Among the Vedas – I am Sama Veda

The Samaveda Parayana organised by Pandit Mishra of the Shankara Mutt at Bangalore was an eye opener. The rare knowledge of the ancient Vedas are now incubated in a few centres and a handful of priests have the knowledge to chant them from memory accurately. A few among them know the meaning. This Blog shares some highlights on Vedas and Sama Veda in particular. Towards the last sections I have also included some commentary on best practises and clarifications on common questions about the Vedas.

Why does Lord Krishna state ” Among the Vedas I am Sama Veda ” and “Among hymns I am the Brihat Sama” – I started writing this Blog trying to find answers to this.

Most of the content has come from experts and is not easily available on the Internet. Its a good start for a layman and opens the window to how massive and deep the knowledge in our Vedas are. The structure, the span – even thinking of them is mind boggling. All this existing for thousands of years and being passed by memory across generations.

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The Vedas are Apourusheyam – not authored by man. They are Anaadi – without a beginning in terms of time. The Rishis cognised the mantras already in existence and made them known to the world. The Brihadharanyaka Upanishad says that the Vedas are Ishwara’s breath. Just like we cannot exist without breathing, the Vedas are the life breath of the Supreme. If Parmaatma who has no beginning or end exists forever, then the Vedas as his life breath are naturally Anaadi.

The Vedas believed to be vibrations in space were compiled 5000 years ago at the beginning of Kali Yuga by Veda Vyasa consisted of 1131 sabhas (Recensions). 21 in Rig, 101 in Yajur, 1000 in Sama and 9 in Atharva  – they were preserved in the parampara of Rishis by oral transmission from father to son and guru to shishya. As of date there are only 10 recensions available (3 in Sama Veda) and there are a handful of Vedic Scholars who can chant the Vedas by memory with the perfect tone and pronunciation

Why does Lord Krishna in the Bhagawad Gita state – Among the Vedas I am Sama Veda 

All mantras of the Sama Veda except for 102 are in the Rig Veda. There are at least 214 mantras in the Sama Veda which are common to Rig & Yajur. Of the 6000 mantras in the Atharva Veda – 406 are in the Sama Veda. In total there are only 69 unique verses in the Sama Veda which are not in the other Vedas.

Now we can understand the deeper reason behind the well known quotation of Bhagvad Gita “Among the Vedas I am Sama Veda” – Sama Veda being a compilation makes all the key Vedic Mantras accessible to those who may not have the time to read or recite the huge Rig Veda (Over 10,000 Mantras).

Sama Veda unifies and stresses the commonality of the Veda

The Chandogya Upanishad is from the Sama Veda . It gives the meaning of the word Saman. Anything that is perfect is called Saman anything that is not good is Asaman.
Sama also means something that is appeasing. Sama Gayanah means one who sings pleasant hymns to appease the Lord.

Many mantras in the Sama Veda are repeated verbatim. 257 verses in the first part (Purva Archika) are repeated in the second part (Uttara Archika). Thus the distinctive mantras in the Sama Veda Samhita is only 1610. The Purva Archika or the first part of the Sama Veda Samhita contains 650 mantras , the remaining 1225 mantras constitute the second part or Uttara Archika.

There are 3 types of mantras in the Vedas – Rik, Yajur and Saman. A Rik mantra is metrical expressed in a meter like Gayatri. Yajur mantra is a rhythmic prose. A Saman mantra is meant to be sung. The same Rik which is the underlying basis for a Sama mantra can be sung in different ways.

Saama Gana – The singing of the Sama Veda mantra follows a strict procedure. While the mantras are same as in Rig Veda the Saama has set the mantras to music with lengthened notes which is greatly conducive to spiritual evolution of the self and the grace of God’s. The sound while chanting them correctly activates our nerve centres and also affects the the surrounding resulting in individual and collective well being.  Saama Gana can be said to be the basis and source of the seven Swaram or notes of Indian music.

Bhagwan is called “Sama” because he is embodiment of Sama Veda. He who knows the Sama Veda is the knower of the Brahman. Adi Shankara explains – ” Sama Gayaati  Iti Saamagah” – He sings the Sama Veda hence he is called the Saamagah. Sama Veda is so melodious that Bhagvan himself sings it often. In fact he is the creator of the Sama Veda and he enjoys singing it.

