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Slide 1
Slide 2
Christians have the Bible
Hindus have the Vedas
The truth is much more complicated…
Slide 3
TIMELINE (written)*
(BC) 1500 800 400 0 400 800 1200 1600 (AD)
Note: dates for the Vedas(samhitas) can vary more than 1,000 years
*some were orally transmitted prior to this
Slide 4
SHRUTI (“heard”)
heard by the rishis
direct from God
…The Vedas
Samhitas, Brahmanas,
Arayakas, Upanishads
„ SMRITI (“remembered”)
-Itihãsas (History or Epics)
-Purãnas (Mythology)
-Dharma Shãstras- Law Codes
-Ãgamas & Tantras- Sectarian
-Darshanas- Manuals of
Hindu religious literature, the most ancient writings in the world, is of two types:
primary scriptures (Sruti) and secondary scriptures (Smriti). The Sruti scriptures
are of divine origin, whose truths were directly revealed to ancient rishis (sages)
in their deep meditations. The Smriti scriptures are of human origin and were
written to explain the Sruti writings and make them understandable and
meaningful to the general population. Sruti scriptures include the four Vedas
(Rig, Yajur, Sãma and Atharva) and the Bhagavad Gîtã, and constitute the
highest religious authority in Hindu religion. Smriti scriptures include five distinct
groups of writings :
Itihãsas (History or Epics)
Purãnas (Mythology)
Dharma Shãstras- Law Codes
Ãgamas & Tantras- Sectarian Scriptures.
Darshanas- Manuals of Philosophy
Slide 5
*Note: “Veda” is used in multiple ways:
1. Referring to the oldest hymn portions
2. Referring to the collection of samhitas,
brahmanas, aranyakas, and upanishads
3. Shaivites and Vaishnavites often include the
Agamas by this term
4. Many also include the Gita by this term
Slide 6
THE VEDAS (Samhitas)
The Rig Veda 10,552 hymns
The Sama Veda 1,875 hymns--mostly Rig Veda repeated
The Yajur Veda Vedic sacrificial manuals
The Atharva Veda Incantations, spells, mystical poetry
*stack a comparison of Bible and Vedas (1 v. 4)
Slide 7
Searching for the VEDAS
You want a copy of the Vedas?
-you won’t find it in the library
-you won’t find it in the bookstores
-you might find a concise, edited version
-when you find it…
Slide 8
When were they written?
Nobody knows exactly…
-The oldest Veda (Rig) reached its final stage of
compilation about 1000 B.C.
-Different dates given
Tilak: 6000 B.C.
Jacobi: 4500 B.C.
Mueller: 1200 B.C.
Slide 9
The Rig Veda
Rig Veda
Book 3 Hymn 10
1. Thee Agni, God, Imperial Lord of all mankind, do mortal men
With understanding kindle at the sacrifice.
2 They laud thee in their solemn rites, Agni, as Minister and
Priest, shine forth in thine own home as guardian of the Law.
3 He, verily, who honours thee with fuel, Knower of all life,
He, Agni! wins heroic might, he prospers well. …
Slide 10
The Sama Veda
“sama” means “song” or “hymn”
Rig Veda rearranged for ritual use
Usually sung from high to low pitch,
never moving between pitches, lulling
the mind
1875 mantras making 4000 hymns
“The god Savita is the creator of all beings. May Savita grant you foodgrains.
May he grant you strength. O men! You are the breath of life. May the great
creator guide you on the path to superior action. O men! Forge ahead. May you
not kill others living beings. May you set aside a share for Indra at sacrifices. May
you have children and may you be free of ill health and tuberculosis.” (Debroy,
Slide 11
The Yajur Veda
Formulae and verses for sacrifices
“Yaj” means “sacrifice”
The ‘white’ and ‘black’ Yajur Vedas:
two different schools of the Yajur emerged:
1) Tattitiya Samhita (Krishna/black)
more prevalent in southern India
2) Vajasaneyi Samhita (Shukla/white)
clearly demarcates samhita and brahmanas
*statement: “So there you have the Hindu Scriptures…” (and sit down…only to
stand up and add…)
Slide 12
A little more complicated…
Four recensions of Krishna (black) Yajurveda:
-taittirīya saṃhita
-maitrayani saṃhita
-caraka-katha saṃhita
-kapiṣṭhala-katha saṃhita
Two recensions of the (white) Shukla:
-Vajasaneyi Madhyandiniya
-Vajasaneyi Kanva
Add four books to the side to represent the Krishna/black Yajur
Slide 13
Even more complicated…
Each recension has its own version of:
Brahmanas, Aranyakas, and Upanishads
E.g. The Taittiriya Shakha (branch):
Taittiriya Samhita, Taittiriya Brahmana
Taittiriya Aaranyaka, Taittiriya Upanishad and
the Mahaanaarayana Upanishad.
