The special feature of the Veda is that there is no simplistic idea of the Supreme God or Creator who acts like an all-powerful and unreasonable king. Human beings are not mere supplicants. Veda speaks of all the activities of human beings as collaborative activities between the human beings and the cosmic beings.
By reciting appropriate mantra-s and following certain practices, it is possible for a human being to develop the power of will or the powers of mind. Once the collaboration is established, the powers of will or mind manifest and grow in a person.
The entire Yajur Veda may be said to deal the yajna, in one-way or another. Yajna is the collaboration between the cosmic powers, also called Gods, and humans.
The focus of this book is on the Light that Yajur Veda gives us to enrich the human potential and enhance the quality of life.
According to Sri Aurobindo the mantras of the Rig Veda, the riks, light up the mind with the rays of knowledge; the mantras of Yajur Veda provide the power for the right ordaining of action; or the Yajus mantra guide the actions performed as yajna in accordance with the knowledge of riks. Sri Aurobindo states: “this sacrifice (yajna) is at once works, adoration and knowledge”
Traditionally, yajur Veda is mentioned as the second Veda, the first being the Rig Veda. We should view the entire Vedic knowledge in Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda and the Upanishads as a whole; they are not separate bodies of knowledge with no central core. Several of the well-known mantras of the Upanishads are already present in the Veda Samhitas; for instance, most of the mantras of the first Upanishad, Isha or Ishavasya U. are in the 40th adhyaya of the Shukla Yajur Veda Samhita.
This book is a study of two recensions (shakha) of Yajur Veda, Taittiriya Samhita from the Krishna Yajur Veda and Vajasaneyi Samhita from the Shukla Yajur Veda. Some persons who belong to one of these shakhas regard the other with sentiments bordering on antagonism.
The two recensions have more than a thousand mantras in common; yet Taittiriya Samhita is regarded as somehow ‘inferior to the VS based on a silly legend in the purana, by the followers of VS.
The protagonists of both the shakhas depend more on the legends in the puranas and the words of the commentators like Sayana or Mahidhara than the mantras in the text.
Tradition regards the Yajur Veda as dealing with physical yajna or rite; but it is the inner yajna happening in our subtle bodies which takes us to the higher and higher levels of consciousness as mentioned by TS (22.214.171.124) or VS (17.67) Outward rites have a place too, but as a physical paradigm for representing the subtle truths behind the inner yajna. It should be stressed that mantras from TS or VS are chanted in the outward rites (yajna), but TS or VS do not have any details of the performance of the rites.
Our study of the two recensions (shakha) together is in 32 chapters which are grouped under six broad Sections denoted by Roman numerals with the following titles:
I. Overviews (4)
II. Deities and the Mantras (5)
III. Yajna or Sacrifice (7)
IV. Legends, Society and Science (5)
V. Upanishads and Yogic Insights (7)
VI. Appendices (4)
[The number in parenthesis indicates the number of chapters in that section.]
The first chapter of Section 1 gives the overview of the entire book. The Chapter 2 discusses the overlap between TS and VS and also the non-overlapping parts. The Chapter 4 describes a special path (or yoga) for divinizing our life based on TS Kanda 4, VS (11-18).
The chapter 5 in Section II gives the primary role played by the cosmic power Agni in the psychological ascent of the worshipper. The remaining chapters of this Section gives the text and translation of several mantras widely used in worship such as the ‘Gayatri Mantra’, ‘Rudra Mantras’ and ‘Ganapati Mantra’.V Section III discusses the various aspects of yajna, the key concept in Yajur Veda, in chapters 10-16. Chapter 10 gives the various meanings of yajna. Chapters 11-13 discuss the relation of the inner yajna with the outer yajna-rites and their concordance. Chapters 15 and 16 discuss Ashvamedha or the Horse-sacrifice.
The chapter 17 in Section IV gives various legends in the Brahmana portions of TS and their deep significance. The remaining four chapters detail the available information on the beliefs and the aspects of the Society, the plants, metals of that time, the seasons and lists of integers.
The seven chapters of Section V deal with the Upanishads and the yogic insights in VS or TS.
The last adhyaya of VS, VS (40) is the famous Isha Upanishad. The champions of rites opine that the first 39 adhyayas of VS deal with rites, the fortieth being a singularity or abbreviation. However a more careful reading of the text of VS reveals that the last ten adhyayas VS (31)- VS (40) are philosophical and have many yogic insights. We have to remember that philosophy in the Hindu context is not merely a work of intellectual speculation, but should be supported by an experience beyond the mind and it must be capable of leading a practioner to ascend the various levels of consciousness. Five of the Upanishads in the famous oupen ‘khat collection of sixty Upanishads are in VS. Some of the phrases in the Tadeva Upanishad in VS (32) resembles those in major Upanishads like Kena or Brhadaranyaka U. Of great interest in Taittiriya Samhita are the ideas of creation and the journey of the subtle body to higher worlds indicated by Suparna, in Chapter25 and Chapter 28.
The section VI entitled Appendices has four relatively lengthy essays. The appendix 1 discuss the connection between the complex Vedic rites like Agni- chayana and the ordinary Vedic homas done today. It contains some details of the complex Agni- chayana rite in which the mantras from TS (Kanda 4) are chanted.
The special feature of TS, unlike VS, is that it has several section or anuvakas which have no mantra, but only prose passages giving various types of information including legends, conditions of society, brief explanations of rites etc. Many persons attached to rites seem to be under the delusion that these Brahmana passages give solid support for the outward rites. So we have discussed in detail all the Brahmana passages appearing in TS in appendix 2.
We refer to the table in p. 145 in a number of places.
In appendix 3 we discuss all the mantras in TS (5) and TS (7) dealing with Ashvamedha to show that these mantras support the idea of inner yajna rather than the outward one.
The appendix 4 gives a detailed listing of the contents of TS Kanda 4, clearly the most important Kanda in TS. It gives a variety of knowledge on spiritual practices.
Summing up, the main contribution of this book is the discussion of the role of mantras in both inner and outer yajna, as well as the study of the relation between the two recensions of Yajur Veda, namely Taittitiya and Vajaasaneyi, often viewed as separate.
Those who are interested to study the whole Taittiriya Samhita can read the three volume set published by SAKSI.
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