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Critical Podium Dewanand


A Review of Vedic Literature And the Knowledge Within by Stephen Knapp VFA

Sacrificer           Stephen Knapp VFA
Sacrifice code       wfor0268
Sacrifice date       25 march 2009

Dear Vedic Friends,
Namaste. In this issue we are offering Part One of a complete
review of the Vedic texts and the many levels of knowledge that are
contained within them. This will be offered in three parts. In this
first part a review of the Vedas and the Upanishads, as well as the
minor Vedas and Upanishads, and the minor books in between are
presented. It is most interesting, and most people are not aware of
the comprehensiveness of the Vedic literature. So this will help fill
that gap. So you may want to keep this for future reference, even if
you read it all the way through as soon as you get it.
In our next issue we will continue with this review in
additional portions of the Vedic literature.
Hari Om and Hari bol,
Stephen Knapp (Sri Nandanandana dasa)


A Review of Vedic Literature
And the Knowledge Within

If we are going to understand the essential truths in Vedic
literature, then we must get a glimpse of the content and
purpose of its many texts and the expansive nature of the
knowledge it contains. The Vedic philosophy encompasses the
oldest spiritual texts of any religion in the world, and its
subjects are broad and numerous. Its more advanced concepts
can be difficult for even the greatest scholars to fathom. The
Vedic literature discusses many types of philosophical
viewpoints, and studying some of them will let us see that
many of the concepts that we accept as new today are nothing
more than parts of the ancient Vedic knowledge that had been
dealt with and thoroughly understood thousands of years ago.
Thus, there are not many ideas that are really new at all. The
main purpose of the Vedic literature is to establish knowledge
of the Absolute Truth and the process for attaining the highest
levels of self-realization. To do that it must, and does, contain
the elementary as well as most advanced forms of spiritual
knowledge. So let us see exactly what kind of information is
found within the many volumes of Vedic literature, and if
there is any one understanding or direction in particular which
it encourages people to take for complete spiritual success.


If you are new to the study of Vedic culture, you may not
understand all of these ancient Vedic texts or their purpose, or
why it is necessary to mention them in this review. However,
this study will provide the knowledge for you to begin to see
how vast the Vedic science is and how numerous are these
Vedic texts. You will begin to understand that there are few
topics that have been left uncovered in the Vedic investigation
of reality and the search for Truth, and in its presentation of
what is God. You will also understand in the final analysis
what direction they most recommend and how to pursue it.


The Vedic literature is composed of many books. The
oldest texts are the Rig-veda, Yajur-veda, Sama-veda, and the
Atharva-veda. It is said in the Muktikopanishad that these four
Vedas had 21, 109, 1000, and 50 branches respectively, with
over 100,000 verses. Now, however, we can only find around
20,023 (some say 20,379) verses in total from these four

The Rig-veda, the "Veda of Praise," contains 1,017
hymns, or 10,522 verses, arranged in ten books or mandalas.
The first eight mostly contain hymns of praise to the various
demigods, such as Indra and Agni. The ninth book deals
primarily with the soma ritual, which was the extraction and
purification of the juice of the soma herb. The tenth book
contains suktas or verses of wisdom and mantras which would
cause certain magical effects to take place. The Rig-veda
hymns were mainly of praise to the gods that were invoked
during the Vedic ceremonies for ensuring immediate material
needs. These were chanted by the four priests who conducted
the Vedic rituals, namely the hota who calls the gods with the
mantras from the Rig-veda; the adhvaryu who performs all the
rituals of the ceremony according to the Yajur-veda; the
udgata who sings the Sama-veda mantras; and the brahmana
who supervises the general ceremony. However, it was usually
only the brahmana priests who could be sure of chanting the
mantras accurately to produce the desired result. If the mantra
was chanted incorrectly by someone who was not qualified,
the desired result would not take place and often something
undesirable or horrible would happen instead.

The main gods in the Rig-veda were Indra (the god of
heaven and rain), Agni (the fire god) and Surya (the sun god).
Surya is invoked in the sacred Gayatri mantra. However,
Surya is also called Surya-Narayana in the Rig-veda. So the
hymns to Surya and his different forms can also be related to
Narayana or Vishnu, especially those to Savitur. Vishnu is also
known as the Pervader, meaning that all the Vedic gods are
absorbed in Him, and thus must also emanate from Him. They
would be absorbed in Him during the time of cosmic
annihilation, but would also emanate from Him during the
time of the creation. There were also verses to three other
names and forms of the sun god, namely Savitri, Mitra and
Pooshan. Other gods included Dyos (a celestial god), Varuna
(god of the seas), Soma, Marut (god of air or wind called Vayu
in other places), Rudra (a form of Shiva) and Vishnu. All of
these gods are celestial gods, or demigods, except for Rudra
and Vishnu. There is also the important Purusha Sukta hymn
in the 90th chapter of the Rig-veda's tenth mandala.

