When we talk about Veda, we, generally, have a picture of holy scriptures in mind. We generally think that Vedas are the same category of literature as that of the Bible or Koran. People think that Vedas are related to Hindus as the Bible and Koran to Muslims and Christians respectively. In fact, this view received its first sanction at the hands of various European scholars who started the studies of the Vedas having regarded them as religious scriptures of Hindus. This was evident from Max Müller's 'Sacred Books of the East Series. That is why the Vedas were also categorized in the list of sectarian or communal literature. The Vedas, in fact, are the documents dealing with God’s creation. They exist since the time humans came into being on this globe. By then, there was no religion or sect on the earth. The Vedas were regarded as sacred, not because they were related to a particular community or because they were composed by the prophet of a particular community, but because they were the storehouse of all the true sciences because they represented the various aspects of creation and cosmic life because they contained universal laws irrespective of caste, creed, race, religion or region.
Lecture on The Vedas Part 1: Are Vedas authored by God?
Lecture on the Vedas Part 2: Are Vedas Religious Books?
What is Veda?
The word Veda is derived from the root √vid meaning to know. So Veda means knowledge.
Vedas, in fact, are the blueprint of the creation. They are books representing various aspects -metaphysical, astrophysical and physical aspects - of creation. Since the creation of the universe is the handiwork of God, the authorship of creation can be assigned to God alone and none else. So, authorship of knowledge of creation contained in Vedas is assigned to almighty God. As such Vedas are called apauruṣeyas.
Authorship of the Vedas:
Moreover, there has long been a debate as to whether Vedas were authored by God or man. It has always been answered: वेदाः अपौरुषेयाः vedāḥ apauruṣeyāḥ, i.e. Vedas are not authored by Puruṣa. The term Puruṣa has been used to signify both man and God by the various contenders in order to support their contentions. It must be understood that the term Puruṣa here does not mean God but man. So the term ‘vedāḥ apauruṣeyāḥ’ would only mean ‘Vedic knowledge is not man-made knowledge’.
The other way round also, the Veda, as pointed out above, being knowledge, or dharma would reside permanently in its dharmī, the object, i.e. Brahman who is All-knowing, whilst a man knows a little. Brahman alone is qualified by knowledge of creation being its sole creator. Knowledge is the inherent quality of God.
Moreover, it can again be proved on the shreds of evidence gathered from the Vedic literature. For example, the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa (188.8.131.52) has made a clear-cut statement that the Vedas are the expressions of creation. Accordingly:
evam vā are’sya mahato bhūtasya niḥśvasitam-etad-vā
Ṛgvedo Yajurveda Sāmaveda’tharvāṅgirasaḥ.
[Meaning] The couplets that are known as the Ṛgveda, the Yajurveda, the Sāmaveda and the Atharvaveda are the exhalations of this grand creation.
At another place in the same work, it has been clearly picturized leaving no space for further doubt and suspense regarding the God-made Vedas. According to the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa (184.108.40.206):
‘There are two types of creations. One is manmade and produced through sexual behaviour. Another is divine or God-made cosmic creation. Chhandas deals with cosmic creation. They are produced by Ṛṣis through their mouth. Instead of sexual intercourse.
Thus from the foregoing discussion, it can unhesitatingly be inferred that the couplets or Chhandas received/imbibed by Brahmā in Samādhi at the beginning of creation were the literary items that originated first ever in the literary history of humankind. These chhandas that deal with the cosmic creation of God or say authored by God were pronounced by the Ṛṣis through their mouth.
Here Gītā’s view on the Veda may also be quoted. Gītā says triguṇaviṣayo vedāḥ, i.e. the Vedas deal with the triguṇātmaka prakṛti. The material creation evolved out of the imbalance of three guṇas, viz. sattva, rajas and tamas.
The above-cited view of the Gītā on the Vedas clearly points out that the Vedas are the knowledge of creation and the creation is the handy work of the almighty God. As such the authorship of the Vedas, the knowledge of creation can be assigned to God alone and not to any human being propounding it. For example, an engineer who creates an engine becomes the author of the knowledge of the engine. Similarly, when a potter makes a pot, he becomes the author of the pot. Similarly, when Brahman creates the universe, He becomes the author of His creation and so also the author of the Vedas. This process may also be illustrated by the following example. Whenever anything is created its knowledge comes into existence in the cosmos immediately after its creation. Similarly, when God created this universe, His knowledge of the creation of the universe, i.e Veda came into existence in the cosmos immediately after the origin of creation. Brahmā had a direct insight into this universal knowledge called Veda in his Samādhi. This process of direct insight is also called enlightenment or revelation. Patañjali has shed ample good light on this process of direct insight in his Yoga Darśana. According to him, when a high-profile yogī attains perfection in nirvichāra Samādhi (a state of mind in which a yogī can meditate even without contents), his intellect becomes free from rajas and tamas and settles down permanently in sattva guṇa and clears of all thoughts (Yoga Darśana, 1.47). At this stage, Intellect transforms into Ṛtambharā Prajñā which is the highest form of Intellect (Yoga Darśana, 1.48). Prajñā bears the Ṛta (cosmic laws) directly. When a person rises to the state of Ṛtambharā prajñā, he knows truth directly without the intermediary of language or thought. He achieves a state of direct enlightenment. His knowledge then is perfect. What he sees is truth, because it is directly realized and free of subjective and situational conditions and the limitations of thought and language. His knowledge is not relative now. It is absolute which is nothing else but the Veda. This is how Brahmā had direct access to the knowledge of creation through his Ṛtambharā prajñā at the beginning of human creation. In fact, this creation is the embodiment of the Veda. It is the vāk (speech) of Brahman. Since this creation is exclusive work of Brahman, so it is verily said, एको वेदः eko vedaḥ (the Veda is one). This Veda exists in two forms. 1. In visible form as a universe. 2. In the audible form of vibrations or quanta. Thus everybody sees this Veda of creation, but very few except Brahmā are capable to read and comprehend it. Everybody is not able to hear this speech. That is why in the Ṛgveda (10th Maṇḍala) it is said: Some on seeing the Veda do not see it, while another hearing the speech does not hear it.
Yāska (Nirukta, 1.20) while narrating the history of the origin of the Vedas says, ‘There were Ṛṣis who had a direct insight of Dharma (laws of creation in the form of Veda Mantras or Chhandas). This knowledge was passed on through oral instructions to the succeeding generation of Ṛṣis who were devoid of powers of direct insight. They further passed this knowledge to their successors in documented form who were not able even to receive it through oral instructions.’
The Four Vedas:
Thus Brahmā was the first Ṛṣi who had direct insight into the Veda. He divided the Veda into four forms: The Ṛgveda, the Yajurveda, the Sāmaveda and Atharvaveda
and passed the same on to the four Ṛṣis, namely Agni, Vāyu, Āditya and Aṅgirā.
Ṛgveda deals with all the components of creation- metaphysical, astrophysical and physical.
Yajurveda deals with the process of creation. This process of creation is called Yajña, particularly Śrauta Yajña. The various phases of creation have been depicted by various types of Śrauta Yajñas.
Sāmaveda deals with the comic vibrations or songs called Sāma Gānas. The entire universe is buzzing with sounds/vibrations which are not audible to human ears. Only high-profile yogis can enjoy these divine sounds.
Atharvaveda deals with all aspects of mundane life. This material creation would have become meaningless, had there been no biological life. In fact, the presence of living beings gives meaning to this material creation. So the very objective of Atharvaveda is to deal with the origin and evolution of biological life, particularly the life of human beings.