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The Evolution and significance of The Vedas

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By Prof. G Venkataraman

The Vedas are the most ancient among the world’s scriptures. They are a vast storehouse of wisdom. Manu has declared, “Everything is derived from the Vedas.” The Vedas are immeasurable, unrivalled, and filled with Bliss. The word Veda is derived from the root word Vid, which means to know. Knowledge of the Supreme is Veda.
The Vedas – A collection of Divine Revelations
The Vedas consist of hymns, thousands and thousands of them. They represent an ocean to which countless Sages have contributed, going back to a period when there was only the spoken language and no script. The hymns of the Vedas represent thoughts and revelations that came to the Sages of yore during their meditations. These revelations were in the form of hymns, which the Sages transmitted to their disciples. Thus it was that they were passed from generation to generation. For centuries, all this happened entirely by word of mouth. The written version came much later. Thus the growth of the Vedas is like a series of small streams joining to form tributaries that feed big rivers, the rivers all finally merging into the ocean. This analogy is very apt, because the water that the streams get is from the rain, whose source is really the ocean. In the same way, the revelations that the Sages had were from the Divine; and the Ocean made up by the collection of revelations that constitutes the Vedas, is also Divine.
The Sound Aspect of Vedic Hymns – It’s Significance
I must pause here to make a few important comments. The first is that the Vedas exist in the form of chants, and the sound aspect is therefore very important. The Vedic hymns must be chanted properly and there is a spiritual significance to the chant, which the late Paramacharya of Kanchi explains as follows:
Vedas must be chanted with grandeur so that the sound can be properly heard. Vedic Mantras not only produce beneficial vibrations in the pulse of the one who chants them properly, but also similar vibrations in those who may hear them. Since it is spread in the atmosphere, it ensures wellbeing here and hereafter. The outstanding feature of the Vedas lies in the fact that the sound of the Mantras by itself when chanted has a meaning, apart from the words themselves, which too are pregnant with significance.
The sound aspect has been preserved from very ancient times and that is something remarkable. The sound aspect is linked intimately to the words, and the two, namely the sound and the word together have been so intertwined that over time, Vedic hymns have defied corruption and mutation. This is an important point and needs some reflection.
Let us take any language, including English. All languages have evolved. If say, an Englishman who lived fifteen hundred years ago were to suddenly appear before us and start speaking, I am sure most of us would not be able to understand what he is saying. The words would be different and so also the style. This is true of almost all languages. Languages evolve with time, these days over even short periods, but the Vedic language has remained invariant over the several thousand years during which the Vedas evolved.
How Have the Vedic Hymns Remained Uncorrupted
I once asked a scholar how this was possible since languages have all evolved the world over. The answer he gave was interesting. He said that the Vedic hymns have remained uncorrupted because of the sound aspect. They had a particular metre and when chanted, they had a certain completeness of their own. Any mutation or distortion of the words would severely disturb the sound aspect, and this disturbance could be easily detected. Since the sound aspect was dominant, corruption could be spotted and eliminated immediately; this is how, I was told, the pristine purity of the Vedas had been preserved. Sounds plausible I would say.
Anyway, the fact of the matter is that the way the Vedas are chanted now, as, for example, in Swami’s presence everyday during Darshan, is the same as the way they were chanted thousands of years ago. I must of course qualify this by adding that there are some special schools of Vedic chanting but I am not considering that here; rather, I am confining myself to the standard method of chanting.
Just to make myself clear, let us say there is a Vedic Pandit from the East Godavari District in Andhra Pradesh and another from Kerala. East Godavari District and Kerala are at least a thousand kilometres apart. The respective Vedic scholars would have imbibed their tradition from their ancestors in those two widely separated parts of the country, parts, which, until recently, did not have good communication between them.

Suppose these two scholars meet and one of them starts chanting say the Taittriya Upanishad. The other would have absolutely no difficulty in joining the first scholar in the recitation. That is because the recitation tradition is the same for both, and that is because the recitation is fixed and has remained invariant through the ages. I hope you get the point. If you reflect on it, you would find this aspect unique.
Swami On Why The Vedas
Let me now go back for a minute to the Divine revelation aspect. Such revelations are not as rare as people might imagine, and have occurred to people in various places at various times in history. Indeed, even in science, such revelations have occurred. Of course, historians of science would not record it that way. They would instead say that Archimedes had a flash of discovery, Einstein had a flash of intuition, and so on. However, these flashes are nothing but the revelation of the Divine, maybe in relation to the material world, but revelations nonetheless.
Back to Swami and let us find out what more He has to say about the Vedas. Here is a quote:
The Vedas took form, only to demonstrate and emphasise the existence of God. The Veda is a collation of words that are the Truth, which were visualised by sages who had attained the capacity to receive them into their enlightened awareness. In reality, the Word is the very Breath of God, the Supreme Person. The unique importance of the Veda rests on this fact.
Why are the Vedas called Sruthis
Because the Vedas originally existed only in sound form, they are sometimes referred to as Sruthi. In scriptures, Sruthi means that which is heard. The real reason for giving the name Sruthi to the Vedas is that Cosmic Vibrations which are inaudible and cannot be seen were heard by the mediating Sages as sound. That is also one of the reasons why the sound aspect is given so much importance. Great stress is therefore laid by the teachers of Vedas on the correct pronunciation of the word and the intonation while chanting. Listeners who have heard the extended Vedic chants by students before Swami, would be able to appreciate what I mean.
The ancients of India devised elaborate recitation drills so that through the ages, the chants would remain the same, without mutation and corruption. This is something remarkable, and I am not sure if there is any other comparable example.
The Structure of The Vedas
I must now say something about the structure of the Vedas. It is usually said that there are four Vedas. Yes there are, but this classification came after several thousands of years. Before that, it was, shall I say, a period of discovery? Revelations came to people belonging to different times, and these were encapsulated into Vedic hymns. There were thousands and thousands of hymns but unfortunately, most of them have been lost in time. What has survived is only a small part. Even so, they are not only grand in themselves, but tell, in their own way, the story of the evolution of human thought. I shall come to that aspect a little later but for now, I shall stay with the topic concerning the structure of the Vedas.
Today we recognise four Vedas, the Rig Veda, the Sama Veda, the Yajur Veda and the Atharvana Veda. Apparently, it was Sage Vyasa who made the compilation and classification of Vedic hymns in this manner. It is customary to identify in each Veda, three portions known respectively as: Samhita, Brahmana and Aranyaka. Thus, the Rig Veda has its own Samhita, its own Brahmana and its own Aranyaka. The same holds for the other three Vedas also.
The Division within Each Veda
Now what do these three portions signify? Why this division? That is the question I shall address next. In a sense, the three portions are indicators of evolution of Vedic thought. The word Samhita means that which has been collected and arranged. The Samhita portion of a given Veda contains the Mantras belonging to that Veda, arranged in a systematic manner. These Mantras comprehensively convey the main objective or the purpose of that particular Veda. The Vedic Mantras that we often hear come mainly from the Samhitas.
Turning next to the Brahmanas, these spell out how certain rituals ought to be performed. About the Brahmanas, Swami has this to say:
The Brahmanas constitute an important part of the Vedas, and deal with the correct procedures for performing rituals like the Yajnas and Yagas. Being ceremonial rites for acquiring mundane pleasures, such ceremonies, however, cannot offer Atmananda or the Pure Bliss of the Atma. They can only enhance sensory enjoyment and provide epicurean pleasures, which are intrinsically transient. The search for pure abiding Bliss of the Atma led the ancient Rishis to the solitude of the forests.
This leads me on in a quite natural fashion to the Aranyakas. This word is derived from the word Aranya, which means forest. Thus, the Aranyakas are sometimes referred to as forest books and with good reason. As already pointed in the quote from Swami, neither the Samhitas or the Brahmanas ask a person to give up everything and retire to the forest in order to contemplate on God and focus totally on spiritual development. No doubt chanting Mantras from the Samhitas does promote some purity of mind, but where spiritual development is concerned, they can take a person only so far.
The Aranyakas have a different objective. They are meant for people who wish to reach higher levels of development through intense contemplation and meditation of the Supreme One in His most abstract aspect. The famous Upanishads come at the end of the Aranyakas and represent the quintessence of Vedic Knowledge. As Swami puts it, “Ancient Sages have communicated the spiritual wisdom revealed to them through the Upanishads.”
Evolution Of Vedic Thought – The First Step
The above brief introduction to the Vedas also enables me now to comment on the evolution of Vedic thought. If one goes carefully through the Vedic texts that span the ages, one can see a clear line of evolution. The very early hymns are in the Rig Veda, and they not only express ancient man’s sense of wonder but also reveal how he identified specific deities like Indra, Agni, Vayu and so on with forces of Nature. About all this, Swami says,
The very first experience in Indian thought is the thrill of wonder. This is expressed in the hymns or Riks found in the Rig Veda. The Riks are all about the deities or the Devas, like Indra, Varuna and so on.
From this we see that the very early seekers did not straightaway understand Brahman, the Ultimate and all that. Like people elsewhere, the ancients of India also were struck with wonder about Nature and all the forces that formed a part of her, like thunder, lightning, wind, rain, etc. They also understood, perhaps in their own imperfect way, that there was a subtle synergy between the various agencies of Nature that promoted the sustenance of life on earth.
Everything from the ant to the elephant was seen as a part of some mysterious Cosmic cycle. And so, the very first thoughts related not only to the inevitable sense of wonder but also to an important question of logic. If there were forces in Nature, there ought also to be agencies that controlled these forces. It is these that were identified as Devas, and the Devas in charge of different departments, shall I say, were given different names like Indra, Agni and so forth. This is what I would call the first level of thought in a long evolutionary process.
It is interesting in passing to note that the Greeks also went through almost a similar thought process. As would be recalled, the Greeks too had a god of fire, a god for this, a god for that and so on. In fact, tribes everywhere had their own spectrum of deities or spirits, be it in Africa or North America. What this shows is that ancients everywhere had the implicit belief that there was something in the Universe more that what one could merely see with the eyes and experience with the senses.
The Second Step – Worshipping the Elements
Having decided that there were Devas who controlled various aspects and forces of Nature, the next task was to worship them and perform various rituals to propitiate them. Thus it was that rituals came into existence, almost soon after the Devas were accepted. Listeners may recall, for example, that Emperor Dasaratha performed a ritual called the Putrakameshti Yaga for having children. By the way, this ritual is sometimes performed even these days by the childless.
So the first step in the evolution process was to identify Devas and worship them. In due course, the more intensive of the Vedic seekers decided to probe further beyond the Devas and concluded, in the first instance, that there must be an overlord for these deities. The deities were like Viceroys, and there must be a Rex or a King who ruled over them. Thus it is that they convinced themselves about a Power superior to the deities. That power was called God.
Now arose an issue. Whom to worship? Some said, “Worship the deities for particular favours, and worship the God who ruled them when the deities were unable to deliver the goods.” Thus in ancient India, many started worshipping Varuna the God of Rain when the monsoon failed but prayed to another God when they wanted progeny or cure from illness and things like that. This is like going to different counters in a bank when one needs different kinds of service.
At this stage, some thinkers said, “Hey wait a minute. Let’s examine this business in some more detail.” They did so and came up with an answer that is best illustrated by using the analogy of a Bank. Just go to, say, the main office of the State Bank of India in Prashanti Nilayam during the working hours. You will find that many customers are seated with the Manager. Often, these are people from overseas who have big deposits in the Bank. They may have things they want to do like withdrawing some money, getting some foreign currency cashed, making new deposits and so forth. For every such activity, there is an assigned person and a counter for conducting the transaction; yet the VIP customer gets all his jobs done simply by sitting with the Manager. In the same way, these profound thinkers in ancient India came to the important conclusion that though there were deities who took care of limited portfolios, all the favours one wants can in fact be granted directly by God who ruled all the Devas, and that there was no need to separately take these issues up with the lesser deities or Devas.
The Final Understanding – The Existence of The Supreme One
In short, step by step, the seekers realised that there is a Supreme One who is beyond this world, beyond the Universe in fact, and beyond Space and Time too. The seekers also realised that this Supreme One who was beyond Space and Time itself, could not be described in words, and could not be cognised by the Mind too. We have heard so many speakers quote this Vedic phrase:
Yato vaache nivarthante aprapya manasachaha.
This phrase refers to Something that is beyond description and even thought.
Space-Time is a curtain that divides the Creator from the Creation. Creation is on this side of the curtain, while the Creator in all His absolute and pristine glory is on the other, so to speak. In short, slowly but surely, the seekers were zeroing on the existence of the curtain and the presence of something Supreme beyond that curtain. That something is God, whose children we all are, irrespective of race, religion, creed or nationality.
The Vedas Are Universal
In this sense, the Vedas are Universal and it is for that reason that Swami makes it a point to draw attention to the Vedas, and NOT because they are Indian in origin.
To repeat, the Vedas focus on a MYSTICAL ETERNAL SOMETHING that is beyond this world, beyond this Universe, beyond Space and Time itself, and is changeless. It is that Something beyond words and even the Mind that the Vedic seers were in quest of, and with good reason too.
Indeed, across the ages, seekers elsewhere too have been engaged in this very quest, though by different means. Einstein was one of them, and he gives expression to this beautifully. Explaining why he pursued Science, Einstein once said:
A knowledge of the existence of Something we cannot penetrate, which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our Minds – it is this Knowledge and emotion that constitute true religiosity. In this sense, I am a deeply religious man.
Einstein tried to catch a glimpse of Cosmic Infinity through Science while the seekers of the Vedic age sought that very same ETERNITY via the path of devotion and Spiritual inquiry.

