Vyasa

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Vyasa
Vyasa Purana(Puranik)
Vyasa granting Sanjaya divine vision in the Mahabharata
FestivalsFestival of Guru Purnima, is dedicated to him, and also known as the Vyasa Purnima
Personal information
SpousePinjalaa
ChildrenVidura, Shuka, Pandu, Dhritarashtra
Parents

Vyasa (/ˈvjɑːsə/; Sanskrit: व्यास, literally "Compiler") is the legendary author of the Mahabharata, Vedas and Puranas, some of the most important works in the Hindu tradition. He is also called Veda Vyāsa (वेदव्यास, veda-vyāsa, "the one who classified the Vedas") or Krishna Dvaipāyana (referring to his dark complexion and birthplace).

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.[1][2] Vyasa is also considered to be one of the seven Chiranjivins (long-lived, or immortals), who are still in existence according to Hindu tradition.

Early life[edit]

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 and the wandering sage Parashara, who is credited with being the author of the first Purana, Vishnu Purana).[citation needed] [3] He was born on an island in the river Yamuna.[4] Due to his dark complexion, Vyasa was also given the name Krishna, in addition to the name Dwaipayana, meaning "island-born".[citation needed]

According to the Vishnu Purana, Vyasa was born in an island on Yamuna at Kalpi.[5][unreliable source?]

According to the legends, in his previous life, Vyasa was the Sage Apantaratamas, who was born when Lord Vishnu uttered the syllable "Bhu".[citation needed] 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 with 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]

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.[6]

Role In Mahabharata[edit]

According to the Mahabharata, 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, sage Parashara was in a hurry to attend a Yajna. 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 Vichitravirya. Chitrangada was killed by Gandharvas in a battle, while Vichitravirya 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, Vichitravirya collapsed and died. 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 a bright, glowing spiritual aura around him. Hence upon seeing him, Ambika who was rather scared shut her eyes, resulting in their child, Dhritarashtra, being born blind. The other queen, Ambalika, turned pale upon meeting Vyasa, which resulted in their child, Pandu, being born pale. Alarmed, Satyavati requested that 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 wife Pinjalā (Vatikā),[7] 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)

Veda Vyasa[edit]

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.[8] 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).[9]

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.[10]

Works[edit]

The Mahabharata[edit]

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. 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 (literally, "victory"), the core of the Mahabharata, 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. Dhritarashtra 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 Indian subcontinent.[citation needed] Large and elaborate lists are given, describing hundreds of kingdoms, tribes, provinces, cities, towns, villages, rivers, mountains, forests, etc. of the (ancient) Indian subcontinent (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 war-races. Eighteen chapters of Vyasa's Jaya constitute the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred text in Hinduism. Thus, the Jaya deals with diverse subjects, such as geography, history, warfare, religion and morality.

The final version of Vyasa's work is the Mahābhārata. It is structured as a narration by Ugrasrava Sauti, a professional storyteller, 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.

Other texts attributed[edit]

Narada meetsVyasa

Puranas[edit]

Vyasa is also credited with the writing of the eighteen major Purāṇas, which are works of Indian literature that cover an encyclopedic range of topics, such as myths and histories. His son Shuka is the narrator of the major Purāṇa Bhagavat-Purāṇa.

Yoga Bhashya[edit]

The Yoga Bhashya, a commentary on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, is attributed to Vyasa.[11]

Brahma Sutras[edit]

The Brahma Sutras are attributed to Badarayana — which makes him the proponent of the crest-jewel school of Hindu philosophy, i.e., Vedanta. Vaishnava Acharyas acknowledge that Badarayana is indeed Vyasa and he is known as Badarayana as he had his ashram in Badari kshetram. Others believe the name to be because the island on which Vyasa was born is said to have been covered with badara (Indian jujube/Ber/Ziziphus mauritiana) trees.[12] 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.[13] 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, categorizing and writing commentaries on much of this literature.

In Sikhism[edit]

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.[14] 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[14][15]— and attributed to him the store of Vedic learning.[16]

Legacy[edit]

Vyasa is widely revered in Hindu traditions. A grand temple in honour of Sri Veda Vyasa has been built at his birthplace in Kalpi, Orai, Uttar Pradesh. The temple is known as Shri Bal Vyas Mandir. Shrimad Sudhindra Teerth Swamiji , the erstwhile spiritual guru of Sri Kashi Math Samsthan, Varanasi, had the vision to construct this temple in 1998. The temple is managed by the Gaud Sarasawath Brahmin (GSB) community who belong to the said Sri Kashi Math Samsthan. This beautiful temple has now also become a popular tourist destination.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Awakening Indians to India. Chinmaya Mission. 2008. p. 167. ISBN 978-81-7597-434-0.
  2. ^ What Is Hinduism?: Modern Adventures Into a Profound Global Faith. Himalayan Academy Publications. 2007. p. 230. ISBN 1-934145-00-9.
  3. ^ "Rishi Ved Vyas – Trikal Darshi Rajender Bhargav". Retrieved 14 September 2019.
  4. ^ Essays on the Mahābhārata, Arvind Sharma, Motilal Banarsidass Publisher, p. 205
  5. ^ Kalpriya Nagri, Bundelkhand.
  6. ^ Strauss, Sarah (2002). "The Master's Narrative: Swami Sivananda and the Transnational Production of Yoga". Journal of Folklore Research. Indiana University Press. 23 (2/3): 221. JSTOR 3814692.
  7. ^ Skanda Purāṇa, Nāgara Khanda, ch. 147
  8. ^ Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Puranas, Volume 1 (2001), page 1408
  9. ^ "Vishnu Purana". Retrieved 15 March 2014.
  10. ^ Vishnu Purana -Drauni or Asvathama as Next Vyasa Retrieved 2015-03-22
  11. ^ Ian Whicher. The Integrity of the Yoga Darsana: A Reconsideration of Classical Yoga. SUNY Press. p. 320.
  12. ^ Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam (ed.). India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 74.
  13. ^ The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Edwin F. Bryant 2009 page xl
  14. ^ a b Dasam Granth, Dr. SS Kapoor
  15. ^ Line 8, Brahma Avtar, Dasam Granth
  16. ^ Line 107, Vyas Avtar, Dasam Granth

References[edit]

External links[edit]