Vyasa

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Vyasa (/ˈvjɑːsə/; Sanskrit: व्यास, literally "Compiler") is a central and revered figure in most Hindu traditions. He is also sometimes called Veda Vyāsa (वेदव्यास, veda-vyāsa, "the one who classified the Vedas"), or Krishna Dvaipāyana (referring to his dark complexion and birthplace). He is generally considered the author of the Mahabharata, as well as a character in it, and the scribe of both the Vedas and Puranas. Vyasa is also considered to be one of the seven Chiranjivins (long lived, or immortals), who are still in existence according to Hindu belief. According to the Vishnu Purana, "Veda Vyasa" is a title applied to the compilers of the Vedas who are avatars of Vishnu; 28 people with this title have appeared so far. The reason for this 28 people is that in every Yuga in the Dwapara of a Given Manvantara in a Given Kalpa [ Brahma day ] Veda Vyasa who is also incarnation of God comes down. Currently we are in Sveta varaha kalpa of 7th Manu called Vaivaswata Manu and 27 Maha yugas have completed and we are currently in the last phase of 28th Yuga Kali Yuga phase.[1][2]

The festival of Guru Purnima is dedicated to him. It is also known as Vyasa Purnima, for it is the day believed to be both his birthday and the day he divided the Vedas.[3][4]

In the Mahabharata

Vyasa appears for the first time as the compiler of, and an important character in, the Mahabharata. It is said that he was the expansion of the god Vishnu who came in Dwaparayuga to make all the Vedic knowledge available in written form which was available in spoken form at that time. He was the son of Satyavati, adopted daughter of the fisherman Dusharaj,[5] and the wandering sage Parashara (who is credited with being the author of the first Purana, Vishnu Purana). There are two different views regarding his birthplace. One of the views suggests that he was born in the Tanahun district in western Nepal, in Vyas municipality of Gandaki zone of Tanahun district, and his name, Vedh Vyas, names his birthplace. Another view suggests that he was born on an island in the Yamuna River near Kalpi, Uttar Pradesh, India.[6] Vyasa was dark-complexioned and hence may be called by the name Krishna, and also the name Dwaipayana, meaning 'island-born'.

Dhritarashtra born of Ambika, and Pandu, born of Ambalika and Vidura born to a maid, were born from Vyasa's powers (Siddhis).[7]

Vyasa is believed to have lived on the banks of Ganga in modern-day Uttarakhand. The place was also the abode of the sage Vashishta along with the Pandavas, the five brothers of the Mahabharata.[8]

According to the Mahabharatha, Maharishi Vyas and his disciples and the sage Viswamitra decided to settle down in a cool and serene atmosphere after the Kurukshetra War. In the quest for a peaceful abode, he came to the Dandaka forest and, pleased with serenity of the region, selected this place. Since Maharishi Vyasa spent considerable time in prayers, the place was then called "Vasara", which became turned into Basar (in Telangana) due to the influence of the Marathi language in this region.

Early life

According to Vishnu Purana that Shri Vyasa Deva (Krishna Dwaipayana Vyasa) or Ved Vyasa, son of Parashara and Satyavati and composer of Mahabharata was born in an island on Yamuna at Kalpi.[9]

According to the legends, in his previous life, Vyasa was the Sage Apantaratamas, who was born when Lord Vishnu uttered the syllable "Bhu". He was a devotee of Lord Vishnu. Since birth, he already possessed the knowledge of the Vedas, the Dharmashastras and the Upanishads. At Vishnu's behest, he was reborn as Vyasa.

Sage Parashara was the father of Vyasa and the grandson of Sage Vashistha. Prior to Vyasa's birth, Parashara had performed a severe penance to Lord Shiva. Shiva granted a boon that Parashara's son would be a Brahmarshi equal to Vashistha and would be famous for his knowledge.

Parashara begot Vyasa on Satyavati. She conceived and immediately gave birth to Vyasa. Vyasa turned into an adult and left, promising his mother that he would come to her when needed.

