EARLY VEDIC LITERATURE
DISCOURSE BY N.R.SRINIVASAN
Vedas are the oldest scriptures of the Sanatana Dharma. According to Bhagavatam Lord Brahma produced them 155.521972 trillion years ago at the beginning of the creation of the Universe. All these were reproduced by Bhagawan Vedavyasa. Vedavyasa means in Sanskrit one who adjusts or arranges Vedas. Vedas comprise of Samhitas, Brahmanas and Aranyakas. Vedavyasa later added 18 Puranas, Mahabharata and Brahmasutra, which were supplemented by other sages. There existed already the great epic Ramayana reproduced by Valmiki as given to him by Sage Narada. This was also reproduced by Vedavyasa. Brahma received the knowledge of scriptures from God. He introduced them to sages. The sages conceived them in their divine intellect and reproduced them. Brahma did not verbally teach sages but introduced the knowledge to their divine intellect. We are aware of how Kalidasa, an illiterate, suddenly blessed with divine intellect wrote several dramas, poetic compositions etc., and became famous. These are literary masterpieces today. Vedavyasa reproduced all Vedic literature before 3102 B.C. before the dawn of Kaliyuga. Western historians including some Indian historians like Tilak tried to fix the age of the Rigveda arbitrarily around 4000 B.C., and even much later. Bhagawan Vyasa reveals in Bhagavatam that 155.521972 trillion years have been passed since Brahma initially created this planetary system, which incidentally is the age of Brahma. It is universally recognized that Rig Veda is the earliest literature known to mankind. Viswa Panchanga published regularly by the Benares Hindu University indicates that the present Kaliyuga is 5102 years old in 2000 A.D. That indicates the age of the Rig Veda as conceived by Vedavyasa prior to 5000 B.C.
Veda derives its name from three Sanskrit roots,' vetti' to know, 'vidyate' to exist and 'vindate' to give or enlighten. 'Eternally existing Vedas give or enlighten souls with the knowledge of the Supreme. It is popularly associated with the root 'Vid' meaning knowledge, that is, Veda is the knowledge and the knowledge of God is through Veda. The first meaning is Vedas give knowledge. The second meaning is Vedas exist eternally. The third meaning is 'Vedas give the divine bliss to the souls'. Muktikopanishad mentions that Vedas contained 100000 verses in 1180 branches-21 in Rig Veda, 109 branches in Yajur Veda, 1000 branches in Sama Veda and 50 in Atharva Veda. Only 20379 verses of the 100000 are currently available as per the details given below: 1.
1. Rig veda-10552 verses in 10 sections called mandalas.2. Sama veda-1875 verses in 21 chapters. 3. Yajur veda-1975 verses in 40 chapters. 4. Atharva veda-5977 verses in 20 chapters.
RIGVEDA-The word 'rik' in Sanskrit means 'hymn'. Rigveda verses are in praise of the Supreme and the Vedic deities, used in yajnyas or sacrifices. Of the 21 branches currently only 2 are available--a major part of Shakal branch and brahmana and aranyaka part of Shankhayana branch. These verses are in glorification of Indra in 250 verses and Agni in 200 verses, the celestial deities. They further deal with Surya and three other forms of his--Savita, Mitra and Pooshan. They also deal with other deities in general--Dyauhu, Varuna, the deity of water and sea, Soma and Maruta, the deity of wind and air. There are also other deities of celestial world. Rudra and Vishnu are the only two trinitic forms of God besides the Supreme personality of Purusha who are glorified and prayed in hymns. It also contains religious stories of Vaamana, Dadheechi and the king Mandhata.
YAJURVEDA-The root 'yaj' means to worship in Sanskrit. Out of the 109 branches only seven branches are now available. 'Vaajasaneyi' also called 'Madhyanandini' branch is important. Yajurveda is intended for the guidance of the priests who conduct Yajnyas. It deals with the procedures to create fire altars, praises and prayers related to deities besides dealing with specific yajnyas like Aswamedha, Raajasuya etc. Yajurveda is both in poetic and prosaic forms. It repeats good number of verses from Rigveda. 40th chapter of Yajurveda is Isavasyopanishad.
SAMAVEDA-The root 'sama' means peace or tranquility. Out of 1000 branches only 3 branches are now available. Samaveda chanting is in the musical form. The important ones are Kauthumeeya and Jaimaneeya. Many verses of Rigveda are musically rendered in Samaveda with correct intonations. Samaveda like Yajurveda deals with the practical aspects of performing the Yajans.
ATHARVAVEDA-The word 'atharva' in Sanskrit language means 'priest'. Out of the 50 branches only one Shaunak branch is now available. Atharvaveda is mostly in prosaic form and also contains some verses from Rigveda. Atharvaveda contains mantras and rituals for the fulfillment of material needs of human beings or general welfare of the family. It also deals with the philosophical description of soul and God, His divine greatness and generosity. It further contains a small portion of Rigvedic verses. It provides the initial training for one to lead to Vedic principles. It allures rajasic and tamasic minds to saatvic minds. The theme of the mantras in the Atharvaveda covers wide variety of subjects: Peace for the family; elimination of sin; cure for certain diseases with the application of herbs; cure for snake poisoning; warding off evil spirits from the possessed. It also contains mantras for receiving blessings of the God for one's own prosperity in business, yajnyas for the fulfillment of one's desires etc.
BRAHMANAS-They deal with minute details for the guidance of priests to conduct yajnyas. Every branch of Vedas has its own Brahmana. Of the 1180 only few are available. Aitreya, Shakhayana, Satapatha, Taittareya Brahmanas are the important ones. Broadly they describe Vedic karmas and performance.
ARANYAKAS-These are forest books for deeper study in the tranquility of the forest. They explain the inner meaning of the Vedas. They tell more about God and prescribe some form of worship to God. They deal with procedural aspects of devotion to God, appropriateness of mantras to suit the occasion like how to sit, what mantras to repeat before and after devotion etc. Upanishads form the main section of the Aranyakas. Samhita and Aranyaka portion of Vedas relate more to yajnyas, rituals, performance of good karma than worship of the Supreme although they talk about God in Purushasookta and Isavasopanishad. Only a few of the 1180 branches of Aranyakas are available now in full. Upanishad portion of Aranyakas are available in good numbers, around 200.
SAMHITAS-Samhita means the process of collection and arrangement. It brings about the purport of the Veda in the form of mantras. These are verses in the praise of celestial male and female deities and some of them are also for the divine forms of the Supreme. Readers are often confused because both 'deva' and 'devata' are translated as God in English and other languages and sometimes even in Sanskrit in modern writings. Devatas generally refer to celesial deities like Indra, Agni, Varuna, Vayu etc. Deva refers to the Supreme. Individual divine forms of the Supreme are also translated as Gods. This has given raise to the criticism that there are too many Gods. Samhitas, Brahmanas and non-upanishadic portion of the Aranyakas are collectively called Vedas. It may be noted that Samhitas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanishads are all 1180 in number as delivered by Brahma.
UPANISHADS-Upanishad means annihilating the ignorance. Only around 200 are now available of the 1180. Out of these Upanishads 108 are famous and accepted as authentic. Sankaracharya, Ramanuja and other great sages have written commentaries called Bhaashyas on them. These are also known as major Upanishads. They are: 1. Isha 2. Kena 3. Katha 4) Mundaka 5) Maamdukya 6) Prasna 7) Aitrya 8) Taitteriya 9) Chhaandogya 10) Brihadaaranyaka 11) Svetaaswataara 12) Mahaa Naaraayana (sometimes added)
Upanishads are meant for deeper study and have their own characteristics. They are directly related to the God and show path to God's realization, whereas Samhita and Brahmanas are related to the attainment of celestial luxuries. Upanishad's subject matter is presented often in the form of dialogues between the teacher and the disciple. Upanishads have their own independent Divine status. These are philosophical track books and are foundation for systematic philosophy. The Upanishads are the basis of the shad-darshanas, the six major systems of Hindu philosophy--'dvaitadvaita vada' of Nimbakacharya, ' advaita vaada' of Sankaracharya, 'vishitadvaita' of Ramanujaacharya, 'dvaita' of Madhvaacharya, 'shuddha advaita vaada' of Vallabhaacharya and 'achintya bhedaabheda vaada' of Jeeva Goswami. Most of the stories of Upanishads revolve around the nature of Reality and the concept of single Supreme Being. The equation of the Atman, the self with Brahman, the ultimate reality is summed up in the phrase 'tat tvam asi' in the Chandogya Upanishad. They are called the Jnyanakhanda, the true knowledge part of the Vedas, while Samhita, Brahmana and non -Upanishadic part of Aranyakas are known as Karmakhanda, the ritiualistic part. A major portion of the Vedas deal with yajnyas and rituals as contained in the Samhitas, Brahmanas and Aranyakas. Only around 6 percent of it deals with Jnyaanakanda that is Upanishads. Muktakopanishad has referred to 108 Upanishads which contain philosophies of God's realization and basic facts of divine world or divinity. Upanishads glorify God, teach to renounce worldly attachments and surrender to the Supreme to receive His grace.
