Note on Vedic shAkhAs
Anand V. Hudli
anandhudli at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Aug 25 12:58:12 CDT 1999
On Wed, 25 Aug 1999 10:11:55 -0500, Vaidya Sundaram <Vaidya_Sundaram at I2.COM>
>>> 2. One of my friends is from Karnataka and knows his Veda to be RgVeda.
>>> he says his shikshan has been in Yajur Veda. Is this fairly common ?
>>We discussed this on the list once before. Because it is the duty of
>>every Brahmana to learn the Vedas, you should learn what you can, even if
>>it is the "wrong" shakha but it is preferable to learn your own and you
>>should make the best possible effort to do so.
> I would like to know if this is our understanding or is there some
>basis for this conclusion. I ask this question because right after the
>discussion in this list on the topic of learning vedic shakas, I requested
>information from the priests at kanchi. The answer was that - your own
>MUST be learned before any others. The only exceptions are when some
>yajnas/sacrifices are to be done (there is a apparently a set of such
>whose performance takes precedence - hence the mantras for that have to be
>learned before the entire shaka is complete.)
> What is confusing for me is that the actual person performing the
>for a brahmana may belong to any veda/shaka. however, the student will have
>learn his fathers shaka first before any other.
There is not likely to be a scriptural basis for this issue because:
1) the division of the single vedas into four vedas and their
shAkhAs is relatively recent, considering that Vedas are eternal.
The division is only to ensure that all parts of the one veda are
likely to be preserved, given that the intellect of people in this
age is feeble and cannot grasp one huge veda. A person is more likely
to retain and pass on to the next generation a portion of the Veda
rather than the whole single veda.
2) In spite of this division into four vedas, in the days when the
smR^itis and other dharma-shastras were written, Vedic scholars
who knew three or more vedas were plentiful. One did not have to
search beyond his immediate vicinity (village or town) to find
a Guru who could teach him any or all the vedas. The problem, if
any, during those days was whether the student could learn all the
vedas. That is why Manu prescribes "vedAnadhItya vedau vA vedaM vA
yathAkramam.h ...", (a brahmachAri) having learnt (all) the Vedas,
or two Vedas or one Veda, in order, (should enter the gR^ihastha-
Ashrama). Here Manu is saying that one should learn all the Vedas
or at least two or at the very least, one - his own Veda. But note
that the problem of the teacher's not knowing a Veda is not
addressed at all. Manu does not say anything about what one should
do if a teacher of his Veda is not found. Such a situation was
extremely rare those days, unless one was living among "mlechchhas"
like we are doing these days, in which case one would not be
inclined to study the Veda anyway.
3) In these days when the Vedic religion and customs are on the wane
and are found for the most part only in very small pockets even in
India, there are only two options one has, if a teacher of his shAkhA
is not accessible : A) learn whatever portion of the Veda any Guru
teaches him even if it is not his shAkhA or B) remain without learning
any Veda at all.
I think the second option B) is somewhat drastic and makes an already
deplorable situation worse by effectively causing a decrease in the
number of people who have learnt some portion of the Veda or the other.
So option A) is likely to be more reasonable than B).
4) Of course, one MUST learn his own shAkhA first if given a choice between
learning his own shAkhA and another. Also, one must not whimsically
decide to learn another shAkhA neglecting his own, for example
out of laziness. If I have to travel several miles everyday to learn
my shAkhA or I can learn another shAkhA from the brAhmaNa next-door,
I should not decide to learn the other shAkhA, foregoing my own.
5) Manu smR^iti has another verse which may shed some light on this
problem that we are discussing:
abrAhmaNAd-adhyayanam-ApatkAle vidhIyate |
anuvrajya cha shushrUshhA yAvadadhyayanaM guroH || 2.241 ||
We prescribe that during a desperate situation (ApatkAle), one may
(even) learn (the Veda) from one who is not a brAhmaNa (ie. a
Kshhatriya or Vaishya). (The student) must follow (such a) Guru
and serve him as long as the study lasts.
So this begs the question: If Manu is willing to go so far as
to prescribe learning from Kshhatriyas and Vaishyas, is he
against learning another shAkhA rather than one's own, in a
6) In my own case, I have been taught portions of my own shAkhA of
the R^ig Veda in India. Only after coming to the US, I find
that (surprise!) for several years there is no vedic teacher
even in a 100 mile radius from my home and later, all I can find
are krishna yajur vedins.
7) A complication that arises if one learns another shAkhA without
learning _any_ part of his own is: what does one do while following
the saMskAras? These saMskAras are according to the gR^ihya sUtras
of one's shAkhA. If one has not learnt any part of his shAkhA at all
even to the extent of being able to perform the necessary saMskAras,
then it won't do him any good, even if he has learnt some other shAkhA
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