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Purpose of Scriptures

Being omnipotent and omnipresent, God is accessible anywhere and at anytime.  Because God is everywhere, there is no need to ‘look for God’, we simply have to ‘realize’ / ‘experience’ God.  Scriptures record how others have learned to ‘realize’ / ‘experience’ God.  In Hinduism, Vedas, Upnishads, Puranas, hymns, bhajans and other scriptures record how sages, learned men and devotees have managed to ‘realize’ / ‘experience’ God.

Vedas are ancient but they were not initially written down.  So only that which has been memorized is retained.  But because God is constantly talking to us, past conversations are past.  Like memories of sweet meetings, we want to remember some of the best conversations, but if we don't, it’s not a big deal.  Time is eternal and cyclical at the same time.  Hindus are am not worried about lost Vedas.  They will come back with dawn of new cycle of time.  We have an eternity to talk to God.  God keeps talking to his creation.  Those conversations are part of other people's own sacred scriptures.  That's why Hindus are always interested in knowing from other religions "what did god say to you?"  For this reason, Hindus are tolerant and open to other people’s religious ideas.

Priests have memorized those parts of the Vedas that will help them perform rituals useful for their profession.  Because these have to be intoned in a very specific way for them to be effective, it’s an arduous task and one that requires regular practice.  Vedic chanters practice their chants so accurately, they can repeat the "ruchas" Vedic verses backwards and forwards, and in logarithmic fashion as well.  It’s a complex training that takes years to perfect.  Unless you are going to do these rituals on a regular basis, why bother learn them ?  Rituals and hymns that were associated with the Vedas were the specialist skill of people who had excellent memory.  They came to be called Brahmins because they specialized in learning about Brahman (god).  Over time, this specialist skill was retained and taught only to those who were born in the lineage of Brahmins.

Upnishads helped explain the philosophies behind the rituals and hymns of the established Vedas.  They are the commentaries on the Vedas.  As each person has different way of explaining the same thing, each Upnishad reflects the thought process of the particular rishis that contributed to it.  Each upnishad comments on part or parts of the Veda that particular author specializes in.  For example, the Mahabharata is HUGE.  My articles are my commentaries.  They reflect my take on the scripture and concentrate on parts of the epic that resonates with my likes and dislikes.  Upnishads require a lot of thinking and internalising of the philosophies before explaining them in simple terms.  Unlike Vedas, which require wrote memory, Upnishads require introspection and intelligence.  For this reason they are written as terse verses with minimum number of words.  Readers are suppose to contemplate of the words and expand on them themselves.

Puranas are a mixture of folklore and philosophies.  They are popular tales and can be retold by even lay people.  Unlike Vedas and Upnishads, Puranas require great oratory skills.  It requires ability to retell old stories in contemporary ways that would make even lay people sit and listen for hours at an end.  

Popular hymns and scriptures developed by different sects keep people's spiritual pursuit going on a regular basis.  They allow people to expand and explore ‘God’ in their own ways.  Some do it by perfecting their control over their body (yoga).  Some in controlling their own mind (dhyan).  Some try to intellectualize God (gyan).  Some are devoted to God and appreciate God being part of their lives.  Developing ‘relationship’ with God, they introduce a significant element of personalization in their relationship with God (bhakti).  Others try to find logic in God's creation, resorting to science to understand the blueprint of the universe.  Others devote their time to helping people and find God in doing good works for humans and animals.  Others devote their lives to service of God in different ways.  

These are just some of the many purposes of creating and studying scriptures.  I am sure as students of scriptures, you can think of your very own reasons for studying ancient lore.


© Bhagwat Shah
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