Chapter 1 : Vedas and Sastras
1. What is the basic authority (pramana) for Hindu religion and philosophy?
The Vedas are the basic, fundamental authority.
2. What is the meaning of the word Veda?
Veda, in Sanskrit means that which gives knowledge.
3. Is there any other name for Veda?
Veda is also called Sruti.
4. What is the meaning of the word Sruti?
Sruti means that which is heard (through you ears). The Vedas were originally taught by Lord Narayana to Brahma orally. From thereon the Vedas came down from the Guru to the
students orally only.The Guru teaches the Vedas to the students. Thus the student hears the Veda from the teacher.
5. Are Vedas known by any other names, apart from Sruti?
They are also called Nigama and Amnaya.
6. What is the meaning of the words – Nigama and Amnaya?
Nigama means a settled text or work, which is handed down from the Guru to the student from time immemorial. Amnaya means what is learnt by the student, by frequent repetition
of the text; and also by frequently thinking over the same.
7. Who composed the Vedas?
The Vedas have not been composed by anybody, not even by God Himself. The Vedas are eternally existent. Even God did not create or make the Vedas. Narayana has only taught the
Vedas to Brahma and then down the line. Hence Vedas are called Apaurusheya – not authored or made by anyone, including God.
8. How many Vedas are there?
There are four Vedas. They are called: Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda.
9. How do you explain that the Vedas have not been authored by anybody; including God?
They are actually the breath of God. That is, after each deluge (pralaya), when the world is created, God Narayana remembers the Vedas and teaches then to Brahma and then it comes
down the line. That is why, we say they are not made by anybody including God, but are selfexistent.
10. Who divided the Vedas into four, as stated above?
Vyasa edited the Vedas and divided them.
11. On what basis did Vyasa divide the Vedas into four?
The Vedas were divided into four, to suit the Vedic rituals or karmas. There are four persons (Ritviks) who are prominent in the performance of rituals.
12. What are the names of these four persons (Ritviks)? How are they connected with the four Vedas?
1.The person, whose function is to recite praises of God and prayer to Him, sitting in one place, is called Hota. The Hota’s function and Mantras are given in Rig Veda.
2.The person, who is engaged in the actual performance of the ritual, from the beginning to the end, is called Adhvaryu. The necessary mantras and the functions of the Adhvaryu are given in Yajur Veda.
3.The person who sings Samans (musical notes), sitting in another place, is called Udgata. The Udgata’s functions and the Sama Ganas are given in Sama Veda.
4.The general supervisor of the rituals is called Brahman. The Bhrama’s functions and the Mantras are given in Atharva Veda. The vedas are also broadly divided as Mantras and Brahmanas.
13. What do the Mantras talk about?
The Mantras are in praise of God and prayers to God. The Yajur Mantras give detailed formulas for the rituals. The sama Mantras are only Rik Mantras, set to music.
14. Are these mantras in prose form or poetry form?
The Rik Mantras are in poetry form. Yajur Mantras are in prose form. Sama Mantras are Riks, set to musical tones. The Atharva Veda contains both verses (poetry) and prose. This much
idea is enough for the present regarding Mantras.
15. Please explain the other part, namely Brahmana.
The Brahmanas are in prose form. Their main aim is to prescribe the rituals in details and also praise the glory of the Devas
16. How are the Brahmanas divided?
Brahmanas are again divided into two parts: Vidhi and Arthavada.
17. What do these talk about?
Vidhi portions give command to do a thing, to perform rituals. Arthavada generally praises the rituals, the glory of Devas and also points out their weaknesses. They also contain stories
to illustrate the points.
18. What is the relative importance of these different portions?
Portions connected with rituals are called Karmakanda. Generally, they teach how rituals like various yagas are to be done. They are also called Purvakanda. Portions dealing with philosophy and knowledge of Brahman are called Jnanakandra or Brahma kanda. So, Mantras and Brahmanas come under Karmakanda. Upanishads are called Jnanakanda. But, knowledge of Brahman and Philosophy are also discussed in Mantras and Brahmanas.
To be continued…
source of this content: A Dialog on Hinduism By Sri V.N. Gopala Desikan