Salutations to Vyāsa (Part 2)

In the earlier era, Vedic literature was one large body of wisdom with different ṛṣis having memorized different ṛks and mantras; different mantras had become scattered across different regions of the land. Had this situation continued, over a period of time there would have arisen a possibility of the Vedas getting destroyed; this would have resulted in an impediment to dharma and to culture. With extraordinary effort, Vyāsa consolidated the vast Vedic literature, organized the compositions into ṛks, mantras, and segments that were appropriate to be sung [sāmans], thus giving a wonderful structure to the Vedas thus helping its propagation in a methodical manner. In this manner, Ṛg-veda, Yajur-veda, and Sāma-veda were crystallized. (Because the Vedas were divided based on style of composition and method of study, the Atharva-veda too becomes a part of the traditional ‘trayī’).

For the sake of universal welfare Vyāsa composed the Purāṇas, a combination of history, poetry, and instruction. He wanted to present important topics in an attractive manner for common people. Profound principles, aspects of sṛṣṭi-laya-svarga-naraka (loosely, ‘creation,’ ‘dissolution,’ ‘heaven,’ ‘hell’), formulae for conducting a meaningful life, great people and important historical episodes from thousands of years, the life-stories of devas and ṛṣis – all these find a place in the Purāṇas. Of these, the following eighteen works are deemed as Mahā-purāṇas –

1. Matsya-purāṇa

2. Mārkāṇḍeya-purāṇa

3. Bhaviṣya-purāṇa

4. Bhāgavata-purāṇa

5. Brahma-purāṇa

6. Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa

7. Brahmavaivarta-purāṇa

8. Vārāha-purāṇa

9. Vāyu-purāṇa

10. Vāmana-purāṇa

11. Viṣṇu-purāṇa

12. Agni-purāṇa

13. Nārada-purāṇa

14. Padma-purāṇa

15. Liṅga-purāṇa

16. Garuḍa-purāṇa

17. Kūrma-purāṇa

18. Skānda-purāṇa

Apart from these, we also have several Laghu-purāṇas, Upa-purāṇas, [Upopa-purāṇas,] and Ati-purāṇas.

The Purāṇas are expansive encyclopaedic works that contain fundamental narratives about the following – the magnificent principles that gave structure to Sanātana-dharma, noble human values, those remarkable individuals whom the tradition has upheld as ideals, several historical episodes, aphorisms that assist the smooth running of daily life, paths for practice that lead to a better quality of life, means and methods to achieve friendship and affection for society, etc.

There is an episode in the Vāyu-purāṇa that speaks of how Veda-vyāsa toiled to compile the Purāṇas for the welfare of the world and having done so, he taught it to his disciple Lomaharṣaṇa, who then divided the Purāṇa collection and taught six of his disciples – Ātreya, Kāśyapa,  Bhāradvāja, Vāsiṣṭha, Sāvarṇi, and Śāṃśapāyana. Similarly, with a view of preserving the body of Vedic literature, Vyāsa taught the Ṛg-veda to Paila, Yajur-veda to Vaiśampāyana, Sāma-veda to Jaimini, and Atharva-veda to Sumantu. The various branches of the Veda were preserved because of these four luminaries and their student lineage propagating them over the years.

Moving higher, with a view to crystallize philosophical insights and visions that the Vedas inspired, Vyāsa put together all the siddhāntas (conclusive principles) in sūtras (aphorisms), which makes it convenient to remember and to put into practice. This compilation gained fame as Brahma-sūtra or Bādarāyaṇa-sūtra and became the foundation for all schools of philosophical thought in India.

Vyāsa has created a phenomenal encyclopaedia— the Mahābhārata—which contains instructions on dharma, and complementary to that, historical episodes from the lives of people spread over thousands of years describing how they dealt with problems of their time.

The Itihāsa treatise Mahābhārata is the most resplendent of Vyāsa’s creations and serves as a representative of the cultural heritage of India. One who seriously studies this work can obtain a holistic vision of the Indian ideals of life. It is owing to this greatness that the Epic has been hailed as the ‘fifth Veda’ by our tradition.

Lying on the bed of arrows, the long-drawn counsel that Bhīṣma gives Yudhiṣṭhira is in itself a great anthology on Rāja-dharma (principles of polity) and ideals of society.

There is a well-known dharma-śāstra treatise called ‘Vyāsa-smṛti,’ which is a stand-alone work comprising all the fundamental principles and instruction on dharma that are found in the Epic along with guidance on how to tread the dharma-path in daily life.