The Rig-veda is also a mystical text that contains
knowledge in its abstract imagery of what the seers had
realized. It has information on yoga, the spinal current and the
chakras, as well as the planets and their orbits. Many aspects
of this mystical knowledge are also contained in the other
Vedas. The Rig-veda is said to have had 21 branches, out of
which only two are still available. Much of the Shakal branch
is still available, along with the Brahmana and Aranyaka of
the Shankhayan branch. Although there are some stories in the
Rig-veda, there are few historical records of the early Vedic
kings. This has been a mistake amongst various linguists and
researchers who study the Rig-veda to try to get an historical
understanding of the early Vedic kingdom and Aryans.

The Yajur-veda is the "Veda of Rituals" and contains
1975 verse-mantras in 40 chapters, many of which are similar
to those in the Rig-veda and used in rituals, usually by the
adhvaryu priest. These contain different levels of knowledge
and wisdom. The Yajur-veda once had 109 branches of
knowledge, but now only parts of seven branches are found, of
which the Vajasaneyi is prominent. The Yajur-veda, however,
has two samhitas, or collections of verses, known as the White
Yajur-veda (or Vajasaneyi-samhita) with the hymns and
rituals, and the Black Yajur-veda (or Taittiriya-samhita) with
their interpretations. These were primarily for the priests to
use as a guide in performing sacred rituals, such as the
ashvamedha or rajasuya, since they also contain directions or
formulas which the priests use along with the verses that are
sung during the ceremony.

The Sama-veda, the "Veda of Melodies," contains 1549
verses meant to be used as songs in various ceremonies,
primarily for the udgata priest. Most of them are taken from
the Rig-veda and arranged according to their use as utilized in
particular rituals. From the original 1000 branches of the
Sama-veda, three are still available, of which the Kauthumiya
and Jaiminiya are prominent.

The Atharva-veda is the "Veda of Chants" and once had
50 branches of which we have only the Shaunak branch today.
It is a book of 5977 verses in 20 chapters containing prayers,
spells, and incantations which in some respects resembles
magical instructions found in the Tantras and even various
magical incantations found in Europe. The Atharva-veda
contains a small section of verses of instruction, wisdom,
descriptions of the soul and God, but the majority of it consists
of rules for worshiping the planets, rules for oblations and
sacrifices, prayers for averting evil and disease, incantations
for the destruction of foes, for fulfilling personal desires, etc.,
mostly for the material needs of people.


The four primary Vedas represent the accomplishment of
a highly developed religious system and encourage satisfaction
of material desires through worship of the demigods. They
contain many directions for increasing one's power and
position, or for reaching the heavens in one's future by
properly performing particular sacrifices in worship to the
devas (demigods), and so on.

Some people ask why there are so many gods within
Hinduism or Vedic culture. Yet, if we properly analyze the
situation, we will understand that there is but one Supreme
Being who has many agents or demigods who assist in
managing the creation and the natural forces within. And, like
anyone else, if they are properly approached with prayer or
worship, they may help facilitate the person by granting
certain wishes that may be within the jurisdiction of that

According to the Vedas, the demigods are not imaginary
or mythological beings, but are agents of the Supreme Will to
administer different aspects of the universal affairs. They also
represent and control various powers of nature. Thus, they
manifest in the physical, subtle or psychic levels of existence
both from within and without. A transcendentalist sees that
behind every aspect of nature is a personality. For example,
when you walk into a big factory, you see so many workers
and all that they are doing. You may initially think that these
workers are the reason for whatever goes on in the factory.
However, more important than the workers are the foremen,
the managers, and then the executives. Finally, a chief
executive officer or president of the company is the most
important of all. Without him there may not even be a
company. You may not see the president right away, but his
influence is everywhere since all the workers are engaging in
projects according to his decisions. The managers and foremen
act as his authorized agents to keep things moving
accordingly. The numerous demigods act in the same way
concerning the functions of nature. That's why it is sometimes
said there are 33 million different gods in Hinduism. Actually,
there may be many aspects of God, but there is only one God,
or one Absolute Truth.

This is often a confusing issue to people new to Vedic
philosophy. We often hear the question among Westerners that
if Hinduism has so many gods, how do you know which ones
to worship? The point is that they affect all levels of universal
activities, including the weather, or who is bestowed with
particular opulences such as riches, beautiful wife or husband,
large family, good health, etc. For example, one could worship
Agni for getting power, Durgadevi for good fortune, Indra for
good sex life or plenty of rain, or the Vasus for getting money.
Such instruction is in the karma-kanda section of the Vedas
which many people considered to be the most important part
of Vedic knowledge.