Vyasa acquired his knowledge from the four Kumaras, Narada and Lord Brahma himself.[citation needed]

Veda Vyasa

Hindus traditionally hold that Vyasa categorised the primordial single Veda into three canonical collections, and that the fourth one, known as Atharvaveda, was recognized as Veda only very much later. Hence he was called Veda Vyasa, or "Splitter of the Vedas," the splitting being a feat that allowed people to understand the divine knowledge of the Veda. The word vyasa means split, differentiate, or describe.

The Vishnu Purana has a theory about Vyasa.[10] The Hindu view of the universe is that of a cyclic phenomenon that comes into existence and dissolves repeatedly. Each cycle is presided over by a number of Manus, one for each Manvantara, that has four ages, Yugas of declining virtues. The Dvapara Yuga is the third Yuga. The Vishnu Purana (Book 3, Ch 3) says:

In every third world age (Dvapara), Vishnu, in the person of Vyasa, in order to promote the good of mankind, divides the Veda, which is properly but one, into many portions. Observing the limited perseverance, energy, and application of mortals, he makes the Veda fourfold, to adapt it to their capacities; and the bodily form which he assumes, in order to effect that classification, is known by the name of Veda-vyasa. Of the different Vyasas in the present Manvantara and the branches which they have taught, you shall have an account. Twenty-eight times have the Vedas been arranged by the great Rishis in the Vaivasvata Manvantara... and consequently eight and twenty Vyasas have passed away; by whom, in the respective periods, the Veda has been divided into four. The first... distribution was made by Svayambhu (Brahma) himself; in the second, the arranger of the Veda (Vyasa) was Prajapati... (and so on up to twenty-eight).[11]

As per Vishnu Purana, Guru Drona's son rishi Aswatthama will become the next sage Vyasa (title), who in turn divide the Veda in 29th Mahayuga of 7th Manvantara.[12]

Chronicler of the Mahabharata

Ganesha writing the Mahabharat
Vyasa narrating the Mahabharata to Ganesha, his scribe, Angkor Wat.

Vyasa is traditionally known as the chronicler of this epic, and also features as an important character in it. According to the legend, the sage Vyasa was the son of Satyavati and Parashara. During her youth Satyavati was a fisherwoman who used to drive a boat. One day the sage Parashara was in a hurry to attend a yaga. Satyavati helped him cross the river borders. On this account, the sage offered her a mantra which would result in begetting a son who would be a sage with wisdom and all good qualities. Satyavati immediately recited the mantra, and thus Vyasa was born. She kept this incident a secret, not telling even King Shantanu. After many years, Shantanu and Satyavati had two sons, named Chitrangada and Vichitraviriya. Chitrangada was killed by Gandharvas in a battle, while Vichitraveriya was weak and ill all the time. Satyavati then asked Bhisma to fetch queens for Vichitravirya. Bhishma attended the swayamvara conducted by the king of Kashi (present-day Varanasi), and defeated all the kings. He abducted three princesses Amba, Ambika and Ambalika. Amba, later was a source of trouble to Bhishma. Amba was in love with the prince of Shalva and when Bhishma learnt about this, he allowed her to go to Shalva, who rejected her. She came back to Bhishma and asked him to marry her, which he could not due to his vow. She shuttled between Bhishma and Shalva with no success. Due to this she vowed to kill Bhishma. During the wedding ceremony, Vichitraviriya collapsed and died, and Satyavati was clueless on know how to save the clan from perishing. She asked Bhishma to marry both the queens, who refused, as he had taken a vow and had promised her and her father never to marry. He, therefore could not father an heir to the kingdom. Later, Satyavati revealed to Bhishma, secrets from her past life and requested him to bring Vyasa to Hastinapur. Sage Vyasa had a fierce personality and was rather unpleasant in appearance. Hence upon seeing him, Ambika was terrified and she shut her eyes, resulting in their offspring being born blind. The child was Dhritarashtra. The other queen, Ambalika, upon meeting sage Vyasa turned pale, which resulted in their child being born pale. He was Pāndu. Alarmed, Satyavati requested Vyasa meet Ambika again and grant her another son. Ambika, instead sent her maid to meet Vyasa. The duty bound maid was calm and composed; she had a healthy child later, named Vidura. While these are Vyasa's sons, another son Shuka, born of his spouse Pinjalā (Vatikā),[13] daughter of the sage Jābāli was his true spiritual heir. Shuka appears occasionally in the story as a spiritual guide to the young Kuru princes.

