divine Vedas. Katyayana Rishi has stated so. Then why don’t you also accept Brahmans as part of Vedas?
1. Brahmans are also known as Itihas, Puran, Kalp, Gatha and Narashansi. They are explanations of Vedic mantras by Rishis. They are not divine creations but developed by great saints.
2. Apart from Katyayan Pratijna Parishishth of Shukla Yajurveda (which is not authored by Katyayana as per many scholars) no other text states that Brahmans are part of Vedas.
3. The claim that ‘Mantra and Brahman are together called Vedas’ is also found in Shraut Sutras of Krishna Yajurveda. But Krishna Yajurveda itself is mixture of Brahman and Mantras, are hence here this claim is relevant only for the specific text. In same manner as Dhatu means root of word in Panini Grammar, but metal in Material Science and body elements in Ayurveda. No such reference of Brahmans being Vedas is found in branches of Rigveda, Shukla Yajurveda and Samaveda.
4. Vedas contain no history, they being permanent knowledge of Ishwar. But Brahman texts contain history and description of historical persons.
5. All major texts of Vedic literature clearly proclaim that the Mantra Samhitas of Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvaveda are divine Vedas.
Rig 10.90.3, Yaju 31.7, Atharva 19.6.13, Atharva 10.7.20, Yaju 35.5, Atharva 1.10.23, Rig 4.58.3, Yaju 17.91 (as explained by Nirukta 13.6), Atharva 15.6.9, Atharva 15.6.8, Atharva 11.7.24
Brihadaranyak Upanishad 2.4.10, Chhandogya Upanishad, 7.1.2, Brihadaranyak 1.2.5, Mundak 1.1.5, Nrisinghapurvataapani, Chhandogya 7.7.1, Taittriya 1.1, Taittriya 2.3
Shatpath Brahman 11.5.8, Gopath Purva 2.16, Gopath 1.1.29
Drona Parva 51.22, Shanti Parva 235.1, Vana Parva 187.14, Vana Parva 215.22, Sabha Parva 11.31,
Manu Smriti 1.23,
Padma 5.2.50, Harivansh, Visgnu Puran 1.22.82, Vishnu 5.1.36, Brahm Vaivart Prakriti 14.64
Mahabhashya Pashpashanhik, Kathak Samhita 40.7, Sayan in explanation of Atharva 19.9.12, Vrihadaranyavaartikasaar by Saayana (2.4), Sarvanukramanibhumika, Ramayan 3.28
etc. Even Shankaracharya states that “Chaturvidha Mantrajaatam” to conclude that 4 Mantra Samhitas alone are Vedas (explanation of Brihad 2.4.10 by Shankaracharya)
6. Even Brahmana texts do not claim that they are also Vedas.
7. Shatpath Brahman states that Vedas have 8.64 lakh alphabets. Had Brahmans been included, this would have been significantly higher.
8. Only Mantras have been preserved through Paatha Vidhis of Jata, Mala, Shukha, Rekha, Dhwaj, Danda, Ratha and Ghana. No such effort has been made to preserve the Brahman texts.
9. Swar Bhed and Maatras are used for Mantras only. Not for Brahmans.
10. Each Mantra has a specific Rishi, Devata, Chhanda and Swar, That is not so for Brahman texts.
11. Yajuh Pratishakhya states that one should say Om before Mantras and Atha before Brahman verses. Something similar is stated in Aitareya Brahman also.
12. Brahmans themselves detail the descriptions of people who wrote them. They elaborate on Mantras and even state at places while explaining meanings of mantrs that “Naatra Tirohitamivasti” – we have not elaborated those parts which are straightforward and have explained the complex parts.
Doubt: How can you say Purans are Brahmans. Purans refer to 18 Purans by Ved Vyasa
1. No, this is a misconception. These new Purans are of much recent origin. Puran refers to old.
2. Taittriya Aranyak 2.9 and Ashwalayan Grihyasutra 3.3.1 clearly state that Brahmans alone are called Kalpa, Gatha, Puran, Itihas or Narashansi.