Dear Forum Members since article is too long...i put in into 2 post.kindly read the continuation below
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The Supplementary Units of The Vedas
I will have more to say about the Vedic concept of God and related subjects later, but for now, let me for the record mention that in addition to the four main Vedas, there are many supplementary units that include six Vedaangas and four Upaangas.

The word Anga means a limb; thus the Vedaangas represent, so to speak, limbs of the Vedas while the Upaangas represent subsidiary limbs. I shall not go into details concerning these but I must mention one important Upaanga, and that is the Puraanas. The Puraanas are important because they cater to the masses. The late Paramacharya of Kanchi has this to say about the Puraanas:
The Puraanas can be called the magnifying glasses of the Vedas as they magnify small images into big images. The Vedic injunctions which are contained in the form of pithy statements are magnified or elaborated in the form of stories or anecdotes in the Puraanas.
This is an important point. Take Sathya or Truth, for example. The importance of adhering to Sathya come what may is wonderfully exemplified by the story of King Harishchandra, which, until recently, used to be regularly performed as a drama in villages all over India. That is how ordinary folk learnt the importance of abiding by Truth. I have myself seen unlettered villagers say, “I am bound by Truth.” We should also not forget that it was one such village drama depicting the story of Harishchandra that made a profound impact on Gandhi when he was a young boy, making a difference not only to his own life but, in some measure, to humanity as well.

Swami on How The Vedas Help Man
I think it is best for me to bring this talk to a close with a quote from Swami:
The Vedas teach man his duties. They describe his rights and duties, obligations and responsibilities, in all stages of life – as a student, householder, recluse and monk. In order to make plain the Vedic dicta and axioms and enable all to understand the meaning and purpose of the do’s and don’ts, the Vedaanagas, the Upaangas, the Puraanas and the Epic texts appeared in course of time. Therefore, if man is to grasp the significance of his existence and his own reality, he has to understand the importance of these later explanatory texts also.
I guess that places the Vedas and all the supplementary compositions in their proper perspective. Next time, I shall give you a glimpse of one of the interesting Upanishads.


Jai Sai Ram​

gv is so blessed with swamis grace,sometimes i am envious of him.

nachi naga.

gv is so blessed with swamis grace,sometimes i am envious of him.

nachi naga.

Dear Nachi Naga sir,

You know we should be hoping Swami showers more grace on GV sir...so that he will write more articles and all of us can learn....
yes renu,when we look it in the way you have written,i agree.hope swami graces all of us,just not dear gv :kiss:

nachi naga
Extraordinary article. Thanks very much, Renukaji. You are a huge asset to this forum, probably one of the few persons not caught in the argumentative cross-fire and if so your humility comes across like a shooting star. God bless and please keep posting more such gems.
By Prof. G Venkataraman
Loving Sai Ram and greetings from Prashanti Nilayam.
This is my third talk on the Veda Walkthrough Series, if I might call it that. In the two earlier talks, I sort of gave a general introduction to the Vedas. In the present one, I shall draw pointed attention to one particular Upanishad, the TaittriyaUpanishad, for the simple reason that it not only offers a good sample of what the Vedas are all about at the highest level, but also because we often hear this chanted when Swami comes out for Darshan. Radio Sai has of course presented earlier a detailed series on this particular Upanishad and I hope at least some of you have heard that presentation. Many of my remarks are in fact based on that presentation but they would be quite brief compared to what was offered earlier.
I have already pointed out that the Upanishads form a part of Vedanta, Vedanta meaning that which comes towards the end of the Vedas. As such, the Upanishads are highly philosophical in content, which ought not to be surprising because, as I mentioned in one of my earlier talks, Vedic thought evolved with time. There are many Upanishads, but scholars consider ten of them to be the most important ones; the Taittriya Upanishad, which I am now considering, is one of this top ten.
The Meaning of ‘Upanishad’

Let me start with the precise meaning of the word Upanishad. Swami says that literally it means to sit down near. Who sits near to whom? The disciple sits near the Guru. And then what?
The disciple absorbs Wisdom from the Guru and becomes enlightened. This is the traditional and outward meaning. The deeper meaning is that the individual must move nearer and nearer to the True Inner Self, for God is Ultimate Guru; that is the real way to Wisdom.
The individual, as Swami often reminds us, is an Embodiment of the Eternal Atma, that is to say, Atma cloaked in a Mind and a body. This combination is also referred to as the Jivatma.
The Upanishads help the Jivatma to embark on a voyage of discovery. Discovery of what? Discovery of the Jivatma’s True Nature. And what is that True Nature? The Pure, Unadorned, Unembodied and Infinite Atma. As Professor Radhakrishnan says, “The Atma is what remains when everything that is not the True Self is discarded.” Sadhana is the process by which the Jivatma discards all the unnecessary trappings that cloud the Atma.
Upanishadic Thought Echoed by Plotinus
In passing, it is well to remember that the Upanishads represent the highest Truth, which has attracted seekers the world over. Professor Radhakrishnan quotes the Greek scholar Plotinus who long ago independently observed:
One that seeks to penetrate the nature of the Divine Mind must see deep into the nature of his own Soul, into the Divinest point of himself. He must first make abstraction of the body, then of the lower soul which built up that body, then of all the faculties of the sense, of all desires and emotions and every such triviality, of all that which leans towards the mortal. What is left after this abstraction is the part we describe as the Image of the Divine Mind, an emanation preserving some of that Divine Light.

Max Mueller on the Upanishads
No one can deny that this is a remarkable and independent perception of the essence of Upanishadic Truth. But the fact remains that the Upanishads outweigh in sheer quantity as well as depth, the insight gained by seekers elsewhere. This is not to comment adversely on other philosophical traditions. Rather, it is a fact of history that in ancient India , seeking the Inner Self literally became a way of life for a very large number of people. Thus it is that Max Mueller, to whom Swami often makes references, says:
It is surely astounding that such a system as Vedanta should have slowly been elaborated by the indefatigable and intrepid thinkers of India thousands of years ago, a system that even now makes us feel giddy as in mounting the last steps of the swaying spire of a Gothic cathedral. None of our philosophers, including Heraclitus, Plato, Kant, or Hegel has ventured to erect such a spire. In the beginning there was but One, and in the end also, there will but One, whether we call it Atman or Brahman.
Max Mueller​

This is what Swami Himself has to say about the Upanishads in general.
The Upanishads are not the products of human intelligence. They are whisperings of God to man. The Upanishads are authentic and authoritative, as they share the glory of the Vedas. They are 1180 in number, but, through the centuries, many of them have disappeared from human memory and only 108 have now survived. Of these, 13 have attained great popularity, as a result of the depth and value of their contents. Adi Sankaracharya raised the status of ten among all the available Upanishads by selecting them for writing his commentaries and that is how, they became important. Humanity stands to fall or gain by these ten.
The Taittriya Upanishad
Let me now come to the Taittriya Upanishad, the focus of the present talk. It consists of three parts, each referred to as a Valli; the three parts are: Sikshavalli, Anandavalli, and Bhriguvalli. The first part is essentially connected with a theoretical knowledge of the scriptures. Here a Guru instructs his disciples on some basics.
Mere theory is of no use, and God has to be experienced; then alone would one know what Ananda or Bliss is. But Bliss cannot be experienced by one who is in the grip of ignorance. Thus, the first task in moving towards Bliss is to get rid of ignorance. The Anandavalli part of the Taittriya Upanishad deals with this aspect.
Finally, there is the Bhrguvalli which is in the form of a dialogue between Sage Varuna and his son Bhrigu, and deals with the Knowledge of the Supreme of Brahman. In a sense, it is a recap of Anandavalli but in dialogue form. So much for a brief introduction as to what three Vallis are all about.