There are, of course, various actions, or karmas, prompted
by our desires to achieve certain results, but this is not the
complete understanding of the karma-kanda section of the
Vedas. The karma-kanda section is meant to supply the rituals
for purifying the mind and actions, and not merely to live with
the intent of acquiring all of one's material wants and
necessities from the demigods. By having faith and steadiness
in the performance of the ritual, one establishes purification in
one's habits and thoughts. This provides a gradual process of
working out one's desires while simultaneously becoming
purified and free of them. Such purification can then bring one
to a higher level of spiritual activity. This was the purpose of
the karma-kanda rituals. Without this understanding, one
misses the point and remains bound up by material desires,
which will drag one further into material existence.

The reciprocation between the demigods and society is
explained in Bhagavad-gita (3.10-12). It is stated that in the
beginning the Lord of all beings created men and demigods
along with the sacrifices to Lord Vishnu that were to be
performed. The Lord blessed them saying that these sacrifices
will enable men to prosper and attain all desirable things. By
these sacrificial duties the demigods will be pleased and the
demigods will also please you with all the necessities of life,
and prosperity will spread to all. But he who enjoys what is
given by the demigods without offering them in return is a

In this way, it was recommended that people could
perform sacrificial rituals to obtain their desires. However, by
the performance of such acts they should understand their
dependent position, not only on the demigods, but ultimately
on the Supreme Being. As further explained in Bhagavad-gita
(3.14-15), all living beings exist on food grains, which are
produced from rain, which is produced by the performance of
prescribed sacrifices or duties. These prescribed duties are
described in the Vedic literature, which is manifest from the
Supreme Being. Therefore, the Supreme is eternally
established in acts of sacrifice.

Although the demigods may accept worship from the
human beings and bless them with particular benedictions
according to the sacrifices that are performed, they are still not
on the level of the Supreme Lord Vishnu (who is an
incarnation of Lord Krishna). The Rig-veda (1.22.20) explains:

"The demigods are always looking to that supreme abode of
Vishnu." Bhagavad-gita (17.23) also points out: "From the
beginning of creation, the three syllables om tat sat have been
used to indicate the Supreme Absolute Truth (Brahman). They
were uttered by brahmanas while chanting the Vedic hymns
and during sacrifices, for the satisfaction of the Supreme." In
this way, by uttering om tat sat, which is stressed in Vedic
texts, the performers of the rituals for worshiping the
demigods were also offering obeisances to Lord Vishnu for its
success. The four Vedas mainly deal with material elevation
and since Lord Vishnu is the Lord of material liberation, most
sacrifices were directed towards the demigods.

In Bhagavad-gita, however, Lord Krishna points out that
men of small knowledge, who are given to worldly desires,
take delight in the flowery words of the Vedas that prescribe
rituals for attaining power, riches, or rebirth in heaven. With
their goal of enjoyment they say there is nothing else than this.
However, Krishna goes on to explain (in Bhagavad-gita 7.21-
23) that when a person desires to worship a particular demigod
for the temporary and limited fruits he or she may bestow,
Krishna, as the Supersoul in everyone's heart, makes that
person's faith in the demigod steady. But all the benefits given
by any demigod actually are given by Krishna alone, for
without whom no one has any power. Furthermore, it is stated
that the worshipers of the demigods go to the planets of the
demigods, but worshipers of Krishna reach Krishna's spiritual

Thus, as one progresses in understanding, it is expected
that they will gradually give up the pursuit for temporary
material pleasures and then begin to endeavor for reaching the
supreme goal of Vedic knowledge. For one who is situated in
such knowledge and is self-realized, the prescribed duties in
the Vedas for worshiping the demigods are unnecessary. As
Bhagavad-gita (3.17-18) explains, for one who is fully self-
realized, who is fully satiated in the self, delights only in the
self, there is no duty or need to perform the prescribed duties
found in the Vedas, because he has no purpose or material
desires to fulfill.

However, another view of the Vedic gods is that they
represent different aspects of understanding ourselves,
especially through the path of yoga and meditation. For
example, the god of wind is Vayu, and is related to the
practice of yoga as the breath and its control in pranayama.
Agni is the god of fire and relates to the fire of consciousness
or awareness. Soma relates to the bliss in the samadhi of yoga
practice. Many of the Vedic gods also represent particular
powers of yoga and are related to the different chakras in the
subtle body. It is accepted that as a person raises his or her
consciousness through the chakras, he or she will attain the
level of awareness and the power and assistance that is
associated with the particular divine personality related to that


Although the four principle Vedas include the concept of
spiritual perfection or liberation, it is not so thoroughly
developed or presented. Therefore, to help one understand
what the goal of Vedic philosophy is, there are also other
compositions along with the four Vedas, namely the
Brahmanas, Aranyakas, and the Upanishads. Originally, the
Brahmanas consisted of 1180 branches, with the same number
of Aranyakas. Unfortunately, only a few of these branches
remain today. The Upanishads also had 1180 branches to
continue the explanation of these Vedic divisions of
knowledge and practice. However, only about 200 are still

