Indian (Hindu) religion or Sanatana Dharma, as it is called, has appealed to eminent scholars and students since time immemorial for its being logical and based on sound foundation. All objects are divided into pramana (instrument of knowledge) and prameya (subject of knowledge). The instruments of knowledge [or pramana] are pratyaksha (knowledge attained through the senses), anumana (inference) and sabda (verbal testimony).
While pratyaksha and anumana can be used for prakruta vishaya (worldly matters), aprakruta or paroksha (that which is beyond cosmos) can be learnt only through sabda pramana. The foremost among sabda pramana is VEDA.
Manu, the great saint and the ruler, who formulated the code of conduct for people of all walks of life, named after him as Manu Smriti, has clearly held Veda in the highest esteem. To quote his own words,”वेदोऽखिलो धर्मर्ूलं स्र्ृखिशीले च िखिदार्् । आचारश्चैव साधूनार्् आत्र्नस्िुखिरेवthe entireच ॥” ( Veda is the root of dharma, which is defined as the means to attain all prosperity and eternal bliss – अभ्युदयखनिःश्रेयससाधनं धर्मिः- the Smritis and the views of those who have mastered it are the pramanas).
It has been said that Veda came to be propagated through disciples right from Sriman Narayana (प्रवक्ता छन्दसार््)down to us in a continuous chain (अखवखछछन्नपरम्परागिर््)perpetually. Veda has no author and hence it is nitya and apaurusheya (eternal and authorless). All the founders of various schools of thought based on Vedanta have taken Veda as ultimate pramana concerning brahman.
Visistadvaita Siddhanta of Sri Bhagavad Ramanuja places Veda in the utmost esteem more than any other school of thought. The establishment of the pramanya (authenticity) will now be described in greater detail.
The first teacher of Veda i.e., the Lord Vishnu Himself has, in Bhagavad Geeta, upheld the greatness of Veda, likening it to udapana (an ocean) which speaks of Veda as infinite in content and extent. The Veda itself testifies to the infinite nature by relating the episode of sage Bharadvaja. Yet, for the use of mortal beings like us, Bhagavan Vyasa or Vedavyasa, himself
an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, classified Veda into four main branches and innumerable sub- branches (shakha-s) in each main branch. (We are, at present, left with only a few shakas which emphasise the extent of our responsibility to revive them). It is also said to be more considerate than a thousand parents put together, in enabling us to achieve eternal happiness through its teachings (शास्त्रं खि वत्सलिरं र्ािाखपिृसिस्रििः).
In Brahma-sutra, Vedavyasa has dealt with the issue of the authenticity of Veda and it has been established by logical arguments and conclusions that the retention of the form or sequence and the mode of utterance with regard to the letters and their accents (स्वर-वर्म-आनुपूवी-क्रर्-खनयर्िः) ever since it was first taught by the Lord to Caturmukha Brahma constitutes the nityatva and apourusheyatva though sabda or sound itself may not be eternal, being a prakruta tattva (a product of prakriti).
Lord Vishnu has manifested himself in many forms to safeguard the Veda such as Hamsa (Divine Swan), Matsya (Divine Fish), Hayagreeva (divine body with horse – face), Dattatreya (Divine Saint) and so on. Lord Vishnu has stated that Veda is his order (श्रुखिस्र्ृिी र्र्ैवाज्ञे)It is. said of Vedas that they have emanated through the nose of the Lord as His breath (वाचो बभूवुरुशिीिः श्वसिोऽस्य नस्ििः).
Our purvacarya-s (ancient teachers of Visistadvaita) have expressly made clear the greatness of Veda in, for example, Vedartha-sangraha of Bhagavad Ramanuja, where he takes literally every word of Veda as authentic, though a few portions of the Vedic text may look contradictory on their surface. He clearly distinguishes between bheda – sruti (texts declaring the jeevatma and paramatma as two different tattvas) and abheda – sruti (which state paramatma and jeevatma as one tattva) and places them on the same pedestal, solving the apparent contradiction with the aid of Ghataka – sruti (texts which form the link for the proper interpretation of the bheda and abheda sruti-s, which say that the paramatma and jeevatma have sareera – sareeri bhava i.e., (as being body and soul).
Sri Ramanuja was led to this correct understanding of tattva-s and to the establishment of the greatness of Vedic texts by the writings of his preceptors – Sri Nathamuni and Sri Yamunacarya – the latter of whom is profusely quoted in Sribhashyam, Vedartha-sangraha and Geeta- bhashya. In Sri Rangaraja-stavam, Sri Parasara Bhattar says that even the Charuvakas, who deny authenticity to knowledge through anything other than sensory perception (pratyaksha) cannot but accept the Veda as pramana for, as Veda is uttered and heard, it reaches the mind through ears and definitely produces knowledge. There is no contradiction found to the
knowledge so obtained, either by pratyaksha or anumana. Thus, the authenticity of Veda becomes irrefutable (प्रत्यक्षा श्रुखिरर्मधीश्च न िर्ा दोषस्िदर्मिः पुनिः धर्ामधर्मपरावरेश्वरर्ुििः प्रत्यक्षबाध्यो न च ।). Also, he describes that the pramanya of epics and smritis is attributable to their being in accordance with the Vedic text. No work will be held as correct unless it is in tune with Veda. Sri Parasara Bhattar’s words in Sri Rangaraja-stavam explain this :- (वेदे कर्त्ामद्यभावाि् बलवखि खि नयैिः
त्वन्र्ुिे नीयर्ानेिन्र्ूलत्वेन र्ानं िददिरदखिलं जायिे रङ्गधार्न् । िस्र्ात्सांख्यं सयोगं सपशुपखिर्िं कु र्त्खचि् पाञ्चरार्त्ं सवमर्त्ैव प्रर्ार्ं िदददर्वगिं पञ्चर्ादेव वेदाि्१४॥). ॥
Even Kalidasa, the noted playwright in Sanskrit, who is renowned for his similes, has likened the subordination of dutiful wife to her husband, by the classic example of a wife following the footsteps of her husband, similar to the manner in which the smritis follow the Veda (श्रुिेररवार्ं स्र्ृखिरन्वगछछि्)in the olden days.