What Swami Says About the Taittiriya Upanishad
Let me now tell you what Swami says about the Taittiriya Upanishad:
Brahmavidya [Knowledge of Brahman] is the specific theme of this Upanishad. It has three sections: Sikshavalli, Anandavalli or Brahmavalli, and Bhriguvalli. The latter two sections are very important for those seeking Brahmajnana [Knowledge of the Supreme]. In the Sikshavalli, certain methods to acquire one-pointedness are detailed. But bondage cannot be destroyed and delusions overcome by this alone. The flux and the turbulence of life are due to Ajnana or ignorance. And bondage is the result. It is only when Ajnana is destroyed that the bonds get loosened and Liberation is attained. It is just like saying your train is moving when the fact is that your train is stationary while it is the train in the adjacent track that is really moving. Watch your train and you know the truth; watch the other train and you are deceived. There is no use to seeking the cause of delusion; instead, seek to escape from it!
In trying to appreciate the deeper implication of Sikshavalli, one must have the following mental picture in mind. We must go back thousands of years to Vedic India when young students, between the ages of five and eighteen gathered in small groups, and lived with their Guru in an Ashram. The Ashram was called Gurukulam, and the young seekers were called Brahmacharis, or the seekers of the Supreme God, known in Sanskrit as Brahman. The Guru instructed, guided, and counselled the disciples, Sishyas as they were called. Siksha means instruction, and thus, Sikshavalli is all about the instruction that the Guru gives to the disciples.
What exactly is the meaning of seeking Brahman? Why were these young men in quest of God Almighty? If indeed the young disciples were in quest of the Supreme One, then how come most of them later ended up getting married and thereby immersed in the turbulent sea called family life? Some clarifications concerning these questions are necessary so that we can appreciate better the teachings and the purpose of the Upanishads.
What is truly remarkable about the Vedas and the Upanishads is that they do not dismiss anything in Creation; everything has a place and a purpose, and evolution must take place against this background. Thus it is that Swami Nikhilananda says:
In spiritual evolution, one cannot skip any of the stages. Hence, for those who, prompted by their natural impulses, seek physical pleasures on earth, the Upanishads lay down the injunctions to discharge various duties and obligations. For those who seek pleasures in heavens the Upanishads prescribe rituals and meditations by which one can commune with the gods, or higher powers. Gods, men and subhuman beings, in the tradition of the Upanishads, depend on each other for their welfare. The key to enduring happiness lies in co-operation with all created beings and not in ruthless competition.
The last remark is perhaps relevant in the context of what is happening today, when man is not only dominating, but even wiping out many living species. Getting back to the uniqueness of the Upanishads, they not only instruct in rituals but, besides giving hints of their inner meanings, indicate how man, bound as he presently is, can elevate himself to experience the Divine, or the Ultimate-Ultimate as Prof. Radhakrishan refers to Brahman. As far as we are concerned, we shall focus primarily on the Universal aspects of the teachings of the Upanishads.
We end this brief introduction by quoting what Swami says about Sikshavalli. He says:
In the Sikshavalli, certain methods to overcome the obstacles placed in men’s way by the Devas, and also methods to acquire one-pointedness in mental exertions are detailed.
Swami adds that merely by routinely discharging one’s duties as a good householder, one cannot cross the Ocean of Life. That calls for something more, and that is presented in the later Vallis.
The Guru’s Teaching in the Sikshavalli Portion
Let me now quickly present some of the highlights of Sikshavalli.
As I told you a short while ago, the word Siksha means instruction. Thus, the Sikshavalli consists essentially of teachings by the Guru to the sishyas or disciples. The disciples being young, there are a number of practical matters that are given attention. For example, the Guru stresses to the student that correct pronunciation and intonation are important since they determine the meaning. There must be no slackness in these.
There is an idea behind this particular advice of the Guru. In later life, many disciples may be engaged in assisting with the performance of Vedic rituals. If rituals are performed, they must be done so in the proper manner, which means that Mantras must be chanted properly. I have already called attention in an earlier talk to the importance attached by the Kanchi Paramacharya to the sound aspect.
This particular instruction of the Guru has a special relevance to this day and age. The performance of Vedic rituals has declined sharply in the last fifty years or so, and not many of the few priests available for performing rituals are bothered about proper pronunciation. This is not only unfortunate but also a betrayal on the part of the priests concerned.
By the way, one should not imagine that Upanishads are pure philosophy. Often they offer a mix of the practical with the philosophical. However, even behind the so-called practical, that is the ritual, there is deep philosophy. For example, while performing Yajnas, priests offer cooked rice to the sacred fire and chant a chant a Mantra. People may think it is all a ritual but in the Gita, Krishna explains the deeper significance of it all. This Mantra in the Gita that I am referring to is the Brahmaarpanam Sloka that we all chant before eating. In effect, everything is by God and for God. This perspective must always be kept in mind.
Correct chanting is no doubt very important but that does not mean that the student reduces himself to a tape recorder. It is quite likely that through long and disciplined chanting, the student might end up focussing entirely on just the words. To prevent this from happening and to uplift the student, the Guru also has a hymn through which the attention of the student is directed to the inner significance of the hymns.
The student is advised that he must contemplate upon the hymns and their meanings. According to the Upanishads, meditation can be done in two different ways. One is with an eye on the benefits that would accrue and the other is without any concern for worldly gains. Thinking about God for realising worldly gains is all right up to a point but should not be the ultimate goal. The Taittriya Upanishad, though it leans heavily on high philosophy, does not entirely frown upon having worldly desires; instead, it recommends that desires must be kept in check and blended with acts that benefit Society. Thus it is that the householders are asked to give charity in abundance, even while they are praying for wealth.
In passing, we may note what Swami has to say about mental processes. He distinguishes three categories: concentration, contemplation and finally meditation. While the former two belong to the worldly mind, the latter is associated with the higher mind or in simple language, the Heart. When one meditates in the Heart, there is are no desires, and this is what Swami really wants.
Among other things, the Guru instructs the disciple on the sacred word OM, which, Swami once referred to as God’s phone number! As is well known, the word OM is chanted before the commencement of any auspicious activity. It is also symbolic of the Creator, and His act of Creation. The Bible says that the word is God; that statement is, in a sense, an echo of Vedic sentiments too.
In this connection, we must remember that among the living species, humans alone have the ability to speak. The capacity to speak and the capacity to create languages is an extra-ordinary gift of God. However, all of us tend to take this incredible gift for granted, treating it most casually.

Vedic seers asked their students to meditate on the word, its deeper significance, the capacity to speak, and see therein the power of God. For us, all this is a reminder that the power of speech must be used only for good and never for bad.
A Practical Teaching
The Guru’s teachings cover not only aspects of the highest Spiritual Knowledge but also a lot of practical advice. As Swami reminds us often, mere bookish knowledge is of no use; what is equally if not more important is practical knowledge, namely, how to apply the principles of Spirituality in daily life. Thus, the Guru says that when the disciple leaves the Ashram and enters life after getting married, he has the duty to give generously, with love, without the expectation of anything whatsoever in return, and never unwillingly. In other words, sharing is the best way of showing that one really cares. Indeed, one must not merely share food, and wealth, but, most important of all, God’s Love. That is what the Gita also declares, and Swami repeatedly emphasises. So much for the highlights of the Sikshavalli.
Now the Upanishads cater to the entire spectrum of aspirants. In a modern school, we have many classes like the first standard, the second standard and so on, all the way to high-school level classes. Naturally, the level of instruction varies with the class. In the Gurukulas of ancient times, there were no classes because the number of disciples was usually a handful. Keeping this in mind, the hymns catered to students with all levels of spiritual evolution. There was no such thing as the same formula for all; instead, it was a case of “each according to his capacity”.
The Conclusion of the Sikshavalli
The Sikshavalli ends with a remarkable exhortation by the teacher to the student. Swami quotes this often, besides which this exhortation invariably forms a part of the invocation at the commencement of the Institute Convocation. The Guru tells the disciple: Sathyam Vada, Dharmam Chara, Matrudevo Bhava,Pitu Devo Bhava, Acharya Devo Bhava, Athithi Devo Bhava etc. I am sure everyone knows what these stand for. Basically, they exhort the disciple to always abide by Truth, to be righteous, to revere mother, father, Guru and guest, verily as God personified.
These are incredible pieces of advice. And how relevant these are today!
The Anandavalli Portion
I now turn to the Anandavalli portion of the Taittiriya Upanishad.
Swami says, “The purpose of life is to prepare you to return to your natural habitat. From God you have come and to God you must return.” What does this mean and how does one go about it? That is the issue dealt with in Anandavalli.
We recall first Swami’s remark that God is the Embodiment of Pure Bliss. That is why He once sang: “Bliss is My Form,” a song familiar to all of us. The Sanskrit word for Bliss is Ananda. The word Ananda is not easy to translate. Often, Ananda is translated as joy or happiness; both these words are totally inadequate; by comparison, Bliss does a better job.
Joy and happiness relate to experiences we have in this world. Joyful experiences are no doubt nice but they also have an opposite, which is pain or misery. By contrast, Bliss or Ananda has no opposite. How come? Because, Bliss belongs to the non-dual world, that is the world of God.
In as much as man is a child of God, his true nature also is Bliss. But once man gets immersed in the world, he gets easily duped and starts readily accepting fakes like worldly and sensual pleasure as being Bliss. The senses con him, and he gets caught in a trap; again and again he goes for sensory pleasures even though they bring misery in the end.
The question might be asked. “There is a man who diligently follows all that the Vedas prescribe. He is good, he is honest, gives charity and all that. Should this not lead him to Bliss?” Well, it is nice to be a good person, perform all duties and rituals diligently and so forth. But all that would not and cannot ever lead to ultimate union with God. Why? Because of attachment. Even a good man has desires, though they may seem harmless. For example, many good people want to go to heaven after death. This may seem alright superficially but heaven is the wrong destination! That is why Swami says that even Sattva binds; it is like a golden rope! Then what does one do? One must become UNBOUND, which means one must shed all body-consciousness.
The Goal of Life
In the Anandavalli, the Teacher gently draws the attention of the young disciple to what exactly the goal of life ought to be. One ought not to get sucked in and become overwhelmed by the turbulence of life. One must look far beyond, never losing sight of the final destination. Why must one do that? Because, that is where Eternal Joy and Bliss lie.
The student must realise that there is a God beyond description by words and beyond the understanding of the Mind, notwithstanding its enormous power. The Guru urges the disciple to be bold and seek this Supreme Being who is beyond the physical world and the Mind too. The Guru stresses that it is only the one who seeks Brahman who can enjoy Eternal Bliss.
I must also call attention to the fact that in Anandavalli, the Supreme God or Brahman is described as Sathyam, Jnanam and Anatham, i.e., as Truth, Knowledge and the Infinite. In fact, Swami often sings a Bhajan starting with these very words; these words are from the Anandavalli.
In summary, Anandavalli is a road map to Eternal Bliss.
The Bhriguvalli Portion
The Bhriguvalli which is the last of the three vallis that form a part of the Taittriya Upanishad, is essentially a repeat of the Anandavalli but in a different format. In this, Bhrigu, the son of Rishi Varuna asks a question of his father about Brahman. The father, who in this case is also the Guru, asks the son who is also the disciple, to think, meditate, and come back with the answer. In other words, the answer is to be found by self-enquiry and not via tuition.
The disciple does as told and come back with what he thinks is the answer. The father says go back and meditate some more. Why? Because the answer is not complete and represents only a part of the Truth. The disciple goes and comes back a few times, and every time he is sent back to enquire more. However, it is not an infructuous exercise altogether because in every attempt, the disciple manages to refine the answer he found earlier.
And finally there comes a stage when the disciple does not come back to report. Why? Because, having found that Brahman is nothing but Absolute Bliss or Ananda, he becomes one with It! There is nothing more to find out or discover!! That in essence is the gist of Bhriguvalli. In other words, it gives hints about how exactly one must enquire while seeking the Ultimate Truth.
Swami’s Words on Anandavalli and Bhriguvalli
Before I wrap up, let us hear what Swami has to say about Anandavalli and Bhriguvalli. Swami says,
The Anandavalli and Bhriguvalli are very important for those seeking Brahmajnana or Knowledge of Brahman. It is in the nature of things that Avidya or ignorance prompts men to crave for plentiful fruits through the performance of actions. This craving produces despondency when there is failure. And such attachment binds further, making it even more difficult to become free. Even though the turmoil called life involving birth, decay and death is frightening, man finds that the clutches of attachment are difficult to shake off.
Change is the sign of untruth while Constancy or Changelessness is the sign of Truth. Brahman is Truth, that is to say, It is Changeless. All that is that not Brahman that is, the Universe that is projected out of Brahman, is subject to change. All objects subject to change come within the purview of the intellect. Here, the Knower, that which is to be known and the process of knowing, appear separate. But beyond, there is Oneness that is Brahman.
The Taittiriya Upanishad exhorts you not to swerve from the path of duty and learning. Listening, rumination, and meditation are the three steps in Realization. Listening refers to the Vedas, which have to be revered in faith and learnt by heart from a Guru. Rumination of what is learnt, fixes the notion of Brahman in the Mind. Meditation helps in the single-minded attention on the Principle so installed in the Mind. The Brahmavalli teaches while the Bhriguvalli proves by experience.