The Brahmanas are compositions which accompany
different portions of the Veda Samhitas with additional
directions and details that the brahmana priests would use
when performing the sacrificial rituals, along with some of
their histories. They include the Aitareya, the Shankhayan or
Kausitaki, and the Shatpath and Taittariya Brahmanas that are
connected to the Rig-veda. These contain such instructions as
what to meditate on and how to chant the mantras while
conducting the sacrifice, etc. The Brahmanas also hold
cosmogonic legends and stories that explain the reason for
performing the Vedic rituals, along with the esoteric
significance of the mantras and sacrificial rituals, and also
describe the verses in the Samhitas. Furthermore, they provide
the seeds of the systematic knowledge of the Sutras, and can
be used by the village householders.

The Panchvinsha, Shadvinsha, and Tandya Brahmanas
belong to the Sama-veda, while the Jaiminiya and Gopatha
Brahmanas belong to the Atharva-veda. The Shatapatha
Brahmana, a large volume of 100 chapters authored by
Yajnavalkya, is said to belong to the Shukla Yajur-veda,.
The Aranyakas are sacred writings which are supposed to
frame the essence of the Upanishads and are considered to be
secret and dangerous to the uninitiated. The Aranyakas reveal
more of the esoteric aspects of the rituals and their purposes
than the Brahmanas. They are meant only for the brahmana
priests and kshatriya warriors who have renounced all
materialistic activities, and retired to the solitude of the forests,
which is the meaning of "aranyaka." They include a strict
style of worship to particular forms or aspects of God. These
instructions could consist of which mantras to use for
particular purposes, how to sit, in which time of the morning
to practice, the devotions to incorporate into the practice, and
so on.

Next we come to the Upanishads, which is the main part
of the Aranyakas and constitute one of the most sacred
portions of Vedic philosophy. There are three main sections of
the Vedic scriptures. The Upanishads and Aranyakas are part
of the jnana-kanda section, meaning they contain knowledge
meant for introspection and contemplation. The four main
Samhitas and Brahmanas which deal primarily with ritual are
a part of the karma-kanda classification, meant for appeasing
the gods for one's necessities and desires, and for helping
purify the mind. The upasana-kanda section consists of those
instructions on devotional service to God, which is found later
in the Vedanta-Sutras, the Puranas and other books.


The Upanishads are essentially presented for the
continued spiritual progress of the individual. If the Vedas
emphasize and primarily consist of worship to the demigods
for material needs and only hint at the prospect of spiritual
liberation, then the Upanishads start to explain how worldly
attachments need to be renounced so we can surrender to God.
The word upanishad literally means to sit down (shad) near
(upa) and below or at the feet with determination (ni). So it
indicates that the student should sit near the feet of one's
spiritual teacher and listen with determination to the teachings.
Only through such absorption can one learn how to apply the
teachings in practice. Sitting at the feet of the teacher is both a
sign of respect and humility, but also exhibits a natural flow,
like water, from something high to that which is lower. Thus
the student becomes a natural receptacle for such knowledge.
Another meaning of the word shad in upanishad means to
destroy. So the spiritual knowledge the student receives from
the teacher destroys the ignorance of the true nature of the
world and his own Self. As one's ignorance is destroyed,
enlightenment can follow.

The Upanishads are a collection of 108 philosophical
dissertations. The Muktikopanishad (verses 30-39) lists all
108. (See Appendix One) However, there are over 100
additional compilations if you also count the lesser
Upanishads which are not actually part of the primary group,
making a total of well over 200. Out of all the Upanishads, the
following eleven are considered to be the topmost: Isa, Kena,
Katha, Prasna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Taittiriya, Aitareya,
Chandogya, Brihadaranyaka, and Svetasvatara.

The Upanishads were considered the secret and
confidential knowledge of reality. They mainly focus on
establishing the Absolute as nonmaterial and describe it as
Brahman: the eternal, unmanifest reality, source and ultimate
shelter of everything. The Brahman is said to be
incomprehensible because it is without material qualities or
form. The secret to understanding Brahman according to the
Upanishads is that they describe the Absolute as having no
material qualities or material personality, but consists of
spiritual qualities.