ANUKRAMANIKA-These are descriptions of the contents of Vedas mentioning the list of all forms of God and deities indicating all mantras and indicating the sages who conceived them. There were 1180 books for the 1180 branches of Vedas.
UPAVEDAS-Arthavaveda known as Arthasastra, science of sociology and economics is related to Rigveda. Dhanurveda, the science of defense, weaponry, missiles and warfare is related to Yajurveda. Gandharvaveda, science of music including instrumental music, art and dance is related to Samaveda. Aayurveda, the science related to life science and medicine is related to Atharvaveda. The first three upavedas are almost extinct. The last one is still in existence. Sages wrote a number of books on the science of preparation and use of herbs, roots, gems, metals, pearls etc., for curing all kinds of diseases but only some of them are available. However the basic theory of the science of Ayurveda is available in full.
VEDANGAS-Vedangas are auxiliaries to Vedas which are essential to learn and understand Vedas and to induce into Vedic action. These are Siksha, phonetics and pronunciation; Vyaakarana, grammar; Chandas, metric composition; Nirukta,vedic dictionary; Jyotisha, Astronomy and astrology; Kalpa, what induces one to Vedic action.
SHIKSHA--Shiksha means phonetics-- training or teaching correctly to pronounce Vedic mantras. It is a complete science. Every letter has four vocal attainments--Pitch, high, low or medium voice; Duration, short or long; Position, nasal cerebral or palatal etc.; Stress, how much stress should be used in pronouncing the word or letter.
VYAAKARANA-Vyaakarana means grammar. It is explained in Sanskrit as 'vyaakriyate iti vyaakaranaha', which means that by which sentences are formed, examined and understood. Ancient grammars by 12 ancient sages including Kapila and Bharadwaja as mentioned by Panini are not available. Sivasutras, 14 in number, came out of the 14 sounds produced by the drum, Damaru of Siva, during the cosmic dance, Shivatandava nritya. Panini got the divine inspiration from these sutras and produced his first grammar Ashtadhyaayi. It has 4000 sutras which forms the dictionary for the root words of Sanskrit. He also produced 'Unadi Sutra'. With the help of Ashtadhyaayi, Nirukta and Unadi sutra only one can get into the true meaning of the Vedic mantras. Trying to translate Vedic mantras with the help of Ashtadhyaayi alone, western philosophers and even many Hindu Sanskrit scholars failed to get the true meanings. They sometimes make no sense with literal translation word to word. The absence of earlier Vedic grammars was a big handicap.
CHANDAS- Chandas means prosody or poetic stanza. These are of different kinds. The book of Chandas teaches as to how to create a chandas, how to sing a chandas and includes correct pronunciation of Vedic mantras. Gayatri, Trishtup, Jagati, Ushnik, Anushtup, Bruhati, Pankti are some of the meters used in the Rigveda of which Trishtup meter is used in more than 4000 mantras.
NIRUKTA--Nirukta means etymology. Only one book by sage Yask is now available. It has different sections to describe the meaning of the Vedic mantras. 1. Nighant is the collection of Vedic words with simple meaning of the words. 2. Nirukt deals with complete meaning of the words. It is a complete work on Vedic words – details about the Vedic words explaining their applied and implied meanings and synonyms of the Vedic words. Vedas have sometimes very unusual and entirely different meanings than what is commonly understood even with the help of Panini's grammar. For example, Indra could mean Vishnu besides Indra. Vruka meaning wolf could also mean sun, moon, and many more.
JYOTISHA- It comprises two parts-- astrology and astronomy. It has two sections; a) Calculating the positions of the stars at a particular time; b) Determining their effects on a person's life. Very few books on jyotisha are available; most of them are extinct. The calculation part of the astrology is distinct, but the other part is indistinct. Garg samhita which is a voluminous work on person's life is fully extinct.
KALPA- Kalpa means totality that induces one to Vedic action. The usefulness of the knowledge of phonetics, grammar, prosody, etymology, astrology and astronomy is in the performance of rituals as given in the Kalpa. Kalpa is that which impels one to action and is considered to be combination of all Vedangas. They are in the form of sutras--Shrauta sutra, Grihya sutra, Dharma sutra, Shulba sutra etc. Shulba sutra gives details for the creation of altar, its exact geometric shape etc. There were 1180 branches of Shulba sastra with their own specifications.
DARSANA SASTRAS-They are the vision to Vedanta. There are six schools of thought of philosophy--Poorva Mimamsa by Jaimini; Nyaya sastra by Gautama; Vaiseshika by Kanada; Sankhya by Kapila; Yoga by Patanjali; Uttara Mimamsa by Badarayana. Poorva Mimamsa is for attaining celestial luxuries and not for the realization of God. Uttara Mimamsa by Vedavyasa is popularly known as Brahmasutra. It deals with the theme of the Upanishads and forms the basis for the development of modern philosophies mentioned earlier. Nyaya and Vaisheshika introduce the science of logical thinking of right and wrong and determine that God should be desired, and the attachment from the realm of the entire manifestation of Maaya should be removed. Sankhya and Yoga Darshana emphasize on the practice of meditation and samaadhi to attain the desired limit of renunciation and the elimination of worldly attachments. Yoga describes the eight steps of Yama, Niyama, Aasana, Praanaayaama, Pratyahara, Dhaarana, Dhyana and Samaadhi.
SMRITIS-These are books of codes related to the social living, customary law, traditional learning etc. e.g. Manu Smriti.
PURAANAS-There are 18 major Puraanas, all attributed to have been conceived by Vedavyasa. There are also subsidiary Puranas written by other authors. Puranas are usually in poetic form though some of them are prosaic. The Puraanas reflect the social, religious and artistic culture of India since creation. The universal truths of devotion and generosity portrayed by the role models in the ancient Indian content hold the same significance even today. Puraanas throw light on the history of Hindu civilization, creation of the world and the development of life, the chronology of the entire history of Bhaaratvarsha, the description of Brahmaanda, the origin of Geeta, origin of devanaagari script and the Sanskrit language, its development, various incarnations, the spirit and message of Sanatana Dharma, the Hindu calendar, Time measurement etc. The eighteen major Puranas are--1. Vishnu Puraana ; 2.Bhaagavata Puraana; 3. Naarada Puraana; 4.Garuda Puraana 5. Padma Puraana; 6. Varaaha Puraana; 7. Brahma Puraana; 8. Brahmaanda Puraana; 9. Brahmavaivarta Puraana; 10. Maarkandeya Puraana; 11. Bhavishya Puraana; 12. Vaamana Puraana; 13. Vaayu Puraana; 14. Linga Puraana; 15. Skanda Puraana; 16. Agni Puraana 17. Matsya Puraana; 18. Koorma Puraana. Puraana in Sanskrit means 'though old it is new'. History as is understood today was not known earlier. Everything had a spiritual aspect and so Puraanas included history, mythology, parables, stories and divine aspects. Valmiki Ramayana and Mahabharata are the two great epics and are called Itihaasas, meaning, 'it happened so'. Many scholars later wrote Ramayana in their own style as poems, prose and drama. Valmiki Ramayana and Tulisidasa Ramayana are exclusively used in Paraayana (Holy recitation) and are considered to be most sacred. Western historians and their followers in India consider the above as Hindu mythologies and ignore the historical aspects.
The process of evolution and the dissolution of the Universe are indicated in the Upanishads. Its complete history is in the Puranas.
Devibhaagavata says that at the end of every Dwaaparayuga God Vishnu descends as Vedavyasa and reproduces Vedas in four names--Rig,Yajur, Sama and Atharva. Until now there have been 27 Vedavyaasas in twentyseven Dwapara yugas of the existing Manvantara, which is called Vaivaswata Manvantara. He is believed to be in a state of samadhi in a cave in Himalayan glaciers unapproachable to normal human beings. There are references in the Puraanas that Sankaracharya, Madhvacharya and Vallabhacharya with their divine powers had a chance to meet him and had discussions with him to enrich their knowledge. The subject matter of Vedanta is analyzed by Badaraayana in his sutra as indicated earlier. Badaraayana is identified as Vedavyasa and got his nickname for having spent some time in Badrikaasrama. Atharva Veda is also believed to derive its name from its author, Sage Atharva. This name could also mean Vedavyaasa only as it is believed that all Vedas are reproduced by Vedavyaasa.
