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 –
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–।
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
dhyānisida vyāsa-kaviya hṛdayāṃgaṇadòḻ॥
mānava-rūpiṃdè kṛṣṇanènisitu citraṃ॥
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॥
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.
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).
 ವಿಶ್ವವ ಧರಿಸಿಹ ಧರ್ಮವ।
ಶಾಶ್ವತವಡಿಸಲ್ಕೆ ವಿಶ್ವವಿಭು ಪರಮಾತ್ಮನ್॥
ನಶ್ವರತನುವಿಂ ವಾರ್ಷ್ಣಿ ಮ–।
– D V Gundappa’s Śrīkṛṣṇa-parīkṣaṇam, Part 2. Avataraṇikè, verse 6
 ಮಾನವಹಿತ ಶಿಕ್ಷಾರ್ಥಂ।
ಧ್ಯಾನಿಸಿದ ವ್ಯಾಸಕವಿಯ ಹೃದಯಾಂಗಣದೊಳ್॥
ಮಾನವರೂಪಿಂದೆ ಕೃಷ್ಣನೆನಿಸಿತು ಚಿತ್ರಂ॥
– D V Gundappa’s Śrīkṛṣṇa-parīkṣaṇam, Part 2. Avataraṇikè, verse 9
 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)