Beach 2: First Steps in the Ascent to the Divine
Wave 5: Ancient Scriptures of Hinduism
Drop 1. SRUTI
The primary source of Hinduism from which it derives all its authority and inspiration is the body of literature known as the vedas, which are four in number. They are Rg veda, Yajur-veda, sAma veda, and atharva-veda. They were not written by any single person or persons. In fact they were not 'written' at all, until, in the nineteenth century, they were put into print. Till then, over the centuries, they were transmitted orally. It ius one of the amazing miracles of the Indian heritage that, while even the written literature of great authors like Kalidasa and Shakespeare have today more than one reading or version at several points, the Vedas, which go back to 3000 B.C. have, in spite of being handed down entirely through oral transmission, come down to us in a single version. Throughout the length and breadth of India, where the Vedas are treasured as the most ancient heritage, not a syllable of them is different in one place from what it is everywhere else.
How can this be? How was it possible? Go to Sruti: page 2
Orthodox opinion holds that the vedas are eternal. The significance of this will be understood only if the concept of Time in Hindu cosmology is understood.
Go to The Hindu Concept of Time.
Let us come to what the vedas talk about. They talk about creation, Nature and God. They sing ecstatically about the bounties of Mother Nature. They glorify the majesty that is transparent in the workings of nature. They contain long, prosaic instructions on rituals to be followed for propitiating various gods. They make impressive poetic appeals to the grace of these gods. They discuss life and deathand everything that touches man in his journey through life.
The subject matter of the vedas is usually looked at in terms of three categories or parts, called kANDas, technically. These three parts are not physically separated in the vedas. Material relevant to all three subjects are scattered throughout the texts. The karma kANDa discusses the duties of an individual, particularly of a householder, the rites and sacrifices that he must perform and how he should perform them. In the upAsana-kANDa the theme is divine communion and worship. The jnAna-kANDa is metaphysical disquisition about ultimate reality and the transience of ordinary sensory experience. These excursions into metaphysics particularly occur in the last portions of the vedas, called the Upanishads.
See also 'What Vedas are not'.