Meaning of the Veda

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The meaning of the Veda ( Veda , literally: knowledge) is very great in many directions of Hinduism . Many Hindu scriptures refer to it, also in the form of commentaries. The exact delimitation of which texts belong to the Veda is debatable. Sometimes the later Hindu scriptures such as the Puranas or Agamas are also referred to as "Vedic literature". The Veda itself is regarded as knowledge ( Shruti ) "heard" by wise men and enjoys the highest authority. The Vedas (in the narrower sense) are texts that were originally handed down orally over centuries in Sanskrit in the form of songs and recitations and were only recorded in writing later from the 5th century AD. In the 19th century, Indologists like Max Müller translated them into various European languages. These translations are not without controversy among Orthodox Hindus, since the Veda is considered untranslatable. Because of the translations available in printed form, the Veda became better known among Hindus in India than was ever the case in earlier times.

Not all parts of the Veda play an equally important role in religious practice today. In the older parts, especially in the Rigveda , many rituals or sacrifices are described that later lost importance - such as the horse sacrifice ( ashvamedha ) - or the worship of the deities Varuna and Agni and the drinking and worship of Soma . Other hymns found their way into the ritual world of the Hindus, where they are sung in the pujas (devotions) together with hymns in the respective national language.

Vedic religion

Instead of Hinduism, the term “ Vedic religion ” is sometimes used today. On the one hand, this is to be seen as a demarcation from “Puranic Hinduism” (cf. Purana ). Since the term “Hinduism” comes from the English and is therefore tainted with the stigma of colonialism, “Vedic religion” is also used in addition to the Sanskrit term for Hinduism, Sanatana Dharma .

In Indology, however, “Vedic religion” refers exclusively to the religion during the Vedic period (1500 BC - 600 BC). At this stage there was no temple or image worship ; the ideas typical of Hinduism such as karma , salvation ( moksha ), and the cycle of rebirths ( samsara ) were not yet developed.

Vedic tradition of the Nambudiris

The Nambudiri Brahmans in Kerala understand the Vedic tradition to be the transmission of Rigveda , Yajurveda , Samaveda and Atharvaveda . The passing on is still carried out within the family. Later texts are not considered to belong to the Vedic tradition.

Every Nambudiri family is a follower of one of the three Vedas but not of the Atharvaveda. There are two different reviews of the Rigveda. Almost all Yajurveda families are followers of the black Yajurveda. The most widespread, however, is the Rig Veda. The oral transmission of the Veda from father to son is called Adhyananam (learning or recitation). For a long time the writing of the Veda was seen as impure or even offensive.

During a Vedic ritual , one or more priests recite Vedic passages. A yaga is a long and elaborate Vedic ritual performed by chanting mantras and making offerings to Agni . Somayaga is also important .

The spread of Buddhism, Jainism and Islam in northern India meant that the Vedic traditions were preserved, especially in southern India. Even Shankara , the great reformer of Hinduism, came from a family of Nambudiri Brahmins of Kerala.

Vedic tradition in Advaita Vedanta

In the eighth century Shankara founded a Hindu order , which to this day cultivates and passes on the Vedic philosophy in four places in India. Shankara is best known as the founder of Advaita Vedanta (end or consummation of Veda), the most important direction of Indian philosophy . Each of these four places is occupied by an elected dignitary called Shankaracharya .

Under the Vedic tradition one understands an uninterrupted teacher-student succession ( Guru Parampara ), in which spiritual knowledge is passed on from generation to generation and which sees itself in the direct succession of the Vedic Rishis (seers, wise men). According to Aurobindo , the hymns of the Vedas have, in addition to their exoteric meaning, which mainly relates to the practice of yajnas (sacrifice, ritual), an additional esoteric meaning that was known only to a small number of initiates, namely the direct disciples of the Rishis.

