Importance of the Vedas
The Upanishads teach the truth—unknown to the sense-organs— regarding living beings (jivas), the universe (jagat), and God (Isvara). They describe the nature and attributes of Brahman, Its reality and manifestations, Its powers and aspects. They also describe the creation, preservation, and ultimate dissolution of the universe, and the changes and modifications of nature (prakriti).
Furthermore, the Upanishads deal with the development of the individual soul (jiva), its evolution and its destiny, its bondage and its freedom. The relationship between matter and Spirit, between God, the universe, and living beings, also belongs to the subject matter of the Upanishads. These concerns relate to a supersensuous realm unknowable to a man's everyday state of consciousness. Yet the weal and woe and the good and evil of a man depend, in a special manner, upon his knowledge of these things. For man is rooted in a reality far deeper than is apparent to the senses.
Just as only a small portion of an iceberg is visible, so only a small portion of man is available to the senses, no matter how they may be magnified. The solution of many of our most vital problems must come, therefore, from regions beyond the scope of the ordinary faculty of reason.
Knowledge of Self
According to the Mundaka Upanishad, one should acquire two forms of knowledge: the apara (lower) and the Para (Higher). The lower consists of the four Vedas (that is to say, their ritualistic portions) and their six auxiliaries. It deals with the phenomenal universe. The importance of the lower knowledge was admitted by the rishis [sages]. It is conducive to a man's material welfare; but its results are impermanent.
The Higher Knowledge is that by which the Imperishable Substance is known. This Imperishable Substance was given the name of Brahman by the Indo-Aryan seers; hence the Higher Knowledge was also called Brahmavidya, the Knowledge of Brahman; and this is the knowledge to which was given the general name Upanishad. Brahmavidya was regarded as the foundation of all other forms of knowledge—sarvavidyapratishiha.
By withdrawing the senses from outer objects, the rishis and yogis made the scattered mind one-pointed. This practice of concentration presently endowed it with keenness, depth, and a new intensity, and as the power of concentration increased, the seeker became aware of deeper phases of existence. Instinct, reason, and intuition, or higher consciousness—the three instruments of knowledge—all are differing states of the same mind.
Only yoga can give a man that subtle depth of understanding by which the supramental truths can be apprehended. The rishis were adept in yoga. That is why their hearts were open to the secrets of creation and the universe.
The page on this website contain information or technique to achieve the Knowledge of Self that leads to Self-realization which is the only way to Liberation or Salvation.
Paramahansa Yogananda said:
is the knowing – in body, mind, and soul –
that we are one with the omnipresence of God;
that we do not have to pray that it come to us,
that we are not merely near it at all times,
but that God's omnipresence is our omnipresence;
that we are just as much a part of Him now as we ever will be.
All we have to do is improve our knowing."
Esoteric Meaning of the Vedas
The word Veda signifies knowledge. The Vedas, the "divinely revealed," most highly revered Hindu scriptures, are books of wisdom both material and spiritual. A scripture is meant primarily for the liberation of the soul from the bondage of rebirth and secondarily for teaching the art of success in material life. Certain classes of people blindly worship the Vedas and consider all of their injunctions—to be observed literally—as divine prescriptions essential to liberation. The authors of these ancient treatises were wise enough to stimulate interest in the scriptures by showing the general populace ways of material success, and then to try to lead them on to follow those self-disciplinary rules that end in spiritual liberation.
Great yogis give a spiritual interpretation of the Vedas and their injunctions. The exoteric division of the Vedas is that which deals with rituals; and the esoteric, with knowledge. The outer surface of the body and the nerve centers that stimulate sensory-motor activity are compared to the exoteric ceremonial rites of the Vedas.
The inner subtle astral centers and higher states of consciousness correspond to the esoteric principles of the Vedas. The yogis say that the meditating devotee on his way to the perception of the Self rises above the consciousness of the world, the senses, and the body (the Vedic rituals) and becomes concentrated on the spinal region and its subtle spiritual centers of consciousness and vital energy (the Vedic esoteric principles). The devotee is then counseled to rise above the perceptions of the coccygeal, sacral, and lumbar regions [Muladhara, Svadhishtana, Manipura] (corresponding to the three lower Vedas that deal with the material side of life) and to concentrate on the regions of the dorsal, cervical, medullary, and cerebral centers [Anahata, Vishuddha, Ajna, Sahasrara] (corresponding to the Rig Veda, the highest and most spiritual of the Vedas).*
* Of the four Vedas,
the Rig Veda is the oldest, or original text. Its philosophy and prescriptions show an evolution from worship of the forces of Nature to the recognition of one Supreme Spirit — Brahman — and, correspondingly, evolution from dependence on the favors of the "gods" to Self-mastery.
The Yajur Veda and Sama Veda are considered generally to be derived from the Rig Veda. The Yajur is a special arrangement of rituals—a handbook for priests who conduct the ceremonial rites.
The Sama Veda contains selected chants and defines their proper melodic intonation as applicable to the Vedic rituals.
The Atharva Veda is of later origin, and is primarily incantations and magical formulas designed to appease negative forces and gain mundane favors. Among its practical prescriptions are those that have been called the beginning of Indian medical science.
Sages who are able with divine intuition to read not the surface meanings, but the true essence of Vedic thought, declare these scriptures a timeless source of knowledge touching on all secular as well as religious arts and sciences.]
— Paramahansa Yogananda
* Excerpts translated by Swami Nikhilananda