Sri Vedanta Desika, the acarya reputed as kavitarkikasimha, whose prodigious capacity is unparalleled in Sri Ramanuja’s school, has set at rest any argument against the Veda as a pramana in many of his works such as Paramata-bhangam, Nyaya-parisuddhi, Tatvamukta- kalapam, Sarvartha-siddhi, Adhikarana-saravali),Nyaya-siddhanjanam and so on. In Adhikarana-saravali, he has cleared all possible doubts about supremacy of Veda as a pramana. If Veda were nitya and the characters (Devatas) anitya, Veda will have anitya-samyoga,(contact of an anitya object which is objectionable) has been answered as untenable since the characters are pravaha nityas (perpetual succession). That a few passages have been named after specific sages and various portions seem to have been composed by various sages (like Kathaka, Visvamitra sukta, etc.), it is replied that those names and instances highlight those who first propagated those specific portions (प्रवचनखनयििः).
The fact that even Lord Himself is not the author of Veda but only its teacher is clear from the Veda being his breath. The objection that Veda is His order should mean that He is its Creator has been His order remains unchanged with time. He could think of and utter a thing that exists always, without actually being created, since He is omniscient. This nature of Veda i.e. being written by none and, hence, being free from blemishes associated with an author (God included) distinguishes it from other texts taken as the basis for explaining supernatural matters and natural things alike, of any other school of thought. Thus, Hindu religion also known as Vaidika Dharma, as it gives the importance that is due to the Veda, as only source of learning of paroksha. So much about the nature and authority of Veda. Now about the content of Veda in a nutshell.
Veda is essentially a composition and collection of Hymns in praise of the Lord. In the portions where the aspect of para – tattva (supreme Being) is discussed, it has been unanimously and equivocally held that Sriman Narayana is the supreme Being. He is the soul for all things in the universe and the universe is His body. He is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient and free from whatever blemish, while possessing all desirable good qualities. He is everything for the universe – its guide, means and end. Though Veda is infinite and sings His praise, it cannot fully describe Him as He and His qualities are infinite (ananta). The carrier of Lord, Viz. Garuda, is also the incarnation of Veda (Vedatma) described as such in the Veda. His abode, consorts, weapons, ornaments and other paraphernalia including the nitya-s and mukta-s (those who are always free from bondage and those released from bondage) have all been described in detail in Upanishads such as Kaushitaki and so on. The aspect if hita (means) has also His mercy or daya is bhakti (devotion) or prapatti (absolute surrender) (of which, only the latter is suitable for us at present). The end or aim (purushartha) is also explained as attaining Him in His abode, Paramapada (beyond cosmos) and doing service to Him ever after. As Veda contains all about tattva, hita and purushartha, it is the one text which is sufficient for us to lead a noble life and also rejoice eternally at the feet of Lord afterwards.
Though Veda contains all that is needed, its interpretation has to be done with the aid if smritis, ithihasas and puranas (epics) for a proper understanding thereof. In a nutshell, it has been said by the great acarya Sri Vedanta Desika, that the Veda, its explanatory smritis and so on preach one truth that Sriman Narayana is our Master, Whose body the whole universe is and that He releases us from bondage (on prayer as per the specified means) and is the Object of enjoyment after release: (र्त्य्यन्िैिः एककण्ैिःिदनुगुर्-र्नु-व्यास-र्ुख्योखक्तखभश्च श्रीर्ान् नारायर्ो निः पखििः अखिलिनुिः र्ुखक्तदो र्ुक्त(खक्त)भोग्यिः ॥).
Thus, it is seen that Veda is the essential tool for a clear perception of the reality and, hence, it is aptly described as the endless wealth of sat-s (those who believe in God – सा खि श्रीरर्ृिा सिार््). It is also described as the eye for seeing the real, eternal things (वेदश्चक्षुिः सनािनर््)As. we would protect and take care of our eyes, so we should protect and safeguard this Veda. This is evident from the above metaphor.
The study of Veda is compulsory and mandatory for all its adhikari-s (eligible persons) which, though due to constraints of facilities, might not have been possible for many, should be made possible by such organisations such as Srivaishnava Seva Samiti, which will be a real service to the community. The study of Veda should also be coupled with the study of Nalayira Divya Prabandam of Azhvars. Every letter of Veda that is recited by Brahmins is the name of Hari, the
Supreme Lord, says the epic Mahabharata (वेदाक्षराखर् यावखन्ि पर्िाखन खिजाखिखभिः । िावखन्ि िररनार्ाखन
कीर्िमिाखन न संशयिः ॥)Lord. Krishna also has said in Geeta that “I am the Supreme Being Who is learnt through all the Vedas (वेदैश्च सवैरिर्ेव वेद्यिः …).
In conclusion, I wish to express my hope that Srivaishnava Seva Samiti-s, dedicating themselves to strive hard towards protecting and propagating Veda, among our ignorant and innocent fellowmen and enable them to attain realisation and happiness, would come to being, preferably hold regular sessions at select places to impart to them the correct knowledge of Veda.