How many Vedas are there according to Sanatana Dharma?
The Lord spoke very highly about the Vedas in the Gita. The objective of studying the Vedas is only one and that is to know the position of God and recognizing Him as the sole objective of all life. The Lord declares Himself as the original author of the Vedas and the knower of the Vedas. There is a description of the Pipala tree in the Gita (Chapter 15, Verse 15) in which the tree is compared to the whole of Creation. He mentions that the essence of Creation which is represented by the entire tree is actually the roots, which is beneath the ground and cannot be seen. This essence, the roots is verily Himself. The Lord says that the one who knows the roots, knows the tree (Chapter 15, Verse 1). The Truth of the Vedas is the root of the tree, He says. Thus the Lord praises the Vedas in Chapter 15 of the Gita.
The Lord also declares the Vedas namely the Rik, Yajuh and Sama as His own selves. He has mentioned that the Vedas have directly emanated from Him. Thus all that the Lord Is, is represented directly by the Vedas. The Vedas are the written works which have within them the processes that lead to God-realization. The Vedas carry within them edicts that needed to be adhered to, so as to enjoy within this mortal world, through authorized means. But the main work of the Vedas was to help graduate man from a lower position of sense-enjoyment to a higher position of Self-realization and emerge as a God-realized at the end of such a graduation process. This is the main purpose of the Vedas. Many people consider the Vedas and the scriptural edicts as mere tools for sense gratification, which is the sad position of such beings. But there are several places in the Bhagavad Gita where the Lord has spoken slightingly about the Vedas. Now why did He do that, in the same breath?
For example, the Lord says (Chapter 2, Verse 42) that a man obsessed by desire and devoted to the letter of the Vedas is unwise. He again says elsewhere that the Vedas deal with the three modes of material nature or Gunas in the form of worldly enjoyment, as well as with the means of attaining such enjoyments. Thus He also orders Arjuna to remain unattached to them, in particular (Chapter 2, Verse 45). The Lord refers to men attached and motivated by the desire to perform the rituals of the Vedas as prone to coming and going to the earthly platform without any means to escape the whirligig of birth and death (Chapter 9, Verse 21). How does one understand the Lord’s motive through such statements?
It may appear that the Lord is somehow demeaning the position of the Vedas by saying so, but in reality this is not true. The whole fuel that ignites the sparkling beauty of the Gita, is the sentiment of utter desirelessness on the part of the one rendering service or the worshipper much more than any performance of work in an “unfortunate” interested spirit. The Lord has declared the former as the essential indispensable quality for God-realization. What the Lord is focusing upon, as He eulogizes or decries the Vedas, is the mood of the devotee as the devotee is carrying out the instructions as enjoined in the Vedas. The mood of implementation of the Vedas is seen reflected or transferred as the quality of the Vedas. For example if I am a practitioner and a follower of the Vedas, wherein, my faith is that I will ascend to the heavenly zones to enjoy with the apsaras (heavenly damsels) or gain physical comforts or I desire some material benefits on this earthly platform so that my business does well etc, then the Lord says “The Vedas are no good. They will take you into endless cycles of birth and death and will ruin you in some way”. On the other hand, if I am interested in serving my Lord in Vaikuntha or the non-returnable Spiritual Abode where I shall serve my Lord as His servant and I take up the practices of the Vedas with such a desire, unmotivated by any material gains or perishable heavenly gains, then “The Vedas become the body of that very Lord and shall serve as that very imperishable Abode that you shall enter, never to fall back into any earthly or celestial zone ever again”.