Archive for ‘Vedic Chanting’

December 10, 2012

Importance of intonation of Vedic Mantras – Kanchi Mahaswami

Importance of intonation of Vedic Mantras – Kanchi Mahaswami

http://www.kamakoti.org/hindudharma/part6/chap9.htm

You must not go wrong either in the enunciation or intonation of a mantra. If you do, not only will you not gain the expected benefits from it, the result might well be contrary to what is intended.

So the mantras must be chanted with the utmost care. There is a story told in the Taittiriya Samhita(2. 4. 12) to underline this.

Tvasta (the divine carpenter) wanted to take revenge on Indra for some reason and conducted a sacrifice to beget a son who would slay Indra.

When he chanted his mantra, "Indrasatrur varddhasva. ", he went wrong in the intonation.

He should have voiced "Indra" without raising or lowering the syllables in it and he should have raised the syllables "tru" and "rddha"(that is the two syllables are "udata").

Had he done so the mantra would have meant, "May Tvasta’s son grow to be the slayer of Indra".

He raised the "dra" in Indra, intoned "satru" as a falling svara and lowered the "rddha" in "varddhasva".

So the mantra meant now: "May Indra grow to be the killer of this son (of mine)".

The words of the mantra were not changed but, because of the erratic intonation, the result produced was the opposite of what was desired. The father himself thus became the cause of his son’s death at the hands of Indra.

The gist of this story is contained in this verse which cautions us against erroneous intonation.

Mantrohinah svarato varnato va Mithya prayukto na tamarthamaha

Sa vagvajro yajamanam hinasti Yathendrasatruh svarato’ paradhat

What was the weapon with which Tvasta ‘s son was killed? Not Indra’s thunderbolt but the father’s wrongly chanted mantra.

April 24, 2012

A report on First Veda Sammelanam Of North America – APRIL 14, 2012

Anugraha Bhashanam of Sringeri Acharya Swamigal for Veda Sammelanam at SVBF Stroudsburg, PA
(11 mins, in Samskritham language)

Veda Parayanam at Sringeri Vidhya Bharathi Foundation, Stroudsburg, USA
(45 mins)

Lecture Demonstration at Veda Sammelanam held at Sringeri Vidhya Bharathi Foundation, Stroudsburg, USA
By Dr YagnyaSubramaniam (1 hour 40 mins, in English language)

Part 1 http://youtu.be/H7s8XWCguoo

Part 2 http://youtu.be/U9mSJ809as8

|| Shree Gurubhyo Namaha ||

FIRST VEDA SAMMELANAM OF NORTH AMERICA – APRIL 14, 2012

With the Blessings of Jagadguru Sri Sri Bharati Teertha Mahaswami of Sringeri Sharada Mutt and the boundless Grace of Goddess Sharadamba, the first Vedasammelan in North America was conducted in a grand manner on April 14, 2012 at the Sringeri Sadhana Center, Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. The Sammelan coincided with the 100th year of ascension to the Spiritual Throne by the 34 th Pontiff of Sri Sharadha Peetham, Jagadguru Sri Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati Mahaswamigal.

The Vedasammelan was conducted mainly to honor the Vedic scholars living in the U.S.A and Canada, and to create and propagate awareness of the Vedic dharma to all Asthikas living in this part of the globe. On the day of the event, around 130 Vedic scholars from all over the United States and Canada, comprising, Vedic Scholars, Agama/ Sastra Pundits, Shivacharyas and Vaishna Bhattacharyas, assembled at the Sringeri Sadhana Center at 8 AM. The event started with Guru Vandanam, by praying to the entire Guru Parampara of the Sanatana Dharma tradition.

A special pooja was performed to H. H. Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati Mahaswamiji to seek His blessings. The pooja was followed by Ganapati Homa and abhisheka to Lord Chandramouleeswara in the temple. Then, all the Vedic scholars assembled at the Veda Vyasa shrine. Prayers were offered to Veda Vyasa, who codified the Vedas into four major branches. Pooja was performed to the Veda Book of all four Vedas, the personification of Veda Purusha.

The Veda Book was then placed on a beautifully decorated pallakki, and was carried on the shoulders by the Vedic scholars themselves. The images of Sri Sharadamba, Sri Adi Shankaracharya, Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati Mahaswamiji, and Sri Sri Bharati Teertha Mahaswamiji led a ceremonious procession that resounded with Veda mantras of different Shakhas from Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, Atharva Veda and also from other Agamas. It was a fitting tribute to the Veda Purusha, the Jagadgurus and Goddess Sharadamba as the entire procession advanced on red carpet. Blessed were those people who witnessed a rare procession in their life time. The procession ended at temple. ‘

The Vedic scholars then assembled in the Sri Sharadamba’s shrine, and sat in groups according to their own shakhas. The assembly of scholars was welcomed by the President of SVBF USA, Dr. S. S. Iyer. He formally welcomed the priests and Padmashri Dr. V. R. Gowrishankar, CEO, Sringeri Peetham, India. A video message of H. H. Jagadguru Sri Bharati Tirtha Mahaswami was played. The Jagadguru, in his benedictory message, explained the importance of Vedas and the importance of following our Dharma.

