Vedas, Upanishads and Allied Scriptures – An Introduction

Hari Om

The Four Vedas, the primary literature of Hindu Religion are as below:

Rg-Veda The heart of the entire Veda with 10,552 verses. Rg-Veda Interpretation(Poorna Pragnya).

Yajur-Veda (hymns for oblations)apr. 2000 verses

Sama-Veda (same prayers and hymns in meters for singing)apr. 2000 verses

Atharva-Veda (body/world mainte nance and destruction).Nearly 6,000 verses of prayers, charms and rites are unique.

Besides its Samhita, each Veda includes one or two Brahmanas, ceremonial handbooks, and Aranyakas, ritual interpretations, plus many inestimable Upanishads, metaphysical dialogs. In all there are over 100,000 Vedic verses, and some prose, in dozens of texts.

The Vedangas and Upavedas are collections of texts that augment and apply the Vedas as a comprehensive system of sacred living.

Jyotisha Vedanga delineates auspicious timing for holy rites. look at astrology and Jai Maharaj’s texts

Kalpa Vedanga defines public rituals in the Srauta and Sulba sutras, domestic rites in the Grihya Sutras and religious law in the Dharma Sastras.

Four other Vedangas ensure the purity of mantra recitation, through knowledge of phonetics, grammar, poetry and the way of words.

The Upavedas expound profound sciences: Artha-Veda unfolds statecraft Ayur-Veda sets forth medicine and health Dhanur-Veda discusses military science Gandharva-Veda illumines music and the arts Sthapatya-Veda explains architecture

In addition, the Kama Sutras detail erotic pleasures. The Agamas, too, have ancillary texts, such as the Upagamas and Paddhatis, which elaborate the ancient wisdom.

The Epics maybe the Mahabharata and Ramayana as the two main classics.

Additional Overviews: What is Vedic Literature Spiritual Origin of Vedas

The following are some lessons explaining the different branches of the tree of Vedic knowledge (Vedas, Upanisads, Vedangas, Darsanas, Bhashyas, Puranas, Itihasas, etc.).


Veda means knowledge. The original knowledge are the teachings of the Vedas. In the conditioned state our knowledge is subjected to many deficiencies. There are four defects that a conditioned soul has: committing mistakes, subject to illusion, cheating propensity and imperfect senses. These deficiencies make us unfit for having perfect knowledge. Therefore we accept the Vedas as they are.

Vedas are apauruseya, which means they are not compilations of human knowledge. Vedic knowledge comes from the spiritual world, from Lord the Supreme Personality.

The human are divided by vedas according to their orders of life namely brahmacarya, grhastha,vanaprastha and sannyasa and vedas teach us how a soul could be purified. To simplify the process and make them more easily performable, Vyasadeva (the empowered incarnation of Krsna) divided the Vedas into four, Rg (prayers), Yajur (hymns for oblations), Sama (same prayers and hymns in meters for singing), Atharva (body/world maintenance and destruction) in order to expand them among men.

Thus the original source of knowledge is the Vedas. They have simply been developed into different branches. They were originally rendered by great seers. In other words, the Vedic knowledge broken into different branches by different disciplic successions (known as sakhas) has been distributed all over the world. No one, therefore, can claim independent knowledge beyond the Vedas.

The texts of the Vedas are known as Samhitas. Within these Samhitas there are portions known as Mantras, which contain prayers in the form of potent sound compounds revealed to great seers for different purposes. In the Vedic civilization three orders of life lived in the forests. Only grhasthas inhabited the cities. The regulated knowledge for living in the city, is revealed in the books known as Brahmanas, whereas the regulated knowledge for living in the forest is revealed in the books known as Aranyakas.

Sruti, Smrti, and Nyaya

There are three different sources of vedic knowledge, called prasthana-traya. The Upanisads are known as sruti-prasthana, the scriptures following the principles of six limbs vedic knowledge (Vedangas) as well as Mahabharata, Bhagavad-gita, and Puranas are known as smrti- prasthana and Vedanta-sutras which present the vedic knowledge on the basis of logic and arguments is known as nyaya-prasthana. All scientific knowledge of transcendence must be supported by sruti, smrti and a sound logical basis (nyaya ). Smrti and nyaya always confirm that which is said in the sruti.

Vedic injunctions are known as sruti. From the original Veda Samhitas up to the Upanisads are classified as sruti. The additional supplementary presentations of these principles as given by the great sages are known as smrti. They are considered as evidence for vedic principles. Understanding the ultimate goal of life is ascertained in the Vedanta-sutras by legitimate logic and argument concerning cause and effect.

There are six aspects of knowledge in the Vedas known as Vedangas:

Siksa – phonetic science

Vyakarana – grammar

Nirukti – context (conclusive meaning)

Candas – meter

Jyotis – time science (astronomy & astrology)

Kalpa – rituals

The seers who have realized these aspects of knowledge from the Vedas, have composed sutras (short but potent phrases which convey a lot of meanings) on each Vedanga. Kalpa-sutras are of four categories, viz., srouta (collective sacrifices), grhya (family rituals), dharma (occupational duties) and sulba (building of sacrificial fireplaces, altars etc.).

According to the different levels of conditioned consciousness there are instructions in the Vedas for worship of different controllers, with the aim of reaching different destinations and enjoying different standards of sense enjoyment. Agamas (emanated scriptures) are books which are classified into five for this purpose:

energy – Sakti – Sakta Agamas
visible source (Sun) – Surya – Soura Agamas
controller – Ganapati – Ganapatya Agamas
destroyer – Siva – Saiva Agamas
ultimate source – Visnu – Vaikhanasa Agamas

For those who are below standard for vedic purificatory process, there are Tantra sastras. These have two general classifications, right and left. While the right aspect contains regulations for purification for those who are grossly engaged in meat eating, intoxication and illicit sex, the left aspect contains low class activities like black magic etc.

