Q1. Veda, what does it mean?
Veda or Ved (in Hindi) means knowledge.
Technically there are two types of knowledge. One is mundane knowledge and another is transcendental knowledge.
"There are two kinds of knowledge: mundane knowledge and transcendental knowledge. Mundane knowledge means how to maintain this body, āhāra-nidrā-bhaya-maithunam, to meet the demands of this body. What are the demands of this body? We require to eat something. Eating, sleeping. We require rest after working hard. After eating sumptuously, we require sleeping. Eating, sleeping, and during sleeping we sometimes dream, fearing, or without dream, fearing. So we take protection. While sleeping, we close our doors. So eating, sleeping, fearing, and mating—sense gratification. So to arrange for these necessities of life of the body, the knowledge that we require, that is called mundane knowledge."- Srila Prabhupada's Lecture on Bhagavad Gita 4.1-6 -- Los Angeles, January 3, 1969
Our education system mainly teaches us how to use our skills to enjoy the basic bodily needs mentioned above. We study hard so that we get a job. We want a job which pays us the highest. We want money to have a comfortable life, which generally means a beautiful home, a luxurious car, delicious cuisine, holidays and tours, getting married etc. Everything boils down to afford tasty food, have comfortable sleep, enjoying with the opposite gender. Thus the modern education system is teaching us mundane things. Even a dog or a pig knows where to go for the best food, best sleep, best mating partner, of course as per their standards.
While a mundane education system might be required for survival, we must know the bodily needs are common between animal and human. Hence a human being stuck up with achieving only those comfort is nothing better than an animal. We need a higher education system to make us humans, thus have a truly human civilization. This higher education system is for transforming us from the mode of ignorance or passion to mode of goodness. This is called transcendental knowledge.
Thus basic knowledge teaches we must eat, better knowledge tells us what to eat and what to avoid in order to have a healthy body, transcendental knowledge says what, when and how to eat to have a healthy body and mind.
Transcendental knowledge doesn't focus on exaggerating mundane necessities but instead use it as a tool to achieve higher goals of life with a focus more on topics of higher importance.
The most important part of knowledge is transcendental knowledge. 'What I am? Wherefore I have come? What is my constitutional position? Am I this body or I am beyond this body?' These are transcendental knowledge.- Srila Prabhupada's Lecture on BG 4.1-6 -- Los Angeles, January 3, 1969
Q2. Veda, what's it all about?
Veda primarily deals with transcendental knowledge. But it also speaks about some amount of mundane kinds of stuff too.
Thus the wide spectrum of Vedic Knowledge varies from how to have a healthy body and mind, to how to have a happy married life, to how to treat diseases, to how to run a government, to growth of a baby in womb, to astronomy, to astrology, to the most highest knowledge: How to return back to Godhead.
ScienceVedic scriptures formulate units of time based on the movements of atoms rating from 1/10,000 parts of a second up to the total duration of the universe. (Srimad Bhagavatam Purana 3.11.1-12)
Vedic scriptures give an exact description of the planets in our solar system, some of which have only recently been discovered by modern science. Not to speak of planets in the universe that are still unknown to scientists. (Srimad Bhagavatam, Surya Siddhanta, and most Puranas)
Vedic scriptures list and categorize all existing species of life in the universe according to their conscious development, including 400,000 human species (Padma Purana)
Ayurveda and Garuda Purana contain a highly sophisticated science of medicine and diagnosis.
A skilled Ayurvedic doctor can determine your disease and its cure by taking the pulse three places on the wrist. There are Ayurvedic clinics in most of the world today and they are highly appreciated and successful.
Vedic music is of the most intricate and complicated in the world, where certain rhythms and scales are connected with certain moods and times of day (raga). It was known in Vedic culture that certain sound vibrations affect the mind in different ways.
The political structure of Vedic society allowed the population to live peaceful, prosperous lives under saintly kings and rulers, who possessed keen insight into human psychology. The Varnasrama-dharma social system guaranteed that everyone was engaged according to their psycho-physical make-up, at the same time ensuring they could gradually advance in spiritual realization culminating in ultimate liberation from the material world.
All continents were known and regular trade and exchanges took place. (Mahabharata, Bhagavat and other Puranas)
The construction of temples and other buildings were conducted according to scriptural injunctions (Shilpa sastra).
To this day it is possible to observe some of the wonders of Vedic architecture (Kanchi Puram and Jagannath Puri to just mention a few).
There are still impressive buildings constructed from solid blocks of stone that have not even been surpassed by the most advanced modern technology. The walls were imbued with precious stones (they were all later plundered by invading Moslems and British). Those buildings had air condition based on a system of water canals, perfect acoustics etc. The carvings in stone speak for themselves.
In the Puranas, we find descriptions of interiors which by far surpasses any modern equivalent, with furniture decorated with precious stones and indoor swimming pools. These descriptions have collaborated in the writings of Moguls and other invaders (1100 - 1500 AD), as well as the Diary of an India Traveller by Tavernier, who was also the one who brought the Hope and Koh-i-Noor diamond to Europe.
It is from the Vedas (Shulba sastra) that we have the decimal system, the number 0, equations with unknown factors represented by letters, and the modern system of numbers. The first examples of arithmetic, cubic roots, geometry, and trigonometry, are to be found in the Vedas, and it was Aryabhatta in 1497 who calculated Pi to be 3.1416.
During the Vedic times, it was only Kshatriyas (members of the warrior caste) that were engaged in war and violence. Civilians were never involved in or victims of acts of war, which were always conducted on remote battlefields according to specific rules and regulations. To name a few examples, one who turned his back, one who was afraid or panicking, one who was confused, or someone who ran away, was not to be harmed or killed.
