C L Kaloo
The word “Veda” comes from the word “Vid” means to know or knowledge. Vedas are divided mainly into portions; the Karma- Kanda and the Jnana-kanda – that is the work portion and the knowledge portion. Those books which treat of spiritual matters apart from ceremonials are called Upanishads. The Upanishads belong to Jnana-kanda or knowledge portion. It is not that all the Upanishads were compared as a separate portion of the Vedas. Sometimes, the term Upanishad is applied to books which are not included in the Vedas- e.g.; the Bhagavat-Gita, but as a rule, it is applied to philosophical treatises scattered through the Vedas. The treatises have been collected and are called Vedanta. The dates of Upanishads cannot be fixed with certainty- but it is certain that Upanishads are older than the Buddhist movement. The Vedas speak about the transcendental Nature of The Supreme Personality of God head- called sac-cid-ananda vigraha, that is, His form is eternal, full of knowledge and bliss. Our present body is not sac-cid-ananda. It is asat, not sat, it is not eternal, it is perishable; it is not cid, full of knowledge, but it is full of ignorance. It is confirmed in Vedic literature as quoted in Katha Upanishad (2.2.13)
“Nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam.” As we are all individual living beings and have our individuality, the Supreme absolute truth is also, in the ultimate issue, a person, and realization of God is realization of all the transcendental features in His complete form. In this context, it may be clarified that Bhagavat Gita contains the complete knowledge of Vedic glory/wisdom. Thus, all Vedic knowledge is infallible, and Hindus accept Vedic knowledge to be complete and infallible, and Holy Gita is the essence of all Vedic knowledge.
Vedic knowledge was imparted into the heart of Brahma, the first created living being and Brahma in turn disseminated this knowledge to his sons and disciples, as originally received from the Lord. The Vedas draws a parallel between “word” and the weapon- Vajra (an atomic missile). Words (speech) when utilized properly, awards good fruits. It is difficult to even imagine the bad results that bad words produce. The same atomic power when misused will cause complete annihilation of creation. However, there are three ways of using words- say chanting of mantras:-
1. Chanting out loud 2. Chanting softly and, 3. Chanting internally without even moving the lips. The third method is regarded the best by our learned teachers. God has given the gift of speech instructing that it should be used properly for a good purpose and with restraint. The greatest penance is the use of speech- is silence. It indicates discipline which is very difficult for a person to achieve. Moreover, stillness (of mind) can be achieved by speaking good words regularly, practicing silence and exercising control in communication. Good speech is the foundation of friendship or relationship as hearts unite when words are pleasing. Thus, the Vedas teach us that speech should always be good and pure as it brings prosperity. It is said that Emperor Napoleon when confronted by the army of his enemy requested two minutes time and with the words spoken during these two minutes turned the entire opposition army in his favour. Such is the power of speech.
The great Vedic mantra that describes the power of speech is quoted hereunder:
“Sakrumiva tita una punanto yatra dhira Manasa vacamakrata”
This mantra appears in the “Brihaspatti Sooktam” (Rig-Veda Samhita)
Means; when the wise soft their words and polish them with proper judgement, their friends get a better grip on their friendship. Only those who deliberately choose their words with discretion are truly noble. God, manifesting as beneficience remains concealed in the speech of such noble persons. Thus, this indicates the immense power inherent in speech. Words disclose the wisdom which dawns in the intellect. Sage Vyasa taught his son Shukla regarding developing good conduct viz uprightness, non violence and truthfulness etc, and further stated that these are the manifestations of” Dharma.” He advised his son that he should wake-up and not to relax when there is so much to be done as with the passage of each day, we are nearer to our death by one day. It is not that we don’t know this simple truth. Thus, Sage Vyasa said to Shukla,” My son! Don’t be foolish like a spider which weaves a web and itself get trapped in it.” Therefore, the Vedas teach us that devotion alone elevates a human being to the Supreme state and cures him of the disease of worldliness. However, there are other great Vedic mantras which seek blessings of God through prayers for longevity, health and happiness and even for Heavenly benefits after the physical body is abandoned. These mantras also shield us from the temptations to do the evil.
As regards Upanishads, these are the concluding and crowning part of the Vedas; and deal among other matters, with the Nature of God or the reality of the individual soul, and of the world. In this context, the Acharyas- “Trio”- Shankara, Ramanaju and Madhava who are the exponents of the three schools of thought, namely Advaita (non-dualism); Vishishta Advaita (qualified non dualism) and Dvaita (dualism) respectively have based their systems more on the teachings of the Upanishads than on any other scriptures. It is believed that the Vedas had 1180 large portions and each had an Upanishad of its own. But, only about 250 upnishads are available. From among these, 108 upanishads only have seen the light of the day. Out of them, 10 belongs to Rig-Veda (Rig-Veda is one of the oldest religious text in the world and also contains GAYATRI MANTRA-in 3rd Manadala). 19 to Shukla Yajarveda; 32 to Krishna Yajarveda; 16 to Samaveda and 31 to Atharva Veda. Among these, 10 upanishads are considered major Upanishads because Adi-Shankaracharya has commented on them. There are also a few Upanishads (say six (6) in number, including Dattopanishad) concerning Bhagwan Dattatriya, who is considered the first teacher (Guru) of the world. The Svetasivatara Upanishad (5.9) confirms that “there are innumerable particles of spiritual atoms, which are measured as one thousandth of the upper part of the hair.” Therefore, the individual particle of spirit soul is a spiritual atom smaller than the material atoms, and such atoms are innumerable. The consciousness is not due to any amount of material combination, but to the spirit soul. In the Mundaka Upanishad (3.1.9), the measurement of the atomic spirit is further explained in this shloka:-
“esonur atma cetasa veditavyo,
yasmin pranah pancadha samvivesa,
pranais cittam sarvam otam prajanam,
yasmin visuddhe vibhavaty esa atma”
Means: The soul is atomic in size and can be perceived by perfect intelligence. This atomic soul is floating in five kinds of air- (Prana, Apana, Vyana, Samana and Udana), is situated within the heart and spreads its influence all over the body of the embodied living entities. When the soul is purified from the contamination of the five kinds of material air, as described above, its spiritual influences exhibited.
In conclusion, the Vedas and Upanishads teach us that those who possess unwavering faith and devotion towards God and are fully committed to the path of righteousness (Dharma) will, ultimately achieve awareness of one’s true nature. In this context, reference to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra is quoted hereunder (Yoga Aphorims-3):
“Tada drushtova savrupay awasthanam!”
Means: Then man abides in his real nature. It is clarified here- when the lake of the mind becomes clear and still, man knows himself as he really is, always was and always will be. It means that He knows that he is the Atman. His “personality,” his mistaken belief in himself as a separate, unique individual disappears. Then such a man is known as a free, illumined soul.
C L Kaloo