+ add five more to represent additional 6 rescensions (in each pile)
+ add 16 more to represent the versions each of these has with Brahamanas,
Aranyakas, and Upanishads
Slide 14
Yajur Veda
6.1.1 (Taittiriya Samhita)
[6]. Indra slew Vrtra, he died upon the waters. Of the waters what
was fit for sacrifice, pure, and divine, that went out of the
waters, and became Darbha grass. In that he purifies (the
sacrificer) with bunches of Darbha grass, verily he purifies him
with the waters which are fit for sacrifice, pure, and divine. He
purifies (him) with two (stalks); verily he purifies him by days
and nights. He purifies (him) with three (stalks); three are these
worlds; verily he purifies him by these worlds. He purifies (him)
with five stalks [7]; the Pankti has five syllables, the sacrifice is
fivefold; verily he purifies him by the sacrifice. He purifies (him)
with six (stalks); six are the seasons; verily he purifies him by
the seasons. He purifies (him) with seven (stalks); seven are
the metres; verily he purifies him by the metres. He purifies
(him) with nine (stalks); nine are the breaths in man; verily he
purifies him along with his breaths. He purifies (him) with
twenty-one (stalks); there are ten fingers and ten toes, and the
body is the twenty first; he thus completely purifies the man.
Slide 15
The Atharva Veda
Incantations, charms and spells to
counteract evil; marriages and funerals.
20 books or kandas; 750 hymns, 6,000
Atharvan is said to be the first man to rub to pieces of sticks together and to
make fire. He could vanquish evil demons.
Revealed to three ancient families:
1) Atharvan 2) Angirasa 3) Bhrigus
Slide 16
SAMPLE: Atharva Veda
I, 23. Leprosy cured by a dark plant.
1. Born by night art thou, O plant, dark, black, sable. Do
thou, that art rich in colour, stain this leprosy, and the
gray spots!
2. The leprosy and the gray spots drive away from here-may thy native colour settle upon thee--the white spots
cause to fly away!
3. Sable is thy hiding-place, sable thy dwelling-place,
sable art thou, O plant: drive away from here the
speckled spots!
4. The leprosy which has originated in the bones, and
that which has originated in the body and upon the skin,
the white mark begotten of corruption, I have destroyed
with my charm.
* So there you have it the Vedas. That’s the basics of it all...
Slide 17
The Vedangas
Though not shruti, they are important for the study of the
Siksa- pronunciation
Kalpa- details of ritual
Vyakarana- grammar
Nirukta- etymology of rare words
Chanda- explain and practice verse meter
Jyotisa- planetary astrology
The memorization of the Vedas was very precise: memorization of them in
multiple ways (e.g. forward and backward), recited in a particular pitch, along
with precise movements of the arm and fingers.
Add 6 large books to represent the Vedangas (behind of Shruti pile)
Slide 18
Vedic Gods
Slide 19
Vedic Gods
Slide 20
THE VEDAS (entire)
In addition to the oldest portion, the hymns,
there are three other portions:
(The Samhitas)
The Brahmanas
The Aranyakas
The Upanishads
Slide 21
The Brahmanas
Circa 600-200 B.C.
Details of ritual and sacrificial rites and
duties; commentaries on rituals and
prayers on the four vedas (Samhitas)
Slide 22
The Brahmanas
Rig Brahmanas
The Aitareya Brahmana
Kaushitaki or Sankhayana Brahmana
Sama Brahmanas
8 Brahamanas
Yajur Brahmanas
Shatapatha Brahmana (white)100 lectures
Taittiriya Brahmana (black)
Atharva Brahmanas
Gopatha Brahmana
Add 14 more books
Slide 23
The Aranyakas
Circa 400-200 B.C.,
Spiritual/mystical interpretations of rituals
and ceremonies.