The gathering was then addressed by the Chairman, SVBF, Dr. S. Yegnasubramanian. He stressed the importance of fostering the Vedic Dharma and explained how the Vedic scholars play an important role in fostering the dharma. He also pointed out that all other shastras, like music, dance, etc. will flourish only if the root of all of them, the Vedas is properly nourished. The Vedic scholars are the custodians of the Vedas, and if we need to preserve the treasure of the Vedas, Vedic scholars should be encouraged to send their kids to pathashalas, he said. He also mentioned that if Vaidika dharma is preserved, it will in turn protect us. He appreciated the Vedic scholars for turning out in big numbers and showing full support to propagate this dharma, which was the main objective of the mutt.

Dr. V. R. Gowrishankar, who was kind enough to make a flying visit for the event amidst his busy schedule, gave a very good speech on the uniqueness of Sanatana Dharma. He recounted an anecdote where H. H. Sri Abhinava Vidyatheertha Mahaswami posed a question to a group of scholars as to what is unique about our Sanatana Dharma that we want to follow this dharma? Even though the scholars came up with many good answers, the saint was not convinced with any of them. The Pontiff Himself gave the answer – our dharma is the only one which is apaurusheya, i.e., not of a human origin.

Dr.Gowrishankar also praised the Vedic scholars for their commitment to spread the dharma in this part of the world. He urged them to lead the asthikas in the dharmic path by giving them the right advice.A very elaborate and special Ashtavadhana seva was offered to Goddess Sharadamba, the abode of all Knowledge, by the Vedic scholars. It was a rare treat to the audience who enjoyed the recitation for nearly two hours and was a great experience to hear many Vedic scholars, synchronizing to one single voice.

A few Veda Mantras from the following shakhas were recited:
Rig Veda – Shakala shakha
Shukla Yajur Veda – Kanva shakha, Madhyamdina shakha
Krishna Yajur Veda – Taittiriya shakha
Sama Veda – Kouthuma shakha, Jaiminiya shaka, Pranayaniya shaka
Atharva Veda – Saunka Shakha
Agama – Vaikanasa, Shaiva, Pancharatra, Madhva

The special offering was followed by lunch prasadam. All the Vedic scholars were served food in the most traditional style by the volunteers of the foundation.

In the afternoon, the Chairman of SVBF, Dr. S. Yegnasubramanian gave a very informative lecture-cumdemonstration of the various Vedic recitation practices. He illustrated in simple terms the prakrti and vikrti pathas of reciting Veda mantras. The oral recitation practices were beautifully demonstrated by the highly qualified priests of SVBF, Br. Sri. Shringeswara Bhatt, Br. Sri. Shyamasundara Rao and Br. Sri. A. R. Chandramouli.

The different prakrti pathas – Samhita, Pada and Krama – and vikrti pathas – Jata, Mala (Pushpa Mala), Shika, Rekha, Dwaja, Danda, Ratha (Dwichakra, Trichakra and Chatuschakra), Pancasandhi Ghana and Ghana – were illustrated and recited. Dr. Yegnasubramanian enlightened the audience with the various chanting methods and the pattern involved in each of the oral recitation patterns. He also illustrated Varna Krama – the phonology of accent and classification of each syllable.

Br. Sri. Sivaramakrishna Salakshana Ghanapathi from Sri Guruvayoorappan Temple, Morganville NJ demonstrated the Varna Krama for a single Vedic word “Saraswati”. Dr. Yegnasubramanian described the Vedic method of analysis of each syllable in the Vedas, and explained how the various parameters of each Vedic syllable, along with the recitation practices served as an impeccable record for propagating the Vedic texts without distortion in an oral tradition. The lecture was well received by an enthusiastic full house audience (more than 300) at the Sri Bharati Theertha Community Center Hall.

The Vedic scholars then assembled at the temple premises again for the concluding session. Every Vedic scholar was individually honored in front of a huge audience. The Vedic scholars in turn expressed their gratitude to the Foundation and praised the efforts of Dr. Yegnasubramanian for his untiring efforts in fostering the Vaidika dharma. The program concluded with Rashtra Aseervadam by the participating scholars.

All the scholars left the place with rejuvenated energy. It was a very good break from their routine and they were already looking forward to many more conferences of Vedic scholars in the years to come. All participants greatly appreciated the way the Sammelan was organized and were pleased with the hospitality, food and other facilities provided by the foundation. It was a very fruitful and memorable day for all the participants.

The whole event was well attended and appreciated by many devotees. A group of more than 75 people came from Canada in two buses to witness the Vedasammelan. The event was also webcasted live on the Internet, and was watched by devotees all across the globe. It was also covered by TV5, a television channel.The Foundation is grateful to the volunteers, who were responsible for pulling the event off to a grand success.

