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Authority of Vedas

Discussion in 'Hinduism DIR' started by mangalavara, Sep 1, 2021.

  1. mangalavara

    mangalavara Verified Account ✔
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    What exactly does it mean that the Vedas are authoritative in Hinduism?

    I have read in a dharmasūtra and in more than one purāṇa that the Vedas are the source of law and that they teach us what actions are right. I take it that they are authoritative in that sense. Although I have not yet read most of the Vedic Saṃhitās, I have to say that I have seen apparently very little of anything in them that has to do with dharma.

    Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.
     
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  2. shivsomashekhar

    shivsomashekhar Well-Known Member

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    It is authoritative for Brahmins (about ~5% of India).

    1. Brahmin lineage is associated with one of the Vedas. For example, in Karnataka, a good number of Brahmins are associated with the Rig Veda, while a lot of Tamil Smartha Brahmins may be Yajur Vedins. There are a few Sama Vedins to be found too. This association is not something the individual gets to pick, but is from lineage.

    2. Secondly, all Brahmins are associated with Kalpa/Grhya/Dharma Sutras. For example, you may find a South Indian Brahmin associated with the Apastamba sutras. These sutras are the rules specifying dos and don'ts in a more traditional and historical context. So, when a Brahmin says he is guided by the Veda, he is mostly referring to these sutras. In a remote past, Mimamsa Brahmins had more dependence on the Brahmana literature (Shatapatha, Gopatha, etc) for rituals, but that is not the case today.

    3. For non-Brahmin Hindus, it all depends. The Vedic parts of their beliefs come from Brahmins - as they were the custodians, priests, bards and scribes - and so non-Brahmin Hindus may be told that the Veda is the authority, though if you probe, they are unlikely to know what means. In modern day Hinduism - for both Brahmins and non-Brahmins - the Vedic part of their daily religious lives is very insignificant. The popular gods are non-Vedic, the practices, the style of worship - everything is mostly non-Vedic or more accurately a combination of ancient indigenous practices and several new age beliefs. Ancient Vedic practices that are still in practice are the daily Sandhya (mandatory for Dvijas), Upanayanam, etc. Rudram, Purusha suktam and certain other popular Vedic mantras are regularly chanted in temples and in some homes.

    Present day Hinduism is far removed from the time of the Rhishi Angirasa who worshipped the Rig-Vedic deity Dyaus (cognate with Greek Zeus) using fire and archaic mantras. Today, we may have a hard time finding Hindus who have heard of Dyaus or Angirasa or his long obsolete methods of worship.
     
    #2 shivsomashekhar, Sep 1, 2021
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2021
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  3. mangalavara

    mangalavara Verified Account ✔
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    This is good to know. Having heard and read many times that a Hindu is one who accepts the authority of the Vedas, I no longer feel that I have to learn the content of the Vedas in order for the idea of accepting their authority to be personally meaningful.

    This sounds practical considering that the Vedic corpus is quite large. As well, it reminds me of an impression that the Vedas give me: that they are the scriptures of a particular class of men rather than someone such as myself who has no special lineage.

    Like all information in your post, this is good to know. Initially, my impression was that those sūtras were meant to explain the right way of life not only for Brahmins but for the people in general.

    That makes sense. I read somewhere lately that the religious practices of most Hindus reflect the Āgamas much more than the Vedas.

    Thank you for such a fine and informative reply. Namaste. :)
     
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  4. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Be your own guru

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    Cursory reading Vedas will not help you to understand them. You need to put them in perspective of who wrote them, when and where. And the best book that explains it is "Arctic Home in Vedas" by Bal Gangadhar Tilak. You can go through a review of the theory in Wikipedia at The Arctic Home in the Vedas - Wikipedia.

    Screenshot_2021-09-02_12-59-06.png Last Glacial Maximum - Wikipedia

    Humans have moved in the Near-Arctic regions according to the temperatures that prevailed at any time. Here is a rough summary of the most recent temperature changes (Please note that there are continental differences. The North American ice-age lasted more than the Asian ice-age. Also that the advent of cold as well as the warm period was pretty quick, sort of drastic climate changes):

    Warm period: 14,690 to 12,890 years ago
    (The Bølling–Allerød interstadial was an abrupt warm and moist interstadial period that occurred during the final stages of the last glacial period)
    Cold period: 12,900 to 11,700 years ago
    (The Younger Dryas was a return to glacial conditions after the Late Glacial Interstadial)
    Current warm period: 11,700 years ago to present

    So, humans (among them the ancestors of Indo-Europeans) moved North till 12,890 years ago. It is these people who created the first hymns of RigVeda, in what is known as the original homeland of the Indo-Europeans, some where north of Volga river system, the Urheimat, or the 'Airyanem Vaejah' of Zoroastrian 'Gathas' (which means 'stories' in Sanskrit). They had to move south around 13,000 years ago with the advent of the cold period. Some 9,000 years ago, they were established as a culture in the River Volga delta at Seroglazovo. It is from here that the Indo-Europeans first moved towards West, then North, and at a later time, East.

