[Advaita-l] Veda VyAsa and the Four Vedas

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Thu Mar 18 04:14:10 CDT 2010


It is believed in the tradition that Veda Vyasa is the one who 'divided the
Veda into four' for the convenience of study and preservation, taking into
account the depleted capacity of people of thisYuga.

See an article, a portion of which is reproduced here from this URL:


// It has been debated whether Vyasa was a single person or a class of
scholars who did the splitting. The
Vishnu-Purana<http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Purana>has an
interesting theory about Vyasa. The Hindu view of the universe is
that of a cyclic phenomenon that comes into existence and dissolves
repeatedly. Each cycle is presided over by a number of
one for each Manvantara<http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Manvantara>,
that has four ages, Yugas
<http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Yuga>of declining virtues.
The Dvapara
Yuga <http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Dvapara+Yuga> is the third
Yuga. The Purana (Book 3, Ch 3) says:

In every third world age (Dvapara), Vishnu, in the person of Vyasa, in order
to promote the good of mankind, divides the Veda, which is properly but one,
into many portions. Observing the limited perseverance, energy, and
application of mortals, he makes the Veda fourfold, to adapt it to their
capacities; and the bodily form which he assumes, in order to effect that
classification, is known by the name of Veda-vyasa. Of the different Vyasas
in the present Manvantara and the branches which they have taught, you shall
have an account. *Twenty-eight times have the Vedas been arranged by the
great Rishis in the Vaivasvata Manvantara... and consequently eight and
twenty Vyasas have passed away; by whom, in the respective periods, the Veda
has been divided into four. The first... distribution was made by Svayambhu
(Brahma) himself; in the second, the arranger of the Veda (Vyasa) was
Prajapati... (and so on up to twenty-eight). //*

My question:

In the Veda itself there is ample evidence for 'Four' Veda-s.  For example:

1.In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 2.4.10 there is the teaching pertaining to

the ‘creation’ of the Veda-s by Brahman.  The mantra reads thus:

स यथार्द्रैंधाग्नेरभ्याहितात् पृथग्धूमा विनिश्चरन्त्येवं वा अरेऽस्य महतो
भूतस्य निश्वसितमेतद्यदृग्वेदो यजुर्वेदः सामवेदोऽथर्वाङ्गिरस इतिहासः पुराणं
विद्या उपनिषदः श्लोकाः सूत्राण्यनुव्याख्यानानि व्याख्यानान्यस्यैवैतानि
निश्वसितानि ॥

//"As from a fire kindled with wet fuel various kinds of smoke  issue forth,
even so, my dear, the Rig—Veda, the Yajur-Veda,  the Sama-Veda, the
Atharvangirasa,   Reality. From this Supreme Self are all these,
indeed, breathed

2. In the Chandogya Upanishad 7th Chapter, we have Narada addressing
Sage Sanatkumara:
Narada said: "Venerable Sir, I know the Rig-Veda, the  Yajur-Veda, the
Sama-Veda, the Atharva-Veda as the  fourth Veda, ......All this I know,
venerable Sir.

3.  In the Purusha SUktam we have the 'origin' of specific Veda-s:

ऋचः सामानि जज्ञिरे, ....यजुस्तस्मादजायत ...(The Rg, SAma...Yajus
...originated from Him)

4.  In the Taittiriya Upanishad we have तस्य यजुरेव शिरः, ऋग्दक्षिणः
पक्षः, सामोत्तरः पक्षः, अथर्वाङ्गिरसः
     पुच्छं प्रतिष्ठा...
5.  Shankaracharya even provides the characteristics of a Rg and Yajur mantra.

We further have:

6. In the Mundaka Upanishad, an Atharva Veda Upanishad, in mantra
3.2.9 where is a mention of a शिरोव्रतम्.  Shankara comments
here that this is a Vedic vow that is familiar amongst the followers
of the Atharva Veda.

7.  स्वाध्यायोऽध्येतव्यः  Taittiriya Aranyaka 2.15.19  (One's shAkhA,
branch, of the Veda should be studied.)

From the above samples, we find that the Veda-s are already available
in the Veda-s themselves as distinct four categories/
classes with distinct names and characteristics.  There are priests
spoken of in the Veda itself as: होता, अध्वर्यु, उद्गातृ, ब्रह्मा who
have specific Veda allotted to them.

All these show that there are clear divisions of the Veda-s, the people who
are linked to specific Vedic branches, like वाजसनेयिनः, बह्वृचः, etc.
In the wake of this clear classification already available in the veda-s,
which are eternal, always the same in every Yuga, how do we understand the
'splitting' of the Veda-s into four by Bhagavan Veda Vyasa?

Best regards,

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