Veda means knowledge. The original knowledge is the teachings of the Vedas. In the conditioned state our knowledge is subjected to many deficiencies. There are four defects that a conditioned soul has: committing mistakes, subject to illusion, cheating propensity and imperfect senses. These deficiencies make us unfit for having perfect knowledge. Therefore we accept the Vedas as they are.
The texts of the Vedas are known as Samhitas. Within these Samhitas there are portions known as Mantras, which contain prayers in the form of potent sound compounds revealed to great seers for different purposes. In the Vedic civilization three orders of life lived in the forests. Only granthas inhabited the cities. The regulated knowledge for living in the city is revealed in the books known as Brahmanas, whereas the regulated knowledge for living in the forest is revealed in the books known as Aranyakas.
The Vedas are referred to as the Shruti. Scholars who have made a study of world scriptures maintain that the Vedas are the oldest extant religious texts. The ideas expressed in the Vedas were traditionally handed down originally from father to son and from teacher to disciple. Therefore, these ideas had been in circulation for a long time before their codification and compilation, which are attributed to a sage called Vyasa (literally, "the compiler"). On the basis of both internal and external evidence, scholars have suggested various dates for the origin of the Vedas, ranging from approximately 1500 BC to as far back as 5000 BC.
There are four Vedas:
Rigveda - There are 21 branches.
Yajurveda - There are 109 branches. It is further divided in to 2:
a) Shukla Yajurveda.
b) Krishna Yajurveda.
Samaveda - There are 1000 branches.
Atharvaveda - There are 50 branches.
Veda is compiled by VEDAVYAS.
He divided Veda in to four and gave it to 4 different hermits, i.e.
Rigveda - Paeil Muni
Yajurveda - Vaishampayan Muni
Samaveda - Jaimini Muni
Atharvaveda - Sumantu Muni
A Brief Introduction
The Rig Veda: The Book of Mantra:
The Rig Veda is a collection of inspired songs or hymns and is a main source of information on the Rig Vedic civilization. It is the oldest book in any Indo-European language and contains the earliest form of all Sanskrit mantras that date back to 1500 B.C.- 1000 B.C. Some scholars date the Rig Veda as early as 12000 BC - 4000 B.C. The Rig-Vedic ‘samhita’ or collection of mantras consists of 1,017 hymns or ‘suktas’, covering about 10,600 stanzas, divided into eight ‘astakas’ each having eight ‘adhayayas’ or chapters, which are sub-divided into various groups. The hymns are the work of many authors or seers called ‘rishis’. There are seven primary seers identified: Atri, Kanwa,Vashistha, Vishwamitra, Jamadagni,Gautama and Bharadwaja. The rig Veda accounts in detail the social, religious, political and economic background of the Rig-Vedic civilization. Even though monotheism characterizes some of the hymns of Rig Veda, naturalistic polytheism and monism can be discerned in the religion of the hymns of Rig Veda.The Sama Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda were compiled after the age of the Rig Veda and are ascribed to the Vedic period.
The Sama Veda: The Book of Song:
The Sama Veda is purely a liturgical collection of melodies (‘saman’). The hymns in the Sama Veda, used as musical notes, were almost completely drawn from the Rig Veda and have no distinctive lessons of their own. Hence, its text is a reduced version of the Rig Veda. As Vedic Scholar David Frawley puts it, if the Rig Veda is the word, Sama Veda is the song or the meaning, if Rig Veda is the knowledge, Sama Veda is its realization, if Rig Veda is the wife, the Sama Veda is her husband.
The Yajur Veda: The Book of Ritual:
The Yajur Veda is also a liturgical collection and was made to meet the demands of a ceremonial religion. The Yajur Veda practically served as a guidebook for the priests who execute sacrificial acts muttering simultaneously the prose prayers and the sacrificial formulae (‘yajus’). It is similar to ancient Egypt’s “Book of the Dead”. There are no less than six complete recessions of Yajur Veda - Madyandina, Kanva, Taittiriya, Kathaka, Maitrayani and Kapishthala.
