The following are the reasons given generally for not being
able to correctly understand the Vedas:
1). Sentences in the Vedas sometimes present an unclear meaning
which creates doubts rather than resolve them.
2). Often they seem to contain absurdities which carry no
3). There are mutually contradictory statements in the Vedas.
4). There is no use of studying the Vedas because they do
not present anything new but repeat only that which is already
Objection: There is a mantra in the Rig Veda which says:
'During creation of the world, God was perhaps under, or
perhaps above.' (10.129.5)
What kind of doubtful message is this mantra propounding?
Resolution: The mantra in question does not intend to create
confusion or doubt. Rather, it wishes to point out the extremely
subtle nature of the Creator of the World, the Supreme God,
who cannot be known with any certainty by those who are devoid
of a guru and a traditional knowledge of the scriptures. While
this mantra speaks metaphorically, the very next mantra spells
this out clearly:
'Who can say where this world has come from? Who knows this
clearly?' (Rig Veda 10.129.6)
The answer is provided in various Upanishads:
'It is far, and also near. Far for those who are ignorant,
and exceedingly near for those know God to be their own Self.'
(Isha Upanishad 5)
The Objection of There Being Absurd Matter in the Vedas:
The Black Yajurveda (Taittriya Samhita) says:
'O Grass protect him' (22.214.171.124)
'O Razor do not hurt him.' (126.96.36.199)
'O Stone which presses the Soma plant, listen to me.' (188.8.131.52)
In all these mantras, various nonliving and insentient objects
are addressed as if they possess consciousness to understand
what we say. How can a tuft of grass, incapable of protecting
its own self protect anybody? How can a sane person address
a plant, or call out to a piece of stone to hear what he is
saying? Is it not absurd to confuse insentient objects with
sentient ones? Is it not misleading like saying that there
are two moons?
The Vedas emphasize that everything in this world has a sentient
deity identifying itself with that particular object. This
is an expression of immanence of divinity. It is these presiding
deities (abhimani devata) of the individual objects which
are addressed to using the names of the particular objects,
and not the insentient (achetan) objects themselves. The same
principle is emphasized in the Brahma Sutras, the supreme
text of Indian Philosophy, which says:
'The reference is to the presiding deities' (abhimani vyapadeshah
tu) (Brahma Sutras 2.1.5)
Commenting on the above sutra, Shri Shankaracharya explains:
'There are passages in the Vedas in which inert elements
are shown to indulge in action, for example, “the clay spoke”
(Shatapatha Brahmana 184.108.40.206,4), or “the water saw” (Chandogya
Upanishad 6.2.3,4). Wherever such passages occur, it is not
to be assumed that the elements in question have sentience,
rather, it is to be understood as a reference to their presiding
deities (abhimani devata).'
Are There Contradictions in the Vedas?
There are obviously contradictory statements in the Vedas.
At one place the Black Yajurveda (Taittriya Samhita) says:
'There is only one Rudra, and not a second.' (220.127.116.11)
At another place it is said:
'There are thousands and thousands of Rudras on this earth.'
These two mantras, because of giving contradictory statements,
cannot be said to comprise any authority, just like the following
sentence uttered by a person “I am dumb by birth.” If he has
never spoken in his life, how can the person do so now? The
same way in which dumbness and speaking are mutually contradictory,
so are the above two mantras contradictory to each other.
The above mantras contain no contradiction. In the Brhadaranyaka
Upanishad (3.9.1), the following conversation takes place
between two sages:
“How many gods are there?”
“Three hundred and three”
“Good! Now tell me how many gods are truly there?”
“Good! Tell me again how many gods are truly there?”
“Tell me again how many gods are truly there”
“I want to know the true number of gods”
“Tell me again how many gods are there?”
“One and a half”
“Good! Now tell me the true number of gods”
In this revealing dialogue, the many number of gods are successively
reduced to finally one God. This shows that it is the One
God who assumes various forms.
Additionally, it is mentioned in the Mahabharata that a yogi,
who has acquired supernatural powers, can divide himself into
thousands of forms and indulge in various different actions
at the same time, and can collect back all these forms into
himself, just as the sun takes back all its rays within itself
(Mahabharata 12.110.62). If this is possible for a mortal
creature, what to say of great immortals like Rudra?
(Shri Shankaracharya's Commentary on the Brahma Sutras,
The Vedas Present Nothing New:
There is a mantra in the Black Yajurveda saying:
'May the waters wet you' (18.104.22.168)
This mantra refers to the wetting of the hair of the Yajmana (performer of
yagya), during the hair cutting ceremony in a Soma Yagya. This mantra merely
repeats what is already obvious and known. It does not give any clue to something
not already known to us. What kind of authority therefore can we attach to such
Yes, even though the partial mantra quoted above does only repeat what is obvious,
the full passage gives an additional information:
'May the waters wet you, giving you long life and fame.'
Now, we do know that before cutting them, one has to wet one's hair. However,
what we do not know is that during the Soma Yagya, when one wets one hair, the
presiding deity of water graces us with long life and fame. It is this unknown
fact which the Vedas acquaint us with. The mentioning of the wetting of hair
is relevant for setting the context. Actually, the Vedas are the only authority
for disseminating this kind of knowledge which cannot be known by any other
The Vedas reveal them in a graded manner. First, they create a doubt in our
minds, which makes us think and ask questions. Searching for answers, we then
take shelter at the feet of holy men who are not only well-versed in the traditional
way of Vedic interpretation, but also living according to it. They then guide
us on to the correct path of understanding and comprehending the Vedas in a
manner which is comprehensive and all-inclusive. Such a method seeks to reconcile
apparently conflicting statements, not discarding even a single Vedic sentence,
nor preferring one section of the Vedas to the exclusion of others.
[This article is completely based on Sayana's introduction to his commentary
on the Rig Veda.]
& Further Reading:
Baba, Bhole. Shri Shankaracharya's Commentary on the Brahma
Sutras with the Sub-Commentary 'Ratnaprabha' (Text and Hindi
Translation), Varanasi, 2006
Bharati, Swami Paramananda. Vedanta
Prabodh : Varanasi, 2010
Chaubey, Dr. Brij Bihari. Rk Sukta Mani Mala (Selected Suktas from the Rgveda
Translated into Hindi): Hoshiarpur, 2010.
Date, V.H. Vedanta
Explained (Samkara's Commentary on The Brahma-sutras in Two Volumes): Delhi,
Gambhirananda, Swami (tr.) Brahma
Sutra Bhasya of Sankaracarya: Kolkata, 2009
Goyandka, Shri Harikrishnadas. Translation of Shankaracharya's Commentary on
the Eleven Upanishads (Hindi): Gorakhpur, 2006.
Keith, Arthur Berriedale. The Veda of the Black Yajus School Entitled Taittriya
Sanhita (Two Volumes): Delhi, 1967.
Pathak, Jagannath. Sayana's Introduction to the Rig Veda (Sanskrit Text with
Hindi Translation): Varanasi, 1995.
Peterson, Peter. Sayana's Preface to The Rg Veda Bhasya: Poona, 1974.
with the Commentary of Sayanacarya (In Five Volumes): Pune 1983
Satwalekar, Pt. Sripad Damodar. Rigveda
Translated into Hindi (The Finest Translation Ever of the Rig Veda): Gujarat,
Sivananda, Swami. Brahma
Sutras: Rishikesh, 1999
Samhita, With the Commentary of Sayana (Nine Volumes): Pune, 2000
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