29. Message of the Vedas
Sri Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol 22 (1989)
Message of the Vedas
EMBODIMENTS of Divine Love! The Vedas are the recordings of sages to whom the mantras were revealed. They proclaim the transcendental Truth which is not changed by time or place. They indicate the means to prosperity and security for the denizens of the three worlds. Veda is derived from the root "Vid", which means "to know". The Veda teaches how to achieve purity of heart, getting rid of impurities. The Vedas have been declared to be infinite and hence beyond the comprehension of common people. In the beginning there was only one Veda. To study it considerable time and effort were needed. Vyasa divided it into different parts to enable people to study as well as practise the teachings of the Veda. Out of the countless number of hymns, Vyasa gathered some Rks and compiled them in the Rg Veda, collected some yajus to form the Yajur Veda and some Samans to make up the Sama Veda.
The Rg Veda is mainly devoted to hymns in praise of various deities. The Yajur Veda consists of mantras for worshipping the deities. The mantras of the Yajur Veda are used in the performance of yagas and yajnas and in doing acts of charity. Each Veda has three sections' Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanishads.
The purpose of Vedic mantras
The Vedic mantras were utilised in yagas and yajnas (ritual sacrifices) for promoting the wellbeing of society and the world. They were intended to secure timely rains so that the crops may be good and there may be prosperity all round. The mantras which form part of the Karma Kanda (the path of rituals), were regarded as conducive to the promotion of general well-being and happiness.
The Yajur Veda is devoted entirely to the worship of the deities. It consists of two divisions - Krishna Yajur Veda and Sukla Yajur Veda - which are based on two traditional distinctions. Sukla Yajur Veda belongs to the Brahma sampradaya (Brahmic tradition) and. the Krishna Yajur Veda to the Aditya sampradaya. Adherents of the Sukla Yajur Veda are largely confined to North India, while Krishna Yajur Veda has its adherents mainly in South India. The Vedas developed under nine heads: (1) Sruti; (2) Anuswara; (3) Trayee; (4) Amnayam; (5) Samamnayam; (6)Chandas; (7)Swadhyayam; (8)Gama; and (9)Agama. Sruti refers to the process of learning, the Vedas from a preceptor by practising the precise manner of chanting the mantras and thereby acquiring proficiency in the recitation of the Vedas. The sounds have to be reproduced exactly as taught by the preceptor by listening to him with intense earnestness. The Vedic mantras are thus learnt entirely by listening. Anuswara refers to the practice of repeating the mantras learnt from the preceptor, contemplating on them and preserving them in their purity by constant recitation. Trayee: Originally only three Vedas-Rg, Yajur and Sama Vedas - were considered Apourusheya, without a human origin (that is, emanating from the Divine). The Atharvana Veda comprises hymns taken from the Yajur Veda. Because of their Divine origin, the first three Vedas were called "Trayee" (the Triad). Amnaya refers to constant contemplation of the root syllable "Na." Acquiring knowledge of the Vedas by this practice has been described as Amnaya and Samamnaya . One meaning of Chandas is that it is knowledge which should be guarded in secret and propagated with care. The Vedas are also described as Chandas. The entire Sama Veda consists of Chandas.
Swadhyayam refers to the process by which the Vedas have come down from generation to generation, through father to son, in genealogical succession. Acquisition of Vedic knowledge was not through books. It was transmitted from preceptor to disciple over the years. It is because this knowledge was handed down directly from preceptor to pupil, it has been described as Swadhyaya.
Gama and Agama are the names given to the inhaling and exhaling of the Lord's breath which were the origin of the Vedas. All in all, the Vedas represent the emanations from the breath of the Lord.
The great sages who listened to these mantras as revelations from the Divine found the key to them in eight basic letters. All the Vedic mantras with their musical rendering were remembered by reflecting on the eight letters: "A, Ka, Cha, Ta, Tha, Pa, Ya, Sa." The great seers fostered the Vedas by the use of these letters.