Well, that brings me to the end of what I wish to say today. I hope I have succeeded in giving a broad-brush overview of one of the important Upanishads. Allow me to end by playing for you from our collection, the three vallis, just to give you a flavour of how Taittriya Upanishad sounds.
Click here to listen to Taittiriya Upanishad. [46 kb]​
Dear Renu ji,

Many Thanks for the wonderful article. Please write more.


Dear PVRamanJi,

There are many more articles like these written by Prof Venkataraman...at Heart to Heart Sai Team

I will paste his articles in Forum ...

Previous Articles In The Same Series
Concerning the Vedas 01
My Introduction To The Vedas
Concerning the Vedas 02
Vedas - Their Evolution And Significance
Concerning the Vedas 03
The Upanishads - Their Significance

Loving Sai Ram and greetings from Prashanti Nilayam,
I hope you recall that my main aim in this series of talks on the Vedas is to first give you a broad flavour of what this great heritage of humanity is all about, and then move on to a description of how, in olden times, the Vedas kept company with man during his life. As a part of this programme, I offered in the first two talks a general introduction of sorts and in the third one, that is my previous talk, I gave you a glimpse of the famous Taitrriya Upanishad.
In the same spirit I shall, in my present talk, offer a short overview of the equally famous Purusha Shukhtam. The Taitrriya Upanishad and the PurushaSukhtam are but mere samples. There are many other examples that could have been chosen, but one reason why I have focused on these two is that they are heard very often in Prashanti Nilayam. Moreover, Radio Sai has already presented an elaborate series on these two favourites and I thought maybe by locking on to these two I might be able to connect more easily with you on the subject of the Vedas.
The Meaning Of ‘Purusha Shukhtam’
Now what exactly is a Sukhtam? Very simply put, the word Sukhtam means a good word. Thus, PurushaSuktham means: in praise of Purusha – that is what this wonderful hymn with twenty-four stanzas is all about. This of course raises the questions: Who exactly is this Purusha and why are His praises being sung? Purusha is none other than the Supreme Lord Who, it turns out, is known by many names. In this particular Sukhtam the term Purusha is the name that is most often used. As Krishna explains to Arjuna in the BhagavadGita, in the ultimate analysis God is Formless, Absolute and beyond both Space as well as Time.
Purusha is one name for this Formless and Abstract God. There are of course many other names like Paramatma, Brahman, Parabrahman and so on. Call Him by any name including Allah, Jehovah or whatever, the fact of the matter is that God Supreme, whom I am currently referring to as Purusha, is Infinite, Timeless, Eternal, Changeless, etc., etc.
The above statement might immediately create a doubt. If the Lord Supreme, namely Purusha, is so “remote”, then what does it mean when Swami says: “I am in you, above you, below you, ahead of you, behind you”? The answer to this is simple.
Though the Supreme Lord is supposed to live in His Eternal Abode beyond Space and Time, He has also projected Himself into the finite Universe to appear in various forms. In this sense, He also pervades the Universe.
Thus, God is both above Creation and also below it. Above Creation He is in an Absolute State. OK, but what about below Creation? The Lord in His Avatar as Krishna has clearly explained that.
All Is God
Krishna says that in Creation, God is both Unmanifest as well as Manifest. The manifest aspect is easier to understand. In brief, it means that everything that is a part of the physical universe is, in the ultimate analysis, God and nothing but God. Thus, if you go to the very roots, the wind is God, trees are God, mountains are God, rivers are God, a crow is God, a vulture is God, and so on. You name it and it is God! Sounds extraordinary, does it not? Yet, if we think about it carefully, we cannot escape that conclusion.
The Power Of God
Hardcore non-believers of today would shake their heads at all this and smile, perhaps condescendingly. “What nonsense”, they would exclaim. “How can the wind be God?” Let us hear what Swami has to say about the wind. He sometimes asks in His Discourses: “Has man made any fan that can blow as fiercely as a typhoon or a hurricane?” Those are not His exact words, but they convey the gist of His remark.
Just pause for a moment and reflect. How many of us realise that during a typhoon wind speeds touch 250 km/hour, yes 250 km/hour? Do you know that a category four hurricane – and these do sweep across the Atlantic from time to time – is as big as the state of Texas, that it not only brings nearly half a metre of rain, that is, 500 mm of rain, and that even at the periphery of this typhoon the wind speed is about 60 km/hour? As Swami asks: “Has man made a blower that can generate that kind of air speeds and that too over such vast areas?” That is the real point; where can such power come from except God?
Let us now swing to the other extreme and consider the crow. Ancients in India revered the crow. They were not crazy but deeply appreciative of the fine balance in God’s extraordinary Master Plan. How many realise that the unimpressive and somewhat ugly-looking crow is actually Nature’s scavenger? Throw perishables and the crow comes from somewhere to eat it all! Ancient Indians revered the crow because they saw God in the crow coming to their help.
Nature's Intricate Balance
If we look carefully, every little thing in Nature, right from the plankton upwards, plays a delicate role in preserving the integrity and balance of Nature. Take the fish. As Swami says, the fish cleans up the waters including the great oceans. But what does man do? First, he pollutes the waters and then he destroys fish stock almost en masse.
So, if we choose to think about all this carefully and objectively, it should be abundantly clear that Nature does have a carefully-crafted Master Plan in which there are many players, big and small, each with its own unique role to play. Although these players may appear to us with various forms, in the ultimate analysis all roles are in fact played by God.
We may not understand all of it but that does not mean that the Master Plan and the Cosmic Drama do not exist. The non-believer might perhaps reluctantly concede that there is possibly some kind of a plan, but at the same time argue that the existence of a plan does not mean that there is a guiding spirit behind it. The ancients of India had no use for such evasive and meaningless arguments. They freely accepted, and with much joy too, that there was a Lord Supreme and that not even an atom could move without His Grace or He willing it.
In a nutshell, the Vedas loudly proclaim that God is everywhere and in everything, from the tiny ant to the galaxies. This, incidentally, is a phrase that Swami often quotes – Kshimalo Brahmalo. In other words, God is present everywhere in the manifest or the material world, from the ant to the galaxies. But what about the Unmanifest presence of God in Creation? That also is not difficult to understand, at least in principle
The Unmanifest Presence Of God
Scholars discuss the Omnipresence of God using three important words. They are: Immanent, Transcendent, and Absolute. In the Universe, God is both Immanent and Transcendent; His Absolute aspect extends even beyond the Universe. Let us take in all this slowly.
What do I mean by saying God is immanent in the Universe? Let us take the physical Universe. I am a physicist by training and I have written many books explaining how physical laws operate in the Universe. When it comes to the atom, with relativity, quantum mechanics and electromagnetism we can more or less completely describe all the properties of the atom. All these predictions of science have been meticulously verified and, in fact, many have won the Nobel Prize for doing just that. The point about all this is that we can explain physical behaviour using the laws of science alone, without explicitly bringing God into the discussion.
Fine, does that mean that God does not exist? Atheists would of course argue that God is not necessary, God is irrelevant, etc. But the wise would say, “Yes, the Dirac equation and its extension in the form of quantum electrodynamics by Feynman explains a lot of natural phenomena no doubt, but where did the laws of relativity, the laws of electrodynamics and the laws of quantum mechanics pop from? God is immanent in all these beautiful laws.”
Gandhi once said:
There is an indefinable mysterious Power that pervades everything. I feel it, though I cannot see it.
Gandhi was merely saying God is immanent in the Universe, in every atom of it in fact.
OK, agreed that God is immanent in the Universe. What about the Transcendent part? Well, the way I understand it is as follows by the way, my view is shaped by what Krishna says in the eighth chapter of the Gita. Let us consider a living human being or for that matter even an ant. I find the ant absolutely amazing. Incidentally, the brilliant physicist Feynman did too, and he once spent days studying their behaviour. At the chemical or biological level, the ant is just a collection of biomolecules of various types. But this collection can do amazing things. It can move and also react to situations.
Let us say an ant is moving on the ground. Place a small piece of paper across its path. It immediately reacts and moves away. If the ant senses danger, it tries to protect itself. In short, it is aware it exists, it is conscious of its existence. That awareness, that consciousness of being alive, is a capacity, a power that is beyond the power described by the laws of physics, chemistry or even biology. The laws of physics are mere mechanical laws. Till today, Science has simply not been able to say what life is, what awareness is, and what consciousness is; and yet life, awareness and consciousness do exist – we all know that. That life-force or Praana as the ancients called it is the transcendent aspect of God. There are many such arguments I can give, but shall skip them for the moment.
Turning next to the Absolute aspect of God, even this is evident on earth. Consider a human being full of Daya or compassion and Kshama or forbearance. Daya and Kshama are eternal virtues, beyond Space and Time; and they are aspects of the Supreme God or Purusha. When they shine in a human being, they represent in some measure the presence of the Absolute within, what Krishna refers to as Adhyatma.
A Summary Of The Above
So the long and short of it is that in the Universe or if we prefer in Creation, there is the manifest aspect of God and also the Unmanifest aspect of God. Purusha Sukhtam draws attention to all this as did Krishna later, with much clarity I might add. Putting everything together, we have the following picture.
  • There is, above everything else, the Absolute level of God, who is Eternal, Changeless and Formless. He is the Lord Supreme.
  • When the Lord Supreme brings the Universe into existence, He does so essentially by projecting Himself into Space-Time.
  • Thanks to this projection, the Universe too has bits and pieces of His Glory and Power, only a tiny fraction in fact; but even that tiny bit dazzles enormously.
  • In the Universe, the Lord is immanent in material entities, both insentient and sentient.
  • In Creation, the Lord also has an Unmanifest presence; this is what scholars describe as the transcendental presence of the Lord in the Universe, that is to say, a subtle presence transcending material entities. God is thus also present in subtle forms, such as the Life-force and the Mind. The ancients paid obeisance to the Life-force because it is nothing but the Lord Unmanifest in the Universe.