3. Even Acharya Shankar states so while commenting on Brihadaranyak Upanishad 2.4.10
4. Same is view of Sayana in explanation of Taittriya Aranyak 8.21
5. Shatpath Brahman is much older than most other scriptures. It states in 126.96.36.199 that one should listen to Purans on ninth day of Ashwamedha Yajna. Had Purans referred to these new Purans like Brahmavaivart, what would Ram, Krishna etc had listened on ninth day? Brahmans were written generations before Veda Vyasa was born. And these new Purans are falsely attributed to Veda Vyasa. If one reads Brahmavaivart Puran etc in detail, he would clearly understand that it cannot be written by a yogi who wrote the commentary on Yoga Darshan.
Doubt: Even Vedas have history. See there is name of Jamadagni and Kashyap Rishis in Yajurveda 3.62. Many Vedic mantras talk of historical persons.
1. Do not be confused. Jamadagni and Kashyap do not refer to historical people. As per Shatpath, Jamadagni refers to Eyes and Kashyap refers to Prana or life force.
2. Similarly all names in Vedas refer to some specific attributes. Later people used them to keep their names. Just as Lal and Krishna in Mahabharat do not refer to Advani and Maya in Shankaracharya’s texts do not refer to Mayavati, same is case with Vedas.
Doubt: What about branches of Vedas. There are 1131 branches of Vedas. Most are lost today. How can we then claim that we have original Vedas
1. Branches of Vedas are not Vedas. They are explanations of Vedas. The Branches make changes in original mantras to simplify the meanings as per prevailing norms. Similarly many branches modify the sequence of mantras for specific yajnas or other purposes. Some branches mix Mantras and Brahmans also.
2. Four original Mantra Samhitas are Apaurusheya. Branches and Brahmans created by humans are correct only to extent they comply with Vedas. These are human creations.
3. Traditionally, original Mantra Samhitas have been preserved and only these have been commented upon by scholars.
Doubt: What about Upanishad, Upavedas, Geeta etc? Are they not divine?
Refer above. These are great works by great legends. But they are not parallel to Vedas which are divine. Had they been divine, Ishwar must have ensured that they are also preserved just like the 4 Vedas. So these should be interpreted in light of Vedas and those portions that contradict the Vedas should be rejected. After all, no one is superior to Ishwar.
This holds true for all texts in the world. All scriptures of our culture proclaim in one pitch that Vedas alone are ultimate truth. This should be the ultimate benchmark for us.
Doubt: But Vedas contain only rituals and worship of gods. Don’t we need other texts for philosophy and other practical applications as well?
1. This is a misconception propagated by those who have never even read the Vedas.
2. All great works of our culture are attributed to Vedas by their authors. They believe Vedas to be source of all true knowledge.
3. Vedas are source of all philosophical texts like Upanishads or Geeta etc. While other texts are useful to understand the Vedas and truth, there is nothing in them which is not already in Vedas. As we discussed earlier, Vedas are ultimate benchmarks, other texts are stairs to reach up to that. But we should be careful that no stair leads us away from the Vedas.
4. Vedas believe in One and Only One Ishwar who pervades everywhere. Vedas hardly have any rituals because they refer to knowledge which is timeless. Its a pity that misguided people have misrepresented Vedas to serve their own petty designs.
It is our utmost duty to rise above all prejudice, explore the Vedas and promote the true perspective of Vedas.
May the truth prevail!
This post is also available in Hindi at http://agniveer.com/what-are-vedas-hi/
This post is also available in Gujarati at http://agniveer.com/what-are-vedas-gu/
Complete works by Sanjeev Newar and Vashi Sharma! Agniveer’s complete book collection.
Life-changing works of Agniveer on Hinduism, Yoga, motivation, spirituality, Moksha and burning issues concerning society, nation and Dharma.More info →