The Veda is the foundation of Sanatana Dharma, also known as Hinduism. The Vedas are four in number: the Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, and Atharva Veda. They were not composed by anyone; instead, they exist as vibrations in the ethereal space. They were heard and cognized by the rishis; hence, they are also known as "sruti" or that which is heard. The rishis never claimed authorship for them. They stated that these vibrations have always existed in the ethereal space and will always exist, and anyone with the mental power to cognize them can hear them. They described these vibrations as the breath of the Creator—eternal, without a beginning (anadi) or an end (ananta).
While we are all five-sensory beings, the rishis were ten-sensory superhumans and can be referred to as spiritual scientists. Their knowledge of the universe was phenomenal. No other civilization, except perhaps the present one, has reached the heights of knowledge that they had achieved—knowledge that we have also achieved with the use of technology, whereas they solely relied on the power of their minds.
Vyasa is the sage who compiled the Vedas into four sections: Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, and Atharva Veda, and thus he is known as Veda Vyasa. Each Veda, in turn, is divided into four sections: Samhitas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas, and Upanishads. The Samhitas consist of the actual mantras or vibrations that were heard by the rishis. The other three sections were authored by the rishis.
The Brahmanas serve as a guide to explain how the mantras should be used in the rituals known as yajnas, which are fire ceremonies. The Aranyakas contain mantras and rituals for both householders and those who are starting a life of sannyasa or renunciation. Both Brahmanas and Aranyakas contain a vast amount of scientific knowledge, which has only recently been discovered by the West. These portions delve into profound truths of chemistry, physics, geometry, mathematics, astronomy, astrology, botany, geology, anatomy, and medicine.
The Upanishads, which constitute the fourth portion of the Vedas, contain the ultimate message and purpose of the Vedas: to attain liberation, or "moksha," for the jivatma or embodied soul. They teach humans to transcend their humanity and realize their inherent divinity. The Upanishads are presented in the form of a dialogue between Guru and Shishya (Teacher and disciple). The guru imparts teachings to the disciple, who is then encouraged to practice what he has learned and discover the Reality for himself.
Yajnas, also known as homas, yagas, and havans, are fire ceremonies. During this ritual, a fire is lit in a specially made square structure called a "kund" made of bricks. Ghee and other offerings are poured into the fire while chanting mantras from the "mantric" portion of the Vedas. Through these practices, the rishis discovered that they were able to influence and control the elements. For example, they could invoke rain, promote crop growth, and create a peaceful atmosphere, among other effects.
What is the Brahman?
The Brahman is the ultimate, non-dual Reality of the cosmos described in the Veda. It serves as the unchanging foundation and support for the entire cosmos, encompassing both movable and immovable entities. The Brahman possesses no form, qualities, or functions. It is formless yet encompasses all forms. It transcends the three limitations of Time, Space, and Causality. Being changeless, it does not decay. It is non-relational, making it imperceptible to anyone. It embodies the concept of "Advaita" - non-duality, without a second.
The human mind perceives objects as existing within a certain time frame, occupying space, and having causal relationships with other entities. This is what is meant by our bondage to desa (space), kaala (time), and nimitta (causality).
Therefore, words fall short in describing the Brahman, as it exists beyond the realm of the mind's comprehension. However, to aid our understanding, the rishis have suggested that the closest we can come to describing the Brahman is by referring to it as "sat-chid-ananda" – existence-consciousness-bliss. It represents pure existence, as everything else depends on the Brahman for its existence. It embodies pure consciousness, allowing us to perceive the world solely through the power of the Brahman. It is also ananda, or bliss, implying that every source of joy in the world stems from the Brahman.
What is Aum?
Sound is the source of creation. The word Aum is the sound of the Infinite – the sound of Brahman. It has a lot of power. If chanted for a long time, the whole body becomes energized. It purifies both the external and internal environment. All mantras have the power to make us more peaceful and give us inner strength.
The Supreme Reality of Brahman projects itself in the forms of this variegated universe. Being formless, it can enter into any form. Thus, all the forms we see in the world - human, animal, plant, planets, etc., are forms of Brahman.
The atman is the Self in each of us, which is nothing but Brahman. It is our true reality and does not die with the body. It merges into the Brahman, of which it is a prototype.
The world is a world of duality. This means that everything we experience has an opposite. For example – light and shade, dark and fair, night and day, sorrow and joy, ugly and beautiful, life and death, and so on. We have to accept these opposites. We cannot have only one of these dualities. They keep taking turns in our experience. All of us prefer to have no sorrow, but we all have to experience sorrow at some time or other. However, we will also have our fair share of joy. All of us prefer to see only beauty, but we are also made to see ugly things. All of us like to live forever, but we all have to die one day.
We cannot remain in just one of the dualities without experiencing the other. This is the reason why we can never be happy all the time. But the good thing is that we can never be unhappy all the time either. These dualities will keep changing endlessly. This is what Hinduism means when we say that the world is a world of duality. As long as we live in this world of duality, we will have to be sad some of the time and happy some of the time. The question the rishis asked is how to overcome this constant fluctuation.
The state of Brahman is the only one that is non-dual or Advaita. Therefore, the rishis told us to realize the Self or atman within ourselves, as it is a state of bliss which is non-dual. If you can reside in that state, you will always experience bliss. In order to experience this state, Hinduism provides a number of methods known as yoga. The word yoga has many meanings and will be discussed in our next blog.
It is very important for all human beings to understand these truths of the universe as well as ourselves since we are part of the universe. Only then can we hope to have peace in the world. Our future weekly articles will pertain to these truths found in the Vedas, which are the foundation of a happy and purposeful life in tune with the cosmos. So, I urge all of you to start understanding and practicing these truths for yourselves. If you find that they help you, please pass on the message to your friends so that we can have a world filled with happy and peaceful human beings.
Hari Aum Tat Sat!