3. THE VEDIC LITERATURE IS THE OLDEST AND MOST COMPLETE SCRIPTURES FOUND ANYWHERE.
It is agreed by any scholar of history or religion that the earliest spiritual writings that can be found are the Vedic samhitas, such as the Rig-veda. In History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature (page 557), Max Mueller observed, "In the Rig-veda we shall have before us more real antiquity than in all the inscriptions of Egypt or Ninevah. . . the Veda is the oldest book in existence. . ."
In the same book (page 63) Max Mueller also noted, "The Veda has a two-fold interest: It belongs to the history of the world and to the history of India. In the history of the world the Veda fills a gap which no literary work in any other language could fill. It carries us back to times of which we have no records anywhere."
The Rig-veda, as old and profound as it, nonetheless, represents only a portion of Vedic thought and wisdom. It was further expanded and explained in numerous other portions of Vedic literature. The whole library of ancient Vedic texts covers a wide range of contemplation, experience and learning in regard to an extraordinarily diverse number of topics.
To explain briefly, we first find the most ancient four Vedic samhitas, namely the Rig, Sama, Yajur, and Atharva Vedas. Then there is the Brahmanas, treatises explaining the techniques of the rituals in the Vedas, and the Aranyakas, further explanations for those renunciants who live in the forest. After this we find hundreds of Upanishads, the foremost of which are 108, out of which eleven are the most famous, such as the Katha, Mundaka, Brihadaranyaka, Shvetashvatara, Prashna, Chandogya, and others. These continue to elaborate on the Vedic spiritual truths. The Vedanta Sutras are also codes that contain the essence of spiritual truths that require fuller explanations by a spiritual teacher.
Beyond these are the Itihasas, or the histories, which are contained in such large volumes as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, of which the famous Bhagavad-gita is a chapter. These contain not only an immense library of stories and moral principles, but some of the loftiest spiritual teachings that anyone can find. Furthermore, they can act as guidebooks for one's life, as well as explain the step by step processes for achieving one's own spiritual enlightenment. This is also true of the Puranas, out of which there are 18 greater or Maha Puranas and another 18 lesser or Upa Puranas. There are also many regional or Sthala Puranas. All of these give many stories of the past histories of the world, and even the universe, as well essential spiritual teachings that are universal in nature that everyone could benefit by studying.
We also find additional Sutras, books of codes that explain such things as rules for householders, as in the Griha-Sutras, or codes of duty and other topics. The Vedangas contain the auxiliary sciences, such as phonetics, grammar, astronomy, etc. Then there are the Upavedas, or lesser Vedas, which deal with the arts and sciences such as dancing and music (Gandharva-veda), holistic health (Ayur-veda), or the art of war, and even architecture. Beyond this there are thousands more books that are the books of great spiritual masters and Vedic teachers that are commentaries on the original Vedic texts. All of these are in pursuance of the Vedic path.
In this way, within the Vedic scripture, one can find music, dance, art, biographies on great saints and personalities, and stories that contain every level of emotion. They also exhibit lessons of truth, etiquette, philosophy, and examples of how others have lived and attained the heights of spiritual consciousness and freedom from further material birth.
The most important books for spiritual instruction, as most everyone will agree, are the Bhagavad-gita and Srila Vyasadeva's own commentary on the Vedic texts, the Bhagavat Purana. He was the original author of the essential Vedic scriptures. These will bring anyone to various levels of spiritual knowledge, the likes of which surpass conventional religious principles. The Bhagavat Purana brought out everything that Vyasadeva neglected to explain in his previous writings. Therefore, anyone who studies Vedic knowledge should not neglect reading the Bhagavat Purana, also called the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Through this short review of the Vedic texts, one can get an idea of how thorough and comprehensive is this science. These scriptures reveal the form of God, His personality, the loving nature of God, His greatness, mercy and compassion like no other scripture available. It also shows the unique paths to God in ways that are far more detailed and beyond anything that other scriptures present. Everyone, no matter whether they are religionists, philosophers, politicians, artists, celebrities, or renounced swamis, will appreciate and benefit from the continued study of this most ancient, sacred, and most complete of all spiritual literature. Therefore, those who are devoted Hindus and practitioners of the Vedic system never give up the reading and study of the Vedic literature, knowing that newer and loftier levels of understanding and perceptions into the secrets of life are awaiting them.
Naturally, there is wisdom and understanding available through all of the great books and religions. But to fathom the vast depths of Vedic knowledge is to flow through such a grand gallery of realizations and levels of consciousness that a person can merely get a glimpse of the innumerable considerations that have been made within the development of the Vedic lifestyle regarding all aspects of life. It has been said that the Vedic scripture remains ever fresh with newer and newer realizations, insights and wisdom. Thus, it could be advised that a person can spend a lifetime reading and studying the Vedic scripture and never end in finding newer and higher levels of understanding.
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