What PurushaSukhtam does is to not only crisply call attention to all this but also paint an allegorical and poetic picture of evolution itself. To put it in slightly different words, the PurushaSukhtam gives a poetic description of God, man, the Universe and the relationship between all these three.
The doubt might arise, "When God projects Himself into lower dimensions to create the Universe, does His quantum at the Absolute level get diminished?" The answer is simple and straightforward. God is Infinity, and nothing can diminish Infinity. That incidentally is one way in which the concept of infinity is taught to students of mathematics – Infinity minus Infinity remains Infinity.
The Text Of The PurushaSukhtam
So much for the preliminaries. Let me now turn to the PurushaSukhtam proper. I shall not discuss the poetic and allegorical description it offers of Creation. Instead, I shall focus on the very first sentence.
Sahasraseerusha Purushaha. Sharaksha saharsrapaad.
What this means is that Purusha the Supreme One pervades the entire manifest Universe, cognising through all minds, seeing through all eyes, and working through all limbs. He is everywhere. Where is He not? Enveloping the Universe from all sides, He also transcends it, into the infinite, intangible and Eternal Realm of the Absolute. That is the gist of the opening stanza.
You might ask: what is the meaning of saying, for example, God sees through all eyes? The best way of discussing this point is to recall what happened many years ago during a Discourse given by Swami in the Sai Kulwant Hall.
A devotee speaking in the Divine presence and just before the Divine Discourse, raised the question: “Who is God?” When it was Swami’s turn to speak, He said that such questions arise from ignorance because there is only God and nothing but God. Swami added, “People ask, ‘if there is only God, then why don’t we see Him?’ You do not see God because you have curious notions about how God ought to look. God is in everything including all human beings. When the Vedas say that He has a thousand eyes, it does not mean that God is an entity with a thousand eyes. In fact, any form with a thousand eyes would look grotesque. What it means is that God sees through all eyes because He resides in all. In other words, man must look upon Society as God.”
"People may ask, in that case why do the Vedas speak of only a thousand eyes? The answer is simple. In those distant days, the population of the world was small and people thought in terms of thousands and not millions as we now do. If those Rishis were to describe God today in that language, they would speak of billions and not thousands!" That is what Swami said in essence and that observation of Swami ought to make clear how we ought to interpret this opening stanza.
We Are All Connected
I now wish to follow up on this first stanza because it has a deep meaning and implication for the present time. As a prelude, allow me to draw attention to a hierarchy to which Swami sometimes makes a reference. The hierarchy is: Individual, Society, Nature and God. The words Swami actually uses are: Vyashti meaning individual, Samashti meaning Society, Srishti, meaning Creation or Nature, whichever term you prefer, and finally Parameshti meaning God.
Swami goes on to add that the individual is a limb of Society which is a limb of Nature which in turn is a limb of God. In turn, this hierarchical relationship implies that every action of the individual must be in harmony with Society, Nature and God. Take a simple example. When one throws litter and garbage, one is causing disturbance to Society, one is polluting the environment, and finally one is out of sync with God who is the Embodiment of Perfection. The hierarchy drawn attention to by Swami is thus profoundly significant.
The point being made by Swami is far from trivial. Today, the world is highly interconnected, thanks to air travel, satellite TV, internet, mobile phone, etc. Events happening in one place can affect thousands elsewhere within twenty-four hours. For example, say the OPEC or the group that coordinates the oil pricing policies of the petroleum exporting countries meets in Vienna and decides to cut down pumping oil from the ground.
Immediately the price of crude shoots up in the New York and London markets. Worldwide, the price of petrol shoots up and the people in, for example, Uganda, a poor country in Africa, are affected. Why? Because the cost of transportation goes up for them. As it is they are hard pressed for cash and if on top of it the transportation costs go up, the price of everything else goes up too.
Take SARS next. Farmers in Thailand and Vietnam have huge poultry farms where, say, a bird flu epidemic breaks out. A farmer who looks after the chicken gets infected and from him the flu spreads to Canada, France and so on. By the way, all this has happened. What I am driving at through these examples is that global connectivity has created a situation where an action by an individual can and does affect people elsewhere; besides, it can also harm the environment. The impact on Society can be in many dimensions, economic, material and even moral. Likewise, the impact on Nature can be diverse. Not only individuals but big companies, via the policies they pursue, also contribute to such global impact.
Let me give just one example of the latter. Driven by the desire to make lots of money, big corporations are today fuelling unwanted and excessive consumption of fast foods and soft drinks. In turn, this harms the health of huge sections of the population. Some types of consumerism promote pollution of Nature. Thus there is pollution of air, water and land. In addition, greed eclipses the fear of sin and makes people forget God, compounding the problem. If all this is to be avoided, then one must pay careful attention to the content and spirit of PurushaSukhtam, imbibe its teachings, and apply them sincerely in one’s daily life.
Times and lifestyles might have changed, but these changes do not make the basic lessons of spirituality irrelevant. On the contrary, they are more relevant to mankind then ever before. By the way, let us not imagine that big corporations and rich people alone violate moral laws; if we enquire deeply, every one of us is guilty in some way or the other. So, really speaking, we should first fix ourselves and overcome our own personal deficiencies before pointing fingers at others. As Swami reminds us, when we point one finger at others, three of our fingers are actually pointing to us.
People these days imagine that devotion for God is one thing and life is another. It is understandable if people elsewhere take such an attitude but the surprising thing is that even Swami’s devotees tend to do this. Thus, while overflowing with Love for Swami in His physical form, they fail to see Him pervade Society and Nature. This can be dangerous because unconsciously perhaps they might tend to do things that are detrimental to Society and/or harmful to Nature.
The Ancient Sages Warned Modern Man
The Vedic culture shaped man in such a way that his lifestyle made him in tune with Society and in harmony with Nature. The Purusha Sukhtam taught man that God not only created Society but also pervades it. And this, thousands of years before man had any chance of making a global physical impact, positive or otherwise. When we reflect on this, we would see how wise the Vedic seers were to encourage man to lead a harmonious life .
Today, more than ever before, such harmonious living is a vital necessity when greedy individuals are dumping termites at the moral roots of Society through the media, while equally greedy corporations are encouraging unwanted consumerism, even though non-spiritual think tanks have warned against it. For example, just a few weeks ago, one of the think tanks set up by the UN, submitted a preliminary report on the ecosystem. It drew attention to the fact that some systems were damaged beyond repair while many others faced extinction, unless urgent control action was taken. When we consider all such facts in conjunction with Vedic thought, we have to take our hats off and salute those in far off days who had the wisdom to see what could come thousands of years later.
As Swami says, modern man is very intelligent in worldly matters. He has extraordinary skills to do so many wonderful things. But he lacks balance; that balance comes from inside and when the inside is shut out, there can be serious trouble.
Let me put it all this way. Imaging a burning ship, a big ship like say the Queen Elizabeth. The passengers in the ship can in principle be rescued using lifeboats. But the situation faced by mankind today is not at all like that. The planet is a spaceship, making its own journey in space, and each and every one of us is a passenger on this ship. This is one ship that has no lifeboat service of the usual kind. If anything terrible were to happen to the planet, like the greenhouse effect, for example, everyone would be in trouble.
Trouble is what we see everywhere and it cannot be swept under the rug. We have to eliminate or at least mitigate these problems, and for that there is only one way – to return to Moral Law. To use Swami’s words, we need Daiva Preeti, and Paapa Bheeti – Love for God and fear of sin. Only then will there be morality in Society. Morality is the only lifeboat that can save us, and to make that boat show up, each and every one of us must develop deep and true Love for God and a mortal fear of sin.
We can’t come here for Darshan and then head straight to the casinos in Monaco or the gambling dens in Las Vegas. As Jesus said, we have to choose either God or Mammon. One cannot serve two Masters at the same time. It is in that context that the Universal Truths that the Vedas enshrine become very relevant. I wonder whether you would agree with me?
Click here to listen a rendering of Purusha Sukhtam [5.5 MB]
Jai Sai Ram.
Previous Articles In The Same Series
Concerning the Vedas 01
My Introduction To The Vedas
Concerning the Vedas 02
Vedas - Their Evolution And Significance
Concerning the Vedas 03
The Upanishads - Their Significance
Concerning the Vedas 04
Understanding Purushasuktham

Loving Sai Ram and greetings from Prashanti Nilayam.
Today, I shall finally start on what I have been promising all along, namely to take you on a Veda Walkthrough. The idea for such a walkthrough has been bugging me ever since I came across a most fascinating book entitled: THE VEDIC EXPERIENCE, Mantramanjari, in the library of our Institute here. This book is by one Raimundo Panikkar, and it is an amazing book. The author too is amazing in his own way.
Raimundo Panikkar – Scholar Par Excellence
Raimundo Panikkar was born in Spain to a Catholic mother and a Hindu father – that is why his name is half Spanish and half Malayalee. Panikkar grew up as a Catholic and entered priesthood. Later he came to India and discovered the Vedas. Of this trip, Raimundo Panikkar says, “I left as a Christian, I found myself a Hindu, and I returned as a Buddhist, without ever ceasing to be a Christian.”
Panikkar has three doctorate degrees, one in science, one in philosophy, and one in theology. He is a scholar par excellence, and was, until recently when he retired, a Professor in the Department of Religious Studies in the University of California, Santa Barbara Campus. He is widely acclaimed as a great theologian. Panikkar is well known for his attempts to initiate a dialogue between Christianity and the major Asian religions. Panikkar believes that though Christians must remain devoted to Christianity, it is not necessary to believe that all truth is exhausted by Christ, much less by the historical person Jesus of Nazareth. He has argued that though Jesus is referred to as the Son of God in the New Testament, this does not mean that the Son of God is always and only Jesus.

Dr. Raimundo Panikkar​

The Vedic Experience – A Treasure House of Vedic Mantras
So much for the author of the book, The Vedic Experience. Now a few words about the book itself. It has had many printings, and is published by Motilal Banarasidass of Delhi, a well-known publisher of books on Indology and Indian scriptures. The book has 936 pages, and is what Panikkar calls a Vedic Anthology. It is a collection of Vedic Mantras from right across the Vedas. As Panikkar himself explains,
A Vedic Anthology seems appropriate in our age, when the world is so much in need of serene and balanced wisdom, and when the Indian tradition has so powerful an appeal, especially for the younger generation.
I am not sure if the younger generation of today has any idea at all of the Vedas; I personally doubt it; in fact, few of the elders of today know anything! Such being the case, I thought I would pick up some ideas from this treasure of a book and share it with Radio Sai listeners, in the hope that at least you would take greater interest in what Swami has to say about the Vedas, ancient Indian Culture and tradition, etc.
Mantras - The Main Link To God
You might wonder how I am going to deal with a book that is over 900 pages. Here is my road map. Panikkar has collected Mantras from Aitareya Aryanaka through KausikaSutra and NyayaSutra, right up to Yajur Veda, with Bhagavad Gita thrown in for good measure. Altogether, it is a mighty scholarly effort. Now what criteria did Panikkar adopt for making his selection? This is what Panikkar himself says:
This anthology claims to represent the whole of the Sruthi or Indian revelation. It purports to contain the central message of the Vedas, to embody their essence, their Rasa. Just as a bouquet contains all the seven colours of the rainbow and all the fragrance of the fields, this anthology seeks to encompass the whole range of Vedic experience and to convey the main body of the Vedic revelation.
When I first glanced through this monumental book what struck me was how various Mantras are chanted at different stages in a person’s life, and how they all, at the global level, establish the link between Man, Nature or Creation and God the Creator.
Right then the idea grew within me that somehow, I should share this fragrance with our listeners, and this series is the result. In a sense, this talk and the one to follow are the centrepiece of this series.


A Vedic Walkthrough Of A Person’s Life
This is what I plan to do in the present talk and the next one. I shall, starting from the moment a person is born, keep track of that person through life, till death. During the life of that person, Mantras are chanted on many occasions. Leaning on Panikkar, I shall offer brief extracts so that we get an idea of what is the content of the Mantras chanted. When we do this right across a person’s life, we would get a broad overview of what Panikkar rightly calls the Vedic experience. I use instead the more catchy term Walkthrough, but it means the same thing.
Ideally, I should offer both the Sanskrit original and the English translation of the Mantras, but since I do not right now have access to an erudite Vedic Pandit who can pull out what I want from the Sanskrit originals, I have to be content with the English translations found in Panikkar’s book. It is my hope that one day Radio Sai would be able to produce a program complete with the Sanskrit chants. I am in fact trying to rope in an eminent scholar, and if my efforts succeed, we might even offer that program soon. For the moment, you have to be content with what I can offer in these talks.
A Son Is Born….
Let me start off with the birth of a son to a couple. According to tradition, the child’s father should feed with a golden spoon a little butter and honey and say:
I feed you with ghee, the gift of God the beautiful,
I feed you with the golden wisdom of honey,
May you have long life, protected by the Devas,
May you live in this world a hundred circling years.