Meticulous planning (up to finest details) for two full weeks and faultless execution of tasks by the independent committees were appreciated by all the participants. The volunteers worked as a part of several committees – parking & transportation, food, registration, hospitality and religious – to execute the tasks. The volunteers were honored by the organizers at the end of the event.

In summary, with the blessings of the Jagadguru and grace of Sri Sharadambal, the first Vedasammelanam event was a grand success – another good achievement by the Chairman of the Foundation and organizers of the event, a matter of pride for the participants, a pleasant treat for the audience, a great source of information for enthusiasts of the Vedas, a great blessing for the devotees and a big accomplishment for the volunteers and SVBF SAINT THYAGARAJA DAY

On April 15th, Sunday we had the Inaugural Saint Tyagaraja Day, a dedication to the Saint at the Feet of Goddess Sharada who is none other thanRajamathangi Herself! The Sangeetopasana/Nadopasana followed the Vedopasana of the previous day on the same stage.

Shri. RK Shriramkumar led the Pancharatna kritis session in the morning and it was Supreme Bliss and divinity that filled the air and hearts and minds of the devotees! Shriramkumar gave an inspiring chaste concert following that. He chose the Karaharapriya Rame Nee Samanamevaru, appropriately for his main. The afternoon session was filled with Group presentations by the teachers and students of Tiruvottiyur, Lalgudi, Kovur pancharatnams etc. The children had wellprepared and practiced for the event and presented their pieces in One Voice! An adult group of 10 people trained by a Senior Teacher, Mrs. Padma Srinivasan sang in unison the Kambhodi, Mahita Pravrddha Srimati. It’s one of the Lalgudi Pancharatnams of Tyagarajaswamy.

We also recognized and honored the talent of the North American Carnatic Idol, Shyamala Ramakrishna as an Young Musician, on the occasion of Saint Tyagaraja Day! Shyamala gave an inspiring concert for an hour and a half and deserved the appreciation of the Foundation and the audience.

Every April, we will celebrate Saint Tygaraja Day, Americavil Thiruvaiyaru. We invite the teachers and students of Carnatic Music to come forward and participate in all the sessions of the event and dedicate the day to Goddess Sharada and Saint Tyagaraja with whose blessings we learn, develop and grow our talent to blossom.

Starting next year, Sringeri Vidya Bharati Foundation, an Overseas Affiliate of Sringeri Sharada Peetham will recognize and honor an Young Musician with an award and a citation.

About SVBF: http://www.svbf.org

April 1, 2012

Rescuing our Vedic Priesthood — Dr. S. Yegnasubramanian

Insightful article about

1. Significance of Vedas
2. How Vedas are organized
3. The art & science of Vedic Chanting
4. The plight of today’s Vydicaas in India.

Do not miss !!

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Rescuing our Vedic Priesthood – Dr. S. Yegnasubramanian

Source: http://www.brahmanworld.org/conv_fls2k6/pdfiles/subramanian_rescuing_priesthood.pdf

I. Our Scriptures

The word Veda is derived from the Sanskrit root vid which means "to know". Since our religion follows the vedic injunctions, it is known as "Vedic Religion".

The word religion implies the meaning of dharma.

The texts that give us the complete knowledge of dharma are called dharma- pramANa.

They are fourteen in number and are: four Vedas, six VedAngas (the organs of the Vedas), and four UpAngas (secondary organs of the Vedas).

14= 4 Vedas +6 VedAngAs+4 UpAngas = VidyaAstAna

These fourteen texts are glorified as vidyAsthAna’s – the abode of true knowledge and wisdom. (See Appendix 1 for a comprehensive list of our scriptures and what they deal with).

As codified by Sage Veda Vyasa, all four Vedas put together had 1,131 SakhAs (branches).

However, only 10 are available today, and of those, only two are nearly complete!

The Vedic literature can be broadly classified into four groups:

1. SamhitA: the mantra portion;

2. BrAhmaNas: the portion dealing with rituals;

3. AraNyakas – the forest texts, and

4.Upanishads – the portion dealing with Vedic philosophy.

The principles of Dharma as embodied in our religion are all centered on the Vedas.

2. Glory of the Vedas

Apasthambha Sutra describes Vedas as the Pramana: (authority – pramanam vedasca). Manu Smriti hails them as vedokhilo dharma moolam (the root of dharma); Bhagavan Sri Krishna says: vedaisca sarvair-ahameva-vedya: (I am known through the Vedas).

The Vedas are Infinite (anantA vai vedA;); They are the very breath of Iswara: (yasya niSvasitam vedA:) They are without beginning: (anAdi) and of non-human origin (apourusheya.)
They teach the glories of all creations and the principles of dharma and enshrine true knowledge and wisdom.

That is why our scriptures proclaim:

vedo nityam adheeyatAm tad uditam karma svanushtIyatAm (practice the Vedas daily; practice well their prescriptions)

It is our great fortune that we have inherited such a rich and cherished dhArmic tradition. It should be our foremost duty and goal to preserve such a tradition. Our ancestors led a

peaceful and contented life following the path set by the Vedic guidelines. That path withstood the tests of historic times and was smooth to follow without obstacles.

