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Maharishi Vyasa, architect of Vedas

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Maharishi Vyasa, architect of Vedas

Maharishi Vyasa is one of those gigantic personalities who designed the grand civilisation of India and transformed the land into the most sacred place on the earth. Vyasa, the worthy son of the great seer Parashara and Satyavati, was an intellectual giant (visalabuddhi), a great yogi (mahayogi), holder of an ocean of knowledge and even a great social scientist and social reformer. Because of his unusual birth in an island of Yamuna, the seer is known as Dvaipayana Vyasa. He is also known as Krishna or Krishna Dvaipayana. Vyasa because of his dark physical complexion (Adi Parva). He is also known as Badarayana Vyasa.

His contribution to the erection of the grand civilisation of India is multi-dimensional and immeasurable and, perhaps, beyond the comprehensions of a common human being. Among his colossal contributions to the land, the foremost was to divide the Vedas — one of the earliest literature of not only of India but also of the whole world which was a single gamut in the beginning without classifications and divisions. It was the great seer Vyasa who systematically divided the huge volume of Vedic literature into four parts namely:  Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda and Atharvaveda and imparted them to four of his worthy disciples namelyPaila, Vaisampayana, Jaimini and Sumantu respectively for further transmission of knowledge. This division of the Vedas made it comparatively accessible to the later generation and facilitated further growth and ramifications of the literature. This grand job brought him the name ‘Veda Vyasa’.

His second extraordinary contribution to the land is the unbelievably huge literary work the Mahabharata, which has the honour of being one of the largest books in the whole world with no less than one lakh marvelous verses in it for which it is also known as Satasahasri Samhita (book of one hundred thousand slokas). The Mahabharata is not a commonplace story book with an imaginary plot but also an authentic record of past history of the country. It is one of the two grand historical works, the other one being the great Ramayana, another great documentation of past happenings of our country. These are the two significant works for which the word itihasa was coined in the vocabulary. The word itihasa which is widely used in Sanskrit and other Indian languages even at present time to mean ‘history'. It is a mixture of three words ‘Iti', ‘ha' and ‘asa', roughly meaning ‘it was like that'.

With the composition of the two great works, India acquired the honour of being the first country in the world to have recorded the past history of the land. Acceptance of these books as works of history is authenticated by profuse evidences available in the books itself (Itihasamimam, Anukramanika Parva) and in the subsequent literature composed on the land. Thus, Maharshi Vyasa is one of the first two historians not only of India but of the whole world. Apart from its being a book of history, Mahabharata is a veritable repository of Dharma (righteousness), Artha (material prosperity), Kama (gratification of permissible desires) and Moksa (liberation).

Not only this, the variegated culture of the land, various social norms and traditions of the same are perfectly knitted in the fabric of the Mahabharata. Vyasa, in this work has incorporated many social customs of the country unknown to the larger mass. He has undertaken the work of a social reformer by extending social sanctions to many unknown or little known customs of the country like polyandry, Niyoga (having a descendant for the family from a man other than one's husband), and social acceptance for the child of an unwed mother etc. In spite of its unbelievably huge size and importance, the Mahabharata was completed by the exeptionally intellectual Vyasa just in three years (Tribhirvarsaih sadothayi krisnadwaipayano munih — Adi Parva).

Vyasa is the author of the basic sutra literature of Vedanta philosophy known as Brahma Sutra too. The Brahma Sutra, divided into four parts and comprising of five hundred fifty five sutras, written on the basis of the Upanishads’ knowledge is the foundation on which the great Vedanta philosophy with all its divisions and fractions could develop.

The next contribution of maharshi Vyasa to the land is the composition of the remarkable group of literature called the Puranas which are the repository of every branch of Indian knowledge. The Purana, which literally means ‘old', is the class of literature which describes the creation, the dissolution, great happenings, great personalities, the chronology, astronomy, astrology, medical science, agriculture, veterinary and what not. The Puranas authored by Maharshi Vyasa are eighteen in number namely Matsya Purana, Markandeya Purana, Varaha Purana, Bhavishya Purana, Bhagavata Purana, Brahma Purana, Brahma Vaivarta Purana, Brahmananda Purana, Vamana Purana, Kurma Purana, Vishnu Purana, Agni Purana, Naradiya Purana, Padma Purana, Shiva Purana, Linga Purana, Garuda Purana and Skanda Purana.

He is the writer of the great commentary of The Yoga Sutras of Patañjali named after him as Vyasa-bhasya. The book The Yoga Sutras of Patañjali would not have been comprehensible to the common mind if the Vyasa-bhasya were not written on the book.

All these contributions astound a common mind and often raises a question how a human being with limited longevity could compose so many works in a single life time. But the doubt is not inexplicable. Maharshi Vyasa was a great yogi (mahayogi, Adi Parva). And yoga is that magic wand which transforms a man to a superman by breaking all the circumscribing limits of his capability. The potential of a yogi has no bound. Mahayogi Vyasa had all the siddhis of a siddha yogi. He could know the past and future within the blink of an eye. He could read the unexpressed thoughts of others (parachittajnana siddhi) and could reach anywhere with the speed of the mind (manojavitwa siddhi) and many more extraordinary capabilities of which there are copious examples in the Mahabharata. Being a yogi of the highest order he was capable of prolonging his life span according to his sweet will.

This great poet, intellectual, benevolent mahayogi Vyasa purified the land of Bharat by his birth on the full moon day of Ashadha in the Dvapara era. In commemoration, the day is named Vyasa Purnima or Guru Purnima as a gesture of gratitude. The proud descendants of this great civilisation pay their heartfelt humble obeisance at the feet of this great ancestor on the sacred day.

(The writer is director, Academy of Yoga and Oriental Studies, Bhubaneswar)




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