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The Vedas

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The Vedas are the original Sanskrit texts of India's ancient spiritual culture. The Vedas include knowledge on every facet of human endeavor, material and spiritual, like a set of reference manuals for achieving ultimate success in this life and the next. "Veda" literally means "knowledge," and "Vedic," in its extended meaning, refers to works that extend or follow the Vedas, including the Puranas, Vedanta-sutra, and Upanishads.

The Puranas, or "ancient histories," are meant to make the Vedas more accessible for the people in the present age. And the Bhagavat Purana, or Srimad-Bhagavatam, is called the essence, or the "cream" of all Vedic literature.

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The Vedas contain codes of behavior for the welfare of all socioeconomic classes, guides for observing rituals for elevating one's consciousness and social status, laws for maintaining order within the state, and, ultimately, directions on how to awaken spiritual consciousness.

According to the tradition, the Vedas have existed for as long as there have been conscious beings to hear them. But only since the thirtieth century BCE were they edited and put into written form. The original Veda became divided into four - Rig, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva Vedas - along with the Puranas (histories), the eighteen Upanishads, and finally the Vedanta-sutra, which contains highly condensed codes summarizing the final conclusion of all knowledge. Some scholars accept only the four Vedas as truly "Vedic," but we use the term to refer to the whole body of literature which extends or follows the Vedas' teachings.

The editor and compiler of the Vedas, the divine avatar Vyasadeva, also compiled the Mahabharata, or "great history of the Earth," which contains Krishna's instructions to Arjuna in the famous Bhagavad-gita. Vyasadeva's commentary on the Vedanta-sutra - Srimad-Bhagavatam - is considered the cream of all Vedic literature. It has detailed information on how to develop love of God by hearing about Him, His many avatars, and His empowered representatives.

Image of an 18th century manuscript of the Bhagavad-gita courtesy of the Schoyen Collection

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We like to quote our sources. This page is based on the following:

  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 1.4.23, Purport:

    "The original source of knowledge is the Vedas. There are no branches of knowledge, either mundane or transcendental, which do not belong to the original text of the Vedas. They have simply been developed into different branches. They were originally rendered by great, respectable and learned professors. In other words, the Vedic knowledge, broken into different branches by different disciplic successions, has been distributed all over the world. No one, therefore, can claim independent knowledge beyond the Vedas.

  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 2.5.15, Purport:

    "According to the Vedanta-sutras ("shastra-yonitvat"), the Supreme Lord is the author of all revealed scriptures, and all revealed scriptures are for knowing the Supreme Lord. Veda means knowledge that leads to the Lord. The Vedas are made just to revive the forgotten consciousness of the conditioned souls . . ."

  • Bhagavad-gita, 4.7, Purport

    "Principles of religion are laid down in the Vedas, and any discrepancy in the matter of properly executing the rules of the Vedas makes one irreligious. In the Bhagavatam it is stated that such principles are the laws of the Lord. Only the Lord can manufacture a system of religion. The Vedas are also accepted as originally spoken by the Lord Himself to Brahma, from within his heart. Therefore, the principles of dharma, or religion, are the direct orders of the Supreme Personality of Godhead (dharmam tu sakshad bhagavat-pranitam [ Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.3.19]). These principles are clearly indicated throughout the Bhagavad-gita. The purpose of the Vedas is to establish such principles under the order of the Supreme Lord, and the Lord directly orders, at the end of the Gita, that the highest principle of religion is to surrender unto Him only, and nothing more. The Vedic principles push one towards complete surrender unto Him; and whenever such principles are disturbed by the demoniac, the Lord appears."

  • Bhagavad-gita, 15.15, Purport :

    "The Vedas give the right direction to people so that they can properly mold their lives and come back to Godhead, back to home. The Vedas offer knowledge of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, and Krishna in His incarnation as Vyasadeva is the compiler of the Vedanta-sutra. The commentary on the Vedanta-sutra by Vyasadeva in the Srimad-Bhagavatam gives the real understanding of Vedanta-sutra. . ."

  • Bhagavad-gita, 15.15, Purport:

    "If one is serious about understanding the Vedic knowledge, then Krishna gives the required intelligence. Why does He present the Vedic knowledge for understanding? Because a living entity individually needs to understand Krishna. Vedic literature confirms this: yo 'sau sarvair vedair giyate. In all Vedic literature, beginning from the four Vedas, Vedanta-sutra and the Upanishads and Puranas, the glories of the Supreme Lord are celebrated. By performance of Vedic rituals, discussion of the Vedic philosophy and worship of the Lord in devotional service, He is attained."

  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 1.3.41:

    "Sri Vyasadeva delivered it (Srimad-Bhagavatam) to his son, who is the most respected among the self-realized, after extracting the cream of all Vedic literatures and histories of the universe."

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