The Upanishads, Brahmasutra and Bhagavadgita together are known as Prasthaana Traya. Gita is given the status of Upanishads since it has the same subject matter as the Upanishads. The Prasthaana Trayas enjoy the thorough commentary called Bhashya by Adi Sankara, Ramanuja, Madhwa and others, and form an integral part of the Vedanta literature. These are supported by Tika, Varttika, Karika, Vritti, Tippani etc.* Vast body of Vedanta literature also includes a number of independent works called Prakarnas. Vedanta Prakaranas are also presented in the form of hymns--Lord Dakshinamurthi Stotram. Prakaranas include Vedaantasara of Sri Sadananda, Panchadasi of Sri Vidyaranya, Ramakrishna Tika, Naishkarma siddhi of Sri Surasaiva, Manollasa of Sri Sureswara (vritti). With the stress on Bhaktimarga in Kaliyuga, innumerable number of stotras (hymns) in praise of the celestial deities and the Supreme have been written by sages and saints and scholars for prayers and bhajans. Stotras existed from earlier days: for e.g. Aditya Hridayam in Ramayana, Vishnu Sahasranamam in Mahabharata, Soundarya Lahari etc. Shrutis are the scriptures in a broader sense while only the Granthas (Treatises) under the subhead Smritis are Dharmagranthas. These Dharmagranthas are the real scriptures on which all Hindu rites and rituals are based. Most of the scriptures of Hinduism are based on the Smritis which are not a different section of Vedic knowledge, but an integral part of the Vedas. When in doubt Vedas are to be consulted as it is said "Vedoekhilam dharmamoolam"—Vedas are the final arbiter.
*TIKA=Book TIKA=Book of explanatory note on Bhashya
VARTTIKA=A critique on original work KARIKA=Composition in verse form explaining an original work VRITTI = A brief explanation on original work TIPPANI = a gloss, a footnote on a topic in the body of work needing explanation
PRAKARANAS = Independent works--introductory and advanced. These are presented in the form of hymns, stotras (Ashtasloki, Satasloki, Ekasloki, Dakshinamoorti stotra etc.)
The Origin of the Vedas
Posted by The Editor | Feb 20, 2012 IndiaDivine.Org
When discussing the origin of the Vedas, we must keep in mind the fact that the Vedas are eternal transcendental sound vibrations. Therefore we cannot use the word create in its general usage to describe the source of the Vedas. At the same time everything has a cause except for the Lord. That is the meaning of the verse anadir adir govindah, sarva kaarana kaaranam, “Govinda has no beginning, yet He is the beginning of all. He is the cause of all causes.”
When speaking of the spiritual realm, we must always remember that there is no limitation of time. Time practically does not exist in that realm. Only when you come down to the level of creation, at the mahat-tattva stage can we actually say that time is acting on anything. So any discussion of something constitutionally beyond the realm of mahat-tattva is by nature free from the influence of time. Therefore there is no room to bring in the idea of a point of creation. Everything beyond the mahat-tattva is beyond time and therefore eternally existent. “Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings.” Why is that so? Because never was there any time to influence the realm of spirit. With that in mind, when we speak of something spiritual (such as the Vedas, the jivas, the very spiritual realm itself, vaikuntha, etc.) we can never bring in the concept of a point of creation. I.e. “it was created at this point in time”. Why we can’t make such a statement is that it puts its constitution within the purview of the mahat-tattva. Therefore nothing spiritual was ever created in the general sense of the word. But still everything has a source, something on which it is dependent. Vishnu is the only sva-tantra (self- dependent principal) and all others are para-tantra (dependent on another). Everything has a cause, and that cause is directly the category of the Personality of Godhead. But this dependence is eternal dependence. Never was there a time when it did not exist. So, though Vishnu is the cause of everything, everything eternally existed beyond time. One may ask, “How to understand this?” If you don’t already understand it there is no mental gymnastics that will make you understand it. The Srimad Bhagavatam clearly states: om namo bhagavate vasudevaaya janmaadyasya yatah tene brahma hrda ya aadi kavaye. Why the statement “tene brahma hrda ya aadi kavaye” is linked directly to the statement of janmadyasya yatah? Because everything is an emanation of Vasudeva, including the eternal spiritual sound vibrations (brahma) of the Vedas. Furthermore, we should remember that the Vedas are describing Him, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Never was there a time when the Vedas did not exist, never was there a time when Vaikuntha did not exist, never was there a time when the jivas did not exist, never was there a time when the spiritual realm did not exist. Why? Because in the spiritual realm time never existed.
Regardless of that fact, the Vedas, the jivas, vaikuntha, and everything in existence is an emanation from the Lord. The spiritual energy is His energetic expansion. Yet one cannot have Isvara (the controller) without Shakti (the controlled energy). So, once again there is no question of when the expansion took place, it is an eternal reality.
The Vedic Shakhas
Posted by The Editor | Jun 02, 2010 | IndiaDivine.org
The Vedic literature that has come down to our times is attached to various traditional schools of recitation and ritual called the ‘shakhas’. All the four Vedas have more than one shakha extant. In the past, the number of shakhas studied was many times more.
According to the Mahabhasya of Patanjali, there were 21 shakhas of Rigveda, 9 of Atharvaveda, 101 of Yajurveda (86 of Krishna Yajurveda and 15 of Shukla Yajurveda, according to later authorities) and a 1000 varieties of chanting of Samaveda. Maybe, the number 1000 for the Samaveda merely refers to ‘numerous’. Nevertheless, although only 20 or so Shakhas of the Vedas are extant now, we do possess names of most of the lost Shakhas of the Rigveda, Yajurveda and Atharvaveda. Fragments of many of the lost shakhas are also available as quotations in ancient works. For the Samaveda, we do not have more than 40 names extant.
Two different Vedic shakhas might share one or more texts amongst themselves. Conversely, the distinction between two shakhas of the same Veda might result from the use of a different Samhita text, and/or a different Brahmana text, and/or different Kalpasutra text and so on. For e.g., the Baudhayana and the Apastamba shakhas use the same Taittiriya Brahmana, Taittiriya Samhita and Taittiriya Aranyaka but follow different Kalpasutras. On the other hand, the Shankhayana and the Kaushitaka shakhas use the same Samhita and Shrauta Sutra but their brahmanas have slightly different readings and their Grhyasutras are quite different.
A group or a community of people who study a particular shakha in its entirety (Samhita + Brahmana + Aranyaka + Kalpasutra + any additional texts) and perform its ritual constitute a ‘charana’. For instance, Brahmins who study the Taittiriya Samhita/Brahmana/Aranyaka together with the Kalpasutra of Apastamba say – “I follow the Apastamba charana’.
In certain cases, we have instances of ‘mixed shakhas’. For instance, the followers of Shakala shakha have adopted the Kalpasutra of Ashvalayana. The Ashvalayana shakha, which had the now well-known Ashvalayana Sutra, has in turn lost oral traditions of its Samhita. Likewise, the Kaushitakins of Kerala often use the Samhita of Shakalas.
The various shakhas of the Vedas were, at one time, spread throughout South Asia. Their geographical location has not been constant down the ages, as communities of Brahmins professing a particular shakha migrated from one part of India to the other, or adopted another shakha when it became impossible for them to sustain the tradition of their own shakhas.
It is quite certain however, that the tradition of recitation of the Vedic texts originated in north India, and this region was the area where almost all the shakhas originally arose. From various sources, we can determine the following geographical distribution of Vedic Shakhas at various intervals of times, and their present state of survival:
Shakala RV:Thrives in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Orissa, and Tamil Nadu and to some extent in Uttar Pradesh; Might have existed in Punjab. Nambudiris of Kerala recite even the Brahmana and Aranyaka with accents. Accented manuscripts of Brahmana and Aranyaka are available to this day.
Shankhayana Rigveda: Gujarat and parts of Rajasthan and Maharashtra. Oral tradition extinct, only manuscripts of Samhita are extant. Ritual lives in a very fragmentary condition
Bashkala RV: Claims have been made about its existence in Kerala, Rajasthan, Bengal and Assam as a living tradition, but have never been verified. The Samhita exists in manuscript. Nambudiris of Kerala are said to follow this Shakha of RV as far as the Samhita is concerned but studies of their oral tradition do not seem to bear this out.
Ashvalayana RV: Manuscripts of the Samhita have been found in Kashmir, Maharashtra (Ahmadnagar) and Patna (Bihar). In parts of central and eastern India, Shakala RV texts are often attributed to Ashvalayana. For instance, the Aitareya Brahman is often called Ashvalayana Brahmana in West Bengal. Oral traditions extinct, although the followers of Shakala Shakha in Maharashtra often term themselves as Ashvalayanas because they follow the Kalpasutra (Shrautasutra + Grhyasutra) of Ashvalayana.
Paingi RV: Existed in Tamil Nadu, in and around Andavan. Oral traditions lost but Brahmana texts rumored to exist.
