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Spiritual Wing - Veda Part 2: Texts of The Vedic Tradition

The Vedas belong to those who value them, who are moved by thirst for spiritual uplift, who desire to practice them and who have faith that they will benefit by that practice.

(Source: Sathyam Shivam Sundaram, Part 2 - Chapter 3).

The four Vedas form the core teaching of the Vedic tradition. However, there are some texts other than the four Vedas that are necessary to understand and practice the teachings of the Vedas. Such texts are also considered to be part of the Vedic tradition. Including the four Vedas, there are 14 such texts (including 4 main Vedas) and are popularly known as the “14 abodes of knowledge”.

These 14 texts explains dharma (right code of conduct) and are organised as follows.

Four Vedas:

They are Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva. While each of the fourteen texts is profound and authoritative in their content, the four Vedas reign supreme among them. These four Vedas are the basis of the remaining texts.

Six Vedaangas:

Vedanga means the “limb of the Veda”. They assist in the chanting, understanding and practice of the Vedic teachings.

The six limbs of the Vedas are:

1. Shiksha: Phonetics
2. Vyakarana: Grammar
3. Chandas: Poetic metres
4. Niruktam: Etymology and meaning
5. Jyotisha: Astronomy and astrology
6. Kalpa: Rituals

Four Upaangas:

Upaanga means “secondary limb of the Veda”. They provide further insight into the Vedas and give practical methods to implement its teachings in daily life. They are:

1. Mimaamsa: Analysis that helps to determine the purport of the Vedas
2. Nyaaya: Logic
3. Puraana: Anecdotal exposition of Vedic injunctions
4. Dharma Shaastra: Code of conduct governing various aspects of life

In addition to the above mentioned fourteen sources of knowledge, there are four other ancillary subjects that are considered as useful accompaniments. They are called Upavedas.

Four Upavedas:

The four ancillary subjects are:

1. Ayurveda: Medical science
2. Dhanurveda: Science of warfare
3. Gandharvaveda: Fine arts – music, dance, drama etc.
4. Arthashaastra: Economics, public administration, politics, etc.

In the distant past, all students of Vedas were expected to learn as many of the Vedas as possible. At the dawn of Kali Yuga Sri Vyasa Maharshi classified the Vedas into four (Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva) and divided each of them further into several branches. He foresaw that the compulsions of the coming Kali age would limit man’s intellectual capacity and concluded that it was enough if each person could learn at least one branch.

Sri Adi Shankaracharya, in one of his works namely Sadhana Panchakam advises spiritual aspirants to "study the Vedas daily; practice well their prescriptions".

Krishna Subrahmanian Chair Person
Sri Sathya Sai Centre of Mill Hill.

(To be continued...)