Neglect of Vedas is cause for spiritual decline
Each of the Vedas had several sakhas (branches) and upasakhas (sub-branches). Out of the 20 branches and 21 sub-branches of the Rg Veda, only three have survived today. Likewise out of 96 branches of Yajur Veda only two have survived the ravages of time. Sama Veda, which had 1000 branches, retains today only three branches. If so much of spiritual treasure is contained in the few branches of the Vedas that have survived, how much greater would have been the spiritual heritage of the Bharatiyas if the Vedas had survived in their entirety! It is because of the neglect of the Vedas that the spiritual and scientific knowledge of Bharatiyas experienced a steady decline. As a consequence they developed a narrow outlook. Broadness of vision suffered an eclipse. Today the numbers of those who have no love or respect for the Vedas are on the increase. Even among the Brahmins interest and concern for the Vedas have declined. Who are Brahmins? Brahman means the embodiment of mantra. Only those who constantly recited the mantras embodying the Brahman were called Brahmins. Today Brahmins have forgotten these mantras. Owing to the impact of modern education, the greed for money and the growth of narrow-minded interests, they have forgotten their inherent divinity. As a consequence, peace and security have become casualties. What is meant by Veda? One meaning is eruka (awareness). Another is thelivi (intelligence). A third meaning is viveka (discrimination). All those who wish to develop discrimination should be deeply interested in the Vedas. Today intelligence is being developed and used only for acquiring positions and possessions, for securing comforts and conveniences and not for developing good qualities and becoming good men engaged in Godly pursuits. All their intellectual abilities are being misused for trivial purposes.
The universal outlook of the Vedas
The Vedas have emphasised that man will be truly human only when he lives upto human values and practises the good life. Many who chant the Vedas these days have difficulty in understanding their purport. When they fully understand the meaning and chant the mantras, they will derive greater joy. Only then they will experience the full sacredness and potency of the Vedas.
The Vedas have a universal outlook, embracing all that is noble and sacred. They have taught the principle of samatwa (equality) in respect of everything. They have proclaimed the concept of oneness. They taught men to face joy and sorrow with equal serenity. Those who utter the mantras today do not grasp their inner meaning. Even if the full meaning of a single mantra is understood, it will be sufficient. Every day, the santhi mantra is recited: “Om Sahanavavathu; sahanau bhunaktu; sahaviryam karavavahai." What does this signify? "Let us move together in unison. Let us live in harmony in communion with each other." What a wide vision is present in this mantra! Even such broad-minded mantras have been interpreted in a narrow sense in later years. Hence you do not find today even a thousandth of the sense of equality and amity which prevailed in those times. It is because men's attitudes and feelings have declined below the human level that so many divisive forces have cropped up.
Significance of Yajnas
Thirty-three deities are mentioned in the Rg Veda. Of them, the Sun-God is the most: important deity. His power is felt all over the world. In this Yajna, the Sun is called Ritwik. His other names are: Hota and Brahma. It is the Sun God who carries to the deities concerned the offerings made in the yajna. Agni, the God of fire, is an image of the Sun. Agni has a form of his own. Agni has parents. This morning, before the yajna began, two priests churned two aranis (sticks) to produce fire for the yajna. The Fire-God is said to have consumed his parents immediately after his birth. The lower Arani is the mother and the stick on the top is father. The fire produced by churning them burns away the sticks. The flames arising from the fire are the tongues of the Fire- God. The rays coming from the fire are so many heads of the deity. The Agni-Principle is immanent in every person. The inner significance of this is that every person is inherently divine. When the mantras are chanted and offerings are made in the fire to the Lord, the grace of the Lord is showered on the people in the form of peace and plenty. There is a saying: "As is the fire, so is the smoke." As is the smoke, so are the clouds. As are the clouds, so is the rain. As is the rain, so are the crops. As are the crops, so is the food. As is the food, so is the intellect. As the clouds these days are not formed by the smoke coming from yajnas, the food consumed by the people is not conducive to the growth of intelligence. When the smoke going up from the yajnakunda enters the clouds, you have sacred rain, which helps to purify the crops and sanctify the food that is consumed. As a result, the people are sanctified.
The Bliss derived from sacrifice
But today if people are filled with bad thoughts and evil intentions it is because these sacred yajnas and yagas are not performed. Many persons ask in a carping spirit "Of what use is the expending of so much ghee and other materials as offerings in the fire of the yajnas and yagas?" The purpose will be clear only to those in the know of the inner truth. A farmer tills his field and scatters over it a bag of paddy seeds. To the ignorant observer this may appear a waste of precious grain. But the farmer knows that in due course he will reap a harvest of hundred bags of paddy. Likewise the offering of ghee and other precious things in the yajna with mantras will result in countless benefits in good time. People may notice only what is being offered. But they have no idea of the benefits that will follow. It should be realised that only today's Thyaga (sacrifice) can lead to tomorrow's bhoga (enjoyment). When the sacrifice is made with a full heart, the returns will also be equally abundant.