The Atharva Veda: The Book of Spell:
The last of the Vedas, this is completely different from the other three Vedas and is next in importance to Rig-Veda with regard to history and sociology. A different spirit pervades this Veda. Its hymns are of a more diverse character than the Rig Veda and are also simpler in language. In fact, many scholars do not consider it part of the Vedas at all. The Atharva Veda consists of spells and charms prevalent at its time, and portrays a clearer picture of the Vedic society.
Each Veda is divided in to two periods. They are as follows:
1) Purva Mimamsa:
The main objective of the Purva ("earlier") Mimamsa School was to establish the authority of the Vedas. Consequently this school's most valuable contribution to Sanatan Dharma was its formulation of the rules of Vedic interpretation. Its adherents believed that revelation must be proved by reasoning, that it should not be accepted blindly as dogma. In keeping with this belief, they laid great emphasis on dharma, which they understood as the performance of Vedic rituals. The Mimamsa accepted the logical and philosophical teachings of the other schools, but felt that these paid insufficient attention to right action. They believed that the other schools of thought, who pursued Moksha (release) as their ultimate aim, were not completely free from desire and selfishness. In Sanatan dharma, we are all illuminated under the light of god. When we have Moksha, we believe that we become closer to god. According to the Mimamsa, the very striving for liberation stemmed from a selfish desire to be free. Only by acting in accordance with the prescriptions of the Vedas could one attain salvation (rather than liberation). At a later stage, however, the Mimamsa School changed its views in this regard and began to teach the doctrines of God and Mukti (freedom). Its adherents then advocated the release or escape from the soul from its constraints through what was known as Jnana (enlightened activity). While Mimamsa does not receive much scholarly attention these days, its influence can be felt in the life of the practicing Vaidik. All Vaidik ritual, ceremony and religious law are influenced by it. It’s also known as “Yagya/Karma Kand”
2) Uttara Mimamsa:
The Uttara ("later") Mimamsa School, more commonly known as the Vedant, concentrates on the philosophical teachings of the Upanishads rather than on the ritualistic injunctions of the Brahmanas. But there are over a hundred Upanishads and they do not form a unified system. Their systematization was undertaken by Badarayana, in a work called the Vedanta Sutras.
The cryptic way in which the aphorisms of the Vedanta texts are presented leaves the door wide open for a multitude of interpretations. This led to explosion of Vedanta schools. Each of these interprets the texts in its own way and has produced its own series of sub-commentaries - all claiming to be faithful to the original. It’s also known as “Gyana Kand”
Sections of Vedas:
Vedas have two sections: Samhita and Brahman. The Samhitas consist of prayers in metrical hymns called Mantras, and is also referred to as Mantra section. The Brahmanas are more of a commentary on these hymns, and are in prose form. This Brahmanas Section deals with Karma, Upasana & Tattva-Gyana. Sections dealing with these are called Brahmanas, Aranyakas & Upanishads. Upanishads are the philosophical parts of the Vedas, and reveal the nature of Self etc. Most of the Upanishads are at the end of Aranyaka Section, but there are exceptions. Isavasya Upanishad is in the Mantra or Samhita portion of Vedas. (It thus becomes very revered one). The mantras of Vedas were revealed to different Hermits at different points of time were collected & compiled into four parts (Rig, Yajur, Sama & Atharva) by one of the greatest sages of all times - Shri Veda Vyasa.
Later he gave each of these Vedas to one of his disciples to carry them forward.
Each Veda is divided into four sections:
*Brahmanas - The ritualistic teachings
*Aranyakas - The theological section
*Upanishads - The philosophical section
Each section can be classified as follows:
Samhitas ("joined" or "collected") is the basic text of each of the Vedas, comprising collections of hymns and ritual texts. This term was originally used in reference to the style of recitation used during hymns and chants. In the Vedas the Samhitas are supplemented by later explanatory commentaries, notably the Brahmanas and Upanishads.