The fighting ceased as soon as the sunset. Warriors who possessed heavenly weapons (weapons released by mantra) would only use them against warriors who also possessed them.
Vedic soldiers knew about a psychic technology which is unknown today, and which enabled them to release elements like fire, water, or air and direct them against an enemy. They could also by mantra release what is known as the Brahmastra, the ultimate destructive weapon, which is a controlled, localized atomic weapon (Re. Mahabharata and Bhagavata Purana).
The Dhanur Veda was the Veda that described the art of war. After the battle on Kurukshetra, the brahmins placed a curse on it to ensure that it could not be used anymore in Kali-yuga.
Drama, theater, poetry, sculpture, dance, and other arts are being described in minute detail in the Vedic literature. The carvings decorating temples, Bharat-natyam and other forms of dance, as well as the more than 3 million stanzas that constitute the Vedic literature in and of itself prove that the Vedic tradition was extremely sophisticated regarding the arts and sciences. It is said that only 7 percent of the Vedic literature has survived.
Plenty of temples, scripture, and libraries were systematically being destroyed by Moslem invaders. Besides, many other subject matters are being delineated in the Vedas - spiritual, metaphysical, philosophical as well as worldly subjects dealing with economics, psychology and sense-enjoyment.
Q3. Who wrote or composed Veda / What is the origin of Veda?
By all the Vedas am I to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedānta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.[Krishna – Bhagavad Gita 15.15]
So we see Krishna is the original compiler of Vedic Knowledge. Veda was originally spoken by Krishna to Brahma, who is the first living entity of this creation. Brahma shared this Knowledge to Narada. From Narada, Srila Veda Vyasa was enlightened. So this knowledge is Sanatana (eternal). In the earlier ages, this knowledge was passed from one person to other by Guru-Shishya-Parampara (literally, a chain of teachers and students, one coming after the other).
The humans of previous ages – Satya, Treta & Dwapar were much more intelligent than us. They had the capability of remembering what they have heard for their entire life. Hence the Knowledge was passed down from one-ear-to-another. Thus it was called the – Sruti [which in Sanskrit means "that which is heard"]. There were not many necessities for writing.
Srila Veda Vyasa, literary incarnation of Krishna, knew the pitiable condition of upcoming age - The Kaliyug, where people would have less memory and lifespan.
Sukadeva Gosvami said: Then, O King, religion, truthfulness, cleanliness, tolerance, mercy, duration of life, physical strength and memory will all diminish day by day because of the powerful influence of the Age of Kali.[Srimad Bhagavatam: 12.2.1]
Hence for the benefit of the souls who would appear in the age of Kaliyuga, He compiled the Vedic Knowledge into books or scripture, logically dividing it into four parts: the Rigveda, the Yajurveda, the Samaveda and the Atharvaveda; writing Historical Texts like Mahabharata, Puranas etc.
Q4. How old is Veda?
Many historians tend to label Vedas to be written on a such and such century. However, if we refer to the scriptures, we find Vedas are eternal.
In Srimad Bhagavad Gita, we find a hint of the age of this knowledge when Krishna says
"I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu, in turn, instructed it to Iksvaku."[Srimad Bhagavad Gita 4.1]
His Divine Grace A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains
"At the present moment we have just passed through ﬁve thousand years of the Kali-yuga, which lasts 432,000 years. Before this, there was Dvāpara-yuga (800,000 years), and before that, there was Tretā-yuga (1,200,000 years). Thus, some 2,005,000 years ago, Manu spoke the Bhagavad-gītā to his disciple and son Mahārāja Ikṣvāku, the king of this planet earth. The age of the current Manu is calculated to last some 305,300,000 years, of which 120,400,000 have passed. Accepting that before the birth of Manu the Gītā was spoken by the Lord to His disciple the sun-god Vivasvān, a rough estimate is that the Gītā was spoken at least 120,400,000 years ago; and in human society, it has been extant for two million years."[Srimad Bhagavad Gita 4.1 Purport]
Q5. What all scriptural texts Veda comprises of?
Quite opposite to the general belief that Vedic Knowledge means only - 4 Vedas, the reality is it is a vast ocean of knowledge comprising of huge volumes of scriptural text as depicted diagrammatically above.
Q6. How is Veda a Manual of Life?
In our day-to-day life, we have experience of buying so many appliances, gadgets etc. One thing is in common with all these appliances - a document called The User Manual or User Guide. Though at times, we tend to ignore it, User Manual has its own importance. User Manual (prepared by the manufacturers) provides important information on ‘how to use a product’ to end-users. With proper use of a device, there is much less risk of bringing the device out-of-order unintentionally and even reduces the risk of running into accidents. If these small, insignificant man-made devices come with a manual or a guide, how come the magnificent devices (like our body, the micro-world – the molecular & atomic – subatomic structure, the macro-world – like the superbly harmonious planetary system, both in & beyond our Solar Systems) come without any user – manual? Just like, manufacturing companies, provide these manuals or guide, The Manufacture of the Gigantic & Microscopic System (which we tend to take-for-granted) also provides a User-Manual. These manuals guide us in every aspect of our life social, political, religious, economic, military, mechanical, chemical, physical, metaphysical, medical and other subjects matter and above all specific directs for spiritual realization. These manuals are known as Scriptures. Just like our day-to-day life, we tend to ignore these Manuals & at times, if not often, tend to risk our self into unpleasant situations or accidents.
The purpose of this article was to highlight that Vedic Knowledge is not fairy-tale or imaginary or mythological. It is an authentic knowledge presented for mankind to lead their life in a God-conscious way.
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