Great Master Shri Sujnan Giri Explains: What are the Vedas? Part – 2

Picture of Sanskrit Manuscript of Rigveda with First Mantras

A Sanskrit Manuscript of Our Great Divine Scripture Rigveda, Showing the First Mantras


Hari Om! Namaste!!

We had been listening to the discussion on the Vedas in the earlier post. Let us continue to learn from their conversation further.

Jnana Hariputra: “Sir, Could you please tell me more on the Vedas?”

Shri Sujnan Giri: “Sure. The Vedas are four in number. They are 1. Rigveda 2. Yajurveda 3. Samaveda 4. Atharvana Veda. Again, all the Vedas have four portions: 1. Samhita 2. Brahmana 3. Aranyaka 4. Upanishat. Initially, all the Vedas were together as one. Great Master Maharishi Veda Vyas split the Veda into four and organized them. The name Veda Vyas means arranger of the Vedas.
Samhita portion has mantras to propitiate the Gods. Brahmana deals with the Vedic rituals to worship various deities. Aranyaka deals with meanings and philosophical discussions of rituals. Upanishats deal with the Highest Knowledge.

First two portions of the Vedas, viz. Samhita and Brahmana are together called Karma Kanda(Branch of Vedic Duties) or Purva Mimamsa. They form the bases of Karma Yoga. Aranyaka and Upanishat are collectively referred to as  Jnana Kanda(Branch of Knowledge) or Uttara Mimamsa. They are the core Scriptures for Jnana Yoga

Hariputra: “What are Upanishats? Why are they important?”

Shri Sujnan Giri: “As we discussed earlier, Upanishats are the last parts of the Vedas. So, they are also called Vedanta(meaning last part of the Vedas). The Upanishats deal with only the Highest Knowledge. Nothing else. Our Great Realized Masters guide us on the path to realize God within ourselves. They talk about the Highest Truths from their own experience of realization.  So, they are the final authority on what they say. Out of compassion, they share the Great Truths which are profound (yet simple) and abstract(but practical), in a story line.

The Upanishads are extremely important because they guide us by imparting the Highest Knowledge to achieve the single most important purpose of life as human beings, i.e. to merge our Individual Self with the Universal Self.”

Hariputra: Bhagawan! Thanks. Now, I understood that the Upanishads are like the Sun, who is shining with the Highest Knowledge, showing the path to the Absolute. By the way, what is Rigveda?”

Shri Sujnan Giri: “The word Rigveda is formed by combining to words Rik and Veda by a sandhi in Sanskrit. Rik means ‘to praise, to adore’. Veda means ‘to know or knowledge’.  So, Rigveda means the Knowledge of Praises(of deities).”

Hariputra: “Sir, I heard Rigveda is very vast. How is it organized?”

Shri Sujnan Giri: “You are right. Just to provide you an estimate of size of Rigveda: it has 10 mandalas, 1028 suktas(hymns), 10,552 riks, or 39,831 padas or 4,32,000 syllables! Rigveda is organized into 10 books called mandalas. Each mandala is divided into hymns called suktas. Each sukta is further divided into riks (praises) and each rik has different padas. This system is used to reference individual mantras.
According to another scheme 10 mandalas of Rigveda are divided into eight parts called astakas. The astakas are further divided into adhyayas(chapters) and further into varga (class). ”

Hariputra: “Sir, What are the features of a Rik?”

Shri Sujnan Giri: “Good question. Each rik (praise) of Rigveda is set in a particular Chandas(metre). It is addressed to a Devatha (deity). It has a Rishi(Seer). As a matter of respect, it is customary to mention these three aspects of the mantra before we chant.”

Jnana Hariputra: ” Oh! I see. Sir, Could you please give an example?”

Sujnan Giri: “OK. The first mantra of Rigveda starts as:
AgnimiLe purohitam yajnasya devamritwijam|
hotaram ratnadhatamam | – Rigveda 1.1

Meaning: Laud Agni who is: the chosen Priest, God, minister of sacrifice,the hotar. Agni lavishes the wealth.

Rishi of this mantra is Madhuschandah Vaishwamitrah. It is composed in Chandas Gayathri and addressed to Devata  Agni, i.e. the Fire God. ”

Hariputra: “Sir, I understood that these three aspects, viz., Rishi, Chandas and Devatha are important for each mantra. Could you please give a glimpse of these in Rigveda?”

Shri Sujnan Giri: “Sure. Main Rishis in Rigveda include Angirasa, Vasista, Vishwamitra, Bhrigu, Atri, Kashyapa and others. Most used Chandas are Jagati, Trishtup, Viraj, Gayatri and Anustup. They have twelve, eleven, ten, eight and eight syllables respectively. Principle deities addressed in Rigveda are Indra(king of demigods), Agni(the Fire God) and Soma(many meanings: a plant, Moon, Lord Shiva, etc.). The other deities are Surya(Sun God), Vayu(Air God) and Apas(Water God) and many others. ”

Hariputra:Bhagawan! I heard about famous Gayatri Mantra. Is it from Rigveda?”

Shri Sujnan Giri: “Yes. As we discussed earlier, Mother Gayathri is the Supreme power of Brahman. Gayathri Mantra is the sound form of Devi Gayathri.  So, it is one of the most powerful mantras.  It appears in third mandala of Rigveda in the verse 3.62.10 (3rd Mandala; 62nd Sukta and 10th Rik). Its Seer is the Great Sage Maharishi Vishwamitra. The Chandas is Gayathri. It is addressed to the Deity the Sun God. ”

Hariputra: Gurudev! Thank you very much for gracing me knowledge on the Vedas and Rigveda in particular. I am blessed!”

Shri Sujnan Giri: “You are welcome!

Sarve janah sukhino bhavatu! (May everybody be happy!) ”

(…To be continued)

Om Namah Shivaya ||

– Kalidas

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