The Vedas For Today

By Rudra Shivananda

VedasThe Vedas are the oldest source of knowledge and wisdom in the world, preserved by the people of India for thousands of years to represent their unbroken culture. The oldest of the Vedas, the Rigveda is now considered by impartial analyses to be between five and eight thousand years old. Vedic verses and mantras resound in homes and temples to the present day. They are not simply relics of the past but have inspired modern teachers to a new vision for the evolution of humanity.

The term Veda itself means knowledge, wisdom or vision, from the root ‘vid’ meaning to see or to know. This knowledge is considered in two levels, as a higher, internal or Selfknowledge, through which immortality can be gained, and a lower or external knowledge, through which we can understand the external world. The  lower knowledge includes what the modern world refers to as science and  technology. Therefore, the Vedas should not be looked upon as religious documents
only – they deal not only with ritual but also with mantra or the science of sound energy, yoga and meditation.

They are source books for the deeper spiritual and mystical practices that lead to Self-realization and cosmic consciousness, as well as for medicine, music, astronomy, cosmology, and architecture. It is unfortunate that although the texts of the Vedas have been preserved for many thousands of years, their meaning and depth have
been lost in the mists of time.

The Vedas emphasize experience, and are not books of blind belief and do not rest upon a person, institution or belief. They teach a path of knowledge that is open, and manifold. They are founded on the realization that there is One great truth behind the universe, a universal being and consciousness, but that it can be approached from many different levels and directions. The supreme principle of the Vedas is the Divine Self which was later elucidated in greater detail in the primary Upanishads.

Meditation is taught as the way to true knowledge. The Rigveda recognizes a higher or meditative aspect of the mind, called ‘dhi’ as the faculty of true perception. From this same root ‘dhi’, the term dhyana for meditation arises. Dhi is the higher aspect of manas (mind), which enables us to perceive the eternal truth. This cultivation of dhi or buddhi is the main characteristic of Yoga, Vedanta and Buddhism.

Outwardly, the Vedic rituals consist of various tangible offerings, like wood or ghee, to the sacred fire, to generate a positive energy for the world. Inwardly, Vedic rituals consist of offerings of breath, speech and mind to the Divine or our higher Self to raise us to a higher consciousness and ultimate realization of our true nature.

The Vedas are based on the manifestation of plurality within unity. Many divine aspects are realized in the form of mantras. Although there are thousands of mantric hymns in the Vedas, the number of hymns dedicated to a specific divine principle is not necessarily reflective of its importance in the Vedic conceptual cosmos. For  example, there are only ten hymns specifically dedicated to Surya or the divine light within-and-without in the Rigveda, although some aspect of Surya is mentioned in many of the other hymns. The number ten is significant, because it is the number of
completion.

Of the other main cosmic energies, outwardly, Agni is the diety of the earth, while Indra is the diety of the atmosphere, and Surya is the ruler of the heavens. Inwardly, Agni is the individual soul or jiva, Indra is the prana or universal life-force, and Surya is dhi, or the light of consciousness. The union of Agni, Indra and Surya, is the union of the individual soul with the transcendental Self, to achieve the consciousness of light, truth and unity.

In the Vedas Self-Realization is the process of achieving unity with the divine Sun.  The most often repeated mantra from the Rigveda, and the only one that appears in all the main Vedas, is the Gayatri, dedicated to Surya- Savitar:

Let us meditate on the brilliant
light of
the Creator, the Sun,
to achieve inner understanding,
to illumine our intelligence,
to transform our earthbound
consciousness
into the boundless Light of the
inner Sun.

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