Are the Vedas actually ambiguous or just nonspecific about ultimate purpose?
From Nagesh P
Question- Are the Vedas unstructured or non-specific rather than ambiguous about a particular purpose? This question is based on my gitadaily article – Let the Gita lead from the voluminous ambiguous expanse of the Vedas to their essence
- Vedas do have a structure and a specific purpose but since they are vast and provide instructions to various levels of people, it is easy to get lost or confused.
- Example of such non-clarity of purpose is seen even in the exalted characters of the Vedic literature.
- The purpose of the Vedas is best understood with the help of great saintly teachers – mahajanas, and not just by merely studying Vedas.
Answer (long)- Vedas are a vast body of knowledge that provides instructions to the various levels of people. Even to vast majority materialistically minded people. Difficulty in discerning their ultimate purpose is depicted even in the Srimad Bhagvatam at several occasions. For instance when Parikshit Maharaja is preparing for death, and at that time he asked what should he do. At that moment, there were many opinions even among the great sages that were assembled over there. All those sages were from the Vedic fold itself, but unable to decide what is the essential conclusion. That is why when Shukadeva Goswami comes, they all hear from him. He says that one should hear about the Supreme Lord – srotavyadisu yah parah (SB 2.1.1).
Similarly in Srimad Bhagvatam we see at many places that there are even exalted characters which are misled. King Pracinabarhi in the fourth canto of Bhagavatam is described as a person who was following Vedas regularly but he was focusing mainly on animal sacrifice. In the tenth canto we see yagyik Brahmanas who are only focused on fire sacrifices and they forget to worship the yagyeshwar, Vishnu, who comes to them in the form of Krishna sending his representative cowherd boys begging for food, but the brahmanas refused to give them food.
Are the Vedas unstructured?
No, they are structured but in the sense that there are injunctions classified for those in goodness, passion, and ignorance. There is a progression and purposefulness in it. However, the purposefulness needs to be discerned with the help of great saintly people. The Bhagavatam describes, mahajano yena gatah sa panthah (one should follow in the footsteps of great liberated souls, mahajanas). What this means is that the essence of dharma is not just understood by studying the Vedas, but it is situated in the heart of great devotees.
Further, it is stated that when we work towards moving up in our spiritual life, if we are fortunate we get the Vedic conclusion – vedaish ca sarvair ahameva vedyo (BG 15.15)- i.e. Krishna is the purpose of the Vedas. Even after knowing this, if we start studying Vedas, their vastness, multiple level of guidelines, etc. can confuse even us, who know its ultimate purpose.
The clarity regarding the purpose of the Vedas is there in the mind of its author- Srila Vyasdeva. At the start of Srimad Bhagavatam, we see that Vyasadeva mentions his dissatisfaction, even though he had compiled the Vedas and Puranas, but he forgot to deliver on his original purpose which was to glorify the Supreme Lord. Due to this, neither was he satisfied, nor his spiritual master, Narada Muni, was satisfied. That is why he wrote Srimad Bhagavatam to show – yasho bhagvato amala – where the glory of the Supreme Lord is sung spotlessly i.e. without any diversions.
Vedas do have inner purpose, but from our perspective, which includes people both from kaliyuga and past, understanding and pursuing the purpose of the Vedas can be difficult, if they do not have the guidance of saintly devotees of the Lord. It is by their guidance we learn the purpose of the Vedas and fulfill that purpose by becoming devoted to Krishna.