Brahmanas (Brahmin Books) are part of the Sanatan Shruti it is not related to Brahmin caste; these religious scriptures focus on sacrifice -- particularly which of horses and soma, religious stories etc... The absolute Reality, the Unity of all that exists, the formless, attribute less Godhead.
The Aranyakas (Forest Books, Forest Treatises) are part of the Sanatan Shruti; these religious scriptures are sometimes argued to be part of either the Brahmanas or Upanishads. The Aranyakas discuss philosophy, sacrifice (particularly the sacrificial fire), and the New Year holiday. Historically, these topics were discussed secretly -- in the forest. That section of the Vedas which gives a spiritual interpretation to the ritualistic portion of the Vedas. It is also called the "forest treatises" because it was originally intended for ascetics who lived in the forests.
The term, Upanishad, is derived from the Sanskrit words Upa (near), Ni (down) and S (h) Ad (to sit), i.e., sitting down near; implying the act of listening to a spiritual teacher. The Upanishads are sometimes argued to be a part of the Vedas; and are thus known as Vedanta ("End of the Veda"). The sacred scriptures which appear at the end of the Vedas and constitute their philosophical portion. The Upanishads form the philosophical basis of Vedanta.
The 108 Upanishads can be found in Muktika.
10 Upanishads are from Rig Veda:
Aitareya , Atmabodha, Kaushitaki, Mudgala, Nirvana, Nadabindu, Akshamaya, Tripura, Bahvruka, Saubhagyalakshmi
19 Upanishads are from Shukla Yajur Veda
31 Upanishads are from Krishna Yajur Veda:
Katha, Taittiriya , Isavasya , Brihadaranyaka, Akshi, Ekakshara, Garbha, Prnagnihotra, Svetasvatara, Sariraka, Sukarahasya, Skanda, Sarvasara, Adhyatma, Niralamba, Paingala, Mantrika, Muktika, Subala, Avadhuta, Katharudra, Brahma, Jabala, Turiyatita, Paramahamsa, Bhikshuka, Yajnavalkya, Satyayani, Amrtanada, Amrtabindu, Kshurika, Tejobindu, Dhyanabindu, Brahmavidya, YogakundalinI, Yogatattva, Yogasikha, Varaha, Advayataraka, Trisikhibrahmana, mandalabrahmana, Hamsa, Kalisantaraaa, Narayana, Tarasara, Kalagnirudra, Dakshinamurti, Pancabrahma, Rudrahrdaya, Sarasvatirahasya.
16 Upanishads are from Saama Veda:
Kena, Chandogya, Mahat, Maitrayani, Vajrasuci, Savitri, Aruneya, Kundika, Maitreyi, Samnyasa, Jabaladarsana, Yogacudaman, Avyakta, Vasudevai, Jabali, Rudrakshajabala.
32 Upanishads are from Atharva Veda:
Prasna , Mandukya, Mundaka, Atma, Surya, Narada-Parivrajakas, Parabrahma, Paramahamsa-Parivrajakas, Pasupatha-Brahma, Mahavakya, Sandilya, Krishna, Garuda, Gopalatapani, Tripadavibhuti-mahnarayana, Dattatreya, Kaivalya, Nrsimhatapani, Ramatapani, Ramarahasya, Hayagriva, Atharvasikha, Atharvasira, Ganapati, Brhajjabala, Bhasmajabala, Sarabha, Annapurna, Tripuratapani, Devi, Bhavana, Sita.
The Vedic literature is also called by several other names;
1) Nigama: Traditional wisdom transmitted from generation to generation.
2) Amnaaya: The root texts or primordial texts of (Sanatan) tradition.
3) Trayi: The Vedic texts comprising of Versified mantras, prose mantras, and melodies.