Unfortunately, man today does not even dream of making any sacrifice. When a presence of sacrifice is made, it is only a concession to fashion. Very few have any idea of what real sacrifice is. As a consequence, the wealthy, in spite of their riches, have neither peace nor security. The affluent do not care even to give a little food to the destitute at their gate. But these misers drop bagful of money in the hundi in a temple. These foolish persons fail to see the divinity in fellowhuman beings and make offerings to an inanimate object.
Do not bargain with the Lord
Does God, who is the source of all wealth, need your petty offerings? You must use your wealth for righteous purposes. Help the indigent and the needy. There is selfish motive even in making offerings to the deity. Something small is offered expectation of a big return from the deity. A man prays to the Lord: "Oh Lord! If I win ten lakhs of rupees in a lottery I shall offer ten thousand rupees to you." What kind of bargain is this? It is a pity that such silly ideas are rampant today.
The reason is the people have forgotten the secret of the Vedas. They offer a molehill and crave for a mountain. This is a complete caricature of devotion. It is such pseudo-devotees who are on the increase today. They are all the time seeking to enter into petty deals with the Divine. Every prayer, every sadhana is replete with selfishness and self-interest. Everyone seeks benefits, but is not prepared to make any sacrifice. What is the sacrifice that is to be made to God? First of all, your bad qualities. Acquire good qualities. Shed your narrow outlook. Cultivate a broad vision. Today the foremost need is to develop the spirit of sacrifice. You are not expected to give away all your wealth and possessions. What is required is a sense of compassion at the sight of a suffering being. When the heart melts, that itself becomes sacrifice. What we witness today is not the melting of hearts but their hardening. You will not carry your wealth with you when you leave the world. Even while life remains, render help to .those who need as much as you can. The quintessence of the Vedas is the glorification of sacrifice as the supreme virtue. Of what avail is all your study or listening if there is no change in the way you live and you have not understood your true nature? The highest knowledge is understanding the value of sacrifice. It is a source of limitless joy. It leads to immortality.
The greatest means to realise the Divine
The lesson to be learnt from the performance of yajnas is that sacrifice is the greatest means to realise the Divine. The essential meaning of the Veda is that to secure enduring bliss, the spirit of sacrifice has to be cultivated, the significance of yaga has to be understood and we must lead a Godly life.
The Vedas have been mainly concerned with the Pravritti Marga (the Path of Action). All the different branches of knowledge - physics, chemistry, botany, economics, music, etc. - are covered by the Vedas. These are concerned with the external world. Hence the Vedas have been considered dualistic. Only the Upanishads have taught the Nirvritti Marga (the Path of Knowledge) by going within oneself. This means that, of the four Purusharthas, the four main goals of man. Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha - the Vedas have been concerned with only the first three.
The Upanishads declared that the nature of the Supreme can be grasped only by the Path of Knowledge. Knowledge is of two kinds: Para Vidya and Apara Vidya (the Higher Knowledge and the Lower Knowledge). All that is learnt by the educational process today falls in the category of Apara Vidya (Lower Knowledge). Knowledge relating to Dharma, Artha and Kama also comes in this category. Only knowledge relating to Moksha (Liberation) constitutes Para Vidya (the Supreme Knowledge). We have to acquire that Para Vidya. That knowledge is found in Vedanta. The Upanishads come at the end of the Vedas. The essence of all the Vedas is to be found in them.
While Veda is dualistic, Vedanta is Advaita (non-dualistic). Non-dualism is the means to experience Ananda (Bliss). The ego ("I") principle is predominant in the Vedas. Vedanta has declared that the elimination of the ego ("I" and "Mine") alone can lead to Realisation. The "I" has to be rooted out. As long as you adhere to the "I", you are bound to the phenomenal world. You cannot attain the Higher Knowledge. You have, therefore, to understand the distinction between the Vedas and the Upanishads. It is only when you understand the essence of the Vedas as expounded in the Upanishads and put into practice the message of the Vedanta, you will realise the true meaning of Advaita (Nondualism).