The Religion based on the Vedas, the Sanatana Dharma, or Vaidika Dharma, is the oldest of all living Ethical systems and stands unrivalled, unparalleled in the depth and splendour of its philosophy. It yields to none in the purity and genuineness of its teachings, in the flexibility and varied adaptation of its rites and ceremonies. It is like a river, which has shallows that a child may play in, and depths which the strongest diver cannot fathom. It is thus adapted to every human need, and there is nothing which any man-made religion can supply to add to its rounded perfection.
The more it is studied, the more does it illuminate the intellect and satisfy the heart. It is a framework that supports the plumbing of the deepest secrets of the human heart. The youth who learns something of it has learnt the secret of happiness, reaching the end of his travails of many-many life-times, a sure consolation in trouble, for the rest of his life and perhaps has entered the endless realm through the medium of the Dharma.
That which supports, that which holds together the peoples (of the universe), that is Dharma. Dharma is not merely a set of beliefs having no necessary connection with the daily life of humanity, but it is the very principles of a healthy and beneficent life and perhaps even the after-life.
Therefore to know those principles and act upon them is to be a true Aryan (or follower of Vaidika Dharma), and to tread the sure road to happiness, individual as well as general. The etymological meaning of religion is also the same, ” that which binds together.” ” Vaidika ” means “pertaining to the Veda or Perfect Knowledge.” Hence Vaidika Dharma means ” the Religion of Perfect Knowledge.” Although Dharma has no equivalence in the English Language, the word Dharma stands loosely for the “Natural Way”, the “Original Way” and the way of the Free. One of the most remarkable things in the Sanatana Religion is the way in which it has laid down a complete scheme of knowledge.
The Philosophy within the Dharma is composed of six faces, but governed by one idea and leading to one goal. No such comprehensive and orderly view of human knowledge is elsewhere to be found. This has been sketched in the Elementary Text-Book, but this also requires some further elucidation.
The Shrutih, consisting of the Four Vedas is the final authority in the Aryan Religion. To use the word Religion in the modern day, is quite dangerous and can have unnecessary connotations. It is better to use the Word Dharma. The four Vedas, in the Dharma form in their entirety, the Veda, or perfect knowledge bank, revealed by Brahma, the creator, seen and realized completely by the Rishis, the sages of yore and clothed in words by Them for the benefit of the Aryan peoples, forms the basis of the Dharma.
The Vedas, together with the Itihasas (authentic history) , were withdrawn at the end of the Yugas. The Maharhis, permitted by Svayambhu (Brahma), recovered them by Tapas (Austerities). It appears that modifications were introduced on such recoveries, which took place at the beginning of each cycle, so as to suit the again revealed Vedas to the special conditions of the age. For we read in the Devi Bhagavata thus ” Then, in the Kali age, He (Vishnu in the form of Vyasa) divides the one Veda into many parts, desiring benefit (to men), and knowing that the Brahmanas would be short-lived and of small intelligence,” and hence unable to master the whole.
Thus the Rishis are ever watching over the Religion they gave, withdrawing and again giving revelation according to the needs and the capacities of each age. If so much has disappeared from the sacred books as may be seen by comparing the number of shlokas said to be contained in some of them, with the extant shlokas this disappearance has been brought about by the Rishis for men’s benefit.
In Patanjali’s MahaBhashyaa much higher figures, as regards the extent and content of the Vedas, are given than are found in the now extant books. He mentions 21 shlokas of the Rigveda, 100 of the Yajurveda, 1000 of the Samaveda and 9 of the Atharvaveda.
The Muktikopanishad gives 21 shlokas of the Rigveda, 109 of the Yajurveda, 1OOO of the Samaveda and 50 of the AtharavaVeda. Of these but few are now known. Each Veda has three generally recognised divisions : (i) The Samhita, or Collection, consisting of Suktas, hymns used at sacrifices and offerings, the Mantras, on which the efficacy of the rite depends.