From the point of view of common human activities sense gratification is the basis of material life. To cater to this aim, there are three paths mentioned in the Vedas:

The karma-kanda path involves fruitive activities to gain promotion to better positions. Using the methodology from the first five Vedangas, the Kalpa-sutras explain this path.

Upasana-kanda involves worshiping different controllers for promotion to their positions. The Agamas explain this path.

Jnana-kanda involves realizing the Absolute truth in impersonal feature for the purpose of becoming one .

The Upanisads explain this path.

Though these paths are all from the Vedas, and the Vedas do explain them, one should not think that that is all the Vedas have. The real purpose of the Vedas is to gradually push one in the path of self realization to the point of surrender in devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Upanishads and Darsanas

(Vedanta and six systems of philosophy)

The Upanishads are the concluding portions of the Brahmanas and are enshrining the essense of Vedic teaching. They are called Vedantas meaning the last portion of the Vedas as well as the ultimate conclusions of Vedic wisdom. Upanishads happen to be the most foremost authorities of the Vedanta system of Philosophy that developed in later times in different forms. The Vedanta Sutras of Badarayana pertain to the proper interpretation of these Upanishadic statements.

The highest knowledge of the Ultimate Truth is taught in the Upanishads and these are considered as the eternal, most authoritative, infalliable revelations and most all schools of Indian Philosophy have drawn richly from the Upanishads in some way or the other.

These Upanishads are in the form of sublime thoughts tauhgt by celebrated teachers to their intimate disciples. Some of them are in the form of dialogues and they picture the struggle for the quest after Brahman by the devoted one as well as their failures and successes. If some Upanishads give a connected account, some others appear ti be stray thoughts. They have a mysterious forcefulness in their expressions and they penetrate to the heart. Some of them are very simple and short but at the same time very significant. These truths were intended to be imparted in strictest secrecy to the earnest enquirers of the truth. They have a charm and attraction of their own for earnest religious people.

The number of Upanishads that are available to us is vast. They are said to be more than two hundred. One hunderd and twelve Upanishads have been published by the Nirnaya Sagar Press in 1917. The Muktika Upanishad gives a list of 108 Upanishads. But all these are not recognized as ancient. Many of them belong to a later time. It is accepted that all the ten principal Upanishads namely Isa, Kena, Katha, Prasna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Taittiriya, Aitareya, Chandogya and Brihadaranyaka are the most authoritative ancient Upanishads. In addition to these the Kaushitaki, Svetasvatara, Mahanarayaniya and Maitrayaniya are also taken into account as they have been referred to by many early authorities. These belong to the different Vedas as shown below:

Rig Veda – 1. Aitareya Upanishad 2. Kaushitaki Upanishad Sama Veda 1. Kena Upanishad 2. Chandogya Upanishad

Krishna Yajur Veda – 1. Katha Upanishad 2. Svetasvatara Upanishad 3. Maitrayaniya Upanishad 4. Mahanarayaniya Upanishad 5. Taittiriya Upanishad

Sukla Yajur Veda – 1. Isavasya Upanishad 2. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad Atharva Veda 1. Mundaka Upanishad 2. Mandukya Upanishad 3. Prasna Upanishad

Upanisad means receiving knowledge while sitting near the teacher. These are conversations between self realized souls and their students on the subject matter of Absolute truth. The philosophical aspects of all the important processes and practices of knowledge (known as vidyas) that are given in the Vedas are discussed in the Upanisads. Veda means knowledge and anta means end. Upanisads are known as Vedanta, end of knowledge.

In the Upanisads the description is more or less negation of the material conception of everything, up to the Supreme Lord. It is very important to note that there is no denial of the spiritual, absolute, transcendental conception in the Upanisads. The purpose of the Upanisads is to philosophically establish the personal feature of the Absolute Truth as transcendental to material names, forms, qualities and actions.

There are 108 Upanisads, as accepted by disciplic succession. Among them the following are considered as topmost:

1) Isa 2) Kena 3) katha 4) Prasna 5) Mundaka 6) Mandukya 7) Taittiriya 8) Aitareya 9) Chandogya 10) Brhad-aranyaka 11) Svetasvatara

Darsana means, sight or vision. In the Vedanta philosophy, the first question is, what is the source of everything? There are philosophers who saw different stages of the original source, and explained philosophy according to their vision. These are known as darsanas. They are also known as sad-darsanas (six systems of philosophy).

The six philosophical treatises are:

Nyaya propounded by Gautama

Vaisesika propounded by Kanada

Sankhya propounded by Kapila

Yoga propounded by Patanjali

Purva (karma) Mimamsa propounded by Jaimini

Uttara (brahma) Mimamsa propounded by Vyasa

Nyaya, the philosophy of logic, maintains that the atom is the cause of the cosmic manifestation.

Vaisesika, philosophy of specialised logic, maintains that the combination of atoms is the cause of the cosmic manifestation.

Sankhya, philosophy of analytical study, maintains that the material nature is the cause of the cosmic manifestation.

Yoga, philosophy of mystic perfections, maintains that universal consciousness is the cause of the cosmic manifestation.

Purva (karma) mimamsa, philosophy of actions and reactions, maintains that fruitive activities are the cause of the cosmic manifestation.

Uttara (brahma) mimamsa has two different categories:

The impersonalists maintain that the impersonal Brahman effulgence is the cause of the cosmic manifestation.

After studying the six philosophical theses, Vyasadeva completely summarized them all in his Vedanta-sutra darsana: The Absolute Truth is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is the cause of all causes.

Srila Vyasadeva wrote the Vedanta-sutras and taking the essence of all vedic literature, established the supremacy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

GF’ Blessings.