[Advaita-l] Question/Clarification on Chanting Vaidika mantras

S Jayanarayanan sjayana at yahoo.com
Wed Nov 1 23:46:11 EDT 2017

Balasubramanian Ramakrishnan <rama.balasubramanian at gmail.com> wrote:
> People have been quoting from the ChAndogya bhAShya, etc., which I have in fact quoted decades prior on this list.
> I am aware of all these references and more. I reiterate - knowing meanings is next to irrelevant for most people.
> Unless the correct procedure is known or the Veda is chanted perfectly, thinking about the meaning, etc., is just
> completely useless. In real life I see out of a 1000 who chant, may be a handful chanting properly. This is even
> in India unless it’s a congregation of paNDitas. But 100% are ready to bloviate with references from Upanishads,
> bhAShas, inner meanings and what have you. 
It appears as if you're saying that:
(1) For Pandits or serious Vedic Scholars (e.g. those who participate in debates in Sanskrit): Knowing the meanings of Mantras is relevant. (Like "it's their job").
(2) For the Average person (e.g. "Devadatta"): Knowing the meanings of Mantras is completely irrelevant. Only pronunciation and pitch [svara] are relevant.
It is obvious that (1) is true.
As for (2), it's a "social" issue more than anything else. Not sure I agree fully. Of course, pronunciation and pitch [svara] are far more important than meaning so far as Vedic chanting is concerned. However, I believe there is some value in knowing the meaning of Veda Mantras even for the second group.
An example will help illustrate this. Vedic tradition holds that every twice-born (dvija) must learn the Purusha Suktam by-heart. My personal opinion is that all those who learn the Purusha Suktam should (ideally) know the meaning of these FOUR sentences contained therein:
1) VedaahametaM puruShaM mahaantam .
"I know the Glory of this Purusha!"
2) Aaditya varNaM tamasastu pare .
"Shining like the Sun, beyond all darkness!"
3) tamevaM vidvaan amRRita iha bhavati .
"Knowing Him alone one attains Immortality here!"
4) naanyaH panthaa ayanaaya vidyate .
"I know no other path (to Immortality) besides this!"
The four statements above are the very heart of the Vedic religion! Although the Mahavakyas technically belong to the Upanishads, the above four Mantras of the Purusha Suktam come very close to being called "Mahavakyas of the Karma Kanda". If a person recites the Purusha Suktam without knowing the meaning of the above Mantras, fine. No problem! However, it is "very good" to know their meaning. Again, not necessary to know the entire gamut of Veda Mantras to respect and appreciate profundity of the meaning of these four Mantras from the Purusha Suktam.

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