Mandukeya RV: Magadha and eastern and central Uttar Pradesh. Possibly lower Himalayas in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. No text or oral tradition extant although the Brhaddevata and Rigvidhana might belong to it.
Shaunakiya AV: Gujarat, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Coastal Andhra Pradesh, Avadh region in Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh. Only Gujarat has maintained the oral traditions, and the shakha has been resuscitated in recent times in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and in Andhra Pradesh.
Staudayana AV: According to Majjhima Nikaya, followers of this shakha lived in Koshala (central and eastern Uttar Pradesh). The shakha is completely lost.
Paippalada AV: Followers are currently found in parts of Orissa and adjacent areas of Bihar and West Bengal and recite the Samhita in ekasruti (monotone syllable). Epigraphic and literary evidence shows that they once thrived in Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, and parts of Gujarat, East Bengal and in Tamil Nadu as well.
Devadarshi AV: According to literary evidence, followers of this Shakha once lived in coastal Andhra Pradesh. Other AV shakhas said to have been prevalent in that region were Shaulkayani and Munjakeshi. The shakha is completely lost.
Charanavaidya and Jajala AV: Perhaps existed in Gujarat, Central India and adjacent parts of Rajasthan. According to the Vayu and Brahmanda Puranas, the Samhita of the Charanavaidya shakha had 6026 mantras.
Mauda AV: According to some scholars, they existed in Kashmir
Madhyandina YV: Currently found all over North India- Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and even Maharashtra (up to Nashik), West Bengal, Assam, Nepal. Along with Taittiriya Yajurveda, it is the most prevalent Vedic shakha. Followers of this school were found in Sindh (Pakistan) in the 19th century but became extinct after Hindus were ethnically cleansed by the Muslim majority after 1947.
Kanva YV: Currently found in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh. In Orissa, the followers of this shakha follow a slightly different text. Epigraphic evidence shows that they were once present all over India, as far as Himachal Pradesh and possibly in Nepal.
Charaka YV: Interior Maharashtra, adjacent parts of Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh. Followers of this shakha now follow the Maitrayani YV shakha, having lost their own texts.
Maitrayani YV: In Morvi (Gujarat), parts of Maharashtra (Naskik/Bhadgaon, Nandurbar, Dhule). Earlier, they were spread all the way east up to Allahabad and extended into Rajasthan and possibly into Sindh.
Kathaka YV: The oral traditions became extinct possibly a few decades ago. They were found in central and eastern Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, possibly west Punjab and NWFP. In later times, they got restricted to Kashmir, where all their extant manuscripts have been unearthed. Recently, the entire Hindu minority was cleansed from the Kashmir valley by Islamists, and so the shakha might be deemed extinct completely now.
Charayaniya Katha YV: Existed in Kashmir.
Kapisthala Katha YV: Found in West Punjab around the time of the invasion of Alexander. Also in parts of Gujarat. Only a fragmentary Samhita and Grhyasutra text exist, and followers of this shakha are said to exist at the mouths of Narmada and Tapi rivers in Gujarat.
Jabala YV: Central India, around the Narmada region. In Maharashtra, there still exist Shukla-Yajurvedin Brahmins who call themselves ‘Jabala Brahmins’, but there is no knowledge of the existence of any texts of this shakha.
Taittiriya YV: Buddhist texts and some versions of Ramayana attest their presence in the Gangetic plains but currently they are found all over Southern India. The Taittiriyas are themselves divided into numerous sub-schools. Among these, the followers of Baudhayana and Apastamba were found all over South India (including Maharashtra), while the Hiranyakeshins were found mainly in Konkan and Western Maharashtra. The Vaikhanasas have a more eastern presence- around Tirupati and Chennai. The Vadhulas are present currently in Kerala and earlier in adjacent parts of Tamil Nadu. The Agniveshyas, a subdivision of the Vadhula immigrants from Malabar, are found around Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu. The Apastamba, Hiranyakeshin, Vaikhanasa and Baudhayana schools have survived with all their texts intact. The Vadhulas survive, with most of their texts while the Bharadvajas and Agniveshyas are practically extinct as a living tradition although their fragmentary/dilapidated texts survive.
Kauthuma SV: Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu (tradition revived with the help of Brahmins from Poona), Kerala, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar (tradition revived a century ago), West Bengal (tradition has been revived recently). There are numerous varieties of Kauthuma chanting. This shakha is the most vibrant tradition of Samaveda.
Ranayaniya SV: Orissa (manuscripts available, status of oral tradition not known), Maharashtra, Karnataka (the Havyak community for instance), Uttar Pradesh (till recently in Bahraich and Mathura), Rajasthan (till recently in Jaipur). The existence of this shakha was endangered till recently, but it has been strengthened with the help of institutions like the Kanchi Kamakoti Matha.
Jaiminiya/Talavakara SV: Two distinct sub streams- the Namudiri recitations in Central Kerala, and the recitations of Tamil Nadu Brahmins in districts adjacent to Kerala and in and around Srirangam. The survival of these schools is endangered.
Shatyayaniya SV: Said to have been prevalent in Tamil Nadu and parts of North India. The shakha is no longer extant.
Gautama SV: Said to have been prevalent in Tamil Nadu and in Andhra Pradesh till the 17th cent. C.E. Many followers of the Kauthuma school in Andhra Pradesh still call themselves ‘Gautamas’.
Bhallavi SV: Said to have been prevalent in Karnataka and parts of North India
Other Shakhas of YV: A text called ‘Yajurvedavriksha’ gives the geographical distribution of more than 100 Shakhas of Yajurveda. This description is being left out for brevity.
THE SANSKRIT PHILOSOPHICAL COMMENTARIES
(Swami vidyanathananda, Ramakrishma Math, Kolkota)
It has been said that an interpretation of a literary work is prized to the extent that it shows the work in question to possess those qualities which, in the opinion of the times, distinguish literature from other forms of writing. Adapting this suggestion, we might say that a commentary on a philosophical treatise succeeds to the extent that it demonstrates that the treatise is rich in the features which, for the community of readers to whom the commentary is directed, are held to be characteristic of good philosophy. In other words, a successful philosophical commentary helps its target audience to read philosophically the text being commented upon, and mediates between the text and a given readership. Potentially, the features which mark out a text as being a valuable work of philosophy might include coherence and completeness in the description of a point of view, sound argument in favor of the view described, engagement with alternative views, demonstration of the utility of the view in question, and so on. At later times or in other cultural communities, new audiences can approach a philosophical commentary as a window through which to see what the practice of philosophical reading has meant to others.
Formally, two aspects of philosophical commentary in Sanskrit are especially noteworthy: 1) The base texts are generally extremely compact. Indeed, compactness is seen as a commendable property in the foundational texts of all types of technical writing. So a characteristic function of one genre of philosophical commentary is to decompress the text being commented on. 2) Commentary writing is heavily nested; that is to say, there are in general multiple commentaries on any given text, commentaries on those commentaries, commentaries on the sub-commentaries, and so on. This nesting gives rise to another characteristic function, which is to adjudicate between rival commentaries at a lower level. These two aspects lead to a distinctive, canonical pattern in the commentarial literature (”2):
0. Sootra--An aggregation of short formula-like assertions.
1. bhåshya--A commentary on a sootra whose function is to
unpack and weave together.
2. vårttika--A sub-commentary on a bhåshya, defending its particular construction of the Sootra over alternatives, making revisions and adjustments as necessary.
3. nibandha, and other higher-level commentarial works, which continue the process of revision and adjustment until a state of reflective equilibrium is reached.
The importance accorded to such a commentarial activity reveals that one of the most prized qualities of a philosophical work resides in its ability to enable the reader to understand patterns of inter-relatedness within a complex set of ideas. Typically this is achieved in a two-step process in which the sootras are first marked-up as belonging to small thematically unified groupings (prakarana), and then contiguous groupings are made to stand in causal, evidential or explanatory relationships with one other (samgati), a process governed by the commentator’s overall aim, which typically combines a systematic ambition to display the text as having a certain content (abhidheya) with a pedagogical goal to guide the audience’s reading in such a way that their understanding improves (prayojana). This commentarial pattern is creatively appropriated and adapted in a uncommon for a writer to construct a single text imitating and playing with that formal structure. In such compositions, the sootra like skeleton are called kårikå, and also sometimes vårttika, in what is a second sense of that term. What I will not be able to do here is to form any clear hypotheses about the history of the emergence of different kinds of commentary in India.