The comparisons used in the Upanishads can be
somewhat confusing to the beginner of Vedic study, but they
are easy to understand for one who has some understanding in
this matter or who is self-realized. For example, when the
Upanishads describe the Absolute as being unembodied,
without veins, yet runs swifter than the mind, or as being able
to walk yet does not walk, or as being within everything and
yet outside of everything, how can we know what to think?
Does the Absolute have any qualities that we can

These kinds of descriptions in the Upanishads are called
indirect or contrary descriptions. These are used to indicate the
spiritual nature of the Lord's qualities, meaning that He is not
material nor confined to the rules of the material creation. An
example of this is found in the Svetashvatara Upanishad,
Chapter Three, explains: The Supreme Lord does not have
material hands and feet yet He is able to receive anything and
go everywhere. He does not possess material eyes and yet He
sees past, present and future. He does not have material ears
and yet He hears. He is the knower of everything, omniscient,
but Him no one can know. The self-realized and enlightened
souls know Him as the Primeval Lord and Supreme Being.
The Svetashvatara Upanishad offers more of these kinds
of descriptions, such as "He is having His faces, heads and
necks everywhere, yet He dwells in the cavity of the heart of
all beings. He is omnipresent. Being the Supreme Godhead,
He is present everywhere encompassing all that exists and He
is benevolent. (3.11) With hands and feet everywhere, with
eyes, heads and mouths everywhere, with ears everywhere, He
stands encompassing all." (3.16)

Another example is the Isha Upanishad (5):

"The Supreme Lord walks and does not walk. He is far away, but He is very near as well. He is within everything, and yet He is outside of everything."

So the point is that the Absolute has spiritual legs to
run or walk with and spiritual senses which are not limited like
material senses. One verse that clearly explains this is the
following: "The Supreme Reality is far beyond this universe.
He possesses no ephemeral form but He is sat-cit-ananda, the
embodiment of complete eternal and spiritual bliss. He is free
from any ill. He is beyond the illusive world. He is full of all-
auspicious divine glories. Those who realize Him as such and
render unalloyed devotion to Him become immortal, but others
(who remain ignorant of Him) have to undergo suffering
through transmigration in the realm of maya [illusions]."

(Svetashatara Upanishad 3.10)

Therefore, though the Upanishads generally refer to
the Absolute in an impersonal way, they also begin to establish
that the Supreme Reality has form, or, in other words, is a
person, and that there is a Divine Abode, although the details
of it are not always clearly provided therein. So as we go
through the Vedic texts, we get clearer and clearer views of the
nature of the Supreme Being.

The Isa Upanishad in particular indicates that the
Supreme Absolute is both impersonal and personal. Other
Upanishads describe the Absolute as, "He who created the
worlds," or, "Who is luminous like the sun," "beyond
darkness," "the eternal among eternals," etc. In fact, the basic
method used in most Upanishads, as explained in the
Hayasirsa Pancharatra, is to first present the Absolute Reality
in an impersonal way and then present the personal aspects.

Yet, as we study the Upanishads, there are numerous
references that go on to describe very clearly, in a direct
manner, the spiritual nature and characteristics of the Supreme.
The GopalaTapani Upanishad has numerous verses which
explain the nature of the Absolute Truth, such as the following
verse (1.22): "Sri Krishna is that Supreme Divinity, the
Paramount Eternal Reality among all other sentient beings, and
the fountain-source of consciousness to all conscious beings.
He is the only reality without a second, but as the Supersoul
He dwells in the cave of the hearts of all beings and rewards
them in accordance with their respective actions in life. Those
men of intuitive wisdom who serve Him with loving devotion
surely attain the summum bonum, supreme goal of life.
Whereas those who do not do so never gain this highest
beautitude of their lives."

Another verse from the GopalaTapani Upanishad
(2.23) that further explains the nature of the Supreme is this
one: "Sri Krishna has got no birth and no old age, He is always
in His adolescence without any change. He is ever most
effulgently shining so gloriously more than the sun. He is fond
of remaining with the divine cows of Goloka Vrindavana. He
is eternally fond of being with the Gopas, cowherd boys, as He
feels pleasure tending the cows. He is the very object of the
Vedas, He as the Supersoul ever dwells in the heart of every
living being, and He is the only Sustainer of all. He is the
beloved sweet-heart of you all."

Not only do the Upanishads provide explanations of
the impersonal Brahman and personal Bhagavan realizations,
but as we can see they also speak of the Paramatma (Supersoul
or Lord in the heart) realization. Especially in the Katha,
Mundaka, and the Svetasvatara Upanishads, one can find
statements explaining that within the heart of every individual
in every species of life reside both the individual soul and the
Supersoul, the localized expansion of the Lord. It is described
that they are like two birds sitting in the same tree of the body.

The individual soul, which is called the atma or jiva, is
engrossed in using the body to taste the fruits of various
activities which result in pleasure and pain. The Supersoul is
simply witnessing the activities of the jiva. If, however, the
jiva begins to tire of these constant ups and downs of material
life and then looks toward his friend next to him, the
Supersoul, and seeks His help, the jiva soul can be relieved of
all anxieties and regain his spiritual freedom. This freedom is
the spiritual oneness shared by the jiva and Paramatma when
the jiva enters into the spiritual atmosphere by submitting to
the will of the Paramatma. This is achieved by the practice of
yoga and by being guided by a proper spiritual master. It is not
said that the individual soul loses his individuality, but both
the jiva and Paramatma remain individuals.

