By Nithin Sridhar
One of the most important festivals celebrated by the Hindus is the festival of Guru Poornima in the honor of innumerable Gurus who have guided the mankind throughout the history. It is celebrated on the full moon night of Ashada month, which falls on 31 July this year.
This day is also called “Vyasa Poornima” and is started with the worship of Veda Vyasa. This is because Vyasa, who is considered the teacher who guides mankind in Kali-yuga, was born on this day.
The first part of this Guru Poornima series will cover Veda Vyasa.
The Life details of Veda Vyasa
The term “Veda Vyasa” means “arranger/distributer of Vedas” i.e. a person who divides the Vedas. According to Vishnu Purana (3.3), in every Dwapara-yuga, Lord Vishnu himself will appear as Veda-Vyasa and will divide the Vedas into various portions. It further says that, in the current Manvantara, there have been 28 Veda-Vyasas. Therefore, the 28th Vyasa is the Vyasa of our Mahayuga, and his name is Krishna Dwaipayana.
Krishna Dwaipayana was called so because he was of black complexion (Krishna), and he was born on an island (Dwipa). His father was Parashara Maharishi, who was famous for his books on Jyotishya (Brihad Parashara Hora) and dharma (Parashara Smriti). His mother was Satyavati, a fisher-woman. Krishna Dwaipayana was the grandson of Shakti Maharishi and great grandson of Vashishta Maharishi. According to Bhagavata Puranam (1.3.21), Krishna Dwaipayana was the 17th incarnation of Lord Vishnu in this Mahayuga.
Vyasa was supposed to have been born in Treta-yuga and lived through Dwapara Yuga and at least till the early part of Kaliyuga as written in the accounts of his meeting with Adi Shankaracharya in Shankara Digvigya. Therefore, he is considered an Immortal or at least as a Chiranjeevi (long living) in Hindu tradition.
Legacy of Veda Vyasa
As recorded in Vishnu Purana, the main purpose for which Vyasa took birth was to arrange and transmit the Vedas. According to Bhagavata Purana (1.4.17-22), Vyasa realized that most people in Kaliyuga will be incapable of learning Vedas in its vast wholeness, and hence he arranged the Vedas into four portions.
He imparted Rigveda to Paila Rishi, Yajurveda to Vaishampayana, Samaveda to Jaimini, and Atharvaveda to Angirasa. Vyasa further taught Puranas and Itihasas (historical records) to Romaharshana. Therefore, whatever portions of Vedas we have with us today, whatever that has survived the onslaught of Kali-yuga, it is only due to the efforts of Veda Vyasa.
But, Vyasa did not stop with arranging Vedas. He realized that in Kaliyuga, most people won’t be able to even understand the divided Vedas because of the corruption and deterioration of this age. He realized that the only way that he can help mankind is by writing History and Puranas wherein the truths of Vedas would also be embedded in a simple language. Therefore, he composed Mahabharata and eighteen major Puranas including the famous Bhagavata Purana.
Through Mahabharata and Puranas, Vyasa has made the historical truths as well as the teachings of Vedas available to common people, even the illiterate ones. There are innumerable stories, histories and anecdotes that serve as life-teachings. It further provide details about various solutions to problems, various procedures for worship that will help one and all. Puranas also serve as documents of Bhakti and help those who wish to practice Bhakti. Vyasa further composed Brahma-sutras, where-in he explained the gist of the Upanishads for the sake of those people who desire Moksha.
Hence, Veda Vyasa has single-handedly managed to save, revive and propagate Sanatana Dharma. Therefore on the occasion of Guru-poornima, every person must remember and express his gratitude owards this great Rishi.