1. GENERIC FUNCTIONS OF COMMENTARY
Every commentary engages to a lesser or greater extent in the “bottom-up” activity of explaining individual expressions in the text, thereby aiming to clarify the syntax of the text and to supply paraphrases of its lexical items, phrases and sentences. This is how the generic term vyåkhyåna “commenting” is understood in the Nyåyakosa: Stating the meaning [of the root text], using different words which have the same meaning [as those in the root text], with the aim of preventing confused opinion (apratipatti), contradictory opinion (vipratipatti), or contrary opinion (anyathåpratipatti). For example, in Nyåya, the Deedhiti and the Mathuranåthee are commentaries on the Tattvacintåmani. In Vedånta, the Nyåyasudhå is a commentary on an exegetical work (the Anuvyåkhyåna of Madhva) which explains the meaning of the Brahmasootra.
This has been said: Commenting has five characteristic features: 1. word-division (padachcheda), 2. Stating the meaning of the words (padårthokti); 3. Analysis of grammatical compounds (vigraha); 4. construing the sentences (våkyayojanå0; 5. Solving the problems (åkshepeshu samådhåna). A divergent reading [of the above statement] has it that there are considered to be six aspects of commenting, with solutions (samådhåna) and problems (åkshepa) kept distinct. In every commentary, however, the seed (beeja) should be thought of as [preventing] confused, contradictory, and contrary opinions. 3. A commentary which confines itself solely to performing this role will call itself a vætti or vivæti or vivarasa.4 In a more technical sense, a vivarasa in is a kind of grammatical semantic analysis, combining structural paraphrase and lexical substitution. The canonical form of such a paraphrase is into a qualifying and-qualifier structure, in which the principal qualifier is either the nominal subject or the finite verb. For example, one can paraphrase “Hari sees a bird”(harir vihaga√ pasyati) as either “Hari is qualified by an effort generating the activity of seeing which has a bird as object” (vihaga-karmaka-darsnanånukusha-kæti-mån hari¨) or as “The operation generating the activity of seeing which has a bird as its object is qualified by Hari as its doer” (vihaga-karmaka-darsanånuksha-vyåpåra)
If an obscure word occurs in the original, it might be replaced in the paraphrase with a more familiar equivalent. It goes without saying that both in the provision of lexical alternatives and in the decomposition of compounds there is frequently room for considerable exegetical license. What is interesting to note is that, even at this minimal level, commentary is given the evaluative task of considering alternative possibilities and steering the reader away from mistaken, confused and contradictory construal.
A commentary whose function is only to elucidate obscure or otherwise tricky words in the text is styled a ¢∂kå. The Sabdårthachintångani defines a ¢heekå as “an explanation of difficult words [in the root text]”(vishamapadavyåkhyåyåm).
6 We might compare this with the O.E.D. definition of the English gloss: A word inserted between the lines or in the margin as an explanatory equivalent of a foreign or otherwise difficult word in the text; hence applied to a similar explanatory rendering of a word given in a glossary or dictionary. Also, in a wider sense, it is a comment, explanation, interpretation. When the text being thus elucidated is itself a commentary, the elucidation may often be called a chippana or chippanee. The term cheekå, again like gloss, is also used in a more general sense, as a synonym then of vætti8 or vivarana .
2. AN OVERVIEW OF THE TYPES OF PHILOSOPHICAL COMMENTARY
Bhåshya. As already noted, the bhåshya is a highly distinctive holistic style of philosophical commentary in the Sanskrit literature. It represents an “elaboration” or “development” of an aggregation of brief statements called sootras, a reading (or literally, a speaking ) of them. A bhåshya has been defined in the tradition as “an amplification or expansion (prapamchaka) of what is said in the sootras (sootroktårt haprapamchakam).
Another traditional author tells us that a bhåshya is a commentary “where the meaning of a sμutra is specified in terms that closely follow the sμutra, and its own terminology is also specified” (sootrårtho varnyate yatra padai¨ ootrånusåribhi¨ svapadåni
cha varnyante bhåshyam bhåshyavido vidu¨ .
I will say more about this type of commentary in the next section.
Vårttika. While bhåshya signifies the extraction and elaboration of philosophical systematicity from the sotras, vårttika stands for a critical engagement with the ideas so elaborated, including processes of defense, revision, and adjudication. The Sabdakalpadruma says that it is “a reflection on ideas expressed, not expressed, and badly or wrongly expressed” 13
There is a role for such commentary when competing bhåshyas exist on a single set of sootras, and when ideas from ”outside” need to be evaluated. A vårttika is thus a critical analysis of earlier commentaries, with two aims:
1) To achieve reflective equilibrium in the system, and
2) To defend the system against competitor systems.
Uddyotakara, for example, begins his Nyåyavårttika by saying that this aim is to remove the errors of poor logicians (kutårkika).
Who were they? The first were, Dignåga and other Buddhists who were challenging the philosophical doctrines and methods of the Nyåya system, and second, rival interpreters of the Nyåyasootra. Uddyotakara’s adjustments of the bhåshya were radical enough for there to come to be two Nyåya camps, the Followers of the Commentator, Våtsyåyana (vyåkhyåtåra¨), and the Followers of the Teacher, Uddyotakara (åchåryå¨).
Each philosophical system, school or sub-school develops through sub-commentary towards a stable state of reflective equilibrium, a process driven by dialectic between rival readings and rival systems (paratantra). A general term for commentarial work of this sort is nibandha.
Dissatisfaction with the achieved stable state means going back to the sootras and starting afresh. This is achieved either through a new commentary directly on the sootras (as with,for example, Visvanåtha’s seventeenth century Nyåyasootravætti), or by writing a new text inspired by them (for example, Gangeya’s thirteenth century Tattvachintåmani, which led to the emergence of Navya Nyåya, and upon which an elaborate commentarial literature and associated network of schools was to develop from the thirteenth to the eighteenth century).
Guhyaaårtha: Some commentators set out to uncover a hidden or deep meaning in the base text, often in opposition to earlier or more established interpretations.
These commentaries might be thought of as allegorizations. Nolakanscha’s famous commentary on the Mahåbhårata has elicited mixed reactions among Indologists, who have frequently criticized it because of its lack of historical accuracy and apparent infidelity to original authorial intention. Muir said that it is scarcely necessary to remark that the narrator of the legend himself appears to have had no such idea of making it the vehicle of any Vedantic allegory such as is here propounded, while Bopp speaks of scholiasts, who uncritically interpret everything in the biases of their sect and time, and who treat language and myths in an arbitrary fashion.
We no longer imagine that the function of such commentary is to recover the author’s intentions or provide historical analysis, but rather to mediate in a conversation between the text and a given community of readers.
This remains the case even if a commentator prefers to describe their work simply as making clear what is going on in the text. Thus, among various terms used to indicate when the purpose of a commentary is the extraction of a deep or hidden meaning in the text, we find: tåtparya (or tåtparya-¢heekå) in the sense of a gloss revealing the true intended meaning of the author; guOEhårtha, which is the meaning covered up or hidden; soochårtha, if the meaning is to be made bright and clear; bhåva, presenting the drift, gist, substance of the text; and viveka, the meaning discriminated, made distinct.
Other genres of philosophical commentary:
A subodhinee is a companion, an aid to understanding. A pareekshå or vichåra is an investigation, examination. When clarification is foremost, especially when there are divergent earlier readings and interpretations, a range of options are available, including: pradeepa, prakåsa, prakåsikå, uddyotana, deepa,and åloka. Poetic terms such as tarasginee (sea), darpasa (mirror), chandrikå (moonlight), amæta (immortal), are used with subtlegradations of commentarial intent.
BHÅSHYA: A PARADIGM OF PHILOSOPHICAL COMMENTARY IN SANSKRIT
Udayana states that a technical treatise orsåstra, in any discipline, should aspire to clarity (vaisadya), compactness (laghutå), and completeness (kætsnatå).
A compilation of sootras maximizes compactness and completeness, at the expense of clarity. A bhåshya is complete and clear, but not compact. A group of sootras, a section or prakarana of the whole compilation, is clear and compact, but not complete.
The sμutras achieve compactness 1) by making sequence significant, 2) letting one item stand for or range over many, and 3) using grammar and lexicon artificially. The background model is always Pånini’s grammar for the Sanskrit language, the Ashtådhyåyee, which exploits a range of brevity-enabling devices to compose what has often been described as the tersest and yet most complete grammar of any language. In philosophy, collections of philosophical sootras aspire to achieve in metaphysics, epistemology bor philosophy of mind what the sootras of Pånini had accomplished for the Sanskrit language. Although the genre is largely unique to Indian philosophical writing, comparisons could be drawn with the philosophical application of Euclid’s “geometrical method” in such works as Proclus Elements and Spinoza’s Ethics, and also with
Wittgenstein’=s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. A compilation of sootras aims at an ideal of maximal semantic content with minimal physical text.
A bhåshya binds the sootras into a unified conceptual web (tantra; lit. warp), and so into a text with coherence and continuity. Våtsyåyana tells that a tantra is a system (såstra) consisting in the statement of a collection of inter-related ideas .
