Difference between Ved, Vedas, Vedanta, Vedic Culture, and Vedic Meditation
What is the difference between Ved, Vedas, Vedanta, Vedic Culture, and Vedic Meditation? It's easy to assume that all of these mean the same thing but one couldn’t be further from the truth.
The Vedas refer to a massive body of texts that originated in ancient India since the beginning of time. These were revealed to the seven Rishis or sages known as the Saptrishis, the first beings on the planet, who were entrusted with the task of protecting this knowledge and transferring it to the world. These texts are composed in Sanskrit and can be considered the richest source of knowledge on any subject. All languages, scriptures, past, present, future, and any information on any subject come from the Vedas themselves. Think of it like the first encyclopedia which also contained religious and spiritual texts and not just information. In fact, everything that science is proving and re-proving today, the Vedas have already started since the beginning of time.
The word Ved/Veda itself means knowledge. Vedas is the plural form of Ved/Veda.
The Vedas can be divided into 4 categories:
- Rigveda contained information on proper religious observances and practices but also the fundamental questions about the nature of existence and the path towards the Divine.
- Yajurveda means Worship or Ritual Knowledge which involves rituals, mantras, and chants.
- Samveda contains hymns, chants, and bhajans. It is also known as Song Knowledge.
- Atharvaveda is quite different from the other Vedas. Its knowledge is filled with the occult, spells, what one must do in the time of marriages, deaths, prayers, and other ceremonies.
Each of these also has its own subdivisions:
- Samhitas consist of mantras and benedictions
- Aranyakas are texts on rituals, ceremonies, and sacrifices
- Brahmanas are commentaries on the above rituals, ceremonies, and sacrifices
- Upanishads (which are most commonly discussed) are texts discussing meditation, philosophy, and spiritual knowledge)
There are also sub-Vedas known as Upvedas. The word up means subsidiary. These can be divided into:
- Ayurveda - Ayu means to age. Ayurveda is the science of increasing longevity of life, ie. the science of the medicine
- Dhanurveda - the science of archery and the making of its related devices
- Gandharvaveda - the science of music and sacred dance
- Shilpaveda - the science of sculpting and architecture
- Arthveda - the science of money, finance, sociology, and economics
Vedic Culture is the culture that has existed since the creation of the Vedas and the beginning of mankind (according to mythology) until the time of Kalyuga. To explain this, let us first briefly describe the Yugas. A Yuga is a large period of time. There are four dharmic yugas or ages, namely,
The Saptrishis were the first beings on this planet. They received the knowledge of the Vedas directly transmitted to them by Lord Vishnu, the God of Balance. Their task was to protect the valuable information it contained and pass it on to humans so humans knew how to live on the planet, survive and eventually attain Moksh or liberation. With the first Humans, came the time of the Satyayug. Kaam and Rati were the first humans from whom more were procreated and then civilization and Satyayug began. This period was a time of truth and perfection. All humans were inherently good. During this period, there weren't books nor any way to note down information. Knowledge was passed on from Gurus to disciples. This was the time of Guru Shishya Parampara lineage and what is known as the Vedic culture.
Gu means dark and ru means light. So Guru is darkness to light.
Shishya is the student of a Guru
Parampara is an uninterrupted succession
Gurus have a huge responsibility and are responsible for you. It was a time when you trusted the Guru for all your knowledge on how to live. He knew the answers to everything that’s good for you and would guide you on your path. A Guru-disciple relationship was the means of education at the time and there were no other formal means. When a child grew to the age of 5 years he was sent to a Guru to live and learn with. Knowledge is passed orally through the spiritual, intellectual, and emotional bond between the two of them. It is also a form of Bhakti devotion where the shishya is obedient and very devoted to the Guru; there is total surrender. The belief is that the Guru can impart the knowledge that will lead to Moksha or liberation from the cycle of rebirth. When the time came for the Guru to pass on into his next life, he would make sure he had passed all his knowledge to his disciples and it was their duty to pass this in the same way to their disciples.
(Please note: In Hindi, the guru is not the same as a teacher, in India, we use other words Shishak, Adhyapak and in today’s day, we just say Sir)
With every Yuga that came after, the lineage and tradition of Gurus started to decline. Around 200 years after Kalyug began, Gautam Buddha was born and became one of the greatest Gurus whose teachings still live on today through all his disciples. In fact, Buddhists still follow the Guru Shishya Parampara tradition. The crucifixion of Christ symbolized the killing of one of the greatest Gurus and with his death, the tradition of Guru Shishya Parampara ended along with what is called Vedic Culture.
So every time we refer to Vedic culture we are actually referring to the time of Guru Shishya Parampara. Since it doesn’t exist anymore, it was given the name Vedic culture.
During this time, there wasn’t as much information that existed on the planet as today. Life was simpler. With the coming of Kalyug, and especially in today’s day and age, the amount of information that we are exposed to on a daily basis is ridiculous. Our phones are our biggest boon and bane. Due to the amount of processing that is required for our brains, it has become increasingly difficult for our minds to shut off when we close our eyes. In the past, there were no meditation techniques. One would shut their eyes and just go into a meditative state, there would be no thought of trying to control the breath. This was called Vedic Mediation. It is what existed before the age of technology and information and is still practiced by many who have grown up in the tradition today or those who have not been overexposed to civilized modern ways.
Vedanta literally means the end of the Vedas. Veda refers to the sacred texts while anta means the end. It is the pursuit of knowledge into the Brahman (the ultimate) and Atman(soul or higher self) and is aligned with many of the teachings that are contained in the Upanishads, the Brahma Sutras, and the Bhagavad Gita.