Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Vedanta - Part 8

VEDĀNTA the solution to our fundamental problem
D. Venugopal

D. Venugopal is a student of Swami Paramarthananda and a direct disciple of Pujya Swami Dayananda. He has successfully completed the long-term residential course in Vedanta and Sanskrit conducted from May 2002 to July 2005 at the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, Anaikatti.




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Publisher: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan
ISBN: 978-81-7276-457-9
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III - Veda is another means of knowledge that is available

Fortunately, knowledge, which we cannot acquire by ourselves through the usual means of knowing, is available to us in the form of words. It includes knowledge of the self for gaining mokña (freedom)and other knowledge for the pursuit of dharma (virtue), artha (material wealth)and käma (pleasure). This composite body of knowledge is Veda [28].(The word Veda is derived from the root “vid “in Sanskrit which means, “to know”.) Since it is communicated through words, this means of knowledge is called as çabda, which means verbal testimony. The means of knowledge is called as pramäëa. Thus, çabda is a pramäëa in addition to perception, inference, postulation, comparison and non-perception.


Çabda is a technical word and does not include all verbal communications. To clarify, the words “the hill is on fire” communicates knowledge but cannot be called as çabda, since this information can also be obtained through perception of fire on the hill, and by inference through smoke in the hill. For knowledge to be called as çabda, it should not be possible to gain it through any other means of knowledge, like, “You are the whole”. 


Veda, which is çabda, is available in four parts after Vyäsäcärya so compiled them for better preservation. They are called as the Åg, Yajus [29], Säma and Atharvaëa (or Atharva). Each of them is viewed broadly in two sections called as veda-pürva and veda-anta. The first section, which is veda-pürva is voluminous and is called the karmakäëòa. It essentially imparts knowledge of karma or actions, that are physical, oral and mental, that are required to be followed by everyone as also those which are the means to acquire and safeguard the desired ends or to become free from and avert the disliked conditions. In other words, it caters to the pursuit of dharma, artha and käma.


The second section of Veda, which is called veda-anta or Vedänta, reveals self-knowledge. Since the self is called as ätmä [30], self-knowledge is referred to as atmajïäna. Since ätmä is Brahman, it is also known as brahmajïäna. Vedänta is also called as jïänakäëòa. Vedänta consists of Upaniñads [31]. Thus, Vedänta, jïänakäëòa and Upaniñads are synonymous and contain atmajïäna or brahmajïäna. Since atmajïäna results in mokña, seekers of mokña pursue Vedänta.


Each Veda consists of four sections: saàhita, brähmaëa, äraëyaka, and upaniñad. Saàhita includes chants and prayers to various deities. The brähmaëa reveals the karmas and their modes of performance. The äraëyaka section contains various upäsanäs or meditations. Upaniñads contain atmajïäna.


Veda itself contains the information that it originated from Brahman, the infinite reality. [32] During manifestation, the first to appear is Brahmäji (“ji” is added to distinguish it from Brahman) who manifests and maintains everything. He teaches the wisdom of   Brahman to his eldest son and initiates the flow of knowledge to succeeding generations. [33] Bhagavadgétä [34] (4.1 and 4.2) states that in one of the manifestations, this knowledge is passed on to Vivasvän (Sun); he passes it on to Manu who in turn passes it on to Ikñväku, the first of the solar kings. From Ikñväku it passes on successively to the royal sages. Sage Vasiñöha is one of them. After sage Vasiñöha, the lineage of gurus mentioned in the regularly recited prayer is as follows [35]. Vasiñöha’s son Çakti, his son Paräsara, his son Vyäsa, his son Çuka. Beginning with Çuka, the lineage consists of sannyäsés. It consists of Çuka’s disciple Gauòapäda, his disciple Govinda Bhagavatpäda, his disciple Çaìkara Bhagavatpäda (Çaìkaräcärya), his disciples Hastämalaka, Sureçvara, Padmapäda, Toöaka, and their disciples successively until the present guru. Hence the prayer [36] -


Auspiciously beginning Éçvara, with the teacher Çaìkara in the middle, I worship the progression of teachers extending up to  my teacher. 

This knowledge is a part of the manifestation and is always available in a subtle form. Some åñis [37], have the ability to perceive it. For instance, Sage Yäjïavalkya perceived the Çukla Yajur Veda. Sage Atharvaë and Sage Aìgira perceived the Atharvaëa Veda. Brahmaåñi Vasiñöha perceived the seventh maëòala(part)of Åg Veda. Maìòüka Åñi perceived the Mäëòükya Upaniñad. Viçvämitra Åñi perceived the famous Gäyatré-mantra. Such åñisare not author of mantras (mantra kartäs), as the knowledge is not born of their intellect or experience. It is important to understand that åñis are not mystic experiencers reporting their personal experience. They are only perceiver of mantras (mantra drañöas) [38], which are manifest in the subtle form. They teach them to their disciples (çiñyas [39]). After learning, the çiñya teaches and becomes the guru [40]. Successive handing over of knowledge from guru to çiñya is called the guru-çiñya-paramparä [41]. The teaching tradition maintains the continuity of knowledge like the river, which by its perennial flow makes the water available at all times [42]. The gurus may be different but the teaching continues to be the same. This tradition of knowledge as properly and completely handed over by the guru through the established teaching methods is called sampradäya.