It regards the root text as having na meaning that is not encrypted but only very compressed. Perhaps indeed it would be appropriate to think of a collection of sootras as like decompression a compressed archive file in need of, with the caveat that the decompression is not uniquely determined. Given what we have said about the devices employed in a Sootra to achieve compactness, a number of prima facie constraints on bhåshya follow. First, since the sequence in which the sootras are arranged itself can be the vehicle for carrying information, a commentary should not re-order the sootras without good reason. A typical bhåshya extracts a
great deal of content from the existing arrangement of the sootras (see below). This echoes the fact that in Påniniís grammar, words and contexts carry over from one sootra to the next within a specified range, thereby avoiding repetition and redundancy. If a commentary engages in wholesale rearrangement of the material in the sootras, then its entitlement to the status of bhå¶ya is compromised: such is the case with the Padårthadharmasangraha of Pranasatapåda on the Vaiseshikasootra, whose entitlement to its alternative title Prasastapådabhåshya is tendentious; perhaps it is better regarded as an autonomous treatise. Second, a bhåshya should fix scope of general terms and other abbreviating expressions; in particular the range of the often used particle ådi and so on. Third, a bhåshya should make decisions about what is colloquial and what artificial in the original text, if a term has been introduced by that text on the model of the technical terms in Pånini, or is in some way used with a sense specific to the
text. For it is clearly the case that a technical treatise can achieve greater compactness through the judicious use of stipulation. In recognition of the importance of this function, Sabara begins his bhåshya on the Meemåmså-sootra by setting out what his own policy is going to be:
The words of the sootras are, wherever possible, to be taken in those senses only which are given to them in ordinary usage and speech: no special sense is to be attributed to them by means of the assumption of ellipses or of special technical significations. In this way, Vedic passages only are explained by the sootras; while otherwise (i.e. if meanings other than the generally accepted ones were to be sought for the words of the sootras) the task would become a doubly onerous one, as comprising in the first place the explanation of Vedic texts and, in the second place, the explanation of the meaning of the Sootras.
Sabara cites economy of effort as his reason for assuming this literalist policy, but includes the caveat wherever possible. In other words, a decision to accord a word a special sense must always be motivated, and the default position is to take words in their ordinary sense. Sabara does not tell us, however, whether “ordinary sense” refers to linguistic practice at the time when the commented on text was composed, or the linguistic practice at the time when his commentary is being read. It has been remarked: when one takes a broad view of traditional Indian literatures, one finds that texts created through a process of binding independent verses make up a major portion of the literary canon.
The bhåshya genre of commentary is paradigmatic of this approach to literary production, being a way to create a coherent text by stitching the Sootras together. It achieves this in three principal ways:
1) Identify a leading theme as the subject-matter (abhidheya) of the root text; identify something as the principal purpose (prayojana) of the text; and identify what is the relation (sambandha) between them. It is normal practice for a commentator to make such identifications in their preface remarks.
2) Impose a structure on the list of the Sootras. This is done by ordering the collection of sootras into thematically coherent and interconnected groups, each of which is called a section (prakarana; adhikarana). There are rules governing the internal structure of a section, and rules about the relationships between sections. In this way what was a mere list becomes a richly articulated web of associated ideas and arguments. Many of the rules are such as to render the text essentially dialectical in structure, as we will see below.
3) Contextualize interpretations of individual sootras within the framework of a text that now has thematic unity and formal structure, in such a way as to establish coherence of meaning across the text. For an example of this, one might consider how Våtsyåyana achieves a consistency between Nyåya-sootra 1.1.10 and 3.1.1, interpreting them in such a way that they both refer to an argument for the self-based on facts of recognition and re-identification rather than on the idea that mental qualities must have a substratum.
How Bhåshya Structures Sootra?
A block of sootra text resembles a raw data file. Here, for instance, is a randomly selected part of the Vaiseshika-sootra: In this block of text the supplied numbers are already indicative of structure, resembling the metadata that accompanies a computer file. With these numbers, the following tree-like structure is imposed on the text:
i) The list of sootras is divided into adhyåyas or chapters;
ii) Each chapter is divided into two åhnikas (½-chapters) or four pådas (¼-chapters);
iii) Each half- or quarter-chapter is made of several prakaranas or sections
A section has a canonical inner structure, ideally including representatives of the following types of sootras:
1) A statement of the topic of the section (vishaya).
2) A statement of a doubt or question (sansaya).
3) The view of an opponent, with reasons (poorvapaksha).
4) The decided view, with reasons (siddhånta).
5) The purpose served by the discussion in that section
A section is, therefore, a unit of dialogical argument, establishing a position with respect to some disputed issue in the face of a provisional opponent. It is important to stress that the text itself does not generally mark its own sootras according to these types, and that the classification is largely the work of the commentary itself.
The text itself, in particular, will rarely mark a sootra as pμurvapaksha or as siddhånta. The fluidity in these processes of labelling and classifying lend plasticity to the commentary, and leave room for later commentators to re-mould the text in response to changing circumstances, the emergence of new dialectical opponents or new domains of ‘cultural value” . Consider, for example, the following three sootras from the Vaiseshika-sootra:
3.2.15 Self is one, since there is no difference in the production of pleasure, pain and cognition.
3.2.16 Self is manifold because of circumstance.
3.2.17 Also from the authority of the såstra.
One commentator (Sreedhara) reads these sootras as representing first an Advaitin opponent who thinks that there is just one soul, Brahman, and then the decided view, that there is a plurality of individual souls. But another commentator (Vyomasiva) supplies a quite different interpretation that the first view is the correct view that within a single body there is just one soul, and the second view that of a Buddhist opponent who thinks that there is a continuous stream of momentary souls. In both cases, the interpretation is speaking to the concerns of a readership contemporaneous with the commentator. Here again, there is a conversation in which the text is an instrument in a philosophical practice. It misses the point to ask if the commentary is faithful to the author’s original intentions, or is accurate historically. In fact, there is a sliding scale with formal commentary at one end and autonomous treatise at the other; somewhere in-between fall texts such as Jayanta’s Nyåyamanjaree, a work which, as Esther Solomon has put it well, “used the Nyåya sootras as pegs to hang on them the detailed discussions of various problems of philosophy”.
Having identified segments of text carrying internal dialogical unity, a commentary inter-relates them. According to the standard btheory, one of six types of interrelation (sangati) should hold between consecutive sections within a chapter:
1) prasanga ñ corollary.
2) upoddhåta ñ prerequisite.
3) hetutva ñ causal dependence.
4) avasara ñ removal of an obstacle to further inquiry.
5) nirvåhakaikya ñ the adjacent sections have a common end.
6) kåryaikya ñ the adjacent sections are joint causal factors of
a common effect.
For example, a section in the Nyåyasμutra in which a tripartite division of inference is described (NS 2.1.37ñ38) is immediately followed by a section on the “three times”, past, present and future(NS 2.1.39ñ43). A commentator might wish to see such textual contiguity as indicative of a logical, explanatory or evidential relationship between the topics in the two sections. B. K. Matilal has argued that “the discussion of the problem of three time-stages is related to the discussion of the examination of inference by upoghåta sangati or prasanga sangati” from which one can deduce that the tripartite division of inference has a temporal basis.
The sections of NyåyasOOtra Adhyåya 2, Åhnika 1, according to th Bhåshya, are as follows:
2) sources of knowledge in general
4) whole and part
A commentator might argue that the relationship between the section on perception and the section on whole and part is one of ‘corrollary’ (prasanga), and the relation between the section on wholes and parts and the section on inference one of “removing an obstacle” (avasara), and be led to philosophically important ideas about the perception of whole objects and the role of inference in perception.
So a section creates a group of sootras with a dialectical unity, and a chapter creates an explanatorily inter-connected group of sections. The end result is a text with thematic coherence and formal continuity, modulating the representation of the world provided by the core sootra text.
4. IMITATIONS OF THE SAUTRA BHAASHYA PARADIGM
It has been observed that a striking feature of the Sanskrit tradition is the frequency with which works that may as well have been independent treatises are cast into the external form of a commentary on an earlier text. In this way many treatises of great originality have been made to depend, at least nominally, on earlier works that they leave far behind.
