Study of The Vedas

The state of things in this country for the past 100 years or so is such that the Vedas are being brought to the notice of the people of this country, the land of the Vedas, through the published works of Western Orientalists. While we should acknowledge with gratitude the invaluable contributions made by these research-scholars of the West in classifying, printing and preserving the Vedas, so far as we in India are concerned, the primary purpose the Vedas, namely to memorise and recite correctly, with proper accents, or adhyayana, cannot be served by these publications. The Vedas printed and preserved in libraries will (in the absence of regular study and recitation) eventually acquire only a museum value, and the future generations reading these published works may marvel at the wonderful things contained in them.

The Vedas are intended to serve a different purpose. They have to be learnt by heart, understanding the correct way of pronouncing the mantras by listening to the rendering of the mantras by the guru (teacher). The Veda mantras so learnt should become the guide in our daily life, in our Karmaanushtaana, Tapas, Isvara aaradhana, etc. If, in India, the Vedas retain their original vitality even today, it is because these hyms are being continuously repeated by students and teachers of the Vedas, and the purity of the sounds and accents of the words are retained in that process. It is only by practising the Vedic injunctions that we can obtain the grace of God, both for our individual welfare and for the welfare of the whole world. That is why the mere preservation of the Vedas in well-bound volumes cannot secure us the benefits for which they are intended.

In fact the Vedas are never intended to be written down and read. Veda Adhyayana implied hearing from the lips of the teacher and repeating after him. That is why in ancient Tamil classics, the Vedas are referred to as Ezhutaakkilavi , unwritten book. Veda Paatakaas, who learn from books, are included among the six classes of inferior scholars. The other five classes are those who recite the Vedas musically, those who recite very fast, those who shake their heads while reciting, those who do not know the meaning, and those who have a poor voice. This is made clear in the following verse :

Geetee seeghree sirahkampee tatha likhita paatakah
anarthajnah alpakanthascha shadete paatakaadhamaah.

The study of the Vedas has been confined in these days to a few professionals (purohits), who are not even accorded a proper status in society. Many of them learn mechanically, without caring to understand the meaning of the Vedic hymns. At this rate, there is a danger of Veda adhyayana becoming extinct, in the not so distant a future. To avert such a situation, a private Trust has been formed with land gifts made by some donors for encouraging the study of the Vedas in the traditional manner. About six years ago, statistics were prepared of those who have made a complete adhyayana of the Vedas, in each saakha (branch), and presents were given to them. Stipends are being given to qualified students in each saakha, who desired to learn Veda-bhaashya under a competent teacher. Half-yearly examinations are being held in the prescribed Veda and Veda Bhaashya portions and Sambhaavanaas are being given to successful candidates.

There are many people who genuinely regret that they have to perform the various rituals prescribed in the Saastras without understanding the meaning of the Mantraas employed therein. Take the instance of the marriage ceremony. The indifference shown by our young men and women for the rituals connected with marriage is due to their ignorance of the meaning of the Mantraas, they are asked to repeat. If the meaning of the Mantraas are explained to them beforehand, by a competent person, they will be able to go through the rituals with better understanding and greater devotion. The same procedure can be adopted in respect of Upanayana and other Samskaaras.

Veda adhyayana, without knowing the meaning thereof is like preserving the body without the soul.

Veda Mantraas uttered with a knowledge of their meaning will lead to Paapa-parihara(expiation of sins), and Arishtasaanti(liquidation of evil), and pave the way to Brahma-saakshaathkaara(God realisation).

The Vedas are the roots of our religion. All other Paraphernalia, like feast and festivals, are like the leaves and fruits of that tree, depending for their sustenance on the Vedic roots. Though imbedded in mud, the internal core of the roots is as fresh and fragnant as the fruits and flowers on the top. It is no use feeling gratified that the Vedas have been written down, printed and published by Western Scholars. To us, Veda adhyayana and their employment in the sacraments of our daily life are important. For that purpose it is necessary to learn them by heart, understand their meaning, and recite them in the prescribed manner.

February 1, 1958.