Overview: Ind Philosophy
Shruti Literature
Vedas : Contents
Parts of Vedas
Introduction to Vedanta
Advaita Vedanta



Indian Philosophy

Indian Scriptures


Indian Culture


What do the Vedas contain?

The Vedas contain the mantras. These mantras have different specific purposes.

Most of them are symbolic. Some of them are hymns addressed to the deities. Some of them are for ceremonial purposes or for the rites and rituals. Some deal with the social life. There are references to the sciences and mathematics also. Discussions on the topics of chemistry, astronomy, botany, zoology, physiology, medical therapeutics and bio-sciences are also found in the Vedas.

The Vedas reflect all the aspects of existence. They throw light on the Srishti (the creation), the Brahman, the atman, the life and all the related issues of spiritualism. The Vedas present a record of the philosophical progress of man.

However it should be remembered that neither the Vedas nor the Upanishads propagate a specific ideology or a doctrine. As such they are not  philosophical treatises. Yet one finds ample evidence of subtle philosophical thoughts from the verses. 

In the Vedas, several portions are repeated in toto. A large number of mantras are found to be repetitious. It may be noted that the chapters or the mantras are not sequential. The ideas and thoughts in a single chapter may seem to be illogical or incoherent. There are instances of unexplainable digressions from a theme within a chapter. Hence one may not find a systematic, logical development of a doctrine. However, it does not undermine the significance of the Vedas.

A great deal of scholastic ability is required to interpret the Vedas. A single word may have different meanings in different contexts. Many mantras are cryptic statements to a lay man. Some of them are too enigmatic to be followed. They are ambiguous or symbolic.

This is why the Vedas have often been misinterpreted even by learned scholars of reputation.  Unfortunately, some of the Western philosophers have not done justice to the Vedas. Many of them failed to understand them correctly and presented distorted views on several counts. Some of the Indian scholars have been influenced by their Western counterparts.

On the other hand, Dayananda Saraswati , Shri Aurobindo and others have challenged the Westerners and made great efforts to re-evaluate the Vedas. One may now remember that the Vedas  could only be interpreted with the help of an elaborate explanation by an expert. Once understood thoroughly, they open up new vistas of knowledge and radically transform life.

The meaning of the word  "Veda"

The word ‘Veda’ is interpreted in more than one ways by different scholars. Swami Dayananda Saraswati has brought out four diverse meanings of the word. Thus, the word ‘Veda’ can be defined in more than one ways. 

The word ‘Veda’ originates from the Sanskrit root Vid. The Sanskrit verb ‘Vid’ means ‘to know’. The word ‘Veda’ literally means knowledge. The Veda is concerned with “knowledge par excellence”. When  the man was in a primitive stage enveloped in darkness, the philosophy of the Veda was the unprecedented glow of knowledge. The knowledge which transformed a prakrit man to a Sanskrit man is the Veda.

The word ‘Veda’ means ‘to be’. It is concerned with astitva - the existence. That which creates awareness in a man about his own existence is the Veda.

One of the interpretations of the word ‘Veda’ is ‘to think’. The word ‘Veda’ is suggestive of ‘thought’. Thinking awakens discretion in a man’s mind. It makes a man wise and judicious. The knowledge which helps to distinguish between Sat and Asat is the Veda.

The word ‘Veda’ also refers to accomplishment. The knowledge which helps a man in realizing his supreme goal is the Veda.