Called “forest texts” as they were from
ascetics of the forest
Slide 24
The Aranyakas
Each Aranyakas is associated with a Brahmana,
sometimes having more than one; the Atharva has
add 14 more books
Slide 25
The Upanishads
“Those who sit near”- the teachings
of gurus to their students
Doctrines of caste, karma, and reincarnation
are more fully developed in these writings
Upanishad means the inner or mystic teaching. The term Upanishad is derived
from upa (near), ni (down) and s(h)ad (to sit), i.e., sitting down near. Groups of
pupils sit near the teacher to learn from him the secret doctrine. In the quietude
of the forest hermitages the Upanishad thinkers pondered on the problems of
deepest concerns and communicated their knowledge to fit pupils near them.
Samkara derives the word Upanishad as a substitute from the root sad, 'to
loosen.,' 'to reach' or 'to destroy' with Upa and ni as prefixes and kvip as
termination. If this determination is accepted, upanishad means brahmaknowledge by which ignorance is loosened or destroyed. The treatises that deal
with brahma-knowledge are called the Upanishads and so pass for the Vedanta.
The different derivations together make out that the Upanishads give us both
spiritual vision and philosophical argument. There is a core of certainty which is
essentially incommunicable except by a way of life. It is by a strictly personal
effort that one can reach the truth. The Upanishads more clearly set forth the
prime Vedic doctrines like Self-realization, yoga and meditation, karma and
reincarnation, which were hidden or kept veiled under the symbols of the older
mystery religion. The older Upanishads are usually affixed to a particularly Veda,
through a Brahmana or Aranyaka. The more recent ones are not. The
Upanishads became prevalent some centuries before the time of Krishna and
The main figure in the Upanishads, though not present in many of them, is the
sage Yajnavalkya. Most of the great teachings of later Hindu and Buddhist
philosophy derive from him. He taught the great doctrine of "neti-neti", the view
that truth can be found only through the negation of all thoughts about it. Other
important Upanishadic sages are Uddalaka Aruni, Shwetaketu, Shandilya,
Aitareya, Pippalada, Sanat Kumara. Many earlier Vedic teachers like Manu,
Brihaspati, Ayasya and Narada are also found in the Upanishads.
In the Upanishads the spiritual meanings of the Vedic texts are brought out and
emphasized in their own right.
Slide 26
Older portions of Vedas (Samhitas) were part
of the path of knowledge, “karma kanda.”
Upanishads (and Aryanyakas) are part of a
different type of literature in the broader
Vedas: “jnana kanda”
Inversion of Influence- older texts of the
Veda are not as influential as the later
philosophical portions (the Upanishads)
Slide 27
Upanishad Basics
? 400-200 B.C. is the most likely range; some in recent
No one knows. Sages who taught.
“Upanishad” = “one who sits near”
How Many?
12 are most important (acc. to Sankara, 8th century)
108 important
many more-- 240?
+ 108? No let’s just add 12 for the most popular
Slide 28
-states of consciousness
-dreams, meditation
-the world within the mind and soul
-self-realization (that you are divine)
-the unity of all things
Slide 29
The Four Great Vedic
(Upanishad) Statements
1. TAT TVAM ASI (You are *that).
(Sama Veda – Chandogy Upanishad)
2. AHAM BRAHMASMI (I am Brahman).
(Yajur Veda – Brhadaranyak Upanishad
3. AYAM ATMA BRAHMAN (This Self is Brahman).
(Atharva Veda – Manduky Upanishad)
4. PRAGNANAM BRAHMAN (Brahman is consciouness).
(Rig Veda - Aitarey Upanishad)
* “that” is the Upanishadic way of referring to the ultimate, yet
indescribable Reality
Slide 30
SAMPLE: Upanishad
The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Chapter 11
A wife loves her husband not for his own sake, dear, but because the Self lives within him.
A husband loves his wife not for her own sake, dear, but because the Self lives within her…
This self has to be realized. Hear about this self and meditate upon Him…
Slide 31
SAMPLE: Upanishad
Chandogya Upanishad
“After years away at school, Shvetaketu returned home to his father, Uddalaka. Uddalaka could
tell from Shvetaketu’s boasting about how much he had learned that he hadn’t learned anything
at all. Or at least not anything worth knowing.
“Did your teacher teach you how to hear that which can’t be heard or know what can’t be known?”
Uddalaka asked.
“Oh-Oh. That wasn’t in the curriculum.”