    To be continued ..
     
    #4 Aupmanyav, Sep 2, 2021
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2021
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  5. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Be your own guru

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    These people lived in lands where the arctic night extended to two moths and the dawns and dusks lasted one whole month. They were hunters and herders. They feared the long night, prayed to the Goddess of Night to let them pass through it safely. They feared the wolf (Dire Wolf - Aenocyon dirus) which weighed about one and a half times today's wolves) for themselves and their live stock.

    Keep off the she-wolf and the wolf, O Urmya, keep the thief away; Easy be thou for us to pass.
    Clearly hath she come nigh to me who decks the dark with richest hues: O Morning, cancel it (the night) like debts.

    These have I brought to thee like kine. O Night, thou Child of Heaven, accept this laud as for a conqueror.
    Rig Veda: Rig-Veda, Book 10: HYMN CXXVII. Night.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    The English "wolf" stems from the Old English wulf, which is itself thought to be derived from the Proto-Germanic *wulfaz. The Proto-Indo-European root *wĺ̥kʷos may also be the source of the Latin word for the animal lupus (*lúkʷos). .. Wolves have a long history of interactions with humans, having been despised and hunted in most pastoral communities because of their attacks on livestock, while conversely being respected in some agrarian and hunter-gatherer societies. Wolf - Wikipedia
    A. d. dirus was on average 68 kg (150 lb). Its skull and dentition matched those of C. lupus, but its teeth were larger with greater shearing ability, and its bite force at the canine tooth was stronger than any known Canis species. .. Dire wolves lived as recently as 9,500 years ago, according to dated remains. Dire wolf - Wikipedia
    The word *wĺ̥kʷos is a thematic accented zero-grade noun perhaps derived from the adjective *wl̥kʷós (“dangerous”); compare Hittite (walkuwa-, “something negative”), Old Irish olc (“evil”), Sanskrit (vṛká, “not safe”, literally “wild”, vṛká-tāt, “savagery”). .. Alternatively, the word may be a derivative of the verbal root *welh₂- (“to tear up”). In either case, the word's formation closely resembles that of *h₂ŕ̥tḱos (“bear”), another thematic accented zero-grade noun whose referent is an animal subject to cultural taboos. Reconstruction:Proto-Indo-European/wĺ̥kʷos - Wiktionary
     
    #5 Aupmanyav, Sep 2, 2021
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2021
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  6. ajay0

    ajay0 Well-Known Member

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    Vedas are authoritative in Hinduism amongst those sections in Hindu society that adhere to vedic rituals in temples and havans.

    But there are differences in this regard. Reformatory sects in Hinduism like the Brahmo Samaj and Arya Samaj adhere to the vedas but consider practices like sati, casteist discrimination, idol worship, untouchability to be non-vedic and manmade.


    It is the man-made smritis that are the sources of law and they are to be changed with time and changing conditions to be progressive rather than regressive.

    The smritis were also based on someone's interpretation of the vedas just as Islamic Law is always based on someone’s interpretation of the Shari’a (which is an interpretation of the Qur’an and Hadith).

    This is the reason why Islamic laws differ in Islamic countries and are as diverse as Taliban-made laws in Afghanistan and a mixture of Sharia and european common laws in Oman and Kuwait.

    Thus the quality of the smritis or religious laws also depends on the quality of the people who framed them.

    Poor quality smritis created by poor judgements and also smriti's which were not changed with changing times and conditions became regressive and eventually lead to India's decline, regression and loss of sovereignty under foreign invasions and rule.
     
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  7. mangalavara

    mangalavara Verified Account ✔
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    This and what @shivsomashekhar wrote give me the idea that when some sources in the English language state that a Hindu is one who believes the Vedas are authoritative, a better term might be foundational rather than authoritative. I think most branches and sects might see the Vedas as foundational in some sense. What do you guys think?

    That makes sense considering that smṛtis can say different things.

    That also makes sense. Moreover, it makes sense to me that dharma would change with the times. Not that I think dharma ought to merely agree with the individual of the age (what would be the point of dharma then?) but that dharma is always in a practical manner 'that which supports.' My current understanding is that dharma supports ṛta, which I think is order from the highest to the lowest scale. Ṛta or order in the family, for instance, is supported by the dharma of each member, but what that dharma is will likely depend on the time the family members live in.

    Thank you for your reply. Namaste.
     
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  8. ajay0

    ajay0 Well-Known Member

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    Dharma is truth in action, and as Swami Vivekananda stated, "“That society is the greatest where the highest truths become practical."

    While spiritual truths are of an eternal nature and static, truth associated with the material world is of a dynamic nature and constantly changing. If you use old-fashioned tools and techniques in the modern world, you will quickly go obsolete.

    Thus it is important to revise laws and legistation to keep pace with modernity.

    On the other hand, spiritual values like truthfulness, love, compassion, justice are of an eternal nature and changeless, and the lack of such values have resulted in the collapse of great empires at its materialistic peak.
     
