In this article, we shall discuss the concept of eternity of Vedas. Just as Ishwar is eternal, so is His knowledge.
Doubt: Vedas comprise of words, phrases and verses. Just as a sculpture is not formed without someone making it, in same manner Vedas must also have been made by someone. They did not exist before creation and shall not exist after dissolution. Hence Vedas cannot be eternal.
1. Words (Shabda) are of two types – eternal and effect. Words in knowledge of Ishwar are eternal because they represent relation with specific perfect knowledge. However the words created by us are effects of various factors including our existing knowledge, tendencies and mindsets and hence non-eternal.
The knowledge of Ishwar is eternal in lines of eternal powers of Ishwar. Thus Vedas are eternal.
2. Let us understand it in a different manner. By words we imply the relation with specific knowledge. For example, when someone calls or writes your name, that pronunciation or handwriting is not eternal. But the fact that it implies relation with you in unchangeable. If one has to represent you in sound, calling your name would be the best possible way. But pronunciation of name is not you. However you remain unchanged.
Similarly the words printed in Vedas or their pronunciations are not eternal. However the knowledge that they represent is eternal.
3. Alternatively, Vedas represent eternal knowledge. The best representation of Vedas in sound is the mantras we chant and best representation of Vedas in vision is the print of mantras. This is just like best representation of you on a plain paper is your photo.
Because we are ignorant, we are unable to grasp the full meaning of Vedas from what we listen or see. But in Ishwar’s perfection, which is devoid of such ignorance, Vedas represent eternal knowledge.
4. As we progress in our efforts to free ourselves from ignorance, Vedas become clearer and clearer to us. That is why it is fruitless to simply mug up Vedic mantras. What is actually mugged up is non-eternal. Only when those mantras become representation of knowledge they imply, that we actually understand the eternal Vedas.
5. This eternity is what differentiates Vedas from other books like Quran, Bible etc. Because Vedas represent eternal knowledge that can be progressively grasped to utmost capacity of soul only when progressively freed from ignorance, blind belief in book called Vedas or sounds of mantras without understanding them is fruitless. Because when we do so, we are trying to master the non-eternal. Unless and until that relationship with eternal knowledge exists, mugging up Vedas, or worshipping cover of Vedas, or believing that Vedas worship will lead us to Heaven even though we do not understand it, is sheer stupidity.
6. Thus this concept of eternity forms the foundation of principle of tolerance imbibed in Vedas. There is no concept of compulsion or blind belief like in Islam or Christianity. Vedas are not supposed to represent beginning points of blind belief for ignorant souls. On contrary, Vedas represent the ultimate benchmarks of knowledge that can be fully understood when fully devoid of ignorance. So one is expected to simply follow path of truth, do thorough introspection, extend one’s capabilities and then embrace Vedas in a more organic manner rather than through brute-force blind faith.
Doubt: When the universe dissolves completely, even the books of Vedas get destroyed and even study of Vedas stops. Why are then Vedas eternal?
1. As discussed earlier, Vedas do not represent books, paper, ink etc. They represent ‘relation’ between Shabda (sound/word) and knowledge. In other words, they are the ‘best or most perfect representation’ of eternal knowledge in sound/words. When the universe dissolves, even then the eternal knowledge remains same in Ishwar. It is in hidden form, because there is no creation to manifest it in sounds/words. But just as sapling remains hidden in seed, Vedas still remain and germinate when creation happens again and opportunity arises to represent this eternal knowledge in sound/words.
2. Rigveda 10.190.3 states that Ishwar creates the universe exactly in same manner as it created previously. Thus in all creations, the same sounds/words perfectly represent the eternal knowledge of Vedas. Hence the same Vedas, as we see or hear today, represent the eternal knowledge always without an iota of change.
3. And hence in each creation, Ishwar institutes the method of preserving Vedas in same manner through Paatha Vidhis and Maatra markups as earlier. Thus Vedas remain as protected even in mundane world as always.
Doubt: As per texts of grammar, union of certain alphabets lead to change and removal of alphabets as in Sandhi. Thus words would be different when separated and when united. How can then words be eternal?
1. As discussed above, such rules of grammar are only effects. They are not cause – the knowledge. Even when words change as per rules of grammar, the knowledge they represent remains eternal. Hence Vedas remain eternal.
