The Veda is divided into four great books:
- The Rig-Veda
- The Yajur-Veda
- The Sama-Veda
- The Atharva-Veda
The Yajur-Veda is again divided into two parts:
- The Sukla Yajur-Veda
- The Krishna Yajur-Veda.
The Krishna or the Tattiriya is the older book and the Sukla or Vajasaneya is a later revelation to Sage Yajnavalkya from the resplendent Sun-God.
The Rig-Veda is divided into twenty-one sections, the Yajur-Veda into one hundred and nine sections, the Sama-Veda into one thousand sections and Atharva-Veda into fifty sections. In all, the whole Veda is thus divided into one thousand one hundred and eighty recensions.
Each Veda consists of four parts:
- The Mantra-Samhitas or hymns.
- The Brahmanas or explanations of Mantras or rituals.
- The Aranyakas (philosophical interpretations of the rituals).
- The Upanishads (The essence or the knowledge portion of the Vedas).
The division of the Vedas into four parts is to suit the four stages in a man’s life.
The Mantra-Samhitas are hymns in praise of the Vedic God for attaining material prosperity here and happiness hereafter. They are metrical poems comprising prayers, hymns and incantations addressed to various deities, both subjective and objective. The Mantra portion of the Vedas is useful for the Brahmacharins (celibate; one who belongs to the first of the four Asramas or orders of life; one who lives in purity and studies the Veda; the first 25 years of life).
The Brahmana portions guide people to perform sacrificial rites. They are prose explanations of the method of using the Mantras in the Yajna or the sacrifice. The Brahmana portion is suitable for the householder (Grihastha; one who belongs to the second of the four Asramas or orders of life; from 25 to 50 years of age).
The Aranyakas are the forest books, the mystical sylvan texts which give philosophical interpretations of the Rituals. The Aranyakas are intended for the Vanaprasthas or hermits who prepare themselves for taking Sannyasa. (Vanaprastha = one who leads the third stage of life; from 50 to 75 years of age).
The Upanishads are the most important portion of the Vedas. The Upanishads contain the essence or the knowledge portion of the Vedas. The philosophy of the Upanishads is sublime, profound, lofty an soul-stirring. The Upanishads speak of the identity of the individual soul and the Supreme Soul. They reveal the most subtle and deep spiritual truths. The Upanishads are useful for the Sannyasins. (Sannyasi or Sannyasin = a monk; one who has embraced the life of complete renunciation ; one belonging to the fourth or the highest stage of life; from 75 to 100 years of age).
[Note: Although the division of the Vedas into four parts is to suit the four stages in a man’s life, the study of the four Vedas is done by Brahmacharins or celibate students and the knowledge thus acquired serves as the basis of the goal of life through all the four stages of life. The studies of the Vedas continue throughout one’s life. (Refer also to Dharma, Artha, Kama & Moksha). Thus the knowledge of the Upanishads is not to be confined to the last stage of life. The mind of the Sannyasin is intensely focussed upon the teachings of the Upanishads.]
The subject matter of the whole Veda is divided into
The Karma-Kanda or Ritualistic Section
deals with various sacrifices and rituals.
The Upasana-Kanda or Worship-Section deals
with various kinds of worship or meditation.
The Jana-Kanda or Knowledge-Section deals with the
highest knowledge of Nirguna Brahman. (Nirguna = without
attributes or forms. Brahman = the Supreme Reality).
The Mantras and the Brahmanas constitute Karma-Kanda (rituals).
The Aranyakas constitute Upasana-Kanda (worship).
The Upanishads constitute Jnana-Kanda (knowledge).
you can enjoy the Four Vedas in audio here.
(All four Vedas with complete English meaning, really peaceful and also chantings that will make your hair stand on your body. Such is the power in these Vedas.
* note this is only for convenience purposes, not an attempt to breach any copyright laws, all credit and rights goes to ‘The Essence of the Vedas’. )