Preservation and Research on Veda
The Vedas are the most ancient treasure of literature available to mankind today. Many Indian as well as Western scholars have written explanations and commentaries on the Vedas. But, despite all those commentaries one stands at dismay, since the question as to what could be a coherent formula encompassing and unifying all the various parts of the Vedas could be, eludes a satisfactory answer. Confusions and misunderstandings are not uncommon regarding gods, animal sacrifices etc. found in the Vedas. It is unfortunate that even today there prevails a notion that the commentaries of Sayanacharya and Max Muller are the ultimate, despite the fact the spiritual world pregnant in Vedas is totally ignored in them. Acharya Ananda Tirtha, Shri Raghavendra Swamy, Swamy Dayananda Saraswati etc. have of course made attempts to provide a spiritual delineation to the Vedas. Still, it would be truism to say that these efforts have fallen very much short of obviating the influence of tradition of the popular commentaries which served more to enshroud rather than to discover the true meaning. However, as Shri Kapali Sastry has put it, these commentaries kept alive the flame of importance of the spiritual significance of the Vedas.
It is at this background that Sri Aurobindo appeared on the scene. It would be appropriate to grasp and understand the basis of Sri Aurobindo’s line of thinking before proceeding to initiate oneself to his works on the Vedas. Sri Aurobindo is one who, while immersed in Yoga had seen directly through his inner vision the gods of the vedic suktas, and who had perceived the identity and harmony that exists between these gods and the ardent spiritual endeavour of man’s inner being. He had dived deep into the secret caves of the Vedic suktas and discovered clues to elicit their inner significance. And then, based on his study and inner vision, he unequivocally declared that there lies a hidden truth in them. The strength of his insight, research and discovery led him to provide a suitable elucidation of the suktas. Applying the clues and indications he had got, to the suktas selected out of the various mandalas of Rig Veda, he showed that these are pregnant with more than one meaning. As understood commonly, the suktas have, no doubt, an external (verbal) meaning, yet, there exists in them inner, esoteric meaning. Sri Aurobindo’s special contribution consists in showing that, it is this, this inner meaning that validates the impersonal origin of the
Vedas which they are all through the tradition extolled and venerated for.
Sri Aurobindo’s expositions of the Vedas are not hinged on his erudition, but they are anchored on his direct perception of the heart of the Vedas through his yogic and spiritual Sadhana. In his works such as ‘Hymns to the Mystic Fire’, ‘The Secret of the Veda’, etc., he as explained the two objectives of the Vedic Rishis – They intended to preserve the psychological and spiritual message of the suktas and at the same time they kept for the vast interested majority, an option and access so as to make it convenient for them recite or listen to. But, they formulated or kept the mantras studded with esoteric imagery lest its inner meaning should be distorted or deformed at the hands of the incompetent laity. Thus, they provided the outer meaning (only) to those who were inclined to the external forms of sacrifice and worship, – which with lapse of time, served to form a platform for the Mimansakas to ascribe it solely to the ritualistic delineations. Nevertheless, Yaska, Madhavacharya, Raghavendra Swamy, and, to some extent, Bhatta Bhaskara have in their commentaries clarified that the true meaning of the Vedas is the one that is spiritual and that Yajna (sacrifice) means that inner sacrifice only. But the western scholars, even though they took up the study of the Vedas, since they rather confined their basis to Sayana Bhashya which is more recent and consisting more of the ritualistic details, fell short of access to the inner meaning.
Viewed in the background of this meaning of the Vedas, Sri Aurobindo’s elucidation and commentary stand out to be of paramount importance. Following the line of thinking and the clues of Sri Aurobindo, Sri Kapali Sastry in his Siddhanjana Bhashya and its elaborate introductory note showed that this inner significance and the esoteric meaning of the Vedas is far more important and also that the external worship should culminate in the internal Upasana.
Continuing the tradition of Sri Aurobindo and Sri Kapali Sastry, Prof. R. L. Kashyap has engaged himself in expounding the spiritual meaning of all the Mantras of all the four Vedas. He has already brought out his commentaries on Krishna Yajur Veda, Shukla Yajur Veda, Rig Veda, Atharva Veda and Sama Veda in English.