2. As per Aarsh texts, Shabda or words mean the “meaning” that is embraced when we hear from ears, see from eyes, speak from ‘mouth’ and understand from ‘intellect’. Thus Shabda is not non-eternal, only physical process of grasping or propagating Shadba is.
3. If you and me say the same word, both produce different sound patterns. But the meaning is unchanged. Hence Vedas – the knowledge of Ishwar – is eternal regardless of way we speak or combine words as per grammar.
Doubt: Even Shabda get destroyed after pronunciation. And they do not exist before pronunciation. How can then Shabda be eternal?
1. This is the problem. You are misrepresenting the meaning of ‘Shabda’ as per your own conceptions. As discussed earlier, Shabda represents relationship with knowledge. This relationship is eternal and unchanged. Pronunciation is an effect and hence not eternal. But regardless of pronunciation happening or not, the relation of a particular pronunciation with the meaning it represents is eternal.
2. In fact all Shabda are eternal, as propounded by scholars of grammar like Panini and Vyas. And hence those Shabda that represents eternal knowledge to maximize our bliss – the Vedas – are also eternal.
All the Darshans – Meemansa by Jaimini (1.1.18), Vaisheshik by Kanad ( 1.1.3), Nyaya by Gautam (2.1.67), Yoga by Patanjali (1.26), Sankhya by Kapil (5.51) and Vedanta by Vyas (1.1.3) consider Shadba to be eternal. Shankaracharya also states the same in his commentary on Vedanta.
Finally, Yajurveda 40.8 lists the properties of Ishwar as follows:
Paryagat – Omnipresent,
Shukram – All-powerful,
Avranam – Without any gaps,
Asnaviram – Without nerves, arteries and veins,
Shuddham – Perfectly devoid of ignorance or miseries
Apaapaviddham – Pious
Kavi – Knower of all
Manishi – Intelligent
Paribhoo – Controls everything and everyone
Swayambhoo – Unborn
Shashwateebhya – Eternal
Arthan Vyadadhaat – Provides true knowledge
Hence he eternally provides us with His true eternal knowledge of Vedas.
Further, something cannot happen from nothing and existence cannot spring up from non-existence. Hence if Vedas are available today, they have to be eternal always. If Ishwar has always been the same, he shall always bless us with his eternal knowledge.
We see that experience gives rise to sanskaars (tendencies or habits), sanskaars give rise to memory and we use this memory to decide what to accept and what to reject. One who studies Sanskrit creates sanskaars of Sanskrit in his mind and one who studies Latin creates sanskaars of Latin in his mind. Thus, if Ishwar did not give guidance of Vedas in inception of civilization, no human could have experienced knowledge and without experience even sanskaar of knowledge would not have been possible. Without sanskaar, even memory would have failed and hence growth of knowledge would not have been possible. Thus unless Ishwar kickstarts this process at inception of civilization, this process of pursuit of knowledge would not have started at all, just as it did not start in other species of animal world.
Doubt: But even by normal actions, humans feel pain and pleasure and they could have used that to gradually enhance knowledge and then create Vedas. Why then we need to believe that Ishwar created Vedas?
We have already discussed this doubt in article on Origin of Vedas. We deduced that no species or even tribes in jungles or an isolated child can enhance knowledge beyond most primitive level barely sufficient for survival, unless provided knowledge externally.
For example, Chimpanzees do not feel the need to introspect on death and life even when they see so many of them dying. If humans think so much on this, it has to have origin through external training. Unless Ishwar guides us at beginning of civilization, we would remain animals.
Eternal Ishwar and His eternal knowledge
Eternal entities have eternal traits. And non-eternal entities have non-eternal traits. Because the entity is identified by its traits only.
Destruction is nothing but disaggregation of elements that create something to be no more perceived by our senses; and creation is combination of elements to form something that can be perceived by senses.
Thus only those objects are created or destroyed in which aggregation and disaggregation is feasible.
Since Ishwar is omnipresent without gaps, it is impossible for Ishwar to disaggregate. Hence Ishwar is eternal and so is His knowledge.
Vaishek 4.1 states that only that is non-eternal which is effect of some other cause. For example, the pot was effect of clay coming together. So pot is non-eternal. Similarly, clay was effect of certain atoms coming together. So clay is also non-eternal. But fundamental entity that forms the atoms is eternal.
In same way Ishwar is also eternal as He is not effect of any other cause. And hence His knowledge – the Vedas – is also eternal.