This article was in reply to a question asked by a seeker, regarding the origins of the Vedas.
(CHAKRA) Person XYZ asked: “Are Vedas God’s creation?” Now let us analyze this in detail by looking at each word.
‘VEDAS’… What does one mean by Veda? The word ‘Ved comes from the root ‘vid’, which means knowledge. The Vedas are tomes of knowledge, but knowledge of what? Knowledge of that which helps fulfill our 4 human PurushArthas (human pursuits), viz: artha, kAma, dharma, mokSa.
The first portion of the Vedas deal with rituals, ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s, how to fulfill one’s basic necessities (artha), how to fulfill other desires (kAma), performing one’s obligatory duties, doing what is right, living in accordance to the cosmic order (dharma).
The next portion of the Vedas deals with the 4th PurushArtha- mokSa, which deals with knowledge; knowledge of the Self (AtmA/Brahman), bhagavAn, and jagat. It also reconciles the three by revealing that all that there is, is Brahman (jIvAtmA paramAtmA aikyam- jIvAtmA and paramAtmA are one and the same). This is revealed in the Upanishadic portion of the Vedas, also known as vedAnta.
Now we look at the second word you use, “GOD”. I prefer very strongly not using the word. Let us use Ishvara or bhagavAn instead. ‘God’ carries with it many Abrahamic connotations (similarly, it is incorrect to use the word ‘soul’, as it cannot be mapped onto the Vedic system.
So what is bhagavAn? The entire totality, that is illumined in the presence of the Self, or consciousness, is Ishvara/bhagavAn. In other words, the same Brahman from the standpoint of the MANIFEST JAGAT is looked upon as Ishvara.
Now, the third word- “CREATION”. Again, another word I would avoid, as in our tradition, we do not accept such a concept, since not only is it non-vedic, but also logically flawed. Instead, we posit the idea of MANIFESTATION. Creation implies giving rise to something that was non-existent first. Manifestation is simply a change in appearance of one thing to another, or in other words, a change in nAmarUpa (name and form). Forms can change, and as the form changes you will refer to it by a different name, but the substance (Brahman) behind the name-form remains the same.
So now, instead of asking “Are Vedas God’s Creation”, let us instead twist the question into something more befitting a sAdhaka or mumukSu, and ask “How did the Vedas manifest?”
We have something called Kalpas, universal cycles. Before this universe, there was only consciousness (Brahman), in its un-manifest state, and before that the universe was manifest, and so on. Like this, there have been countless manifestations (sRSti) and dissolutions (pralayam), and a countless more will follow. This is the constant and endless cycle we refer to. The period of each manifestation is called one kalpa.
Now, there are jIvas, countless living beings, born out of their own ignorance. jIvas continue taking birth kalpa (universal cycle) after kalpa, yuga (eon) after yuga, janma (birth) after janma, and this cycle of beginning-less birth and death only ends when the jIva has gained knowledge of the Self (Brahman).
Now, let us say there is a universal cycle where a jIva has gained Self-knowledge already, but the prArabdha karma is not completely lived out, as these jIvas have a special (though non-binding) wish to do well to others, and establish this knowledge base for everyone else. Therefore, though jNAnis, and technically free from birth, when the next kalpa takes place, they descend again, out of their own will. These jNAnis are called vishesha jIvanmuktas, and can be considered avatAras too. When they are born again, they already have the knowledge with them. These are the ones we call Rshis (seers). Since they already have this knowledge, it comes to them very naturally without any formal studies (*Note*: remember, they have already accomplished this in the previous kalpa, so the knowledge does not come magically, they have already done the necessary effort to gain it, and for everyone else other than vishesha jIvanmuktas, the steps of shrava?am, maNanam and nidhidhy?sanan CANNOT be skipped. This is taught by a Rshi, Sage YajNavalkyA himself in the Br. Upanishad, and hence it cannot be refuted).
So, whatever knowledge the Rshis have, that forms the teachings of the Vedas and it is passed on from Guru to Shishya from thereon. This knowledge comes naturally to the Rshis, as they have already gained it in the past, and thus we say the knowledge only becomes manifest, and in doing so they attribute BhagavAn as the nimitta kAraNam for this knowledge because in our culture everything is seen as Ishvara prasAda. Hence it is said in our tradition that the Vedas come from bhagawAn, but to understand this one statement, it is important to understand this entire post.
By Prashant Parikh, a student of traditional Vedanta from Arsha Vidya Gurukulam