28. vidanti caturaù puruñärthän tat präpti upäyäà ca anena iti vedaù i.e., Veda is the source of knowledge by which we come to know of the four human goals called as puruñärthas  (dharma, artha, kämaand mokña) and of the means of attaining them. When Vyäsäcärya compiled them, there were 1180 çäkhäs or recensions with 21 çäkhäs in Åg Veda containing mantras, in metrical form (padyam), primarily containing prayers, 109 çäkhäs in Yajur Veda in prose form (gadyam), primarily dealing with rituals, 1000 çäkhäs in Säma Veda, which are mantras that are to be sung (sämagäna) and 50 çäkhäs in Atharvaëa-veda containing mantras consisting of prayers and yajñas for averting calamities and afflictions. Of the 1180 çäkhäs, seven containing more than 20,000 mantras are now available.

Traditionally, in addition to Veda, ten disciplines are studied. They are six vedäìgas (adjuncts), which are çikñä (phonetics), vyäkaraëa (grammar), chandas (prosody), nirukta (etymology), jyotiña (astrology) and kalpa (know-how of rituals). There are four upäìgas (supplements), which are mémäàsä (system of analysis of the text), nyäya(logic), dharma-çästra(text of prescribed conduct) and puräëa (evergreen legendary history). Each Veda has an upaveda (secondary veda), which is respectively, äyurveda (medicine), dhanurveda (archery), gandharvaveda (fine arts)and sthäpatyaveda (architecture)..
29. Yajur Veda is in two parts, called as Çukla Yajur Veda and Kåñëa Yajur Veda.
30. Ätmä and Brahman are dealt with exclusively later.
31. The word Upaniñad is formed out of the Sanskrit verbal root sad withtheprefixes upa and ni. Upa stands for upasadana, which meansapproaching (the guru). Ni stands for ascertained knowledge (niçcaya jñänam). Sad means viçaraëa (to wear out or break), or gati (make one reach), or avasädana (put an end to).  All the three meanings are relevant as this knowledge wears out or breaks the saàsära by making one ‘reach’ or know ätmä by approaching the guru for the knowledge and puts an end to the cause of sorrow (käraëam avasädayati). Thus, Upanisad means doubt-free knowledge of the self or āätmajñäna acquired from a guru, which frees one from saàsära. The word also means the book that contains the text of the Upaniñad.
Of the 220 Upaniñads, which are now available, bhäñyam or commentaries have been written on 108 of them. Çaìkaräcärya has written bhäñyam on the following ten: Aitareya of Åg-veda, Éçä and Båhadäraëyaka of Çukla-yajur- veda, Kaöha and Taittiréya of Kåçëa-yajur-veda, Chändogya and Kena of Säma- veda and Praçna, Muëdaka and Mäëdükya of Atharvaëa-veda. Kaivalya Upaniñad of Atharvaëa-veda is also generally taught. Other Upaniñads are also quoted by äcäryas in their writings and among them are Çvetäçvatara (Kåçëa Yajur Veda), Kauñétaké (Åg Veda), Jäbäla (Çukla Yajur Veda) and Mahänäräyaëa (Kåçëa Yajur Veda).

32.Yo brahmäëaà vidadhäti pürvaà yo vai vedäàçca prahiëoti tasmai..| He who at the beginning of creation projected Brahmaji, who delivered the vedas to him ..(Çvetäçvatara Upaniñad 6.18); also .. asyaivaitäni niùçvasitäni| They (Vedas) are like the breath of this (supreme self). (Båhadäraëyaka Upaniñad 2.4.10.)
33.Brahmä devänäà prathamaù saàbabhüva
   viçvasya kartä  bhuvanasya goptä |
   Sa brahmavidyäm sarvavidyäpratiñöhäm|
   atharväya jyeñöhaputräya präha ||Muëdaka Upaniñad , 1.1.1.

34. Bhagavadgétä consists of the teaching of Bhagavän Kåñëa to Arjuna in the battlefield and is a part of the epic Mahäbhärata written by Vyäsäcärya.
35.Naräyaëaà padmabuvaà vasiçöhaà çaktià ca tatputraparäçaraà ca |
  Vyäsaà çukaà gauapadaà mahäntaà govindayogéndramathäsya çiñyam ||
  Srisaìkaräcäryamathäsya padmapädaà ca çiñyam |
  Taà totakaà värttikärämanyän asmadgurün santatamänato’smi ||

36. Since the knowledge is not born of the human intellect, it is called   apauruñeya-pramäëa.
37. Åñati jänäti  iti åñi|
38. Since the knowledge is not born of the human intellect, it is called   apauruñeya-pramäëa.
39. Çiñya is the person who is çikñaëa yogya or fit to receive the teaching.
40. Guru is the person who destroys (gu) the darkness or ignorance (ru).
41. Paramparämeans handing down in regular succession without interruption. It is also called the karëa-paramparä since the disciple gets the knowledge by listening to the guru. Veda is also called as ägama, or what is received from the statements of the guru (Guroù väkyät ägacchati iti ägamaù)
42. This continuity is called praväha-nitya.


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Page last updated: 03-Jul-2014