In any case, the Upanishads present a much clearer
approach to understanding the ultimate reality than the four
primary Vedas. We can provide a little more insight into the
information found within the Upanishads by reviewing a few.
The Isha Upanishad comes from the 40th chapter of
the Shukla (White) Yajur-veda. It has only 18 verses, but
directly addresses the Personality of God in the first verse.
Through the 18 verses, it gradually establishes that God has a
personal form from which comes the great white Brahman
effulgence. It explains that all opulence comes from God and
that to try to enjoy such pleasures outside of the relationship
with God is an illusion filled with suffering. Therefore, one
should live life in such a way as to always remember God, and
thus fulfill the real purpose of life so at the end one can
constantly hold the vision of God within one's consciousness.
When God removes His effulgence or spiritual rays, then the
devotee can see the personal form of the Lord.

The Katha Upanishad contains six chapters divided
in two sections. Within it is the conversation between
Nachiketa and Yamaraj, the lord of death. Within that
conversation Yamaraj establishes that due to ignorance and the
desire to enjoy the material world, people continue to suffer in
the cycle of birth and death, yet think they understand the real
purpose of life. It is only in this human body that a person has
the facility to realize God and escape the continued rounds of
birth and death. Therefore, before the end of one's life, he or
she should realize God in order to fully utilize this human

The Mundaka Upanishad contains six chapters in
three sections. This gives the instruction from the sage Angira
to Shaunaka about the nature of God and how to become
realized. These instructions include how the early Brahmanas
understood that the Vedic rituals only provided the means to
acquire the luxuries of life, without being able to deliver one to
God. Therefore, they gave them up for approaching a God-
realized saint, the only way one can learn how to surrender to
the eternal Lord who is beyond all illusion of the universe.
This is the God who cannot be understood by the Vedic
impersonalistic philosophy, or intellectual meditation. The
Lord is only realized when He reveals Himself to one whose
heart is full of devotion, after that person has been graced with
such faithfulness by a saintly devotee. Then one can see the
Lord as He is in full.

The Mandukya Upanishad is another short
Upanishad with only 12 verses. Herein it explains the
impersonal aspect of God without going on to the personal
traits. Here we find descriptions that can be confusing to those
who are just beginning their investigation into Vedic
philosophy, such as relating how the Absolute cannot be
conceived by the mind, or contacted in any way. It has nothing
that it can be compared to, and thus cannot be understood or
spoken of, nor meditated upon because it is inconceivable. So,
from this Upanishad, based on the impersonal point of view,
there is little for us to understand about the Supreme.

The Svetasvatara Upanishad is one of the most
important. In its six chapters it elaborates on the more detailed
characteristics of the soul, the Supreme Being, and the material
nature, as well as the process for becoming spiritually realized.
This is where we start to get deeper examples of the
Paramatma, the Supersoul aspect of God. It describes that God
is the Supreme, pure consciousness, from which all of creation
manifests. And that God is realized when one becomes
lovingly absorbed in the Supreme, which is the only way a
person can cross the ocean of maya. It contains many relevant
instructions and is one Upanishad that begins to take us much
deeper into the understanding of the different aspects of the
nature of God and the secrets of becoming God-realized.

The Taittiriya Upanishad goes into explaining more
about the creative process of the material manifestation from
the Brahman, and that the Brahman is from Whom all souls
emanate, and in Whom they enter at the time of the universal
annihilation. That Brahman is eternally personified, by which
He is knowable and reachable. Through that personified form
He expands bliss and Divine love which we can experience
through spiritual practice. This Upanishad is divided into three
chapters called Shiksha Valli, Brahmanand Valli, and Bhrigu

There are many other Upanishads, though they may
be less prominent, that can be important to relating inner facts
and secrets about the nature of God and how to realize Him.
So I'll mention a few.

There is the Krishna Upanishad which directly
reveals that the most divine form of bliss dwells in the
supremacy of love of Lord Krishna. It elaborates that when
Lord Krishna descended to Earth in Braja Mandala,
Vrindavana, the other eternal and divine personalities and
powers also came with Him in order to serve Him and taste the
sweetness of that divine love.

The GopalaTapani Upanishad goes much further in
explaining things in this direction. It has only two chapters
with a total of 172 verses. In the first chapter it explains that
Lord Krishna is the absolute bliss. He is the Supreme God and
the embodiment of eternal life, knowledge and bliss. This is
elaborated throughout the chapter. Chapter Two explains how
Lord Krishna is the supreme and most beautiful form of God.
No other god or portion of this material creation can compare
to His beauty. Therefore, it is recommended that we need to
remember and adore Him, by which we can experience His
divine love, which is like an ocean of nectar.

