Overview of Shukla Yajur Veda

We have mentioned earlier that Yajur Veda Samhitā has two major recensions, the Krişhņa Yajur Veda (KYV) and the Shukla Yajur Veda (SYV). KYV is the older one.

Traditionally the SYV is called Shukla (pure or unmixed) because it is not mixed up with the brāhmaņa passages as in the KYV.

SYV in its mādhyandina vājasaneyi (VS) version has about 2000 mantrās divided into 40 chapters or adhyāyās, the last adhyāya being the famous Īshāvāsya Upanishad. Note that about 1000 mantrās (about one half) is in KYV TS also.

There is one major noticeable difference in the texts. In SYV, each chapter does not have a separate title.

However in KYV (TS), it is not the case. Recall that KYV has 7 Kāņdās, each divided into several prapāţhakās which are further divided into anuvāka. There are 651 anuvākās, some of which are brāhmaņa passages. In KYV (TS), each anuvāka is assigned with a title based on its ritualistic interpretation or its use in the rite. The title may have very little to do with the meaning of the text of the anuvāka. We will discuss this matter later. Our contention is that KYV is called Krişhņa or mixed because of its complete identification with rituals, especially with animal sacrifices.

Two ancient Purāņa books, Vişhņu Purāņa and Srimad Bhāgavatam, relate the legend of the origination of the Shukla Yajur Veda; the relevant verses are quoted in [V2]. The text of SYV was revealed to the seer Yājňavalkya (Y). We give here a paraphrase of the legend. Y was a student of the famous teacher of Yajur Veda by name Vaishampāyana (V) who was attached to rituals and to animal sacrifices. There was a disagreement between the teacher V and the student Y; consequently Y was asked to return the knowledge obtained and leave the place. Y did so. Later he carried out intense spiritual practices and prayed to the spiritual Sun to reveal the Yajur Veda which was ayātāyāmam, i.e., not polluted and not insipid. He was revealed the Shukla Yajur Veda which was ayātāyāmam.

When Y left V, he literally spat out or quickly recited in a hurry the Vedic knowledge he had learnt from V; “the disciples of V took the form of tittiri birds and picked up the relevant verses.” Clearly the sentence in quotes is symbolic. Recall the deeper meaning of tittiri as our inner being which aspires to knowledge and overcomes the psychological foes. Thus the sentence states that the inner beings of the disciples recorded in their minds the verses relevant for them. The collection of the verses obtained by the disciples is the Taittirīya Samhitā of the Krişhņa Yajur Veda.

The main objection of Y against the knowledge received from V was that this knowledge completely identified the sacred yajus mantra text with the outward rituals. A mantra has several interpretations, one of which is the outward rite. But insistence that yajus meant only outer yajna was not acceptable to Y.

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