3. The guardians of our scriptures – the Vedic Priests

Wayne Howard, in his book “Veda Recitation in Varanasi” writes:

“ The four Vedas are not “books” in the usual sense, though within the past hundred years each Veda has appeared in several printed editions.

They are comprised rather of tonally accented verses of hypnotic, abstruse melodies whose proper realizations demand oral instead of visual transmission…..

The ultimate authority in Vedic matters is never the printed page but rather the few members of the Brahmana caste who are today keeping the centuries-oldtraditions alive.

However, the Vedas are approaching a point in history, which willdetermine whether they survive or slip into extinction.

They have shown remarkable vigor and perseverance in the past – thriving under potentially destructive political, economic, and religious upheaval – but whether they can withstand the accelerated rate of social change in the twentieth century is a formidable question which leaves their future in grave doubt”.

No – that doubt should never be allowed to sustain. Because, if Vedas have to perish, it amounts to the destruction of dharma itself, the root of an entire civilization, culture and

tradition. However, as Howard had correctly observed, the ultimate authority of Vedas lies with the vedic priest , who, through a tradition of oral transmission, has been
propagating them over generations.

4. Vedic Chanting – a perfectly formulated oral tradition

The Vedas are called ‘Sruti”- which means, what is heard.

It is never read from a text, since the recitation of any veda mantra should conform to the following six parameters, namely,

  1. varNa (letters);
  2. svara (intonation);
  3. mAtrA (duration of articulation);
  4. balam (force of articulation);
  5. sAma (uniformity), and
  6. santAna (continuity).

If any of these parameters is not maintained, it would change the meaning of the mantra itself, leading to even diametrically opposite effects!

In the absence of a written text, our rishis had devised many ways to prevent even a small error to creep in to the recitation of the veda-mantras. These fool-proof methods used to
chant each veda-mantra in various patterns and combinations are known as : vaakya,pada, krama, jaTA, mAlA, SikhA, rekhA, dvaja, danDa, ratha, and Ghana.

Among these, vAkya, pada, krama, jaTa and Ghana methods of chanting are more popular and let us analyze them only here.

Vaakya or samhitA pATha is to recite a mantra in a sentence straight with appropriateintonations. In sentences, some of the words have to be conjoined in chanting.

In padapAtha, a sentence is broken down to ‘words’ or pada’s, which gives the student theknowledge of each word.

In the krama method, the first word of a sentence is added to the second, the second to the third, the third to the fourth and so on, until the whole sentence is completed. This method enables the student to understand not only individual words but also how the words combine in recitation with the attendant modification of the svaras.

Scholarly priests capable of reciting the entire veda-SakhA in the krama format is given the title kramavit.

In the jaThA method, the first word and the second word are recited together and then the words are recited in the reverse order and then again in the original order. For example, in the krama method, if they are recited as 1-2;2-3; 3-4; 4-5 etc., in the jaThA method, they are recited as 1-2-2-1-1-2; 2-3-3-2-2-3; 3-4-4-3-3-4 and so on. Scholarly priests capable of reciting in the jaThA method are given thetitle “jaThAvallabha”.

The Ghana method is more difficult than the above where thecombinations of words will be 1-2-2-1-1-2-3-3-2-4-4-2-3; 2-3-3-2-2-3-4-4-3-2-2-4 and soon. A priest who can recite in the Ghana method is given the title ghanapAThi.

These methods of complicated recitations in a oral tradition were devised in order to preserve the purity of the word, the sound, intonation, pronunciation, accent and sound combinations of the vedamantras. By repeating the words in manifold ways, the correct tally of words was also kept which has naturally ensured its purity. To enable the scholars
to take up the difficult methods recitiation, it was believed that, more difficult methods of chanting earned more puNya or merit!

5. The Merit, and the Plight of a Vedic Scholar Today

Just to illustrate what it takes for a priest to earn the title of a ghanapAThi, let us briefly analyze what is involved in the training. For illustration, let us consider only one portion of the krishNa yajur veda, called the taittiriya samhitA. In this portion there over 2,000 pancASat’s (1 pancASat = 50 pada’s), amounting to 109,308 pada’s. We can roughly assume each pada to have 3 syllables, thus totaling ~330,000 syllables. In the Ghana method of chanting, each syllable gets repeated 13 times, thus amounting to 4,290,000 utterances. And each of these utterances have to conform to all the six parameters discussed earlier.

Only when a person becomes capable of reciting this in any order asked, gets the title of a ghanapAThi. This is for only one samhitA portion in krishna yajur veda alone. Then there is Sukla yajur veda, rig veda, sAma veda, and atharva veda. There were scholars proficient in more than one veda as evident from the names dvivedi, trivedi and caturvedi. In addition, there are other samhitA portions, brAhmaNa portions, AraNyaka poritons, and the Upanishads, in the vedic scriptures alone.