Vyasa with his mother (Satyavati)

In the first book of the Mahābhārata, Vyasa asks Ganesha to assist him in writing the text. Ganesha imposes a precondition that he would do so only if Vyasa would narrate the story without a pause. Vyasa set a counter-condition that Ganesha understand the verses first before transcribing them. Thus Vyasa narrated the entire Mahābhārata and all the Upanishads and the 18 Puranas, while Lord Ganesha wrote.

Vyasa is supposed to have meditated and authored the epic by the foothills of the river Beas (Vipasa) in the Punjab region.[citation needed]

Vyasa's Jaya

Vyasa's Jaya (literally, "victory"), the core of the Mahābhārata, is a dialogue between Dhritarashtra (the Kuru king and the father of the Kauravas, who opposed the Pāndavas in the Kurukshetra War) and Sanjaya, his adviser and charioteer. Sanjaya narrates the particulars of the Kurukshetra War, fought in eighteen days, chronologically. Dhritarāshtra at times asks questions and expresses doubts, sometimes lamenting, fearing the destruction the war would bring on his family, friends and kin.

Sanjaya, in the beginning, gives a description of the various continents of the Earth and numerous planets, and focuses on the kingdom of Bhārata lineage that comprises India, Nepal, Tibet, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iran, Cambodia and several other countries in south-asian subcontinent. Large and elaborate lists are given, describing hundreds of kingdoms, tribes, provinces, cities, towns, villages, rivers, mountains, forests, etc. of the ancient region of Bhārata Varsha. Additionally, he gives descriptions of the military formations adopted by each side on each day, the death of individual heroes and the details of the battles. Eighteen chapters of Vyasa's Jaya constitute the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred text in Hinduism. Jaya deals with diverse subjects, such as geography, history, warfare, spirituality and morality.

Ugrasrava Sauti's Mahābhārata

The final version of Vyasa's work is the Mahābhārata. It is structured as a narration by Ugrasrava Sauti, a professional story teller, to an assembly of rishis who, in the forest of Naimisha, had just attended the 12 year sacrifice known as Saunaka, also known as "Kulapati".

Reference to writing

Within the Mahābhārata, there is a tradition in which Vyasa wishes to write down or inscribe his work:

The Grandsire Brahma (creator of the universe) comes and tells Vyasa to get the help of Ganapati for his task. Ganapati writes down the stanzas recited by Vyasa from memory and thus the Mahābhārata is inscribed or written.

There is some evidence however that writing may have been known earlier based on archeological findings of styli in the Painted Grey Ware culture, dated between 5000 B.C. and 3000 B.C.[14][15][16] and archeological evidence of the Brahmi script being used from at least 300 B.C.[17][improper synthesis?]

Other texts attributed

Vyasa is also credited with the writing of the eighteen major Purāṇas. His son Shuka is the narrator of the major Purāṇa Bhagavat-Purāṇa.

The Yoga Bhashya, a commentary on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, is attributed to Vyasa.[18]

The Brahma Sutra is attributed to Badarayana — which makes him the proponent of the crest-jewel school of Hindu philosophy, i.e., Vedanta. Vaishnavas conflate Vyasa with Badarayana because the island on which Vyasa was born is said to have been covered with badara (Indian jujube/Ber/Ziziphus mauritiana) trees.[19] Some modern historians,[who?] though, suggest that these were two different personalities.

There may have been more than one Vyasa, or the name Vyasa may have been used at times to give credibility to a number of ancient texts.[20] Much ancient Indian literature was a result of long oral tradition with wide cultural significance rather than the result of a single author. However, Vyasa is credited with documenting, compiling, categorising or writing commentaries on much of this literature.

