[Advaita-l] Continuation of an old topic-Aporusheyatva
abhishek046 at gmail.com
Sat Dec 8 05:30:22 CST 2012
Although this is an old topic I think these words of Kanchi
Paramacharya on Apourusheyatva would be quite beneficial for most
It is not possible to tell the age of the Vedas. If we say that an
object is "anadi" it means that nothing existed before it. Any book,
it is reasonable to presume, must be the work of one or more people.
The Old Testament contains the sayings of several Prophets. The New
Testament contains the story of Jesus Christ as well as his sermons.
The Qu'ran incorporates the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed. The
founders of such religions are historical personalities and their
teachings did not exist before then. Are the Vedas similarly the work
of one or more teachers? And may we take it that these preceptors
lived in different periods of history? Ten thousand years ago or a
hundred thousand or a million years ago? If the Vedas were created
during any of these periods they can not be claimed to be "anadi".
Even if they were created a million years ago, it obviously means that
there was a time when they did not exist.
Questions like the above are justified if the Vedas are regarded as
the work of mortals. And, if they are, it is wrong to claim that they
are "anadi". We think that the Vedas are the creation of the rsis,
seers who were mortals. So it is said, at any rate, in the text book
of history we are taught.
Also consider the fact that the Vedas consists of many "Suktas".
Jnanasambandhar's Tevaram consists of number of patigams. And just as
each patigam has ten stanzas, each sukta consists of a number of
mantras. "Su+ukta"="sukta". The prefix "su" denotes "good" as in
"suguna" or "sulocana". "Ukta" means "spoken" or "what is spoken". "
Sukta" means "well spoken", a"good word" or a "good utterence" (or
When we chant the Vedas in the manner prescribed by the Sastras, we
mention the name of the seer connected with each sukta, its metre and
the deity invoked. Since there are many mantras associated with
various seers we think that they were composed by them. We also refer
to the ancestry of the seer concerned, his gotra, etc. For instance,
"Agastyo Maithravarunih", that is Agastya, son of Maithravaruna. Here
is another : "Madhucchanda Vaisvamitrah", the sage Madhucchanda
descended from the Visvamitra gotra. Like this there are mantras in
the names of many sages. If the mantras connected with the name of
Agastya were composed by him it could not have existed during the time
of Mitravaruna; similarly that in the name of Madhucchandana could not
have existed during the time of Visvamitra. If this is true, how can
you claim that the Vedas are "anadi"?
Since the Mantras are associated with the names of sages, we make the
wrong inference that they may have been composed by them. But it is
not so as a matter of fact. "Apaurseya" means not the work of any man.
Were the Vedas composed by one or more human beings, even if they were
rsis, they would be called "pauruseya". But since they are called
"Apauruseya" it follows that even the seers could not have created
them. If they were composed by the seers they (the latter) would be
called "Mantra-kartas" which means "those who 'created' the Mantras".
But as a matter of fact, the rsis are called "Mantra-drastas", those
who "saw " them.
When we say that Columbus discovered America, we do not mean that he
created the continent : we mean that he merely made the continent
known to the world. In the same way the laws attributed to Newton,
Einstein and so on were not created by them. If an object thrown up
falls to earth it is not because Newton said so. Scientists like
Newton perceived the laws of Nature and revealed them to the world.
Similarly, the seers discovered the Mantras and made a gift of them to
the world. These Mantras had existed before the time of their fathers,
grand fathers, great grand fathers,. . . . . . . . . But they had
remained unknown to the world. The seers now made them known to the
mankind. So it became customory to mention their names at the time of
The publisher of a book is not necessarily its author. The man who
releases a film need not be its producer. The seers disclosed the
mantras to the world but they did not create them. Though the mantras
had existed before them they performed the noble service of revealing
them to us. So it is appropriate on our part to pay them obeisance by
mentioning their names while chanting the same.
Do we know anything about the existance of the mantras before they
were "seen" by the rsis? If they are eternal does it mean that they
manifested themselves at the time of creation? Were they present
before man's appearance on earth? How did they come into being?
If we take it that the Vedas appeared with creation, it would mean
that the Paramatman created them along with the world. Did he write
them down and leave them somewhere to be discovered by the seers
later? If so, they cannot be claimed to be anadi. We have an idea of
when Brahma created the present world.
