Vedic literature is neither dead nor archaic. Nevertheless, any literature-be it ancient or modern-must be considered non-Vedic if it deviates from the Vedic siddhänta Thus Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism, though definitely outgrowths of Vedic literature, are not considered Vedic. Even the conception of Hinduism is alien to the Vedic conclusion, as we shall see later.

The Vedic scriptures are vast in scope. The Åg Veda alone contains 1,017 hymns, the Mahäbhärata consists of 110,000 couplets, and the eighteen chief Puräëas contain hundreds of thousands of verses. We may ask, "Why do these writings exist? Where did they come from? Who wrote them?" The present book searches out the answers to our questions in the Vedic çästras themselves.

 


 

The Purpose of the Vedic Literature

As its main purpose, the Vedic literature imparts knowledge of self-realization and, therefore, liberation (mokña) from suffering. Generally, scholars agree that the goal of Indian thought is to attain the truth, "the recognition of which leads to freedom". Every Indian system seeks truth, not as academic, 'knowledge for its own sake,' but to learn the truth which shall make all men free." 4 Indeed, Indian thought strives not for information but for transformation. 5 Bhagavad-gétä describes knowledge as "accepting the importance of self-realization, and philosophical search for the Absolute Truth." 6 Yet if people think they are progressing on the path of material happiness, they will not seek to transform themselves. Hence, another important realization-janma-måtyu-jarä-vyädhi-duùkha-doñänudarçanam: "perception of the evil of birth, death, old age, and disease" (Bhagavad-gétä 13.9). Uncompromisingly, the Vedic literature asserts that despite its apparent joys, material life means suffering. Vedic knowledge purports to free the sincere inquirer from that suffering.