The Vedic tradition sees itself as a flow of knowledge (= Veda), which gives the student spiritual knowledge such as the use of mantras or the knowledge of higher states of consciousness ( Samadhi ). In this sense, the Veda is not understood as a script that is static, but rather as a reservoir of knowledge that stands at the origin of creation and that leads to different forms of expression in different ages. In addition to the Veda- Samhitas , the Brahmanas and the Upanishads , the Puranas and Agamas ( Tantras ) are also regarded as legitimate forms of expression and interpretations of the Veda.

Tradition of the Masters

The names of the individual masters ( rishis and acharyas) are regarded as guarantors of the Vedic tradition . However, not all names are listed, only the outstanding personalities. The order of the masters who are called testifies to the authenticity of the knowledge and also to the spiritual hierarchy that watches over the correct transmission of knowledge. The sequence begins with Narayana (name for Vishnu ), which was also the name of a Vedic seer. Then comes Brahma ( Padmabhuva ), the breath of which is the Veda. The Veda as the breath of God the Creator is the germ ( bija ) of creation, which at first only exists in sound form and is considered a subtle vibration of the cosmic order.

This is followed by the Rishis (seers) Vasishta, Shakti and Parashara . Vyasa ordered the Vedas and is said to have written all the Puranas. His son was Shuka . Up to this point the tradition is from father to son ( vamsharshiparampara ). Next, Shankara , his two teachers and four main students are enumerated who simultaneously watch over the four headquarters of his tradition that Shankara established in the four cardinal points of India, namely Jyotir Math in the north, Puri in the east, Dwaraka in the west, and Sringeri in the south . This is usually followed by the name of the teacher in whose direct line the student stands. Such a hymn is used as an invocation ( Avahana ), followed by hymns of praise for the teacher, for example in introductions ( Diksha ) to the student body, after which a mantra is often given. This lays the seed of knowledge in the student, which is to develop through practice such as meditation , devotion ( bhakti ), service ( seva ) and study of the scriptures. The concept of knowledge differs from the purely intellectual understanding. Similar to Gnosis , it is understood to be a knowledge that exceeds the limits of the intellect and can only be conveyed to the aspirant through spiritual experience.

Neohinduism and the new meaning of the Vedic religion

In the reform movements of Neohinduism of the 19th century, the conscious return to the Vedic religion played a major role, since the negative sides of Hinduism were viewed as later developments and falsifications. In this context, the attempt to reconcile the Indian religiosity of the time with the European standards of religion can be seen. Often borne by Anglicized elites with strong socio-economic dependence on the British colonial power and its cultural environment, the attempt is here to build a bridge between one's own religious traditions and the order and value patterns of Western culture. Monotheism, the outstanding character of individual revelation writings, image-free worship, a strongly restricted and rationalistically interpreted ritualism and more are adopted as concepts from Europe and transferred to an ideal, early religion in India (the Vedic religion).

The Brahmo Samaj , founded by Ram Mohan Roy in 1828, is pioneering in this respect, even if his influence only referred to a tiny Anglicised elite in Calcutta (barely more than 1000 members until 1860). Roy and his successors laid u. a. Value on image-free worship. As mentioned, one saw in the Vedic religion a pure monotheism which, however, was later defaced.

The Arya Samaj , founded by Dayanand Sarasvati in 1875, also referred to the Vedas in order to "purify" Hinduism of alien elements such as image worship , ancestor worship , untouchability , animal sacrifice and priesthood . The Veda was considered the sole and comprehensive source of true knowledge. The top priority is to read, hear and pass on these texts. All Unvedic teachings were called false teachings because they distracted from the actual truth of the Vedas to varying degrees. The essential criterion for judgment was the "rationality" (in the sense of Dayanand) of the respective texts. Religions that included a historical act of God, miracle stories and other things (such as Islam and Christianity) were classified as irrational, since the underlying image of God did not correspond to Dayanand's claims of perfection, omniscience, omnipresence and general unavailability. The Veda, on the other hand, as the sole source of all true religious knowledge, so Dayanand, stands above such doubts. The various possible combinations of the roots of the word in Sanskrit, the perfect language as the medium of the Veda, and the general variety of meanings of central Sanskrit terms make the unique expressiveness of the Veda possible as the original revelation. Dayanand went further with the rationalistic interpretation of the Veda than all his predecessors (and also his successors), in that he found here, in addition to the source of all religious wisdom, the origin of a universal moral teaching, social structure, state theory and even science. All of this was perfectly realized in India in a golden Vedic age (including technological advances such as telegraphy , steamship , railroad , aviation, and many others). After the great war of the Mahabharata , however, all these achievements fell into disrepair, as the Vedas' previously central social position was lost and forgotten in the course of this.