There are fixed periods for the four yugas or eons, Krta, Treta,
Dvapara and Kali. The four yugas together are called a caturuga. A
thousand caturugas make one day time of Brahma and another equally
long period is his night. According to this reckoning Bramha is now
more than fifty years old. Any religious ceremony is to be commenced
with a samkalpa("resolve") in which an account is given of the time
and place of performance in such and such a year of Brahma, in such
and such a month, in such and such a fortnight (waxing or waning
moon), etc. From this account we know when the present Brahma came
into being. Even if we concede that he made his appearence millions
and millions of years ago, he can not be claimed to be anadi. How can
then creation be said to have no begining in time? When creation it
self has an origin, how do we justify to the claim that the Vedas are
The Paramatman, being eternal, was present even before creation when
there was no Brahma. The Paramatman, the Brahman are the Supreme
Godhead, is eternal. The cosmos, all sentient beings and insentient
objects, emerge from him. The Paramatman did not create them himself :
he did so through the agency of Brahma. Through Visnu he sustains them
and through Rudra he destroys them. Later Brahma, Visnu, Rudra are
themselves destroyed by him. The present Brahma, when he became
hundred years old, will unite with the Paramatman. Another Brahma will
appear and he will start the work of creation all over again. The
question arises : Does the Paramatman create the Vedas before he
brings into being another Brahma?
We learn from the Sastras that the Vedas has existed even before
creation. Infact, they say, Brahma performed his function of creation
with the aid of Vedic mantras. I shall be speaking to you about this
later, how he accomplished the creation with the mantras manifested as
sound. In the passage dealing with creation the Bagavatha also says
that Brahma created the world with the Vedas.
Is this the reason (that Brahma created the world with the Vedic
mantras) why it is said that the Vedas are anadi? Is it right to take
such a view on the basis that both the Vedas and Isvara are anadi? If
we suggest that isvara had made this scriptures even before he created
the world, it would mean that there was a time when the Vedas did not
exist and that would contradict the claim that they are anadi.
If we believe that both Isvara and the Vedas are anadi it would mean
that Isvara could not have created them. But if you believe that
Isvara created them, they cannot be said to be without the origin.
Everything has its origin in Isvara. It would be wrong to
maintain[according to this logic]that both Isvara and the Vedas have
no beginning in time. Well, it is all so confusing.
What is the basis of the belief that the Vedas are anadi and were not
created by Isvara? An answer is contained in the Vedas themselves. In
the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad(2. 4. 10) ---the Upanishads are all part
of the Vedas---it is said that the Rg, Yajus and Sama Vedas are the
very breath of Isarva. The word "nihsvasitam"is used here.
It goes without saying that we cannot live even a moment without
breathing. The Vedas are the life-breath of the Paramatman who is an
eternal living Reality. It follows that the Vedas exist together with
him as his breath.
We must note here that it is not customory to say that the Vedas are
the creation of Iswara. Do we create our own breath? Our breath exists
from the very moment we are born. It is the same case with Iswara and
the Vedas. We can not say that he created them.
When Vidyaranyaswamin wrote his commentary on the Vedas he prayed to
his guru regarding him as Iswara. He used these words in his prayer :
"Yasya nihsvasitam Vedah" (whose --that is Isvara's -- breath
constitutes the Vedas). The word "nihsvasitam" occurs in the
Upanishads also. Here too it is not stated that Iswara created the
The Lord says in the Gita : "It is I who am known by all the Vedas
"(Vedaisca sarvair aham eva vedyah). " Instead of describing himself
as "Vedakrd" (creator of the Vedas), he calls himself "Vedantakrd"
(creator of philosophical system that is the crown of the Vedas). He
also refers to himself as "Vedavid" (he who knows the Vedas). Before
Vedanta that enshrines great philosophical truths had been made know
to mankind, the Vedas had existed in the form of sound, as the very
breath of Isvara -- they were ( and are) indeed Isvara dwelling in
The Bhagavata too, like the Gita, does not state that the Lord created
the Vedas. It declares that they occured in a flash in his heart, that
they came to him in a blaze of light. The word used on this context is
"Sphuranam", occuring in the mind in a flash. Now we can not apply
this word to any thing that is created a new, any thing that did not
exist before. Bramha is the premordial sage who saw all the mantras.
