The Veda is divided into four great books: the Rig-Veda, the Yajur-Veda,
the Sama-Veda and the Atharva-Veda. The Yajur-Veda is again divided into
two parts, the Sukla and the Krishna. The Krishna or the Taittiriya is
the older book and the Sukla or the Vajasaneya is a later revelation to
sage Yajnavalkya from the resplendent Sun God.
The Rig-Veda is divided into twenty-one sections, the Yajur-Veda into
one hundred and nine sections, the Sama-Veda into one thousand sections
and the Atharva-Veda into fifty sections. In all, the whole Veda is thus
divided into one thousand one hundred and eighty recessions.
Each Veda consists of four parts: the Mantra-Samhitas or hymns, the Brahmanas
or explanations of Mantras or rituals, the Aranyakas, and the Upanishads.
The division of the Vedas into four parts is to suit the four stages in
a man's life.
The Mantra-Samhitas are hymns in praise of the Vedic God for attaining
material prosperity here and happiness hereafter. They are metrical poems
comprising prayers, hymns and incantations addressed to various deities,
both subjective and objective. The Mantra portion of the Vedas is useful
for the Brahmacharins.
The Rig-Veda Samhita is the grandest book of the Hindus, the oldest and
the best. It is the Great Indian Bible, which no Hindu would forget to
adore from the core of his heart. Its style, the language and the tone
are most beautiful and mysterious. Its immortal Mantras embody the greatest
truths of existence, and it is perhaps the greatest treasure in all the
scriptural literature of the world. Its priest is called the Hotri.
The Yajur-Veda Samhita is mostly in prose and is meant to be used by the
Adhvaryu, the Yajur-Vedic priest, for superfluous explanations of the
rites in sacrifices, supplementing the Rig-Vedic Mantras.
The Sama-Veda Samhita is mostly borrowed from the Rig-Vedic Samhita, and
is meant to be sung by the Udgatri, the Sama Vedic priest, in sacrifices.
The Atharva-Veda Samhita is meant to be used by the Brahma, the Atharva-Vedic
priest, to correct the mispronunciations and wrong performances that may
accidentally be committed by the other three priests of the sacrifice.
The Brahmana portions guide people to perform sacrificial rites. They
are prose explanations of the method of using the Mantras in the Yajna
or the sacrifice. The Brahmana portion is suitable for the householders.
There are two Brahmanas to the Rig-Veda-the Aitareya and the Sankhayana.
"The Rig-Veda", says Max Muller, "is the most ancient book
of the world. The sacred hymns of the Brahmanas stand unparalleled in
the literature of the whole world; and their preservation might well be
The Satapatha Brahmana belongs to the Sukla-Yajur-Veda. The Krishna-Yajur-Veda
has the Taittiriya and the Maitrayana Brahmanas. The Tandya or Panchavimsa,
the Shadvimsa, the Chhandogya, the Adbhuta, the Arsheya and the Upanishad
Brahmanas belong to the Sama-Veda. The Brahmana of the Atharva-Veda is
called the Gopatha. Each of the Brahmanas has got an Aranyaka.
The Aranyakas are the forest books, the mystical sylvan texts which give
philosophical interpretations of the rituals. The Aranyakas are intended
for the Vanaprasthas or hermits who prepare themselves for taking Sannyasa.
The Upanishads are the most important portion of the Vedas. The Upanishads
contain the essence or the knowledge portion of the Vedas. The philosophy
of the Upanishads is sublime, profound, lofty and soul stirring. The Upanishads
speak of the identity of the individual soul and the Supreme Soul. They
reveal the most subtle and deep spiritual truths. The Upanishads are useful
for the Sannyasins.
The subject matter of the whole Veda is divided into Karma- Kanda, Upasana-Kanda
and Jnana-Kanda. The Karma-Kanda or Ritualistic Section deals with various
sacrifices and rituals. The Upasana-Kanda or Worship-Section deals with
various kinds of worship or meditation. The Jnana-Kanda or Knowledge-Section
deals with the highest knowledge of Nirguna Brahman. The Mantras and the
Brahmanas constitute Karma-Kanda; the Aranyakas Upasana-Kanda; and the
Live in the spirit of the teachings of the Vedas. Learn to discriminate
between the permanent and the impermanent. Behold the Self in all beings,
in all objects. Names and forms are illusory. Therefore sub late them.
Feel that there is nothing but the Self. Share what you have,-physical,
mental, moral or spiritual,-with all. Serve the Self in all. Feel when
you serve others that you are serving your own Self. Love thy neighbor
as thyself. Melt all illusory differences. Remove all barriers that separate
man from man. Mix with all. Embrace all. Destroy the sex-idea and body-idea
by constantly thinking of the Self or the sexless, bodiless Atman. Fix
the mind on the Self when you work. This is the essence of the teachings
of the Vedas and sages of yore. This is real, eternal life in Atman. Put
these things in practice in the daily battle of life. You will shine as
a dynamic Yogi or a Jivanmukta. There is no doubt of this.