Even after he organized the body of Vedic literature and divided it, compiled the Itihāsa-Purāṇas, and composed the Mahābhārata, for some reason Veda-vyāsa’s heart was yet disturbed, unsettled. He felt he had not done enough for the welfare of the world. At that point, Maharṣi Nārada visited Vyāsa. Upon the suggestion given by Nārada, he composed a great work that further delineated the greatness and grace of Śrīkṛṣṇa in more distinct terms – Śrīmad-bhāgavata. It is only then did Vyāsa feel satisfied. This story is narrated in the Bhāgavata itself.

The enthusiasm to educate the world, compassion, excellence in governance and politics, the dharma of friendship, the dharma of warfare, skill in transactions, spiritual awakening, advocacy of the awareness of dharma, punishment of the wicked, protection of the honest ones – tens of such qualities come together in the personality of Śrīkṛṣṇa. Veda-vyāsa has laid out the life-story of this supreme personality in the great Epic and it is impossible to put a price to this treasure-trove for humans.

viśvava dharisiha dharmava
śāśvatavaḍisalkè viśva-vibhu paramātman
naśvara-tanuviṃ vārṣṇi ma–।
nuṣyākāradali baṃdananukaṃpārdraṃ[1]

To make dharma—which sustains the world—eternal,
the world-splendour, the Supreme,
took a mortal body—as a man—among the Vrṣṇis,
out of compassion and affection
mānava-hita śikṣārthaṃ
dhyānisida vyāsa-kaviya hṛdayāṃgaṇadòḻ
bhānaṃgòṃḍadbhutam-adu
mānava-rūpiṃdè kṛṣṇanènisitu citraṃ[2]

With a view to educate people, the poet Vyāsa contemplated and in the landscape of his heart
was born that astonishing character Kṛṣṇa,
sublimity in human form

The Bhagavad-gītā, which is a part of the Epic, is a summary of the teachings of all the Upaniṣads; it has earned the respect of people across space and time, thus cementing its place as a unique treatise of jīvana-dharma in the world.

jagadòḻ daivyam-asuryam-èṃbèraḍum-èṃduṃ porutirkuṃ nisa–।
rga-guṇa-kṣobhègaḻiṃdè pauruṣakè kāryaṃ klṛptamā nityasaṃ–॥
yugadòḻ sattvavanètti tāmasa-rajassaṃ solipā śauryadòḻ
bhagavad-gītèyupāsakargè balam-uṃṭèṃduṃ jayaṃ maṃgaḻaṃ[3]

The divine and the demonic – these two
are forever battling in the world
The turbulence in the natural guṇas
causes stress on Free Will
The valour to uphold sattva in daily life
and defeat tamas and rajas
Those who invoke the Gītā will have strength
Let there be victory and auspiciousness!

As long as we—the heirs of this treasure-house of wisdom bestowed upon us by Maharṣi Veda-vyāsa—preserve with devotion his teachings and bring them into practice in our daily lives, till such time the vigour and the brilliance of the cultural heritage of India will remain; there is no doubt about this.

Concluded.

This is the second part of a two-part translation of the essay ವ್ಯಾಸ ನಮನ written for a booklet published on the occasion of the inauguration of the Bangalore chapter of Akhila Bhāratīya Sāhitya Pariṣat (Gurupūṇimā, July 2014).

 

Footnotes

[1] ವಿಶ್ವವ ಧರಿಸಿಹ ಧರ್ಮವ।
ಶಾಶ್ವತವಡಿಸಲ್ಕೆ ವಿಶ್ವವಿಭು ಪರಮಾತ್ಮನ್॥
ನಶ್ವರತನುವಿಂ ವಾರ್ಷ್ಣಿ ಮ–।
ನುಷ್ಯಾಕಾರದಲಿ ಬಂದನನುಕಂಪಾರ್ದ್ರಂ॥

– D V Gundappa’s Śrīkṛṣṇa-parīkṣaṇam, Part 2. Avataraṇikè, verse 6

[2] ಮಾನವಹಿತ ಶಿಕ್ಷಾರ್ಥಂ।
ಧ್ಯಾನಿಸಿದ ವ್ಯಾಸಕವಿಯ ಹೃದಯಾಂಗಣದೊಳ್॥
ಭಾನಂಗೊಂಡದ್ಭುತಮದು।
ಮಾನವರೂಪಿಂದೆ ಕೃಷ್ಣನೆನಿಸಿತು ಚಿತ್ರಂ॥