But it was the Parmatman who revealed them to him. Did he transmit
them orally? No, says the Bhagavatha. The paramatman imparted the
Vedas to Bramha through his heart : " Tene Bramha hrdaya Adikavaye"
says the very first verse of that Purana. The Vedas were not created
by the Parmatman. The truth is that they are always present in his
heart. When he mearly resolved to pass on the Vedas to Bramha the
latter instantly received them. And with their sound he began the work
The Tamil Tevaram describes Isvara as "Vediya Vedagita". It says that
the Lord keeps singing the hymns of various sakas or recensions of the
Vedas. How are we to understand the statement that the "Lord sees the
Vedas"? Breathing itself is music. Our out-breath is called
"hamsa-gita". Thus, the Vedas are the music of the Lord's breath. The
Thevaran goes on : "Wearing the sacred thread and the holy ashes, and
bathing all the time, Isvara keeps singing the Vedas". The impression
one has from this description is that the Lord is a great
"ghanapathin". Apparsvamigal refers to the ashes resembling milk
applied to the body of Isvara which is like coral. He says that the
Lord "chants" the Vedas, " sings " them, not that he creates ( or
created ) them. In the Vaisnava Divya Prabandham too there are many
references to Vedic sacrifices. But some how I donot remember any
reference in it to the Lord chanting the Vedas.
In the story of Gajendramoksa told by the Puhazhendi Pulavar ( a Tamil
Vaishnava saint - poet), the elephant whose leg is caught in the jaws
of the crocodile cries in anguish. "Adimulame" [vocative in Tamil of
Adimula, the Primordial Lord]. The Lord thereupon appears, asking
"What? " The poet says that Mahavisnu "stood before the Vedas"
("Vedattin mum ninran"). According to the poet the lord stood infront
of the Vedas, not that he appeared at a time earlier than the
scriptures. The Tamil for "A man stood at the door" is "Vittin mun
ninran". So "Vedattin mun ninran" should be understood as "he stood at
the comencement of all the Vedas". Another idea occurs to me. How is
Perumal (Visnu or any other Vaisnava deity ) taken in procession?
Preceeding the utsava-murthy ( processional deity) are the devotees
reciting the Tiruvaymozhi. And behind the processional deity is the
group reciting the Vedas. Here too we may say that the Lord stood
before the Vedas ("Vedattin mun ninran").
In the visnava Agamas and puranas, Mahavisnu is refered to specially
as "Yajnaswaroopin" ( one personifying the sacrifice) and as
"Vedaswaroopin" ( one who personifies the Vedas). Garuda is also
called "Vedaswarupa". But non of these texts is known to refer to
Visnu as the creator of the Vedas.
It is only in the "Purusasukta", occuring in the Vedas themselves,
that the Vedas are said to have been "born" "(ajayatha)". However,
this hymn is of symbolical and allegorical signifcance and not to be
understood in a literal sense. It states that the Parama-purusa (the
Supreme Being) for sacrifice as an animal and that it was in this
sacrifice that creation itself was accomplished. It was at this time
that the Vedas also made their appearence. How are we to understand
the statement that the Parama-purusa was offered as a sacrificial
animal? Not in a literal sense. In this sacrifice the season of spring
was offered as an oblation (ahuthi) instead of ghee : summer served
the purpose of samidhs (fire sticks); autum havis (oblation). Only
those who meditate on the mantras and become absorbed in them will
know there meaning inwardly as a matter of experience. So we can not
construe the statement literally that the Vedas were "born".
To the modern mind the claim that the breath of Isvara is manifested
in the form of sound seems nonsensical, also that it was with this
sound that Bramha performed his function of creation. But on careful
reflection you will realise that the belief is based on a great
I do not mean to say that we must accept the Vedas only if they
conform to present-day science. Nor do I think that our scripture,
which proclaims the truth of the Paramatman and is beyond the reach of
science and scientist, ought to be brought within the ken of science.
Many matters pertaining to the Vedas may not seems to be in conformity
with science and for that reason they are not to be treated as wrong.
But our present subject -- how the breath of the Parmatman can become
sound and how the function of creation can be carried out withit -- is
in keeping with science.
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