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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

THE UPA-VEDAS AND VEDANGAS

Aside from the Upanishads, there are also the Upa-vedas. These are the Artha-veda (science of economics and sociology), the Dhanur-veda (the science of defense, war, and politics), the Gandharva-veda (art of music, dancing, and singing), and Ayurveda (the holistic medical science). These are smaller compositions, each are attached to one of the four main samhitas (namely the Rig, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva respectively). Unfortunately, most of these compositions are difficult to find, except for the Ayurveda, the majority of which is still available but not all of its original text.

These are a part of the eighteen principal branches of Vedic knowledge, which, according to the Vishnu Purana, are listed with their sources as the six Vedangas:

The four Vedas, the six Angas (or subsidiary portions of the Vedas), viz., Siksha, rules of reciting the prayers, the accents, and tones to be observed; Kalpa, ritual; Vyakarana, grammar; Nirukta, glossarial comment; Chandas, metre; and Jyotish, astronomy; with Mimamsa, theology; Nyaya, logic; Dharma, the institutes of law; and the Puranas, constitute the fourteen principal branches of knowledge. Or they are considered as eighteen with the addition of these four: the Ayur-veda, medical science as taught by Lord Dhanvantari; Dhanur-veda, the science of archery or military arms taught by Bhrigu; Gandharva-veda, or drama and the arts of music, dancing, etc., of which the Muni Bharata was the author; and the Artha sastram, or science of government, as laid down first by Brihaspati. (Vishnu Purana, Book Three, Chapter Six)

To briefly explain some of the branches mentioned above:

Vyakarana is the science of Sanskrit grammar. This is presently based on the Panini grammar, since the other ancient forms or books are extinct. The Panini system, which has some 4000 sutras, is said to have been inspired by Lord Shiva when he once played on his small damru drum from which came 14 separate sounds. Those vibrations inspired Panini, who then explained the science of Sanskrit grammar. These vibrations were said to be originally in the mysterious formula of the Maheshvara Sutra. This Sutra is said to contain all sounds arranged in an order that holds the key to all structure of language.

Panini also provided the dhatu path, which is a dictionary of the root Sanskrit words. Then he gave the unadi sutras to describe how the words in the original Vedic samhitas (the four Vedas) were formed, which can provide the means of understanding the real definition of the words in the samhita mantras. Without this, it is easy for a person to mistranslate the real meaning or purpose of the Vedic mantras.

Nirukta provides the explanations of the Vedic words. It is used along with the Nighantu, which is a collection of Vedic words with their basic explanations. These are used with the Vyakarana to understand the exact meaning of Sanskrit words to make sure the Vedic samhita mantras are not misunderstood.

Siksha is the science of correct pronunciation of Vedic mantras, such as intonation, duration, and the accent on a word or syllable. This will determine how one “sings” each mantra. Differences in the pronunciation of a mantra can also change its meaning, and the outcome of the ritual. That is one of the reasons why the old Vedic rituals are no longer recommended for this day and age. The problem is that this is difficult to learn and almost all books on the topic have become lost.

Chandas is the science of correctly emphasizing the meter of the Vedic verses according to the division or parts and letters, and the correct pronunciation of the words. The Vedic mantras are also named according to its parts. For example, the anushtup chand is a mantra of four parts in one stanza, and with 32 letters. Yet if it has 31 letters in four parts, it is called brihati chand, and so on.

Jyotish is the science of Vedic astrology. This was used for a couple of reasons. Primarily it was for establishing the correct position of the stars and planets at certain times, such as one’s birth, and their effects for predicting one’s future life. It was also for calculating the best times to begin special activities, such as Vedic rituals. There were many books on jyotish, but most have now become lost, leaving but several left to study.

The Artha-sastram is said to have been established first by Brihaspati, but was written most recently by Kautilya in the fourth century BC for the king, Chandragupta Maurya. It is the science of government and economics that takes credit for some of the principles of corporate management that have gained popularity today, such as using prabhu shakti (vision), mantra shakti (mission), and utsah shakti (motivation).