The four books of the Vedas – Rig,Yajur, Sama and Atharva – include over 100,000 verses.
The knowledge imparted by the Vedas ranges from earthy devotion to high philosophy. Their words and wisdom permeate Hindu thought, ritual and meditation. The Vedas are the ultimate scriptural authority for Hindus. Their oldest portions are said by some to date back as far as 6,000 BCE, orally transmitted for most of history and written down in Sanskrit in the last few millennia, making them the world’s longest and most ancient scripture. TheVedas open a rare window into ancient Indian society, proclaiming life’s sacredness and the way to oneness with God.
Elaboration: For untold centuries unto today, the Vedas have remained the sustaining force and authoritative doctrine, guiding followers in ways of worship, duty and enlightenment. TheVedas are the meditative and philosophical focus for millions of monks and a billion seekers. Their stanzas are chanted from memory by priests and laymen daily as liturgy in temple worship and domestic ritual. All Hindus wholeheartedly accept the Vedas, yet each draws selectively, interprets freely and amplifies abundantly. Over time, this tolerant allegiance has woven the varied tapestry of Indian Hindu Dharma. Each of the four Vedas has four sections: Samhitas (hymn collections), Brahmanas (priestly manuals), Aran yakas (forest treatises) and Upanishads (enlightened discourses). The Samhitas and Brahmanas affirm that God is immanent and transcendent and prescribe ritual worship, mantraand devotional hymns to establish communication with the spiritual worlds. The hymns are invocations to the One Divine and to the Divinities of nature, such as the Sun, the Rain, the Wind, the Fire and the Dawn- as well as prayers for matrimony, progeny, prosperity, concord, protection, domestic rites and more.
The Aranyakas and Upanishads outline the soul’s evolutionary journey, provide yogic philosophical training and propoundrealization of man’s oneness with God as the destiny of all souls. Today, the Vedas are published in Sanskrit, English, French, German and other languages. But it is the popular, metaphysical Upanishads that have been most amply and ably translated.
The Vedas advise: “Let there be no neglect of Truth. Let there be no neglect of dharma. Let there be no neglect of welfare. Let there be no neglect of prosperity. Let there be no neglect of study and teaching. Let there be no neglect of the duties to the Gods and the ancestors” (Taittiriya Upanishad 1.11.1).
“United your resolve, united your hearts, may your spirits be one, that you may long together dwell in unity and concord” (Rig Veda10.191.4).
“There, where there is no darkness, nor night, nor day, nor being, nor non being, there is the Auspicious One, alone, absolute and eternal. There is the glorious splendor of that Light from whom in the beginning sprang ancient wisdom” (Shvetashvatara Upanishad 4.18).
“Taking as a bow the great weapon of the Upanishad, one should put upon it an arrow sharpened by meditation. Stretching it with a thought directed to the essence of That, penetrate that Imperishable as the mark, my friend” (Mundaka Upanishad 2.2.3).
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