In fact, one can go further, for many treatises are composed in text and commentary form from the beginning, with a single author exploiting the expressive and hermeneutical richness of commentary to generate textuality and structure in their composition. The terms kårikå and vårttika are used instead of sootra when an author composes an original work mimicking the sootrañbhåshya genre. For example, Udayana,s Nyåyakusumanjaree consists in a core set of kårikås, bound together with his own gloss. Other philosophers have felt free to write their own commenaries on these kårikås; there is even a late commentary on them from a Vedåntic rather than a Nyåya perspective. A different example is Easvarakæshna’s Sånkhyakårikå, which is a sootra like composition upon which Gaudapådaís Sånkhyakårikå-bhåshya provides commentary. While the term “sootra” refers both to the individual affirmations and to the entire collection, the terms sårasangraha, kosa and samucchaya are used for collections of kårikås. Typical examples include Bhåsarvana’s Nyåyasåra, with the author’s own bhooshana, and Annangbhchcha’s Tarkasangraha, with the author’s deepikå. The composers of such compilations will sometimes explain that the ideas and teachings about the topic in question are scattered throughout larger bodies of textual material, and are in need of orderly collation.
Buddhist philosophers play with the basic genre and adapt it to their own purposes. First of all, they call the original dialogues of the Buddha sootra, or sutta in Pali. Early Sinhalese commentaries on the three baskets (the Sutta, Vinaya and Abhidhamma), were used as the basis of the great fifth century Pali commentaries of Buddhaghosa.
Both Dignåga and Dharmakeerti write texts in the form of collections of verses accompanied with commentaries of their own composition: Dignåga’s Pramånasamuchchaya, with his own vætti; Dharmakeerti’s Pramånavårttika, with his svopajnavætti. Of particular interest is the Abhidharmakosa of Vasubandhu, again a collection of nverses and on which Vasubandhu provides a commentary, which he actually calls a bhåshya, the Abhidharmakosabhåshya. According to one story, Vasubandhu supported himself by lecturing on Buddhism before the general public. At the close of each day’s lecture, he composed a verse which summed up his exposition for the day. These constitute the Abhidharma-kosa
If this story is to be believed, then we have a case in which the commentary is written first, followed by the text being commented on! According to another opinion, equally intriguing, Vasubandhu wrote the kårikås from one philosophical perspective, and the bhåshya from another, having in the meantime converted from one Buddhist school to another.
Another Buddhist philosopher, Samghabhadra, is led to write a rival commentary on the same kårikås in order to correct Vasubandhu’s own misleading commentary. Indeed, like several other authors, he wrote botha longer commentary, the Nyåyånusåra, and a shorter, abbreviated commentary, the Abhidharmasamayaprad∂pikå.
In the introduction to the shorter commentary, he explains his intentions: By means of extensive explanations that conform to correct principle, I will counter the accepted positions of other schools and manifest the fundamental meaning. When the Sootra, master’s statements conform to reasoned argument and scriptural authority, I will reproduce them as they are and not attempt to refute them. [However,] if they contradict the basic purport of the Abhidharma or the sootras in any way, I am determined to scrutinize them further and vow to purge them. The treatise I have already composed is entitled “Conformance to Correct
Principle” (Nyåyånusåra); it is to be studied by those who delight in meticulous analysis... In contrast to the Sootra masterís erroneous explanations, I will present the correct interpretation and will manifest the true and extraordinary meaning of the accepted doctrines of our school.
Samghabhadra accepts Vasubandhu’s core text, the compilation of kårikås, but equips them with an entirely different commentarial gloss from that of Vasubandhu himself (the Sootra master ). In effect, he creates a rival bhåshya from the core text. If behind a work such as Vasubandhu’s lies an anxiety that the truth will be buried in a welter of textual over-production, Samghabhadra’s worry is rather that it will be obscured by mistaken interpretation. This case is also a rather dramatic example of the point that the author has no special authority over the commentator in reading meaning from the text.
The bhåshya is a fundamental paradigm in Sanskrit philosophical commentary. One basic reason for the discursive richness of the model is that it permits one to state something at a high level of generality and then go on to qualify or restrict, to moderate or modulate, what one has just said. Indeed, in every act of self-commenting, such as writing a footnote, this way of expressing oneself is exploited.
As an exegetical mode of thinking, it is a distinctive type of rationality intrinsic to the commentarial approach. Wilfred Sellars has observed that whenever we have a model of some aspect of reality, we also need a commentary, which qualifies or limits but not precisely nor in all respects the analogy between the familiar objects and the entities which are being introduced by the theory.
A second reason for the power of the paradigm is that, as we have seen in some detail, it places structure and inter-relatedness in the foreground, encouraging creative association under the umbrella of a governing bconception. For both these reasons, reading philosophically is a way of thinking philosophically.
The Antiquity of Vedic Civilization
Posted by Dwaipayan De | Feb 10, 2016 |
In his Discourse on Sanskrit and Its Literature, given at the College of France, Professor Bournouf states, “We will study India with its philosophy and its myths, its literature, its laws and its language. Nay it is more than India it is a page of the origin of the world that we will attempt to decipher.”
In History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature, Max Mueller observed, “In the Rig-veda we shall have before us more real antiquity than in all the inscriptions of Egypt or Ninevah. the Veda is the oldest book in existence”
On a more personal note, another famous German thinker, Schopenhaur, remarked in his book, The Upanishads, “In the whole world there is no study so beneficial and so elevating as that of the Upanishads. It has been the solace of my life (and) it will be the solace of my death.”
What are the Vedas ?
Before beginning our discussion on the antiquity of the Vedic civilization, we should first of all understand what the Vedas are. The Sanskrit root vid means ‘to know’. Hence Veda means knowledge. The term Vedic refers to the literature and teachings of the Vedas. The Vedic scriptures are the spiritual literature of the ancient Indian culture, written in the Sanskrit language. They comprise of a huge collection of books which include material (mundane), religious (ritualistic) as well as spiritual (monotheistic) knowledge.
The Vedas are immense in both their size and scope. Quantitatively, the Bible and the Koran do not compare, and the Vedas easily surpass the lengthy ancient works such as Homer’s epics and the sacred cannon of China. For example, Mahabharata, one of the Vedic Historical texts, has 110,000 four line stanzas, making it the world’s largest poem – approximately eight times as old as Iliad and Odyssey combined. Ramayana, another Vedic history, on the other hand, consists of 24,000 couplets. The Vedic literature comprise not only of the Rig, Yajur, Atharva and the Sama Vedas but also of Upanishads, Puranas, Bhagavad Gita and itihasas like Ramayana & Mahabharata. It encompasses all literature that up-hold the Vedic tradition and culture.
Talking about the Vedic scope, it includes the nature, the universe, and a grand hierarchy of living beings – nonhumans, humans & humanoids. There is a large section of the Vedic literature, dealing with the detailed descriptions of the non-material worlds beyond the entire fabric of time and space.
For the earthly humans, however, the Vedas prescribe a balance between their spiritual and material lives. The Vedic social system combines the material impetus with the spiritual dynamics, and places a great emphasis on civilization as a precise tool for both material and spiritual upliftment.
Digging into the Past: A City Dating Back to 7500 BC
As was announced on January 16, 2002 from New Delhi, that the Indian scientists found pieces of wood, remains of pots, fossil bones, etc. near the coast of Surat, Indian Science and Technology Minister Murli Manohar Joshi told a news conference. He said, “Some of these artifacts recovered by the National Institute of Ocean Technology from the site, such as the log of wood date back to 7500 BCE, which is indicative of a very ancient culture in the present Gulf of Cambay, that got submerged subsequently.” Current belief is that the first cities appeared around 3500 BCE in the valley of Sumer, where Iraq now stands. “We can safely say from the antiquities and the acoustic images of the geometric structures that there was human activity in the region more than 9,500 years ago (7500 BC),” said S.N. Rajguru, an independent archaeologist.
Michael A. Cremo, historian of archeology, claims that all the history textbooks would have to be rewritten if this ancient find proves to be of Vedic origin. According to Cremo, “The ancient Sanskrit writings of India speak of cities existing on the Indian subcontinent in very primeval times. Although historians tend to dismiss such accounts as mythological, these new discoveries promise to confirm the old literary accounts.”
Discovering River Saraswati
The legend of the mighty Saraswati river has lived on in India since time immemorial. The Vedic scriptures are full of tantalizing hymns about it being the life-stream of the people.
An Indian and French archaeological field team on the ground, coordinating with a French SPOT satellite in space, has ascertained that the Saraswati River , as described in the Vedas, is fact, not mythology. Vividly exposing the signatures of old rivers and their branches data from SPOT shows that the Saraswati did exist. The Satellite’s sensors and pointed optics reveal the dried bed of a river extending from the present Ghaggar River and flowing four miles wide, in the region of India, west of what is now Delhi. In what is now Punjab, the Satellite imagery has shown the Saraswati’s bed to be twelve miles wide. From space, researchers can detect that Saraswati had several tributaries, watering an immense area of fertile soil. Traces of artificial canals watering remote agricultural locations are also visible.
Ancient Hindu Temples Found worldwide
A Siva Lingam monument, a relic from the lost Champa Kingdom, stands proudly at the My Son site in Vietnam. Images depicting the Yoni and Lingam can be found in Hindu-influenced cultures across the entire Asian region.