After proficiency in ghanapATha, some learn lakshaNa-ghanapATha, which deals with the characteristics of each letter, its origin, how it has to be emphasized in a mantra, its varNa, the presiding deity, etc etc. Then there are purANa’s, dharma-Sastras etc. All these were learnt without any book, tape or any such instruments in the oral tradition, and were stored just in ~200 grams of the human brain! And the most interesting thing is, it was not that one or two individuals who were proficient in this dharma, but an entire society was well versed in this! Such a scholarship takes well over 25 years of intense education in a gurukulam, in addition to observing all the religious disciplines!

Having analyzed what it takes for a vedic priest to become a ghanapAThi, let us look at his plight in modern day society
.

When there is so much of respect and recognition for all other secular professionals – be a doctor, lawyer, engineer, scientist, businessman, artist etc. – the respect and the compensation extended to these vedic scholars are patheticallyfar below standards.

On the one end we are all proud to inherit such a rich and cherished vedic tradition, but, on the other, not being sensitive enough or even negligent towards preserving and transferring it forward. At this rate, what were originally 1,131 SakhAs, and are only 10 today, will further deteriorate leading to a great loss to human-kind.

The only guardians of this rich tradition are the vedic priests. Because of the way the society treats them and the poor compensation, they are not motivated to send their children to vedic schools (pAThaSAlA’s). Generally they come from economically backward families, and so they drop out of schools early, striving to make a living and to support their poor families. All others who have already migrated to secular education are not going to revert back to vedic learning in the traditional sense.

In addition, the personal discipline to be observed by the vedic priest being so stringent (otherwise, the rituals and mantras are believed not to give the desired result, and to even bring demerit), it makes one to shy away even more. When compared to the status of priest-hood in other religions, the plight of the vedic priest is really sad.

6. What can be done to bring back the lost glory of the vedic priest ?

Even though the situation appears very gloomy, there is lot of hope today.
The very fact that a forum like this wants to address this issue itself is very encouraging. Following are some of my thoughts to help foster and propagate this tradition, though by no means exhaustive:

1. The first step is for every member of this varNa to be aware of what we have in our vedic scriptures and become sensitive to this education.

2. Even if one may not have time or may have other limitation to learn, observing the disciplines, one could at least support those who learn, and the pAThaSAlA’s
that teach.

3. Many of the teachers in these pAThaSAlA’s are highly under-paid and they continue to teach just to foster this dharma. With the affluence of the NRI community, support can be given to increase the compensation for the teachers and stipend to the students.

4. Scholarships for advanced vedic learning can be implemented to motivate students not to discontinue from a full curriculum due to economic reasons.

5. Most of the mantra’s employed in rituals are from Vedas.
Actually rituals(samskAras) are aimed at developing the eight inner values (Atma guNa’s),which are: compassion (dayA), patience (kshamA), free from jealousy(anasooyA), purity (soucam), keeping cool (anAyAsam), not beingmiserly(akArpaNyam), absence of attachment (aspruhA), and peace (mangaLam).

The more we shy away from rituals, more are the chances of losing those mantra’s, since less will be the motivation for the priest to practice them!

6. There can be awareness courses on samskAra’s (there are ~ 41 samskAra’s from conception to cremation!), so that every member of the varNa will develop an interest and faith in them. Such faith will increase their respect for the vedic priest as an AchArya.

7. We believe that giving dAnam (gift) to a priest washes our sins. The priest gets this power because of his vedic knowledge. Hence, the compensation for the priests should be given with faith, humility and sincerity so that, it is not just a compensation for a job done, but an offering (sambhAvanA) for blessing our families in the name of Vedas.

Unless this varNa raises to bring back the glory of the vedic priest, it may be difficult to expect others to raise to this call. After all, religious practices are only for the believers, and these discussions are aimed at those who have an implicit faith in this dharma.

With a renewed thrust and commitment, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The vedic-priesthood will certainly become well respected in society with this awareness.

Institutions like the Sringeri Vidya Bharati Foundation Inc. USA, organize mega yajnas like the ati-rudra-mahA-yajna of 1997 bringing ~100 vedic scholars from India, essentially to appreciate and respect the vedic priest-hood, in addition to showing to the present and the future generation, how an authentic vedic ritual could be conducted, even outside of India, and how such knowledgeable priests are available even today.