“Go outside and get me a fruit from the banyan tree.” Shvetaketu ran outside for the fruit.
“Now cut it in half,” his father instructed. “What do you see?”
“I see the seeds, dad.”
“Cut one of those in half.” This wasn’t easy—banyan seeds are extremely small. Finally
Shvetaketu managed to slice one evenly. “What do you see?” Uddalaka asked.
“The boy was baffled. “What do you mean, dad? There’s nothing there.”
“Uddalaka looked his son in the eye. “from that ‘nothing’ an enormous tree arises. When you
understand what that ‘nothing’ is, you will understand yourself. The nothing tyou can’ see is the
very essence of the reality of the tree. The unperceivable essence of being is also what you are.
You are that, Shvetaketu.”
(Linda Johnsen, Idiot’s Guide to Hinduism. p.55)
* So that’s it!... Oh I forgot the Smriti!
Slide 32
Slide 33
Exhibitions or philosophical systems developed out of
the Vedas by various teachers or schools.
+Six more books to our stack in the rear
Slide 34
A.D. 400-1500
18 major books and at 18 minor books
relating to the Trimurti- Brahma, Vishnu, &
Popular mythology that is well-known by
the common people of India
Slide 35
SAMPLE: Puranas
Summary from the Siva Purana
Parvati, Siva’s consort, was surprised while bathing and decided she should
have a servant of her own to guard her door while she bathed. She fashioned
from dirt a young man who was handsome, and strong and called him her son.
She appointed him to guard her door and to use force if necessary, and made
him the chief of her ganas (servants).
She then went in to bathe. At that moment, Siva came to the door. Parvati’s
gana or son did not know this was the lord Siva and told Siva he could not enter.
Siva rebuked him, but he still would not let him enter. Ganesha struck Siva with
his stick. Siva then mustered his own ganas, who warned him. But since
Ganesha showed no fear, then attacked him. Ganesha waged war with Siva’s
army and was a formidable foe.
Visnu came and helped Siva sage war against Ganesha. Finally, Siva used his
trident and cut off Ganesha’s head.
Siva was sorry he had cut off Ganesha’s head.
Parvati was furious and fashioned hundreds of thousands of saktis or powers,
and Parvati commanded them to attack the gods.
A millions gods were annihilated and the gods consulted what to do.
Narada (god of the seers) then came and beseeched Parvati to stop her
Parvati then said that if they could revive Ganesha and make him overseer of
everything, then there would be peace. Narada went back to the other gods and
told them.
Siva then said to go north and cut off the head of whomever you first see.. So
they brought the body of Ganesha and then went out to look, to the north. The
first thing they met was an elephant with a single tusk. They took its head and
fastened it to the body of Ganesha. Through repeating Vedic mantras and
sprinkleing holy water on the boy he rose up as though from sleep.
(Dimmitt. P. 179ff.)
Slide 36
AGAMAS: Basics
Texts of the Trimurti
-Siva Agamas (28)
-Vishnu Agamas (108)
-Devi Agamas (Tantras) (77)
Make the point of asking for 213 more books
Slide 37
A.D. 500-1100
Numerous writings (mainly in dialogue form)
between Shiva and his consort, Parvati (Durga)
Belief that true power resides in the feminine
aspect of deity, worship of the mother goddess,
from which ‘Shakti’ or power comes.
Slide 38
Two forms of tantrism:
right-handed (symbolic)
left-handed (literal/sexual)
Three schools:
Kaula (taboo breaking)
Mishra (external and internal mixed)
Samaya (meditative)
Let’s just add 9 more books-- 3 schools x 3 volumes to the back pile
Slide 39
Slide 40
Mythology of the war between two families
(cousins), Pandavas v. Kauravas
The longest epic poem
Contains the Bhagavad Gita
…perhaps the most popular scripture
Let’s add four more volumes to the back pile
Slide 41
2. Ramayana
Slide 42
The life of a noble king, Ram
while in exile, his wife, Sita is abducted by the
evil king, Ravana. Hanuman (the monkey god) and
other cohorts help Ram rescue Sita.
written by Valmiki in 3rd century B.C. in Sanskrit
other language translations exist with variations
add another book to back pile, and one to side pile as there are several alternate
Slide 43
Dharma Shastras
Code of Manu
Other law codes (Arth, Niti, etc.)
add four more to the back pile