Next, putting his lips close to the child’s ears, the father says:​
May God grant you intelligence,
May His power grant you intelligence,
May his two Divine messengers, Lotus-wreathed,
Grant you intelligence.
The father then touches the shoulder of the child and prays for strength thus:
Be a stone, be an axe, be unsurpassed gold,
You in truth are the Veda, called my son,
Live, therefore, a hundred years.
Powerful God, give us the best of treasures,
Grant us Your gifts, O bountiful One!
The mother is also remembered, and the father prays for her thus:
You are Ida, the daughter of Mitra and Varuna,
You a courageous woman, have borne a vigorous son,
May you be blessed with vigorous children,
You who have blessed us with a vigorous son.
I have not included all the Mantras chanted on this occasion, but selected just a representative few. In Vedic times, birth was not regarded as merely a family affair but an event of cosmic significance. Human birth was a part of the cosmic drama, and the birth of a son was important for the continuity of the Vedic tradition, which revolved mainly around men in those days. By the way, the child is fed butter and honey because these were considered symbols of wisdom.
The Young Boy Goes To A Guru…
I now skip the years and come to the time, in the Vedic era that is, when the young boy is accepted as a disciple by a Guru. This ceremony that brought the disciple close to the Guru was called Upanayanam. Swami says that the mother shows father to the child. The father then shows the Guru to the boy, and the Guru guides the boy to God. So really speaking, though in a worldly sense Upanayanam brings the boy closer to the Guru, the inner meaning is that Upanayanam is a step in going closer to God. The Upanayanam ceremony that we see these days is an adaptation of that ancient ritual.
In Vedic times, life was seen as a whole. Man, it was felt, is born not to enjoy and fritter away life but to serve a cosmic purpose as ordained by God. Man’s primary duty is to adhere to, to sustain and to preserve Dharma. Dharma was given the utmost importance because without Dharma, Society would degenerate, and when Society degenerates, humanity itself could be in peril.
Following the path of Dharma calls for discipline in life and this is the discipline to which the young boy is initiated when admitted to the fold of a Guru. In a sense, the period that the boy spent at an Ashram with a Guru was a period of apprenticeship. If a modern analogy is required, this apprenticeship could be likened to the life of a cadet in a military school.
The Guru is also known as Acharya, meaning one who teaches by example; in this sense, the Guru is rather like an instructor in a military school who teaches by example how to march, how to hold the rifle and fire, etc.
The tradition followed in the initiation, and which has been adapted in the present-day Upanayanam ceremony also, is supposed to be based on the initiation undergone by the Lord when He came down as Vamana. On that occasion, it is said, that the gods and the goddesses themselves presented the various articles needed by the young Brahmin.
In that same spirit, the Acharya gives to the new entrant, a new garment, then a girdle, then the sacred thread, followed by a deerskin, and finally a staff to complete the proceedings. That is when the student is formally admitted to the fold and the Acharya accepts the boys as a disciple.
Some of you might wonder, as I did, whether the parents did not perform then the Upanayanam as is common these days. It seems that in those distant and prehistoric times, the father simply brought the young lad and left him in charge of the Acharya. The initiation was done by the Acharya, after he agreed to take the boy as a disciple in his Ashram.

Sri Vamana Avatar​

How Does The Guru Initiate the Young Disciple?
Now to some of the Mantras chanted. We start with the presentation of the new garment by the Acharya. This garment symbolises the entrance of the boy to a new phase in life, and since the garment is supposed to be specially woven by the goddess, a prayer is offered to her by the teacher:
May the goddess who spun,
Who wove and measured this garment,
Clothe you with long life!
Put on this garment endowed with life and strength.
As Brihaspathi clothed Indra in the garment of Immortality,
Even so I clothe you, with a prayer for long life
A good old age, strength, and splendour.
For your own well-being you have put on this garment.
You have become a protector of your friends,
Against the curses of men.
Live a hundred long years.
May you be noble, blessed with fullness of life,
Sharing generously your wealth.
After this, a few more rituals, and then comes the sacred thread part. The Acharya places the thread around the boy and says:
You are the sacred thread,
With the thread of sacrifice,
I initiate you.
Next, some oblations in which water held in the palm of joined hands is poured. Now follows a question and answer session during which the Acharya formally ascertains the disciple's parentage and lineage and willingness to be a disciple. It starts off with the Acharya asking,
What is your name?
The disciple replies,
I am so and so.
This goes on and in the end, the Acharya says,
Declare yourself as a student
And the reply comes,
I am a student sir.
The Acharaya now declares,
By the vivifying power of God Savitr,
With the strength of the two Asvins,
And with Pusan’s aid,
I initiate you.
After this the Acharya hands a piece of deer skin as a symbol of longevity and says,
Put on this skin, so and so,
May the firm eye of Mitra,
Be a token of swiftness and self control.
May Aditi gird your loins
That you may know the Vedas,
That you may acquire insight and faith,
And retain what you have learnt,
That you may be endowed with goodness and shining purity.

The Acharya now hands a staff to the disciple that is a symbol of the ascetic life the Sishya is embarking on. The disciple accepts it saying,​
This staff which is falling from the sky upon the earth,
I now take up with prayer for life,
With prayer for fullness of spirit,
And the splendour of Brahman.
The teacher then says,
Agni, I entrust this student to you,
Indra, I entrust this student to you,
Aditya, I entrust this student to you,
All Gods, I entrust this student to you,
So that he may have a long life,
So that he may acquire authority in all the Vedas,
So that he may achieve renown and happiness.

After this, the Acharya says,
Under my direction,
Your mind will follow my mind,
In my word you will rejoice with all spirit,
May Brihaspathi unite you with me.
The Final Hymn – Gayatri Mantra
It is only after all this that the Acharya teaches the Gayathri Mantra to the disciple. The ritual ends with the spiritually rejuvenated disciple offering solemn prayer and promise to the sacred fire. He says:
O Lord, the glorious One,
Make me glorious too.
Lord, you who are the custodian of sacrifice for the gods,
Even so may I be the custodian of Sacred Knowledge for men.
You, Lord, are the protector of bodies.
Protect my body.
You, Lord, are the giver of life.
Impart vigour to me.
Lord, what is imperfect in my body.
That Lord, restore to fullness.
May the God Savitr give me wisdom,
May the goddess Saraswati, give me wisdom,
May the two Divine Aswins, wreathed with lotus,
Give me wisdom.

That is a very brief account of the elaborate and extended ritual associated with the initiation ceremony that launches the young disciple into apprenticeship with his Acharya. I apologize I am not able to provide right now, the Sanskrit rendering of the Mantras I have presented in English, drawing of course upon Panikkar’s monumental volume.
Significance Of The Initiation Ritual
Now to some comments on the above. The first thing we have to note is that during the apprenticeship, the disciple or Sishya gets a thorough grounding in the Vedas from his Acharya. Learning the hymns and committing them to memory besides knowing how to chant them properly etc., is only part of the training. More important, the Sishya was expected to live like an ascetic, and in practical terms, that meant strict sense and mind control. Indeed, the various symbols like the girdle, the staff etc., are all associated with such regulation.
Why the sense and mind control? The answer is simple. By its very nature, the mind tends to wander and does so very easily. It takes some effort to focus the mind on something and retain that focus for an extended period of time. Concentration is not unusual; indeed, it is often necessary, especially when one is engaged in a complex task. A painter has to concentrate, a musician has to concentrate, a surgeon has to concentrate, and so on.
Concentration on a task associated with a profession is not all that difficult, but when it comes to concentrating and meditating on God, it is a different matter; the fickle mind is ever ready to wander. Yet, with effort, one-pointed attention on Brahman is possible.
Now why on earth was the poor boy made to do all this? For a very good reason. In Vedic society, it was the duty of the Brahmin to help people follow Dharma, develop love for God and so on. How could he do all that if he himself lacked discipline?

Discipline, the ancients realised, comes more easily when inculcated at a young age. In those days, attractions and distractions as we now know did not exist. So one would think that those boys should have had no problem with sense and mind control. In a sense that is true. But, as Ramakrishna Paramahamsa points out, there are two attractions that can cause the downfall of any person in any age. As he puts it, they are Kamini and Kanchan, meaning woman and gold.
The attractions of sensual pleasures and wealth are present in every age, and the Vedic age was no exception. The Brahmin, for example, could easily start making money using his scriptural knowledge. Indeed the story of Adi Shankara and the grammarian that Swami often narrates is an example.
Just to remind you, when Shankara was going along with his disciples to the river Ganges for a morning bath, he saw a man furiously cramming the rules of Sanskrit grammar. When Shankara asked why the man was spending so much energy on learning grammar, the man replied he was doing so to become a scholar in King’s court and earn, money acquire wealth and fame.


Vedic Society did not permit such misuse of knowledge. Knowledge was to be used solely for the benefit of Society and a Brahmin’s main duty was to help people in following and abiding by Dharma.
The Vedic seers laid down norms of life and behaviour that to us might seem very demanding and even stifling. That is because in this day and age we are all tuned to personal achievement, sense gratification, acquisition and so on. Consumerism being the order of the day, what is undesirable is heavily marketed as the most desirable thing to have. However, when individual greed dominates, collective good has to perforce decline. Common good gets enhanced only when individuals sacrifice. Indeed, sacrifice is a constant undercurrent through the Vedas. As Krishna says, it is only through sacrifice that the individual can prosper. Society prospers only when individuals prosper. And it is only when Society prospers that the individual can enjoy real security, peace and happiness. So there is a kind of inter-linkage between man and Society, with sacrifice at the core.
I hate to use the word but something like Moral Socialism was advocated, so that everyone was guaranteed well being. Where the Brahmin was concerned, he not only had to rise above desires but also had to feel one with Creation and its Creator through adoration. The Vedas being full of such adoration, the Brahmin was expected to spend a lot of his time chanting the Vedas.
So how long does the disciple stay with his Acharya, and what happens after he has acquired a solid grounding in the Vedas? Well, he takes leave of his Acharya, and that is when the Acharya gives the farewell sermon, with Matru Devo Bhava etc., that I referred to in one of my earlier talks.
The Guru Fosters Righteousness and Righteousness Protects The Guru
One might wonder how on earth did the Acharaya provide for himself? This is a valid point, because here on earth, even a monk or a Sannyasi needs essentials like food, clothes etc., for sustaining himself. In ancient times, the disciple, obviously drawing from his parents, would make an offering to the Guru while leaving. This was called Guru Dakshina. The Guru was not expected to ask, but at the same time, the graduate disciple if I might use that term, was expected to make an offering. How much? No quantum was prescribed; rather, it was each according to his capacity.
Today we might wonder how at all can such a system work. Might not people cheat? Should not one prescribe the amount the student was supposed to give? Well, such concepts are the so-called blessings of modern Society. In Vedic Society, the Acharya did not make stipulations; instead, he had full faith that the Lord would take care of him and the good Lord always did because the Acharya was helping people to follow Dharma. As the saying goes, he who helps the cause of Dharma would be protected by that very same Dharma.
I think I had better wrap up this talk. Next time, I shall tell you what the disciple did after leaving the Ashram. But for now, let me recall an encounter I had with an unusual gentleman about seventeen years ago. This man was born and brought up in Bombay, and worked for sometime as an officer in bank. Later he came to Madras as Chennai used to be known in those days, and spent some time working for a well-known Finance company. One fine day, he just chucked his job. Why? Because he felt an overpowering urge to go around delivering spiritual discourses and narrate stories from the Puraanas.
God Takes Care…
I asked him why he felt like that, especially since he was all set to climb the corporate ladder. He replied that two things motivated him to change. First was that being a wandering minstrel spreading the good word was the family tradition. In his family, since no one in his generation followed that tradition having gone for well paying jobs, he felt that he must do something to preserve the family tradition.
Next, he said, spreading the spiritual message gave him a lot of joy. I then asked him the obvious question.
I said, “But you must eat! What about money?” And you know what he said in reply?
He said, “Amazingly, I do not starve. Wherever I go, I do not ask for any money. I fulfil my speaking engagement as a call of duty but later, people spontaneously come forward and give me envelopes with small amounts of cash. It is not much, but enough for me to survive. Anyway, my wants are now very simple and I do not need much cash to sustain myself. The Lord is taking good care of me and I have no wants!”

