Vyasa and Vedic Religion



Sage Vyasa is known as Veda Vyasa, as he classified and compiled together, the vast body of Vedas or mantras then existing. He classified the Vedas in four, namely Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharvana and taught them respectively to four great Rishis Sumantu, Vaisampayane, Jaimini and Paila. Mantras are present around us as sound waves, and they are without beginning or end. As a radio set picks up a broadcast sound, so also these great Rishis, by their yogic power, were able to comprehend and master these sound waves vibrating around them. One meaning of the word Rishi is that person who has seen the mantras. (Rishayo mantra-drashtaarah) Yogic power endowed them with spiritual eyes with which they saw and registered in their minds the forms of these mantras, even as Arjuna was able to see before him the Viswaroopa of the Lord The Vedas have thus come down to us in their original form by the process of oral transmission from Guru to be Sishya. The Vedas have to be learnt by competent persons in an attitude of devotion, and with due observances of austerities and preserved for posterity.


Sage Vyasa also composed the 18 Puranas, which contain the purport of the Vedas and asked Soota, a sage revered for his knowledge and devotion, to teach them to the world. The next great service that Sri Vyasa did was to write a compendium of the truth of the Vedas in aphoristic from known as Brahma Sutras. The Brahma Sutras were interpreted by the great Acharyas, who came later, in their commentaries or Bhashyas. The commentaries most widely read are those of Sri Adi Sankara, Sri Ramanuja, and Sri Madhwa. Whatever doctrinal differences may have arisen in later times, we should not forget that the authority or the source of these commentaries is the Brahma Sutras of Sri Veda Vyasa. India has evoked the esteem and admiration of other countries for this remarkable achievement in the realm of spiritual culture and metaphysical thinking. It is our duty to adore the great Sage Vyasa, who has made available to us the Vedas and remember with gratitude the great Rishis who preserved them and passed them on to posterity in their original purity by this process of oral transmission.


In addition to the Vedas, we have the body of Dharma Sutras which tell us what we should do and should not do, to qualify ourselves for the study of the Vedas and which tell us how to practise our religion. They are also known as the Smritis and are associated with the names of the great Rishis like Parasara, Yaajnavalkya, Manu and others. Compendiums of these Smritis known as Dharma-sastra-nibandhanam have been written by later authors. In the North the most popular Nibandhanam is the one written by Kasinath Upadhyaya, while in the South, it is that written by Vaidyanatha Dikshitar. The Vaidyanatha Dikshiteeyam is common to both Vaishnavites and Saivites. Thus the Vedas and the Dharma Sastras are the foundation of our religion.


One important difference between other religions and ours is that while other religions speak of a direct relation between man and God, our religion speaks of a meditated relation established through transcendental deities, each presiding over a particular aspect of worldly and spiritual life. Sri Krishna says in the Gita that when Prajapati created men. He did so associating them with the obligation to perform yajnas or sacrifices. The yajnas are our expression of gratitude for benefits derived. The gods accepted our offerings through the sacrificial fire and blessed us in return with all the good things of the world. As an after dinner toast honours even an absent person in whose name it is proposed, the offerings made in the fire in a spirit of sacrifice saying na mama (not mine), bring gratification to the gods to whom they are intended. The Vedic rituals in a yajna are the process by which whatever is offered with a sense of renunciation is transmitted to the Supreme Being through the proper channel, just as taxes are paid by us to the Central Government, not directly, but through the persons or agencies authorised to collect them. According to our religion, direct relation between man and God can be established only when on is nearest to God. Such persons are Brahmajnanis and Sanyasis and they do not have to do any ritual prescribed in Smritis. All others have to perform the rituals or karmas prescribed for them.


We must perform the Deva-karmas and the Pitru-karmas enjoined upon us and, understanding the rationale behind such observances of karmas, preserve the Vedas and the Dharma Sastras, and also remember with reverence and gratitude Sri Veda Vyasa, the Moola Purusha of our religion.



October 14, 1957