Source Material:

1. "The Vedas", Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay 1988
2. “Rescuing our Vedic Pundits”, Dr. S. Yegnasubramanian, Page 9, The Hinduism Today, Dec. ‘97

About the Author:

Dr. Yegnsaubramanian (Dr. Mani) is the Chairman of the Sringeri Vidya Bharati Foundation, and the Sanatana Dharma Foundation, USA. He is also the advisor for several temple organizations within USA, Canada and India. Dr.Mani has been teaching vedic/puranic scriptures, the Bhagavad Gita and Vedanta for the past two decades in New Jersey, to groups of adults and children. He is the editor and publisher of the international journal, Paramaartha Tattvam in which he writes regularly on various topics of Vedanta, vaidika samskaras, and bhakti in general. He was the general chairman of the first Ati-rudra Mahayajna conducted in the Poconos in 1997 and the Satachandi yajna in 2001. Under the auspices of the Sringeri Shankar Mutt, he organizes veda sammelans all over India every year involving thousands of vedic scholars. He was a trustee and the Chairman of Religious affairs of the Bridgewater temple from inception until the kumbhabhishekam in 1998. He gives lectures and short courses on sanatana dharma, scriptures, and Vedanta, all over USA and Canada. He represents the Hindu Faith in Interfaith Forums and conducts Youth Forums. He was awarded the title of “Dharma-rakshA-mani” by the Shankaracharya of Kanchi in 2003. Dr. Mani is a scientist by profession who retired from Bell Labs. in 2001. He works presently at Andrew Corporation in Warren, NJ and lives with his family in Skillman, NJ.

Appendix 1.

Our Scriptures (Dr. S. Yegnasubramanian)

I. Vidyasthanas (Source of Supreme Knowledge) – 14

a) Vedas (4) : Classified by Vyasa – 1131 recensions (SakhAs): ~25,000 mantras

b) Vedangas: (6) & c) Upangas (4) (to understand Vedas completely and in depth)

II. Upa Vedas (4)

1. Ayurveda Science of Life
3. DhanurvedaScience of Weaponary and Warfare
2. Artha SAstras – Science of Wealth /Economics
4. Gandharva veda Treatise on fine arts, music,etc.

III. Aranyakas and Brahmanas - Vedic Scriptures learnt and interpreted by Rishis in the forests are Aranyakas and those interpreted in homes for homely use are Brahamanas:

Upanishads: are placed towards the end of Aranyakas.
They deal with aspects of realizing through the path of knowledge (jnana marga), the nonduality (abhedha) of Brahman. They are considered as the quintescence of Vedas.

PrasthanatrayI: (Texts on Tattvajnana – Knowledge of Self – Metaphysics):
1. Upanishads;
2. Bhagavad Gita;
3. Brahmasutras; 2 & 3 are not vedic scriptures, they are given this status due to their content.

32 Primary Vidyas:(Primary Knowledge)
4 Vedas,
6 Vedangas,
4 Upangas,
4 Upa Vedas,
2 Ithihasas,
Tantra,
Smriti,
Nastikamata (agnosticism),

3 Sastras (artha, kama andshilpa),
Alankriti (asthetics),
Kavya (poetry),
Desabhasha (linguistics),
Avasaokti, Yavanamata,
Desadhidharma.

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More such articles at thapas.wordpress.com

April 1, 2012

Useful SandhyaVandanam Resources – in English and Tamil

We all know that SandhyaVandanam is an important Nithya karma for those who wear Yagnyopaveetham.

Here are some useful resources that might motivate and help a person to get started , on this very important duty that benefits the world around us and the world inside ourselves.

Sandhyavanadam – Must hear Upanyasam by Shri Krishna Premi
(Tamil Audio mp3 – 2 hours)

Gayathri and Sandhyavandana Mahimai by Kanchi Mahaswami
(Tamil Document)

Meaning of every manthra in Yajur Sandhyavandanam by Swami Paramarthananda
(English Audio mp3 – 10 tracks)

http://pravachanam.com/audio/by/album/sandhyavandanam

Brahmana Lakshnamam – Upanyasam by Shri Krishna Premi
(Tamil Audio – 8 mins)

Yajur Sandhyavandanam manual from Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam forum and approved by noted priests in Chennai.
(English document with good tips and techniques for doing SandhyaVandanam)

Namaste
Hari

December 19, 2011

Defender of Vedas

Affirmations of Vedic Dharma from Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati, one of the great Hindu saints of this century

http://www.hinduismtoday.com/modules/smartsection/item.php?itemid=4396

“”As when a fire is lit with damp fuel, different clouds of smoke come forth. In the same way from this great Being are breathed forth the Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva Vedas.” — Sukla Yajur Veda, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 2.4.10

The Vedas are eternal and are the source of all creation. Their greatness is to be known in many ways.Their sound produces in our nadis (subtle nerve channels), as well as in the atmosphere, vibrations that are salutary not only to our own Self but to the entire world–to the good of mankind as well as of all other creatures. This concern for all creation expressed in the Vedas is not shared by any other religion.

Even grass, shrubs, trees, mountains and rivers are included in their benign purview. The happy state of all these sentient creatures and inert objects is brought about through the special quality of the sound of the Vedas.

The Vedas are also notable for the lofty truths expressed in the mantras. The tenets of these scriptures have aroused the wonder of people of other lands and faiths. They are moved by their poetic beauty, the subtle manner in which principles of social life are dealt within them, the metaphysical truths embedded and expounded in them, and the moral instruction as well as scientific truths contained in them.

My duty is to impress upon you that it is your responsibility to keep the Vedic tradition alive. Whether or not you listen to me, whether or not I am capable of making you do what I want you to do, so long as there is strength in me, I will keep telling you tirelessly, ‘This is your work. This is your dharma.