In Sikhism

In Brahm Avtar, one of the compositions in Dasam Granth, the Second Scripture of Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh mentions Rishi Vyas as an avatar of Brahma.[21] He is considered the fifth incarnation of Brahma. Guru Gobind Singh wrote brief account of Rishi Vyas's compositions about great kings— Manu, Prithu, Bharath, Jujat, Ben, Mandata, Dilip, Raghu Raj and Aj[21][22]— and attributed to him the store of Vedic learning.[23]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Jeaneane D. Fowler (2012). The Bhagavad Gita: A Text and Commentary for Students. Sussex Academic Press. p. 177. ISBN 9781845193461.
  2. ^ Bibek Debroy (2011). The Mahabharata. 4. Penguin. p. xviii. ISBN 9780143100164.
  3. ^ Awakening Indians to India. Chinmaya Mission. 2008. p. 167. ISBN 81-7597-434-6.
  4. ^ What Is Hinduism?: Modern Adventures Into a Profound Global Faith. Himalayan Academy Publications. p. 230. ISBN 1-934145-00-9.
  5. ^ According to legend, Vyasa was the son of the ascetic Parashara and the dasyu Satyavati and grew up in forests, living with hermits who taught him the Vedas. It is important to mention here that as per the divine plan of Lord Brahma to eradicate the curse of satyavati which she inherited from her mother,through the greater power of " Brahmatapa", the great Parashar was forced & ordered to establish the physical relation with Satyavati,out of which Vyasa born with inherent knowledge of Vedas. fromEncyclopædia Britannica
  6. ^ Essays on the Mahābhārata, Arvind Sharma, Motilal Banarsidass Publisher, p. 205
  7. ^ [Mahabharata]
  8. ^ Strauss, Sarah (2002). "The Master's Narrative: Swami Sivananda and the Transnational Production of Yoga". Journal of Folklore Research. Indiana University Press. 23: 221. JSTOR 3814692.
  9. ^ Kalpriya Nagri, Bundelkhand.
  10. ^ Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Puranas, Volume 1 (2001), page 1408
  11. ^ "Vishnu Purana". Retrieved 2014-03-15.
  12. ^ Vishnu Purana -Drauni or Asvathama as Next Vyasa Retrieved 2015-03-22
  13. ^ Skanda Purāṇa, Nāgara Khanda, ch. 147
  14. ^ S. U. Deraniyagala. Early Man and the Rise of Civilisation in Sri Lanka: the Archaeological Evidence.
  15. ^ N. R. Banerjee (1965). The Iron Age in India. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal.
  16. ^ F. Raymond Allchin, George Erdosy (1995). The Archaeology of Early Historic South Asia: Emergence of Cities and States. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-37695-5.
  17. ^ T. S. Subramanian. Skeletons, script found at ancient burial site in Tamil Nadu. Institute for Oriental Study, Thane.
  18. ^ Ian Whicher. The Integrity of the Yoga Darsana: A Reconsideration of Classical Yoga. SUNY Press. p. 320.
  19. ^ Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam, ed. India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 74.
  20. ^ The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Edwin F. Bryant 2009 page xl
  21. ^ a b Dasam Granth, Dr. SS Kapoor
  22. ^ Line 8, Brahma Avtar, Dasam Granth
  23. ^ Line 107, Vyas Avtar, Dasam Granth

References

  • The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa, translated by Kisari Mohan Ganguli, published between 1883 and 1896
  • The Arthashastra, translated by Shamasastry, 1915
  • The Vishnu-Purana, translated by H. H. Wilson, 1840
  • The Bhagavata-Purana, translated by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, 1988 copyright Bhaktivedanta Book Trust
  • The Jataka or Stories of the Buddha's Former Births, edited by E. B. Cowell, 1895

External links

  • Quotations related to Vyasa at Wikiquote
  • Media related to Vyasa at Wikimedia Commons
  • Wikisource logo Works written by or about Vyasa at Wikisource
  • The Mahābhārata – Ganguli translation, full text at sacred-texts.com
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