It is important to point out that the Sanskrit term for
the experience of Krishna's divine love is rasa. It is the
Bhagavat Purana that, in the Vedic literature, begins to
explain the rasa-lila or bliss pastimes of Lord Krishna with
His numerous associates. The word rasa is never used in
connection with Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva, Goddess Durga or
any of the other Vedic personalities in any of the Upanishads.
That is because, though we may engage in respectful worship
to these Divinities, the pleasure pastimes wherein there is such
a deep exchange of divine bliss and love is not to be found in
anyone but Lord Krishna. Even the expansions of Lord
Krishna, such as Lord Vishnu or Lord Rama, may be forms of
unlimited bliss, but the deep exchanges of loving bliss with
Them do not have the potential that is found within Lord
Krishna. Therefore, Lord Krishna is the Supreme Personality
in which is found all other forms of Divinity, and from whom
comes the Absolute Truth and Absolute loving bliss.

The Radhika Upanishad explains this a little further.
Therein it is described that only within Lord Krishna is there
the hladini power, which is the pleasure or bliss potency. The
other forms of the Lord are but parts or expansions of the
Lord, and although They may be the same in power, They are
lacking in the level of bliss potency that is found within Lord
Krishna. This means that the supreme sweetness in loving
exchanges is manifested from Lord Krishna. In this way, you
have the sweet, sweeter and sweetest levels of loving bliss
established in the different levels of the spiritual reality, until it
culminates from the Brahman and Vaikuntha on up to Goloka
Vrindavana, the spiritual abode of Lord Krishna. Or from the
brahmajyoti to the Vishnu forms up to the supremacy of Sri
Krishna. This is what is established by fully understanding the
purport of the Upanishads.

One more less prominent Upanishad, but one that is
no less important, is the Sri Chaitanya Upanishad
(Chaitanyopanishad), which comes from the ancient Atharva-
veda. The Chaitanyopanishad is a short text with only
nineteen verses. All of them are very significant. In this
description there is not only the prediction of the appearance
of Lord Chaitanya, but a description of His life and purpose,
and the reasons why His process of spiritual enlightenment is
so powerful and effective in this age of Kali-yuga.

The Chaitanyopanishad explains how one day
Pippalada, a son of Lord Brahma, approached his father and
asked about how the sinful living entities in the age of Kali-
yuga may be delivered. Lord Brahma told him to listen
carefully and he would give him a confidential description of
what would happen in Kali-yuga. He explained that in Kali-
yuga, the Supreme Being, whose form is completely
transcendental and who is the all-pervading Supersoul in the
hearts of all living entities, will appear again in the Kali age.
He will appear in the guise of the greatest devotee, with a
golden complexion in His abode on the banks of the Ganges at
Navadvipa. He will disseminate pure devotional service to the
Supreme. He will be known as Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

Appearing in this golden form, the all-powerful Supreme
Being--who is understood only by the most fortunate and who
is the oldest, the original person, the original cause of the
universe--will spread spiritual bliss by the chanting of His own
holy names. The Supreme Lord will chant a mantra consisting
of the names of Hari, Krishna, and Rama [the Hare Krishna
Maha-mantra]. This mantra is the best of all mantras, and,
though difficult to understand, it can be understood by
engaging in devotional service to the Supreme. This is the
most confidential of secrets, and those who seriously desire to
make progress in spiritual life, and to cross the ocean of birth
and death, continually chant these names of the Supreme.

Herein we find the assortment of information that can
be found in the main Upanishads. For the most part, except
for the more specialized and detailed Upanishads that were
referred to at the end, they only briefly indicate the personal
traits of the Supreme Personality and the Divinity of Krishna
and His abode. Mostly they provide knowledge only up to the
Brahman or Vaikuntha, not beyond. They express the non-
material, spiritual nature of God, but do not know or present
much information on the personality and pastimes of the
Supreme Being. The end or conclusive result of knowledge in
the Upanishads is to attain liberation from material existence.
But what such liberation consists of is often left out. So,
information on the pastimes and nature of the abode of God
and the spiritual domain is absent.