If in India the Vedas retain their original vitality even today, it is because they are being continuously repeated by students and teachers of the Vedas, and the purity of the sounds and accents of the words are retained in that process. But it is only by practicing the Vedic injunctions that we can obtain the grace of God, both for our individual welfare and for the welfare of the whole world.

The Vedas are sounds emanating from the vibrations of the Great Intelligence, the Great Gnosis. That is why we believe that the mantras of the Vedas originate from the Paramatman Himself. Although the Vedas deal with many matters, all of them together speak of one goal–the One Reality. It is through the various entities, through knowledge of a multiplicity of subjects, that we may know this One.

To attain this Reality we need to discipline our mind. Performing sacrifices, practicing austerities, doing the duties of one’s dharma, all these go to purify our consciousness and finally to still the mind that is always agitated. Ved (from vid) means ‘to know.’

The Upanishads proclaim, ‘The Atman is that, by knowing which all can be known.’ The goal of the Vedas is to shed light on this Atman.

The rituals enjoined on us in their first part and the jnana (knowledge) expounded in the second have the same goal–knowing Isvara, Brahman or the Atman. The beginning of the beginning and the end of the end of our scripture have the same ultimate aim.

Thus, the supreme purport of all the Vedas is to make us realize by our own experience that all is Brahman and thus lead us to a state of bliss. We must take special care of such scriptures to ensure the good of the world.”

Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati

September 26, 2011

Video of Vedic recitation of various shaakas

If you like to listen to Vedic Chanting , this video might interest you.

Here is a Vedic chanting compilation from various Veda Shaakas across all Four Vedas.

Note that Vydicaas are from various parts of Bhaarath using each Vedas’ chanting style.

Vedic recitation of various recensions of the Vedas from Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies on Vimeo.

Namaste
Hari

August 24, 2011

Vedic Chanting – a Perfectly Formulated Oral Tradition — Dr. S. YEGNASUBRAMANIAN

Very informative article on Vedic Chanting. Please read attached pdf which has samskritham references that are not available in the inline text shown below.

The author Dr. S. Yegnasubramanian (President, SVBF) is a scientist at Bell Labs., NJ. He has been teaching Vedic recitation & vedanta for several years.

Vedic Chanting – a Perfectly Formulated Oral Tradition — Dr. S. YEGNASUBRAMANIAN
http://www.svbf.org/journal/vol1no2/chanting.pdf

Our tradition believes that the Vedas are the breath of God Himself!

With that belief, our Rishis exercised enormous care to preserve the Vedas in its original form without the infiltration of any errors. Especially in the absence of writing, and through only an oral transmission from father-to- son or teacher-to-disciple, for thousands of years, this is an accomplishment of unimaginable proportion! Considering the vast magnitude of mantras contained in the vedas, such a preservation, with built-in safeguards, is mind boggling!

It is believed that the complete benefit of Veda mantras could be achieved only when the following conditions are met:
¨ Correct pronunciation of letters (words)
¨ Correct duration for utterance of letters (words) – and,
¨ Correct intonation of letters,

Our Rishis prescribed several fool-proof methods to correctly recite the veda mantras.

Six ways of recitation were considered incorrect and they are :

One who chants in a sing-song fashion , who chants fast , who nods his head up and down without actually raising or
lowering the pitch , who reads from a book , who chants without knowing the meaning , and who chants in a feeble voice , are considered incorrect .

They believed that altering the pitch even (without any change in words and duration), might lead to diametrically opposite effects, as related in the story of Vrtra who, instead of killing Indra, got killed by Indra by just a change in the intonation alone of the mantras chanted by Vrtra’s father, Tvashta.

The rules of correct pronunciation and articulation of sounds are given in the Vedanga, known as Seeksha. Seeksha deals with varNa (letters), svara: (pitch); [there are essentially three svaras, namely,
anudatta (gravely accented or low pitched), udatta (high pitched or
acutely accented), svarita (circumflexly accented)] maatraa (duration – a prosodial unit of time); balam (strength or force of articulation); saama (uniformity); and santaana: (continuity) during recitation.

Our ancestors devised unique methods to protect and maintain the basic Veda mantras in its original form through various patterns and combinations of recitation. The basic mantra is called vakya or samhita paatha which is a full sentence.
Splitting them word by word is known as pada paatha , which gives the knowledge of each word to the student.

Next is krama paatha , where the first word of the mantra is added to the second, the second to the third and so on, until the

whole mantra is completed. This method enables the student not only to know individual words but also how to combine words in recitation and the changes in svara that occur as a result of such combination.

Both Pada and Krama methods of chanting retain the natural order of words of the samhita paatha and so, are known as prakrti or natural. For example, if we take sentence consisting of six words a-b-c-d-e-f, in samhita paatha, it will be chanted as six separate words a, b, c, d, e and f in pada paatha will be recited as a-b, b-c, c-d, d-e, and e-f in krama paatha. Actually, a reciter proficient in chanting in the krama format is honored as a kramavit !