Dissemination of Veda
Never did the Vedas proclaim that Sannyasa is a prerequisite for Realisation. Perfection is to be sought after in every walk of life by everyone. The message of the Vedas has always been that the material life and spiritual life need not and should not be distanced from each other, on the contrary, there should be perfect harmony and collaboration between them. During the long journey of Hinduism through ages since Vedic times, vast religious literature has been developed from time to time. Yet, the spiritual message of the Vedas remains ever fresh and relevant. Not just that, we are of the firm conviction and faith that the Vedic spiritual message is not only important today but it is also inevitable for the present and future mankind. Our institute is founded on the line of thinking of Sri Aurobindo and Sri T. V. Kapali Sastry. Moving on the same lines, it has taken up the task of publishing and publicising literature pertaining to and giving importance to the inner spiritual meaning and significance of the Vedas. Our publications may be categorised in three parts. Small booklets Medium size books Vedic mantras with translations. In the small and medium size books, the usage of Sanskrit language is kept to the bare minimum so as to enable even the interested readers not acquainted with the language to grasp the contents with ease. Books have been brought out not only in Sanskrit and English but also in other languages like Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Hindi and Malayalam. Plans are under progress to cover the other Indian languages also. So far (September 2009) 138 books have been published. Rig Veda ‘Rig Veda Mantra Samhita’ comprising of all the suktas of all the ten Mandalas is our first publication, which is compiled by Dr. R. L. Kashyap. It is in Devanagari script, and includes the ‘Khila Suktas’ (minor suktas) also. Special effort and attention has been taken to make it free from errors in the script. The list of the mantras used on special occasions is provided in the beginning. The spiritual meaning of 108 mantras, explanation with special stress on how the vision of the Rishis of thousands of years ago is still applicable to modern life. Now, this work has been translated in Kannada also, with the title ‘Mantra Mani’. Dr. R. L. Kashyap has given a spiritual elucidation in English, to the first 121 suktas of Rig Veda Samhita, based on the Siddhanjana Bhashya of Sri Kapali Sastry. This was published in 2001, under the title ‘Rig Veda Samhita’, in three volumes. The first volume contained the translation of suktas dedicated to Agni whereas the second to Indra. The rest of the suktas out of the above 121 were published in May 2001, which was received very well by the readers. Within two years after publication one thousand copies were sold. In the second edition, all the 121 suktas with the translation have been brought in a single volume, with the title ‘Secrets of Rig Veda’. Now whole of the First Mandala (191 Suktas) is brought in three parts. A happy news is that the English translation of all the ten Mandalas consisting of 10552 mantras is now completed (April 2009); and each Mandala is published in separate volumes. Mandala 5 in 2004, Mandala 10 in 2006, Mandala 3,4,6 and 7 in 2007; Mandala 2 in 2008 and 9 in 2009. The Kannada translation of the first and second part of Mandala 1, Mandala 2, 3, 4 Mandalas, Mandala 7 and 8 are made available, and rest of the Mandalas i.e 5,6,9 and 10 are ready for publication. These Samhita-s are also translated into Tamil and Telugu. Some volumes are already printed. As regards to the language of translation, English was taken as the preferable choice, with a view that it would be the best one for further bringing them in Kannada and other Indian languages. The format of the books was designed in such a way as to enable readers of all categories, including those who were not acquainted with Sanskrit, to understand the meaning of the Sanskrit terms. ‘Why Read Rig Veda’, written by Dr. R. L. Kashyap in 2000, has attracted immense attention of the public. It is translated in Kannada, Telugu, Marathi and Hindi and more than 10,000 copies have been distributed. This book, not only provides a glimpse of the vision of the Rishis as to the ways and means shown by them for the all round progress in life; but also discusses the misconceptions and misunderstandings that have crept in over passage of time, and meets them with appropriate clarifications, ‘Semantics of Rig Veda’, ‘Hymns on Creation and Death’ of Dr. Kashyap and ‘New Light on Veda’ of Sri Kapali Sastry, serve as signpost to those who intend to take up deeper study of Vedas. These medium size books cater well to the needs of those inquisitive about their inner meaning. Yajur Veda There is quite a widespread misconception that Rig Veda and Yajur Veda are discretely different in their content as well as in their usage and application. Yajna (sacrifice) means ‘Internal Yajna’ (Antar Yajna) only, the external sacrifice being only symbolic, which has been affirmed by Yajur Veda also. Many among the vast multitude of Riks in Yajurveda are repetitions of Rig Vedic Riks. Thus Rig Veda and Yajur Veda are not different or contradictory, but rather, they are complementary. Dr. R. L. Kashyap has, by writing commentaries to the Mantras of all the seven Kandas of Yajur Veda, clarified this aspect very lucidly. Krishna Yajur Veda is rendered in both Sanskrit and Roman script. The speciality of this book is that it contains explanation of the meaning of each phrase, with notes, wherever necessary. In the history of commentaries on the Vedas, this work has – rightly too – the pride of place as the first attempt in showing how each mantra is helpful in awakening and developing the inner strength of man. This work has been published in four volumes (2002-2004). The following extract from the preface of this book, by Prof. S. K. Ramachandra Rao, a noted vedic scholar, throws some light on the significance of it. “Dr. R. L. Kashyap has published in English, the Taittiriya Samhita of Krishna Yajur Veda, with a spiritual and esoteric interpretation. It is indeed an objective and pioneering work of high importance. The main characteristic of the Samhita being chiefly pertaining to things ritualistic, it renders an attempt to provide esoteric interpretations very difficult. I am happy to see that Dr. Kashyap is far successful in this attempt. Apart from explaining the ritualistic activities of the external sacrifice, he has, further, expounded with stress what the Samhita truely implies as regards to the Antar Yajna (inner sacrifice). His task is at once arduous and novel….’’ Thus, in 2009, the entire Rig Veda Samhita consisting of 10 Mandalas and the entire Yajur Veda Taittiriya Samhita with all the seven Kandas, are translated into English. All the seven Kandas of Yajur Veda are translated into Kannada, which has received a very good response. The publication of small books, containing the knowledge and its importance, hidden in the Rig Veda and which are useful in day-to-day life, is being continued. So far, about 60 such books have been brought out in English, out of which 50 have been translated in Kannada. About 10 have been translated into Hindi, Marathi, Telugu and Tamil etc. A series of four books – viz., – Essentials of Rig Veda, Essentials of Yajur Veda, Essentials of Sama Veda and Essentials of Atharva Veda are available in English as well as in Kannada and Telugu. Sama Veda Sama Veda, mostly contains the Riks of Rig Veda, of course with some alterations. It has two main parts – Purvachika and Uttararchika. Dr. Kashyap has written commentary on all Sama Veda mantras. Atharva Veda Atharva Veda containing about 5000 mantras, many of which are from Rig Veda, is not any way relegated to the side. One may remember that ‘Bhoosukta’, which is the most ancient records of man’s concern about environment, is involved in Atharva Veda. A book has been published in Bhoosukta, containing 56 mantras, which is also translated into Kannada. Another book, ‘The Wisdom of Atharva Veda’ which contains many suktas of this veda, is also translated. Atharva Veda has in all 20 Kandas. We have published it in Six volumes.