This is the case with most all of the Shruti texts,
which consist of the four Vedas, the Brahmanas, Aranyakas,
and Upanishads. Once you get beyond the rituals and methods
for acquiring material needs by worship of the Vedic
demigods, the Shruti texts primarily contain knowledge of the
futility of material existence, the temporary nature of the
material creation, the bondage of the jiva souls in this
existence of birth and death, and the spiritual nature of the
individual and the Supreme Being. In parts, they may also
describe that the goal of life is liberation from this material
manifestation and to return to spiritual existence through the
understanding of karma, spiritual knowledge, renunciation and
devotion to God (bhakti). However, they are unaware of much
beyond this, or at least the finer details. They do not deliver
information about the bliss of spiritual activities and the
pastimes of Goloka Vrindavana, the most intimate and
confidential abode of the Lord, who is a spiritual being, a
personality. Because of this basic deficiency, additional
information is supplied elsewhere, which must be sought and
understood. As we can see, this is a progressive ladder of
education, in which case one should not stop with the


Aside from the Upanishads, there are also the Upa-
vedas. These are the Artha-veda (science of economics and
sociology), the Dhanur-veda (the science of defense, war, and
politics), the Gandharva-veda (art of music, dancing, and
singing), and Ayurveda (the holistic medical science). These
are smaller compositions, each are attached to one of the four
main samhitas (namely the Rig, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva
respectively). Unfortunately, most of these compositions are
difficult to find, except for the Ayurveda, the majority of
which is still available but not all of its original texts.
These are a part of the eighteen principal branches of
Vedic knowledge, which, according to the Vishnu Purana, are
listed with their sources as the six Vedangas:

The four Vedas, the six Angas (or subsidiary portions of
the Vedas), viz., Siksha, rules of reciting the prayers, the
accents, and tones to be observed; Kalpa, ritual;
Vyakarana, grammar; Nirukta, glossarial comment;
Chandas, metre; and Jyotish, astronomy; with Mimamsa,
theology; Nyaya, logic; Dharma, the institutes of law; and
the Puranas, constitute the fourteen principal branches of
knowledge. Or they are considered as eighteen with the
addition of these four: the Ayur-veda, medical science as
taught by Lord Dhanvantari; Dhanur-veda, the science of
archery or military arms taught by Bhrigu; Gandharva-
veda, or drama and the arts of music, dancing, etc., of
which the Muni Bharata was the author; and the Artha
sastram, or science of government, as laid down first by
Brihaspati. (Vishnu Purana, Book Three, Chapter Six)

To briefly explain some of the branches mentioned above:
Vyakarana is the science of Sanskrit grammar. This is
presently based on the Panini grammar, since the other ancient
forms or books are extinct. The Panini system, which has some
4000 sutras, is said to have been inspired by Lord Shiva when
he once played on his small damru drum from which came 14
separate sounds. Those vibrations inspired Panini, who then
explained the science of Sanskrit grammar. These vibrations
were said to be originally in the mysterious formula of the
Maheshvara Sutra. This Sutra is said to contain all sounds
arranged in an order that holds the key to all structure of

Panini also provided the dhatu path, which is a dictionary
of the root Sanskrit words. Then he gave the unadi sutras to
describe how the words in the original Vedic samhitas (the
four Vedas) were formed, which can provide the means of
understanding the real definition of the words in the samhita
mantras. Without this, it is easy for a person to mistranslate the
real meaning or purpose of the Vedic mantras.

Nirukta provides the explanations of the Vedic words. It is
used along with the Nighantu, which is a collection of Vedic
words with their basic explanations. These are used with the
Vyakarana to understand the exact meaning of Sanskrit words
to make sure the Vedic samhita mantras are not

Siksha is the science of correct pronunciation of Vedic
mantras, such as intonation, duration, and the accent on a word
or syllable. This will determine how one "sings" each mantra.
Differences in the pronunciation of a mantra can also change
its meaning, and the outcome of the ritual. That is one of the
reasons why the old Vedic rituals are no longer recommended
for this day and age. The problem is that this is difficult to
learn and almost all books on the topic have become lost.
Chandas is the science of correctly emphasizing the metre
of the Vedic verses according to the division or parts and
letters, and the correct pronunciation of the words. The Vedic
mantras are also named according to its parts. For example, the
anushtup chand is a mantra of four parts in one stanza, and
with 32 letters. Yet if it has 31 letters in four parts, it is called
brihati chand, and so on.

Jyotish is the science of Vedic astrology. This was used
for a couple of reasons. Primarily it was for establishing the
correct position of the stars and planets at certain times, such
as one's birth, and their effects for predicting one's future life.
It was also for calculating the best times to begin special
activities, such as Vedic rituals. There were many books on
jyotish, but most have now become lost, leaving but several
left to study.

The Artha-sastram is said to have been established first
by Brihaspati, but most recently was written by Kautilya in the
fourth century BC for the king, Chandragupta Maurya. It is the
science of government and economics that takes credit for
some of the principles of corporate management that have
gained popularity today, such as using prabhu shakti (vision),
mantra shakti (mission), and utsah shakti (motivation).
The Mimamsa, Dharma, and Nyaya are parts of the Vedic
Sutras, which is explained next.


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