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Precious or durable materials - gold, silver, bronze, marble onyx, granite - have been used by most ancient people in an attempt to immortalize their achievements. Not so, however with the ancient Aryans. They turned to what may seem the most volatile and insubstantial material of all - the spoken word - and out of this bubble of air, fashioned a monument which more than thirty, perhaps forty centuries later stands untouched by time or other elements. For the Pyramids have been eroded by the desert winds, the marble broken by earthquakes and gold stolen by robbers, while the Veda remains, recited daily by an unbroken chain of generations, travelling like a great wave through the living substance of mind."
(Jean Le Mee, Hymns From The Rig-Veda).

What are the Vedas? The word Veda is derived from the Sanskrit root 'Vid' which means 'to know'. Therefore Veda literally means 'knowledge'. As the core of this knowledge is concerned with the Ultimate Eternal Reality - God, the Vedas came to mean the 'Supreme Knowledge' or the 'Knowledge of God.' Because God is infinite and eternal, the 'knowledge of God' is also infinite and eternal. Therefore the Vedas, i.e. 'knowledge of God', are inexhaustible and exist eternally. Portions of this knowledge were 'seen' and 'heard' by hundreds of Hindu sages and seers in their supranormal consciousness. They were direct revelations from God. Thus they are called apaurusheya i.e. not of human origin. For centuries, these experiences were passed down from generation to generation through an elaborate oral tradition to prevent any distortion. They were later recorded to form the Vedic literature. Vedic literature is the secondary meaning of the word Vedas.

Tradition holds that the great sage Vyas compiled these lofty intuitive experiences at the beginning of the present age; the dark age, Kali Yuga (about 3000 BCE) He classified them into four great works: the Rig-Veda, the Yajur-Veda, the Sama-Veda and the Atharva-Veda. Each of these great works has three main divisions: the Samhitas, the Brahmanas and the Aranyakas. Most of the famous Upanishads are found in the Aranyakas. The Samhitas are mostly written in the form of poetry or hymns whereas the Brahmanas are in prose. The Rig-Veda contains 10,552 hymns, the Sama-Veda 1,875 the Yajur-Veda 1,975 and the Atharva -Veda 5,987 making a toal of 20,389. We may loosely say that the Samhitas and the Brahmanas deal mainly with rituals, the Aranyakas with meditation and the Upanishads with supreme knowledge.

Many portions of the Vedas describe various types of sacrifices (yagnas). The purpose of this sacrificial worship is to purify the mind to receive the knowledge of God, which we find primarily in the Upanishads. Besides this, various other hymns are recited on different occasions to sanctify persons, things, and the departed souls of the dead. Certain portions of Yajur-Veda and Atharva-Veda deal about man's life, protection from enemies, kings and politics.

If we wish to describe the Vedas in a nut-shell, we may say that they are infallible and the highest authority. Almost all other Hindu religio-philosophical texts trace their origin.

If inspite of successive invasions by alien hordes the soul of India has not been enslaved, and if even in the darkest days of her history the spark of Indian Culture was not blown out, it was because India did not completely cut herself away from her moorings in spirituality.

(T.M.P, Mahadevan, The Cultural Heritage of India, Vol. I. p 163)/)

to the Vedas. The truths enshrined in them are eternal, uncreated, extrasensory and even beyond the comprehension of the human mind. According to the Vedic sages at the highest mystical and spiritual level, when the self is purified through discipline these truths are 'seen' or 'heard' directly, followed by an immediate experience of God. Although the Vedic sages felt that these experiences could never be expressed

adequately through words they have done so for there was no better medium of conveying them.

Many religious beliefs can be found in the Vedas. Because the Vedic people frolicked in the lap of nature, many a times they have personified, deified and worshipped the different forces of nature like water, fire, wind, etc. Later on, they accepted God as the Supreme Being, the creator of nature and the source of goodness and truth. Consequently they laid emphasis on the necessity of worshipping God. This led to the development of media like ritualism and sacrifices (yagnas). Sometimes ritualism is subordinated and a direct union with God is urged.

The goal of human life is to seek union with Him. There are many ways to achieve this, but self-sacrifice and discipline are pre-requisites of such a union. One should totally dedicate one's life to God. Note that this does not mean that one should negate the responsibilities of a family life. A spiritual life lived rightly also encompasses within its fold the social responsibilities of a householder.

The perception of order in the natural world led the Vedic people to the concept of 'Rita'. 'Rita' is the Eternal Law that maintains order in the universe.

There should also be order in our lives. Our lives are governed by the Law of Karma according to which 'As you sow, so shall you reap' everyone is responsible for his actions and consequences. God is the dispenser of the fruits of karma (action). Moral norms and self-discipline are considered to be the foundations of an individual's life and a healthy society thereof.
There are many who accept that Brahman is the Ultimate Reality, and that the individual self (atman) and Brahman are one. But Bhagwan Swaminarayan has a different stand on the basis of the Vedas. He preached Parabrahman to be a reality higher than even Brahman. He says: "Parabrahman is distinct and separate from Brahman. He is the supporter, inspirer and cause of Brahman.

If great poetry is the combination of what have been called the 'emphasis of sound" and the "emphasis of sense," if it unites imagery and melody into a complete whole, then there is no truer or greater poetry than we find in the finest of Vedic verses.
(A.C. Bose, Vedas , Indian Inheritance, Vol. I p.17).
There are many who accept that Brahman is the Ultimate Reality, and that the individual self (atman) and Brahman are one. But Bhagwan Swaminarayan has a different stand on the basis of the Vedas. He preached Parabrahman to be a reality higher than even Brahman. He says: "Parabrahman is distinct and separate from Brahman. He is the supporter, inspirer and cause of Brahman.

With this knowledge of Brahman, the spiritual aspirant should identify himself with Brahman, and worship Parabrahman as his Lord, upholding the ideal of servitor-mentor relationship. Realization of such knowledge brings ultimate salvation."

It is very difficult to grasp the full import of the Vedas but it breathes out the message of peace and harmony:

Let your aim be one and single,
Let your hearts be joined in one,
The mind at rest in unison
At peace with all, so may you be.
(Rig Veda, X.191.4)

We do not find in the Vedas any evidence of the tragedy of the divided soul, and the anguish and misery that accompany it (as we find among the Greeks). Nor do we come across signs of repression or self-torture, accompanied by morbid sin-consciousness, sometimes found... among the followers of Hebraic religions. No negative attitude induced by disillusionment..., no world weariness is in evidence in the Vedas. Vedic sages are positive in their acceptance of life and death...of the ultimate values-of truth, goodness, beauty and of Eternal Law (Rita) and the Ultimate Reality.
(A.C. bose, Vedas, Indian Inheritance, Vol I.p.16)

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