In addition, they devised eight other combinations which do not follow the natural order, and are known as vikriti or
artificial order. The vikritis are given in the following verse: They are, jataa, maalaa, sikhaa, rekhaa, dhwaja, danda, ratha and ghana.

Among these only jataa and ghana are prevalent (or, only !) practices in the Krishna Yajur Veda which is mostly predominant in the South. In Sukla Yajur Veda, which is mostly predominant in Banaras and in the North, (the Madhyandina and Kanva schools) all the eight vikritis were practiced.

However, today, there may not be any scholars at all who might know all these vikritis Jataa (braid) paatha In the above example, the six words in the line, when chanted in the jataa format becomes, a-b-b-a-a-b; b-c-c-b-b-c; c-d-d-c-c-d; d-e-ed-d-e; e-f-f-e-e-f and so on. As can be seen, the forward-reverseforward arrangement of words resemble the way ladies braid their hair, and so this practice of chanting is termed jataa!

Two types of maalaa (garland) exist: a)krama maalaa and b) pushpa maalaa.

This is simialr to krama paatha in that two-word units with the characteristic overlapping are the foundation. sikhaa
(top knot) is similar to jataa except that, instead of two words being repeated forwards and backwards, three words are linked.

Recitations in rekhaa (row), dhwaja (flag), dand (staff), and ratha (chariot) are more complex and the reader can refer to Wayne Howard [2] for details.

Mention can be made here that there are three of ratha, namely, dvipaada (two wheels), tripaada (three wheels) and catuspaada (4 wheels). Each wheel corresponds to a quarter verse (paada) of the text. Among these, dvipaada catuspaada varieties are the ratha types most widely cultivated today.

Ghana (bell) paatha
This is one of the most popular format of recitations and requires years of learning and practice by the student. A scholar proficient in recitation in this format is honored as a ghana paathi . Here the arrangement of words take the shape of a bell.
For example, the group of words a-b-c-d-e-f mentioned earlier, when chanted in the ghana format will be, a-b-b-a-a-b-c-c-b-a-a-bc; b-c-c-b-b-c-d-d-c-b-b-d; and so on.

The earliar illustration of six words, when written in ghana format will appear as follows:
Please note that, what was originally six words in the samhita, evolve in to about sixty words in the ghana format – a ten fold
increase in this case – that gives an idea of how complex the chanting can become with larger sections of the mantras !! We can

now appreciate the rigor a ghana pathi has to go through in his education to learn, by heart, the thousands of mantras, to be able to recite in ghana format.

Our Rishis devised all these elaborate and complicated system of chanting in order to preserve the purity of the sound, word,
pronunciation, intonation , pitch and sound combination of the veda mantras which are the foundation for our sanaatana dharma itself.

Also, repetition of words in many ways, the correct tally of words was also maintained which ensured the purity. They also believed that higher merits (punya) accompany greater complexities in chanting – for example, a ghana recitation is several orders higher in merit than jataa recitation, which is higher in merit than krama recitation and so on.

Wayne Howard [2] noted in the preface of his book, “Vedic Recitation in Varanasi”, “The four Vedas (Rg, Yajur, Sama and
Atharva) are not “books” in the usual sense, though within the past hundred years each veda has appeared in several printed editions.They are comprised rather of tonally accented verses and hypnotic, abstruse melodies whose proper realizations demand oral instead of visual transmission. They are robbed of their essence when transferred to paper, for without the human element the innumerable nuances and fine intonations – inseparable and necessary components of all four compilations – are lost completely. The ultimate authority in Vedic matters is never the printed page but rather the few members … who are today keeping the centuries-old traditions alive.”

It is unfortunate that there is very little subscription to this education these days and it is an important duty of all of us to
ensure that this education is encouraged and adequate support is given to promote and propagate it.

References

1. “The Vedas”, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay 1988.
2. “Veda Recitation in Varanasi”, Wayne Howard, Motilal Banarasidass, Delhi 1986.

Dr. S. Yegnasubramanian ( President, SVBF) is a scientist at Bell Labs., NJ. He has been teaching vedic recitation & vedanta for several years.

September 24, 2010

Excellent Tamil lecture on importance of Swara (intonation), Artha (meaning) in Vedas — 8 videos 9 mins each.

An awesome and indepth lecture in chaste tamil on the significance of Swaram(intonation), Artham (meaning) and fundamentals of manthra in Vedas, by Sri. U.Ve. Prasanna Venkatachariar Chaturvedi Swamy. Although the lecturer is a Vaishnavite, this in-depth lecture is generic to all sampradhaayas.

Please listen to this ONLY if you are serious about learning/understanding the fundamentals of vedic mantras and how they must be recited. I wish this video was in english so that many people can watch it and reep the benefits but it is in chaste tamil which needs focus to understand.

Importance of Swaram (intonation), Artham (meaning) in Vedas

8 parts 10 mins each

Part 1 :

Part 2 :

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

Part 6:

Part 7:

Part 8 :

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