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Hindu Heritage Study Program
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Hindu Heritage Study Program
 
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Principles and Practice of Hindu Dharma
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-HR 201.04
The Sacred Books Given to us by the Divine through our Sages
The Divine words explaining the Principles and Philosophy of Dharma
-~ Level - 2 ~
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Lesson - 53 :
The Sacred Texts of Hindu Faith and Philosophy
The Four Vedas are the Primary Authority of our Faith
Please see below
for Lesson - 54
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The Four sections of Vedas are known as Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Saama Veda and Atharva Veda. The present form of the four sections of Vedas were organized and codified by Sage Baadaraayana, also known as Krishna Dvaipaayana or Vyaasa Maharishi. His disciples Paila, Vaisampayana, Jaimini and Sumantu taught each of the Four Vedas to their pupils. They were memorized and recited by generations of disciples of the ancient Rishis. Thus most of these teachings were preserved for all times.

The Vedas were arranged into 1180 Sakhas. Each person is expected to learn at least one Sakha. Each of the Sakhas has their own set of Samhithas, Brahmanas and Upanishads. Large portions of the Vedas, mentioned in other parts of the texts and Upanishads are not available, are lost over the years. We have only about 8 or 9 Sakhas and a few more Upanishads available now. The books may have been destroyed but the knowledge lives for ever.

Historians claim that, chronologically, Rig Veda is the oldest text ever written among the Four Vedas. It is said that the other Vedas were written much later. We can see the gradual evolution of Hindu thoughts and prayers to various forms of Hindu Deities in subsequent texts of the other Vedas. We see the earliest thoughts of religious philosophy in Rig Veda, with hymns and poems in praise of natural forces like Fire - God and several Vedic Deities.

Rig Veda itself contains references about Yajur Veda and Saama Veda, as seen in Purusha Sooktham which is in the tenth mandala, nineteenth Hymn of Rig Veda. This shows that all Vedas existed about the same time. No one Veda anywhere says "This is the only way to the Truth" or "This is the only God." They all say that any good path followed with faith and loyalty and any `Devata' worshipped in whatever way, will lead one to the True goal. This is the unique greatness of the Vedas and Hinduism as a Universal Religion.

 
 
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Lesson - 54 :
The Divine Sruthis or the Vedas
Arrangement and divisions of the Books of Knowledge
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Each of the Vedas consists of four parts, the Mantra- Samhitas, Brãhmanas, Ãranyakas and Upanishads. The Mantra-Samhithas, or Hymns, are in praise of Vedic Gods for attaining material prosperity here and happiness hereafter. They contain metrical poems of prayer hymns and are useful for Brahmacharis or young students. The Mantra -Samhitha portion of all the Vedas contains 20,500 mantras.

The term Veda often refers to Samhitha which is the most important portion. The Brahmana portions are to guide people to perform sacrificial rites and rituals. They are prose explanations for using the Mantras in Yagnas or sacrificial rituals and are useful for Grahasthas or householder.

The Aranyakas are said to be "Forest books" which give philosophical explanations of the rituals and are intended for Vanaprasthas. The Upanishads contain the essence of the philosophy of the Vedas. They speak of the identity of the individual Soul and the Supreme Soul. They are the most subtle and eternal Spiritual Truths and an embodiment of Divine knowledge.

The whole subject in the four Vedas can be divided into three portions. The Karma-Kãnda, the ritual section deals with sacrificial rites and rituals. The Upasana-Kãnda the worship section is for prayers and meditation. The Jnãna-Kãnda [Gnãna-Kãnda], the knowledge section describes the highest Philosophy and Knowledge of Nirguna Brahmam or the Formless Supreme. These various disciplines are laid down for persons with different background and states of knowledge.

Therefore, Karma or performance of action comes first. Though rituals and prayers are the basic, Jnana [Gnaana] is the ultimate level of the faith. All the Vedas, Smrithis, Agamas, Puranas and Bhagvat Gita say: "Vedic Karmas and Worship alone is of no use unless they lead to Jnaana or enlightenment". Jnãna is obtained by the study and understanding of the philosophy and knowledge as in the Upanishads. This will lead ultimately to liberation.

 
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Isã'vãsya Upanishad
Isaa vaasyam Idham Sarvam Yat Kim cha Jagatyaam Jagat |
Te'na Tyakte'na Bhunjitha, Maa Gr.dhah Kasyasvid Dhanam || - || 1 ||
1. All this - whatever exists in this changing universe - should be covered by the Lord.
- Protect the Self by renunciation. Lust not after any man's wealth.
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Kurvann e've'h Karmaani Jijeevisetsatam Samah: |
E'vam Tvai Naanyatheto'sti na Karma Lipyate' nare' || - || 2 ||
2. If a man wishes to live a hundred years on this earth, he should live performing action.
- For you, who cherish such a desire and regard yourself as a man,
- there is no other way by which you can keep work from clinging to you.
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Chapter - 4 - The Scriptures and The Sacred Works - Lessons 53 & 54
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Go to Lessons: - :~: 49 & 50 :~: 51 & 52 :~: 53 & 54 :~: 55 & 56 :~: 57 & 58 :~: 59 & 60 :~: 61 & 62 :~: 63 & 64 :
 
 
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