Vedic Tradition and Transcendental Meditation (TM)

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi , founder of Transcendental Meditation , refers in his speeches and publications to the Vedic tradition (in the sense of the Shankara tradition described above) and to his teacher Swami Brahmananda Saraswati , who was Shankaracharya from Jyotir Math , North India, and from 1941 to 1953 thus the highest dignitary of the Vedic Shankara tradition. It is the declared goal of Maharishi to make the Vedas usable (again) in daily life. Maharishi understands the Veda, in the sense of Dayananda , as a blueprint of creation, which already contains all the sciences in encrypted form. Tony Nader, in a book Human Physiology - Expression of Veda and Vedic Literature, hypothesizes a correlation between the verses of the Veda and human physiology. It is a matter of showing, at every level of physiology, a precise one-to-one connection between the structure and function of human physiology on the one hand and the aspects of the Veda and Vedic literature on the other hand: which is seen here as the basic structure of the natural law. This type of comparison and symbolic association is popularized by the TM movement as "Vedic Science". Maharishi also successfully popularizes Ayurveda , which he understands as practically applied Veda. He also tries to make the Sthapatya Veda ( Vastu , Vedic architecture and town planning) known.

Veda in Western Philosophy

The Vedas also met with great interest from some German thinkers and philosophers of the 18th and 19th centuries such as Kant , Hegel , Goethe , Schopenhauer and various linguists, for example Jacob Grimm . Schopenhauer writes in Parerga and Paralipomena : "The Upanishad is [...] the product of the highest human wisdom." And further: "It is the most rewarding and uplifting reading that is possible [...] in the world: it is the consolation of my life been and will be that of my death. "


When the teacher accepts the Brahmachari as a disciple, he makes him his own embryo. He gives birth to him for three days and nights in his womb, and when he is born the gods gather to see him - Atharva Veda - praise of the Brahmacharin


  1. The teaching of the Rishi (s) is a living thing that enables the species to realize its role at various stages of its evolution. It can only be transmitted by initiation through qualified individuals. - The Sacred Books by Alain Danielou. Usenet Post
  2. The new Sâmkhya sometimes replaces the word Agama (tradition) by the word Veda (from the root vid, knowledge) to represent permanent information (akshara), the plan that is at the basis of all aspects of creation, the object of all research , all science, all metaphysics, all true knowledge. - Alain Danielou, where
  3. Biographical Notes About Sankara and Gaudapada . Retrieved August 7, 2011: “They are recalled in a Hymn, the Paramparastotra, that includes the list of the early Advaita teachers and that is recited by the Shankarian followers at the beginning of the study of the Great Commentaries. Here is it : "Narayanam padmabhuvam vasistham shakti ca ca tatputra parasharam vyasam shukam gaudapadam mahantam govindam yogindram athasya shishyam | Srishankaracaryamathasya padmapadam ca ca hastamalakam shishyam tam totrakam vartikakaramanyanasmadguru-nsantatamanato 'smi" , " Advaita Parampara . Retrieved August 7, 2011.
  4. Tony Nader: Human physiology: Expression of Veda and Vedic literature. Modern science and ancient Vedic science discover the fabrics of immortality in human physiology. Vlodrop, Holland, 2000. ISBN 81-7523-017-7
  5. Postmodernism, Hindu nationalism and 'Vedic science'

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