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  9. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Be your own guru

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    Respect to Vedas is actually an assimilation deal between the the migrant Aryans and indigenous people. It is a give and take. The indigenous people accepted Vedas and a some Aryan Gods and Goddesses (Vishnu, Saraswati, Rudra in particular. Others did not click as well). The Aryans (perhaps I belong to that stock being a Kashmiri brahmin) accepted the indigenous Gods and Goddesses. As indigenous people were an over whelming majority, their clientele was important for the Aryan priests. The indigenous priests were accepted as brahmins. In the same manner, the indigenous warrior clans were accepted as Kshatriya, the Aryan warrior clans. Therefore, the two people merged without any bloodshed.

    However, there was not much change in the indigenous beliefs. People went on to worship their old Gods and Goddesses and do so even now. None of the major Hindu Gods and Goddesses are mentioned in the Vedas (Shiva, Rama, Krishna, Durga, Ganesha, Kartikeya/Murugan, etc). The interaction of Aryan belief and indigenous belief was very fruitful and created the Upanishads and various philosophies of today's Hinduism. It is not correct to say that Hinduism is Vedic religion. Vedic religion and practices were different from those of the indigenous people. But in time, Vedic practices became a part of Hinduism.

    Sanskrit, the language of the Aryan priests, was a strong language. It became the liturgical and academic language and with regional variations became the language of the a large part of India barring four South Indian languages, Tamil, Telugu, Kannda and Mayalam (Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala). These four languages also were greatly influenced by Sanskrit.

    You must note that this is my personal view and not some authoritative view. Other Hindus may differ from it.
     
    #9 Aupmanyav, Sep 4, 2021
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2021
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  10. mangalavara

    mangalavara Verified Account ✔
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    That sounds probable considering the language differences (Sanskrit and Dravidian languages) and the different 'sets' of deities.

    Considering that you are a Kashmiri Brahmin, I take everything you say as authoritative and final. :p

    In all seriousness, I find your personal views on everything informative and worth thinking about.
     
  11. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Be your own guru

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    Oh, yeah, I am a Kashmiri Sarasvata brahmin (Sarasvata - those Aryan migrants who settled in the River Sarasvati region before migrating to other regions of India, Kashmir in case of my family). If the genealogies are true, I am in the line of Sage Vasishtha, sage Vyaghrapada, and sage Upamanyu who blessed Lord Krishna when he visited the Northern lands (Uttara patha, probably outside India) as mentioned in Srimad Bhagawatham. A few lines of a hymn in RigVeda are ascribed to sage Upamanyu. A clansman, Aupamanyava (meaning in line of sage Upamanyu, that is my nick too) was one of the earliest lexicographers of Sanskrit prior to 700 BCE. My grandpa was a well-known Sanskrit scholar and historian. Moreover, I have studied this subject quite extensively.
    Bishweshwar Nath Reu - Wikipedia, Upamanyu - Wikipedia, Aupamanyava - Wikipedia.
     
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  12. ajay0

    ajay0 Well-Known Member

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    What use a thirsty person has for a water reservoir when all sides of it are flooded - that much alone is the use of all the Vedas for a sage who knows. ~ Krishna, BG : 2.46


    As far as Krishna was concerned, the Vedic scriptures were useless for a person who was Self-realized, and attained the state of pure consciousness exorcised of all raag-dvesh or cravings and aversions.

    Thus as far as Krishna is concerned, the Self-realized sage of pure consciousness is the greatest authority.

    It is experiential understanding of pure consciousness that is emphasized here, and not mere intellectual understanding of the Vedic scriptures.
     
    #12 ajay0, Sep 6, 2021
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2021
  13. Martin

    Martin Spam, wonderful spam (bloody vikings!)

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    I don't know much about the Vedas, but it seems like many people take what their guru says as authoritative.
     
  14. ajay0

    ajay0 Well-Known Member

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    Guru means the remover of darkness, which is the unconsciousness within created by vasanas or past psychological impressions that sprout raag-dvesh or cravings and aversions.

    There are genuine Gurus and fraudsters feigning to be wise people.

    I have elaborated on this theme in this thread of mine...

    Kabir on the need for critical examination to weed out the false and fraudulent...

    Being in the presence of a genuine but silent enlightened sage, is itself a meditation , as the very presence of the master can increase the prana or chi within oneself resulting in higher states of consciousness, without even saying a word.
     
  15. Jainarayan

    Jainarayan ॐ नमो भगवते वासुदेवाय
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    I dislike the words “authoritative” and “authority”. To me those words smack of laws and commandments. Rather, I consider the Vedas “genuine” or “truthful”... satya. They don’t contain laws or commandments but rather, they contain truths that are either very obvious, or subtle, or deep, because they are apaurusheya, “not made by man”.
     
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  16. mangalavara

    mangalavara Verified Account ✔
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    I like your perspective: that the Vedas are genuine/truthful rather than authoritative due to their origin. I guess we could say then that whereas some religions emphasize their scriptures as authoritative, Hindus can emphasize the truthfulness of the Vedas and other scriptures?
     
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