Yes, this is exactly what I heard in this Kali age, not too long ago, to be precise in 1988. As long as the Sun shines, there would still be good and noble people walking on this earth, at least in this land, the birth place of the Vedas.
Thank you and Jai Sai Ram.
Previous Articles In The Same Series
Concerning the Vedas 01
My Introduction To The Vedas
Concerning the Vedas 02
Vedas - Their Evolution And Significance
Concerning the Vedas 03
The Upanishads - Their Significance
Concerning the Vedas 04
Understanding Purushasuktham
Concerning the Vedas 05
Mantras - Man's Link To God

Loving Sai Ram and greetings from Prashanti Nilayam.
The Stage Of The Householder
This is my sixth talk in the Veda Walkthrough series. Last time, I finally started on the Walkthrough in the way I had been planning all along, and took you up the stage where a young boy is admitted to the Ashram of an Acharya to learn the Vedas. We now cut to the time when the disciple leaves and prepares to enter life. He returns home, rejoins his family, and with the consent of his parents and relatives, marries and settles down to discharge his duties in life along with his wife, as ordained by the scriptures. I shall commence with some verses chanted during the marriage ceremony. But first, a few words of introduction about the concept of marriage in Vedic times.
It is remarkable that almost all societies, independently established the custom of marriage, whereby a man and a woman enter into a holy and life-long alliance, raise a family and try to enjoy a prosperous life. Invariably, in every community around the world, marriage was not merely a case of entering into a social contract, but also had a religious side to it, besides being an occasion for celebration and festivities. Marriage was the commencement of a new chapter in the long story of the sustenance of the human race.
These days, marriage is often seen as the culmination of a romance, with focus largely on the physical union. Indeed, the excessive stress on the physical has reached a point where, during the last few decades, marriage is no longer considered necessary. A couple come together and live together as long as they please without any concept of social responsibility or of sin. Concepts such as marriage are considered to be old-fashioned, irrelevant, and even meaningless. To ridicule tradition is regarded as being very progressive and modern.

Marriage In The Vedic Times
Things were very different in Vedic times. Humans did not see themselves as freewheeling individuals but as a vital part of a cosmic whole, in which everyone played a part as ordained, to sustain the wheel of life and Dharma. Dharma - that was the key word. The Brahmin, in particular, had not only to personally uphold Dharma to the best of his ability but also had the responsibility of guiding others in doing the same. In this task, the wife was his partner, and that is why the word used for wife was Sahadharmini, meaning ‘one who participated with equal right, in upholding Dharma’.
How did the couple uphold Dharma? Not merely by being truthful in all their actions but also by discharging their various duties. Maybe I shall come to that a bit later, but for the moment let us take it that in Vedic times, marriage was more than a matter of procreation and propagating the human race.
Swami has, in some of His Discourses, especially a memorable one given during the Summer Course of 1996, described the marriage of Rama and Sita. He said on that occasion, that this was no ordinary marriage – it was the coming together of Paramatma and Prakriti, meaning the coming together of Cosmic Consciousness as represented by Rama and Divine Shakti or Divine Energy as represented by Sita. In a sense, the union of a man and a woman in holy wedlock symbolises the coming together of complimentary parts, to make a whole.
A typical Hindu marriage​

Turning to the marriage ceremony itself, it was a pretty elaborate affair, that included the father giving away the bride to the bridegroom. Here it is pertinent to recall what Swami said about the marriage of Rama and Sita. There was the holy and sacred fire and Mantras were being chanted both by Janaka the father of the bride and Rama, as appropriate, guided of course by celebrated Rishis like Viswamitra and Vasishta. At one point, Janaka says, here is my daughter Sita. Rama was expected to turn towards her and take a look at her. He did not. Emperor Janaka repeated the statement again; once more, Rama did not turn to look in the direction of Sita. When Janaka repeated that statement for the third time, Rama said to Janaka, “I am not yet formally married, and an unmarried man must not look at other women”. One might say that this was the limit, but that was how seriously the observance of code of conduct was taken in those days
Marriage Vows Made Before The Sacred Fire
One striking thing about the Vedic marriage is the central role played by the sacred fire. Agni, the Lord of fire, plays the role of a witness, and all declarations and promises are made with Agni as the witness. This is the equivalent of taking an oath placing one’s hand on the Bible or Quran or whatever. In the Vedic system, the entire marriage was performed with Agni as the witness. Once one swears by Agni, one is supposed to keep one’s promise, come what may.
Incidentally, Swami narrates an interesting incident that occurred during Rama’s wedding. One of the promises that the groom makes is that he would fulfil the wishes of his wife or something to that effect. When the priest chanted that Mantra, Rama was supposed to repeat it. He did not. The priest chanted a second time and once more Rama remained silent.
The priest then said, “Rama, you must chant the Mantra.” Rama said in reply, “I am sorry but I will not.” “Why?” asked the priest. Rama then said, “I belong to the royal family. One day, I would have to rule as a King. For a King, his subjects must always come first, and only then his wife. If I make this promise, then it would require me to give top priority to my wife, which would go against the Dharma of kings.” So you see, we have here yet another example of the primacy given to Dharma.
Turning to some of the rituals, the groom takes the hand of the bride, and this by the way is probably the first time he touches her. And as the bride gets up, she is supposed to step on a stone, placing the tip of her right foot. At that time, the groom says,

Come, step on the stone; be strong like a stone,
Resist enemies, overcome those who attack you.
After this, the bridegroom pours some parched rice into the bride’s joined palms and says,
This grain I spill,
May it bring well-being to me,
And unite you to me.
May Agni hear us.
Agni is not only the witness but also a protector. After the bridegroom finishes saying those words, the bride pours the grain into the fire – perhaps, this is symbolic of conveying the appeal to Agni. The groom then continues:
This woman, scattering grain into the fire, prays:
Blessings on my husband.
May my relatives prosper.
The couple then walk around the fire with the groom chanting suitable Mantras symbolic of their union as man and wife.
After this comes the famous ritual of the seven steps, during which the bride takes step after step, while groom says:
One step for Vigour,
Two steps for Vitality,
Three steps for Prosperity,
Four steps for Happiness,
Five steps for Cattle,
Six steps for Seasons,
Seven steps for Friendship,
To my devoted.
After the seventh step, the bride remains still while the groom says:
With seven steps we become friends
Let me reach your friendship,
Let me not be severed from your friendship,
Let your friendship be not severed from me.

Next, touching the heart of the bride, the groom says, I hold your heart in serving fellowship,
Your mind follows my mind,
In my word you rejoice with all your heart,
You are joined to me by the Lord of all creatures.
The couple then depart from the wedding site, the bride following the groom to his house, or rather the house of his parents. When they leave, they carry in an earthen pot a part of the sacred fire, which they are supposed to keep alive throughout their marriage. Fire thus becomes the constant witness in the lives of the couple. When the couple reach the house of the groom, he says,
Enter with your right foot,
Do not remain outside.
There the couple sit in silence till dusk falls and the stars become visible. The couple then go out when the husband points the pole star to the wife, saying,
You are firm, and I see you.
Be firm with me, O flourishing one!
Brihaspathi has given you to me,
To live with me a hundred years,
Bearing children by me, your husband.

I am not sure if I have given the flavour of the Vedic marriage rites but if I have managed to convey the cosmic view they had of marriage in those times, then I would have done my job.
What Is Our Dharma?
Let me get back to this Dharma business. Dharma is often translated as righteous conduct. To us with a so-called secular vision, right conduct might mean being truthful, not harming others and so on. Yes, all these do form a part of right conduct, but in those times, duty was the corner stone of right conduct. A man might never tell a lie, a man might never harm another person, but if he was not true to his duties, then he was straying away from Dharma.
In life, duty called for, among other things, the expression of gratitude. These days, seldom does one realise what one owes to others. After the end of the famous battle of Britain, Winston Churchill said in a tribute to the young men of the Royal Air Force, “Never have so many owed so much to so few.” In life, each of us owes so much, to so many, starting from God.
The Five Yajnas
In Vedic times, Yajna was one of the means by which various debts were discharged. Swami says,
There are five Yajnas prescribed as mandatory for every human being.
Let me now list these five Yajnas spelt out by Swami. They are
Rishi Yajna,
Pitru Yajna,
Deva Yajna,
Athithi Yajna,
Bhuta Yajna

I shall now explain what each of these Yajnas mean, starting with Rishi Yajna. It was the Rishis who gave the scriptures, especially the Vedas. One therefore owes an expression of gratitude to the sages of old. How does one thank them? Well, by remembering them for a minute and then studying the scriptures intently. One was not expected to just turn the pages but remind oneself of all the dictats mentioned therein.
Next, Pitru Yajna. Normally, the word Pitru means parents, but in Vedic times, Pitru also meant ancestors. We really do not realise how much we owe to our ancestors. Indeed, if today we are well off in many respects, it is in no small measure due to the sacrifice they made in their time.