– D V Gundappa’s Śrīkṛṣṇa-parīkṣaṇam, Part 2. Avataraṇikè, verse 9

[3] ಜಗದೊಳ್ ದೈವ್ಯಮಸುರ್ಯಮೆಂಬೆರಡುಮೆಂದುಂ ಪೋರುತಿರ್ಕುಂ ನಿಸ–।
ರ್ಗಗುಣಕ್ಷೋಭೆಗಳಿಂದೆ ಪೌರುಷಕೆ ಕಾರ್ಯಂ ಕ್ಲ ೃಪ್ತಮಾ ನಿತ್ಯಸಂ–॥
ಯುಗದೊಳ್ ಸತ್ತ್ವವನೆತ್ತಿ ತಾಮಸರಜಸ್ಸಂ ಸೋಲಿಪಾ ಶೌರ್ಯದೊಳ್।
ಭಗವದ್ಗೀತೆಯುಪಾಸಕರ್ಗೆ ಬಲಮುಂಟೆಂದುಂ ಜಯಂ ಮಂಗಳಂ॥

(Concluding verse of D V Gundappa’s Jīvana-dharma-yoga)

 

Author(s)

About:

Dr. S R Ramaswamy is a renowned journalist, writer, art critic, environmentalist, and social activist. He has authored over fifty books and thousands of articles. He was a close associate of greats like D. V. Gundappa and Rallapalli Anantakrishna Sharma. He is currently the honorary Editor-in-Chief of Utthana and the Honorary Secretary of the Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs.

Translator(s)

About:

Hari is a writer, translator, violinist, and designer with a deep interest in Vedanta, Carnatic music, education pedagogy design, and literature. He has worked on books like The New Bhagavad-Gita, Your Dharma and Mine, Srishti, and Foggy Fool's Farrago.

Prekshaa Publications

Prekṣaṇīyam is an anthology of essays on Indian classical dance and theatre authored by multifaceted scholar and creative genius, Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh. As a master of śāstra, a performing artiste (of the ancient art of Avadhānam), and a cultured rasika, he brings a unique, holistic perspective...

Yaugandharam

इदं किञ्चिद्यामलं काव्यं द्वयोः खण्डकाव्ययोः सङ्कलनरूपम्। रामानुरागानलं हि सीतापरित्यागाल्लक्ष्मणवियोगाच्च श्रीरामेणानुभूतं हृदयसङ्क्षोभं वर्णयति । वात्सल्यगोपालकं तु कदाचिद्भानूपरागसमये घटितं यशोदाश्रीकृष्णयोर्मेलनं वर्णयति । इदम्प्रथमतया संस्कृतसाहित्ये सम्पूर्णं काव्यं...

Vanitakavitotsavah

इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।

Vaiphalyaphalam

इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।

Nipunapraghunakam

इयं रचना दशसु रूपकेष्वन्यतमस्य भाणस्य निदर्शनतामुपैति। एकाङ्करूपकेऽस्मिन् शेखरकनामा चित्रोद्यमलेखकः केनापि हेतुना वियोगम् अनुभवतोश्चित्रलेखामिलिन्दकयोः समागमं सिसाधयिषुः कथामाकाशभाषणरूपेण निर्वहति।

Bharavatarastavah

अस्मिन् स्तोत्रकाव्ये भगवन्तं शिवं कविरभिष्टौति। वसन्ततिलकयोपनिबद्धस्य काव्यस्यास्य कविकृतम् उल्लाघनाभिधं व्याख्यानं च वर्तते।

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the third volume, some character sketches of great literary savants responsible for Kannada renaissance during the first half of the twentieth century. These remarkable...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the second volume, episodes from the lives of remarkable exponents of classical music and dance, traditional storytellers, thespians, and connoisseurs; as well as his...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the first volume, episodes from the lives of great writers, poets, literary aficionados, exemplars of public life, literary scholars, noble-hearted common folk, advocates...

Evolution of Mahabharata and Other Writings on the Epic is the English translation of S R Ramaswamy's 1972 Kannada classic 'Mahabharatada Belavanige' along with seven of his essays on the great epic. It tells the riveting...

Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...

Bharatilochana

ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...

Vagarthavismayasvadah

“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...