A Cangkuang villager hunting for termites under a tree discovered a sharp hand-carved stone. Further investigation revealed that the location was the site of an ancient Vedic/Hindu temple. Ony Djubiantono, head of West Java’s Bandung Archeology Agency says, “Based on a preliminary finding of various remains there are indications that this is a Hindu temple built in the seventh or eighth century.”
The ancient Nandeeshwara temple (dedicated to lord Shiva) at Malleswaram was discovered only three years ago, but it has stood for 7,000 years on that spot. Being buried over the years hasn’t diminished its aura at all. The temple was discovered recently when the land was being dug up and it was found that the temple had remained untouched over the years.
Nearly 40 kilometers from the Thai-Cambodia border the Chen Sran temple has been discovered in the jungle of the northern Preah Vihear province. It was built in the ninth or tenth century, and is dedicated to the Vedic tradition. The temple stands 15 meters tall, and is 150 meters in length by 100 meters wide. Nearly 50 percent of the structure is damaged and most of its artifacts have been plundered, even though there is no decent road to the temple.
Archaeologists have found a statue of Nandi, the sacred bull that carried the Hindu god Shiva, among the ruins of what is believed to be an ancient temple at an excavation site in Yogyakarta in Indonesia.
In south Germany, a prehistoric idol of “lion-man” has been discovered which has caused amazement to scientists around the world. It is made out of tusk of a mammoth in the form of a human body with a lion head. Amazingly it is dated to be 32000 years old. The artifact was discovered in a cave named Stadel-Höhle im Hohlenstein in the Lonental of the Schwab Alps, Germany. The figure was found exactly at the place in the cave where day and night meet, about 20 meters away from the entrance and buried 1.20 meter deep under the ground. The Vedic scriptures tell us that Krishna appeared in the divine form of a half-man, half-lion with a lion face, to protect His devotee Prahlad and to stop irreligion, personified by the demon Hiranyakasipu. A description of a standing Deity form of Nrisimha Avatara of the Lord is found in the agama Silpa Shastra, and is referred to as kevala-narasimha.
Major Anthropology Find Reported in India
Scientists report they have found evidence of the oldest human habitation in India, dating to 2 million years, on the banks of the Subarnarekha River. The 30-mile stretch between Ghatshila in the province of Jharkhand and Mayurbhanj in Orissa has reportedly yielded tools that suggest the site could be unique in the world, with evidence of human habitation without a break from 2 million years ago to 5,000 B.C. which makes it more important than even the Aldovai Gorge in East Africa, the Somme Valley of France, Stonehenge in England or the Narmada basin in Madhya Pradesh.
Anthropologist S. Chakraborty told the Calcutta Telegraph: “There are no signs of terra incognito (a break in the continuum) in the Subarnarekha valley, unlike any other site in India. Some of the heavier tools resemble those found in the East African stone-age shelters, used by the Australopithecus.”
Ancient Vishnu Deity Found in Russia
An ancient Vishnu idol (Vishnu is an incarnation of the Supreme God, as mentioned in the Vedas) has been found during excavation in an old village in Russia’s Volga region, raising questions about the prevalent view on the origin of ancient Russia.
The idol found in Staraya (old) Maina village dates back to VII-X century AD. Staraya Maina village in Ulyanovsk region was a highly populated city 1700 years ago, much older than Kiev, so far believed to be the mother of all Russian cities.
“We may consider it incredible, but we have ground to assert that Middle-Volga region was the original land of Ancient Rus. This is a hypothesis, but a hypothesis, which requires thorough research,” Reader of Ulyanovsk State University’s archaeology department Dr. Alexander Kozhevin told state-run television Vesti .
Dr Kozhevin, who has been conducting excavation in Staraya Maina for last seven years said that every single square meter of the surroundings of the ancient town situated on the banks of Samara, a tributary of Volga, is studded with antiques.
Prior to unearthing of the Vishnu idol, Dr Kozhevin has already found ancient coins, pendants, rings and fragments of weapons. (Times of India, Dec 2006)
Tamil Brahmi Script Found in Egypt
A broken storage jar with inscriptions in an ancient form of Tamil script, dated to the first century BCE has been excavated in Egypt.
Dr. Roberta Tomber, a pottery specialist at the British Museum, London, identified the fragmentary vessel as a storage jar made in India. Iravatham Mahadevan, a specialist in Tamil epigraphy, has confirmed that the inscription on the jar is in Tamil written in the Tamil Brahmi script of about the first century. (The Hindu, November 2007)
Vedic Culture and Today’s World
The above evidences clearly hint at the existence of a worldwide flourishing Vedic civilization, not so long ago, signifying the importance and authenticity of the Vedic scriptures. It shows that our forefathers walked the Vedic path to attain the higher essential spiritual goals of life.
As a matter of fact, the Vedic civilization, being the oldest has influenced every major culture and religion around the world that we know today, and can be declared as the parent of humanity.
The philosopher and researcher Edward Pococke also wrote about this conclusion in his book India in Greece (page 251). He states: “Sir William Jones concluded that the Hindus had an immemorial antiquity with the old Persians, Ethiopians and Egyptians, the Phoenicians, Greeks and Tuscans, the Scythians or Goths, and the Celts, the Chinese, Japanese and Peruvians.”
Pococke continues in his observation: “Now the whole of the society of Greece, civil and military, must strike one as being eminently Asiatic, much of it especially Indian. I shall demonstrate that these evidences were but the attendant tokens of Indian colonization with its corresponding religion and language. I shall exhibit dynasties disappearing from India, western India, to appear again in Greece, clans who fought upon the plains of Troy.” Therefore, since Greece is supposed to be the origins of European culture, and since Greece displays much of the same culture as India, we can say that the pre-Christian culture of Europe was Vedic.
William Durant, author of the 10-volume Story of Civilization, wrote, “India was the motherland of our race, and Sanskrit the mother of European languages. She was the mother of our philosophy, of our mathematics, of the ideals embodied in Christianity, of self-government and democracy. Mother India is in many ways the mother of us all.”
The above quotes would indicate that the Vedic culture was a global faith, a world influence. This may be given further credence in the remarks of Ectasias, the Greek writer that “The Hindus were as numerous as all the other nations put together.”
This is further corroborated in P. N. Oak’s World Vedic Heritage (p. 506) in which he presents evidence that, “In pre-Christian times the temples of Vedic Deities such as Vishnu, Shiva, the Mother goddess, Rama, Hanuman, and Krishna used to abound in all regions of the world. Evidence of this is found in the works of ancient authors such as Megasthenes, Strabo, and Herodotus. All those names are of Vedic origin, too. The term Megasthenes is Megh-Sthan-eesh, i.e. the Lord of the Region of the clouds. The name Herodotus is Hari-dootus, i.e. Messenger of [Hari] God.”
In Some Missing Chapters of World History P. N. Oak also explains that Shiva was worshiped all over the world, even in the Vatican. The word Vatican comes from the Sanskrit word Vatica, which means a bower or sylvan hermitage. He explains that even the premises of the Vatican have many Shiva emblems buried in their walls and cellars. Many such emblems have been dug up in other parts of Italy as well. And some of those found in the Vatican are still preserved in the Vatican’s Etruscan museum.
Similarly, there is striking similarity in all major religions in the world and by careful comparison we can trace back the essence in all of them to the teachings of the Vedic literature. We can understand how the Vedic culture influenced Zoroastrianism, which influenced Judaism, which influenced Christianity, which influenced Islam. However, each succeeding religion became more distant from the original spiritual teachings and understanding, until each one thought that, rather than offering truths and processes to be followed, they promoted the idea that they were the only way, superior to all else. This topic however is outside the scope of this article and I shall deal with it some other day.
The Universal Message of the Vedas
The Vedas are compared to a desire tree because they contain all things knowable by man. They deal with mundane necessities as well as spiritual realization. The Vedas contain regulated principles of knowledge covering social, political, religious, economic, military, medicinal, chemical, physical, metaphysical subject matter and above all specific directions for spiritual realization.
The real essence of Vedic literatures can be categorized into three headings:
Sambandha: Understanding the answers to the questions, “Who am I? Who is God? What is my relation with God?”
Abhideya: The process of reviving our relationship with God
Prayojana: The mature result: attainment of love of God.
Thus the three subject matters described in the Vedic literature are: the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the central point of all relationships, acting in devotional service to Him is one’s real occupation and attainment of love of God is the ultimate goal of life.
Further the Bhagavad-gita (4.34) enjoins the sincere seekers to approach a bonafide spiritual master for this purpose and “Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.”
(Lecture given by N. R. Srinivasan for the Vedanta Class at Sri Ganesha Temple, Nashville, TN)