Here I am reminded of a talk that late Mr. V.K.Narasimhan, then Editor, Sanathana Sarathi, gave to Swami’s students in the Divine presence in Trayee Brindavan. Mr. Narasimhan said, in his own inimitable style of course, “Many of you students dream of going to America because that seems like the land of milk and honey. But do you know that if America is prosperous today, it is because of the tremendous hard work and enormous sacrifices made by the immigrants of last century? You want to enjoy the benefits of their sacrifice but what about your own contribution? This country needs sacrifice, and you must stay here and do what the immigrants did in America a hundred years ago. If you did that, then this country too would become prosperous.”
Talking of America becoming rich, I am reminded of a nice story involving the famous film actor and comedian Danny Kaye, who was once the UNICEF Ambassador, bringing love and cheer to children all over the world, especially in countries where there was much suffering. Danny Kaye’s father came to America from Poland maybe in the very early part of the last century. As you perhaps know, hundreds of thousands of people from all parts of Europe poured then into America, seeking a better life. Danny Kaye’s father was one of them. After a few years, he returned to his hometown in Poland for a brief visit. His friends back home immediately surrounded him and plied him with all sorts of questions about America. One of them asked, “Is it true that in America the streets are paved with gold?” Danny Kaye’s father said in reply: “No, it is not true that the streets in America are paved with gold. In fact, most streets are not paved at all, even with stone. And do you know what my job is? Paving streets with stone!” So you see, there is no free lunch ever, and for whatever benefits we enjoy granted to us by Society, we have a duty to be thankful for it. In the Vedic age, the expression of gratitude formed an important part of one’s life.
OK. So far, I have dealt with two Yajnas. Now on to the third Yajna, the Deva Yajna. This meant offering reverential homage to the presiding deities, especially those associated with the forces of Nature. Why should one offer such homage? The ancients believed that if we have rain, we owe a duty to express thanks to the god of rain.
If we get sunshine, we owe a duty to the sun god, and so on. In this day and age, all this might seem amusing if not downright stupid, but I will put it this way. We need not exactly pray to this deity or that, but we could at least pray to God Almighty for the sun, the wind, rain and so forth, without which we would all be dead? Besides, do we not have an obligation to keep the elements of Nature pure, meaning not polluting, air, water, and land?

I cannot but recall here a Trayee session many years ago when I was privileged to be present, along with Swami’s students. Swami said that modern man ridicules the ancients as being superstitious and stupid. Modern man says, “Look at those fools. They worship the land, the water, the air, and even snakes. How idiotic!” Swami then said, “The ancients did not pollute the air, they did not pollute water, and they respected all the constituents of Nature, including all animals. But modern man, besides polluting heavily land, water and air, is also destroying entire forests, and wiping out many species of animals, without concern for eco- and bio-balance. Who is more stupid? Modern man who is wrecking all the gifts of God, or the ancients, who not only preserved what God gave them but also were thankful to God for the blessing?”
One cannot give a more powerful assessment of Vedic life and philosophy. Incidentally, this respect for ancestors and the environment is to be found in many traditional cultures, for example among the American Red Indians. Only, the Vedic seers saw the Universe in a much larger cosmic setting than did people of other cultures, as I shall perhaps explain in a later lecture.
A couple of words now about the remaining two Yajnas, namely the AthithiYajna and the Bhuta Yajna. The former involves offering cordial and loving hospitality to guests, while Bhuta Yajna means doing everything one can to sustain all components of the environment – plants, trees, fishes, birds and animals. The husband dutifully performed all these Yajnas, and the wife rendered all the support that was necessary.
Family Duty
Before I proceed further with the Vedic journey, I think it is worthwhile for me to pause for a moment and reflect on the above Yajnas, especially their relevance to modern times. To many, all these may appear to be an utter waste of time but instead of focussing on the procedures associated with Vedic rites, let us concentrate on the basic principles of Vedic life. The first thing is the concept of a family. The family is the atom of Society, and it has been so throughout history, in all places and all cultures. It is only in recent times, that the traditional concept of the family is being severely rocked with practices that seek to make marriage irrelevant, all in the name of personal freedom.
I recall reading, when I was the Vice Chancellor, a Convocation address given by a Canadian lady, an educationist, to one of our Universities. She said that a hundred and fifty to hundred years ago, most people in Canada lived on farms. Every farm was run by a family, and all the farm work had to be done by the members of the family – the father, the mother, the sons and daughters. Since all did more or less the same type of work, there was no question of gender bias and there automatically prevailed a sense of equality. The Canadian educationist then said that when Canada started getting industrialised and more and more people started moving to the cities, things changed suddenly and dramatically. Many men went to work in offices and their work took them on tours. They could then have a good time while on the road, drinking, spending time on the golf courses, visiting nightclubs, and so on. The women, on the other hand, slogged in the home, doing kitchen work, bringing up the children and so on. The lady said that was when feminist feelings started to rise and become strong.
The Importance Of Gratitude
What I am getting at is that when life strays away from duty, imbalance results. In Vedic Society, the focus was always on duty, responsibility, and the sustenance of Society as well as Nature. Analyse every Yajna that I mentioned, and you will find the undercurrent of duty. Let us take Rishi Yajna as an example. One may say, “Why should I be bothered? I don’t care for the Rishis.” The point is not being bothered about Rishis but that one moves forward on what we have been handed down. You know what Newton the great scientist said? He said, “If I have been able to look farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of others.” We do this all the time in Science. We can’t say, “This Galileo, he lived five hundred years ago. His is old stuff. Forget it!” We can’t do that. When we teach first year physics, we have to teach what Galileo, Newton and even Archimedes discovered. There is an essential continuity in knowledge, in all branches.
We can’t also say that “Newton is relevant but the Rishis are not.” Let me tell you that it was the ancients who gave us our first ideas about planetary motions etc. They it was who first made almanacs. In India, the neem is used for a hundred things on account of its wonderful medicinal properties. This knowledge, about the medicinal properties of neem, turmeric, etc., comes to us from very ancient times. We cannot scoff at them, can we?
In short, Rishi Yajna must be seen as an expression of gratitude to our ancients for everything they have given us from the discovery of fire and the invention of the wheel, to developing agriculture and metal forming. Expression of gratitude is a sign of refinement; ingratitude, on the other hand, is a sign of uncivilised behaviour.

As for Pitru Yajna, it does not mean performing some kind of rituals but remembrance of dead ancestors and, more important, being ready to perform any sacrifice for one’s parents. The compulsions of modern life have become such that people have been slowly conditioned to giving importance to their own personal security in terms of money, job, career and so on. Inevitably, parents slide down in priority, especially when they have fulfilled their role. The next thing is that they are seen to be as irrelevant and a nuisance. This is not a Western attitude but a global one.
I recall seeing two wonderful dramas staged in the Poornachandra Hall many years ago on the occasion of the Chinese New Year Day. In both, the theme was how in the present day, elderly parents are neglected or even abandoned. I learnt then, that this sort of thing happens not only in America and India but also in China. By the way, on both occasion, there was young Chinese boy who literally stole the show. He was a great hit, and Swami liked his acting very much.
A word now about Athithi Yajna. This had special relevance to ancient times, when Sannyasis wandered across the land. Sannyasis are, by definition, renunciates. They have no family, no home, no money, no nothing. They wander supposedly to visit holy shrines but during their wanderings, they always speak about God and spread the good word. In those days, when a Sannyasi came to a village, the people of the village would welcome him and offer hospitality. They considered it not only an honour but also a duty to do so, since that was what was commanded by the Vedas. Suppose the villagers had not done this, the Sannaysis could not have played their role and contributed to Society. The Vedic philosophers knew all about system management. If an institution was beneficial, it had to be sustained, and a procedure had to be devised for it.
The same goes for Bhuta Yajna. We have in India a festival called the Naga Panchami when the snake is worshipped. People are petrified when the very word snake is heard; yet, in those times, it was considered a duty to worship the snake. The Vedic seers might not have known all the details we know about ecological balance but this they certainly knew. Everything in the Universe has been created by God with a purpose. This applies to everything from the hydrogen atom to the black hole. We may or may not know about the purpose but a purpose there certainly is in the Divine Master Plan.

Today, the Green people and such others make a lot of noise about the environment. Very good and very necessary. But why this need? Because people have forgotten all about Bhuta Yajna. In Ecuador, they want to cut down pristine rain forests to drill for oil. In Alaska, the wilderness is being disturbed for oil. In China, huge dams are being built so that more electricity can be generated. A Chinese environmentalist was asked about these dams. She said that the dams were a disaster. She was then told, “But if dams are not built, then more coal would have to be mined. Mining is a dangerous activity and so many people are being killed. Moreover, coal-fired power stations will belch carbon dioxide. So, is it not better to generate electricity out of water from dams than from coal?” The environmentalist replied, “I think there is yet another alternative. It is to decrease our desires, our wants and our consumption. Then we would not need so much electricity. And when we do not need extra electricity, we do not have to build dams or mine more coal.”
So this lady has, by her own reasoning, come to the same conclusion that formed the basis of Vedic Society; only, the Vedic seers linked it all always to God.
Let me wrap up. Man married mainly to sustain Dharma, with his wife as an equal partner. He had his part to play and she had hers. Nothing was considered inferior and nothing was considered superior. Duty, responsibility and obligation formed the core of one’s life. The Vedic seers were firmly of the view that it was only when these virtues were given primacy, that there would be harmony in Society and human life could be sustained properly. Today, most virtues are summarily dismissed on one of two counts. Either one says it is irrelevant or one says it is not workable in this day and age. I believe both arguments are false and escapist.
What Is Freedom?
Duty, responsibility and obligations are often evaded in the name of freedom. What is this so-called freedom? People say freedom means one can do what one likes, in an unfettered manner. But seldom do people who talk like this realise that they are not really free but a slave to their senses and Mind. Who is the one who is really free? Swami says the one who is rid of attachments and the dictates of the body, the senses and the Mind is the one who is really free.
Why is there so much obsession with freedom to do what one likes? I heard an American author the other day on the radio. He put it like this. He said that these days, the Media, all owned by rich barons, want to deliver us lock stock and barrel to the big corporations, so that we buy what they want us to buy, and invest our money where they want us to invest. This is not as far fetched as it might seem. I shall not go into this topic here, but there is a strong empirical correlation between the growth of advertising, the craze for freedom, the growth of consumerism, etc.
All those who are swept by the glitter and glamour of so-called freedom, and all the joys it is supposed to confer, are totally oblivious to social costs. Those who want to grab wealth do so at the expense of individuals and Society. Ultimately, it is Society that pays, and pays heavily too. All this is well known of course, but ostrich-like, everyone wants to hide from the truth because it is so inconvenient.
Vedic Society was built on the concept that since Society and Nature are what sustain us all, they must receive primacy and not the individual. Marriage too was seen in this total framework, and not in terms of romance or sense gratification.

I am sorry I did not give as much details of the wedding Mantras as I would have liked, but I hope I can make amends when we manage to bring a vedic scholar to our studios. Next time, I shall take you a bit more along the Vedic path, giving glimpses of how Dharma was sustained in Society. Thank you. Jai Sai Ram.
dear all,

I am posting the link for the above artcles...as the articles are long for me to post and i am forced to delete the images to fit it in here and the whole article lacks lustre after that.

kindly click on the link below;

  1. h2hsai.org: Welcome to Heart2Heart E-Journal of Prasanthi Nilayam

    Heart 2 Heart E-journal is a not for profit organization dedicated to promoting the well-being of society through informative and inspirational content ...
    www.radiosai.org/Journals/ - Similar -
    Previous Issues
    The Divine Declaration
Om Sri Sairam!

I have manged to get these "pearls" into PDF's. I needed to make printable versions for my parents who are aversed to computers :). I am unable to attach here. If there is any interest I will upload it somewhere else and provide the links here.

Om Sri Sairam!

I have manged to get these "pearls" into PDF's. I needed to make printable versions for my parents who are aversed to computers :). I am unable to attach here. If there is any interest I will upload it somewhere else and provide the links here.

sai krishna.convert it to txt file without all those images,as it saves space.or print it yourself,and mail it to them.

nachi naga.
sai krishna.convert it to txt file without all those images,as it saves space.or print it yourself,and mail it to them.

nachi naga.

Om Sai Ram.

Renuka has already done that.

I went to the source website and converted all the articles to PDF files in a presentable form. I have emailed these to my sister who has printed these for my parents to read.

If there is similar need I can upload these somewhere for people to download.
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