Vyasa was one of the principal builders of Hindu(Vedic) knowledge system, culture and religion. He was born in a dvipa or island. He was of dark complexion(Krishna). Hence he was called Krishna Dvaipayana. Later, when he systematized the Veda which was in a single body into four parts,( according to the use to which the mantras are applied), he was called Veda Vyasa- the one who classified or divided the Veda. The Veda constitutes total knowledge available to man.
According to the Mahabharata, Vyasa was the great grand son of Rishi Vasistha, grandson of Sakti Rishi, and son of Rishi Parasara and Satyavathi. Vyasa’s son was Muni Suka. Vyasa fathered Dhritarastra, Pandu and Vidura on the wives of Vicitravirya, the son of Satyavathi and Santanu. This was done on the command of Satyavathi to keep alive the kuru lineage. In those days ie.,Dvapara-yuga, the custom of niyoga or devara-nyaya was allowed by custom under certain specific conditions. Issueless married woman begetting children through her husband’s brother was called niyoga. Such a custom is prohibited in the Kali-yuga.
After dividing the original single Veda into four parts called Rik, Yajus, Saman and Atharvan, Vyasa entrusted each Veda to one of his chief disciples for memorization(ie.,storing)and propagation with the help of elaborate and complicated Svara(intonation)and Patha(recitation) rules and methods. This is because the meaning of Veda is dependent on Svara.
Rishi Paila was entrusted with the Rigveda.
Rishi Vaishmpayana with Yajurveda.
Rishi Jaimini with Samaveda.
Rishi Sumantu with Atharvanaveda.
These four rishis in turn taught the respective Vedas to their disciples so that the Vedic teaching and learning has spread through number of branches(Sakhas) all over the Greater India-the area over which Vedic culture has spread like the present day Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, South-East Asia, Afghanistan, Iran, Central-Asia etc.,
Study and preservation of the core Veda is a highly technical, and specialized task. It is difficult to access the Veda and its contents in a meaningful way for people who are not directly engaged in the Vedic studies. Therefore Vyasa collated eighteen chief Puranas including the Mahabhagavata and eighteen subsidiary Puranas which bring out the message of Vedas within the popular reach. They are encyclopaedic works containing the Vedic truths in the form of parables, stories, stotras, sayings etc., and also a host of subjects like history, geography, sciences, arts, customs, needed by the people at large.
Then Veda Vyasa conveived the Jaya or Bharata which was later swelled into the great Mahabharata which contains the famous popular philosophical guide Bhagavadgita. It is the story of his own progeny playing out the great real life drama of the conflict between Dharma and a-Dharma. For the first time in the history of Vedic people, Vyasa got the Mahabharata committed to writing through the divine scribe Ganapathi. While the Vedas are purely oral texts transmitted through Svara and Patha rules, Puranas are also oral texts conveyed through narration in story form.
The Mahabharata and the Puranas contain everything a Vedic Hindu should know from the Vedas and Upavedas and much more. In a way, the Mahabharata is a summary of Vedas and Puranas. Hence it is said that whatever is not in MBH will not be found elsewhere, meaning it contains all the knowledge. Veda Vyasa created all this stupendous body of knowledge to cater to all classes and all levels and all tastes of Hindus five thousand one hundred years ago! There are reliable astronomical, literary, archaelogical, epigraphical and other evidences to fix the date of Mahabharata and with it the date of its creator Veda Vyasa. And since then it is guiding the followers of Sanatana Dharma through thick and thin. Hence Vyasa is considered as Vishnu Avatara- Vyasaaya Vishnu ruupaaya. It is said that all the knowledge in the world has been wetted by Vyasa’s mouth or touched by Vyasa – “Vyaasochhistam Jagat sarvam”. He is the GURU par excellence.
- By Satya Deva
Buy the book on Veda Vyaasa written by K.M. Munshi here.