Sama Veda in Vishnu Sahasranamam  – Trisaamaa Samagah Sameti Kavacham

Trisaamaa– He is worshipped using the three parts of Sama Veda collectively known as Devavrataas, hence He is called Trisaamaa. The three parts of Sama Veda are called Brihat, Rathantara and Vaamadevya and are collectively called Devavrataas. He whose glory itself is the manifested Sama Veda (Saama), He is none other than the Supreme.  This great Lord is like an armour (“kavacham”) to wear for self-protection.

Symbolism: While chanting this in the mind the seeker first touches with the tip of his finger, of each arm, the same shoulders, and afterwards crosses the arm, in front of him making fingers of each palm touch the other shoulder-as if he is actually wrapping himself and wearing the divine armour.

There is reference to the greatness of Sama Veda in Lalita Sahasranamam also.One of the names for Archana in Sri Lalita Sahasranamam is Sama Gana Priyaya Namaha. The greatness of Sama Veda is brought out extensively in all Vedas, Itihasas and Puranas and Sangitha Sastras.

Srimad Bhagavatam – Garuda 

In the Bhagavatam it is stated that the two wings of the transcendental bird Garuḍa, who carries the Lord everywhere, are two divisions of the Sāma Veda known as bṛhat and rathāntara. Garuḍa works as the carrier of the Lord; therefore he is considered the transcendental prince of all carriers. With his two wings Garuḍa began to vibrate the Sāma Veda, which is chanted by great sages to please the Lord.

Sama Veda – Rig Veda connection

The close relationship between Sama Veda and Rig Veda is mentioned in several Upanishads including the Chandogya Upanishad. The Brihadranyaka Upanishad compares the relationship between these two Veda Samhita as husband and wife.

Chandogya Upanishad

Earth is Rig, Fire is Saman.
This Saman rests upon the Rig
Therefore the Saman is sung as resting on the Rik.
Earth is “Sa” Agni is “Ama” that creates Sama

Other references

Yagna is based on the two horses of Indra – Rchah and Samani. Rchah is the world we aspire and Sama is the world we live in.

Sri Chandrashekarandra Saraswati in his book the Four Vedas explains – “Saama” means to bring “shanti” or peace to the mind. Of the 4 methods of tackling an enemy – saama, daana, bheda and danda – the first Saama is by conquering the enemy by love and conciliatory words.

Sama Veda is grouped into Dashati, Each Dashati having ten Suktas

Vedic Hyms were revealed to the Rishis in a state of Samadhi. Given below are the name of some Rishis to who the Sama Veda mantras were revealed. In parenthesis is the number of relevant Dashatis.

Vasishta (43), Vamadeva (36), Bharadvaja (29), Medhatithi (29), Kanva (29), Vishwamitra (29), Gotama (20), Saubhari (18), Shunashepa (17), Jamadagni (13), Praskanva (13), Pragatha (8), Kashyapa (7), Vebha (5), Atri (4), Valakhilya (3). There were lady Rishi’s also – Godha & Indamatarah Devajamayah

The great Patanjali refers to a 1000 Shakhas or recensions of Sama Veda that once existed. As of date only 3 survive – Kuthumna, Ramayana and Jaimini. Vedas are called Shruti – That which is heard. The ear is called “Srotra”. Vedas have been passed on from generations in the ancient method of learning by the ear the the Guru Shishya tradition. A few places like the Sringeri Mutt are the centres of excellence working to preserve the knowledge of the Sama Veda.

Brihat Sama 
In the Gita, Lord Krishna also says amongst Hymns I am the “Brihat Sama” . This is a Hymn from the Sama Veda attributed to Rishi Bharadwaja in praise of Indra.

Upanishads in the Sama Veda

Kenopanishad – It is only in the Kenopanishad that the Divine Mother appears in the form of Mother Wisdom, which is one of her attributes mentioned in the “Lalita Sahasranama”. Her glory is especially manifest in this Upanishad from the Sama Veda

Chandogya Upanishad – Chandoga means one who sings the Saama Gaana. The Chandogya Upanishad mantras constitute the chief authority – Pramaana for the Brahma Sutras.

Hayanana is the presiding deity of Sama Veda – Sama Veda Murthi 

सामवेद मूर्तिः

SAMAVEDA MURTHI

नीलोत्पलदलाभासिः सामवेदो हयाननिः । अक्षमालान्ववतो दक्षे वामे कम्बुधरिः स्मृतिः ॥

Samaveda Murthi is said to be horse-faced, shining like blue lotus and holding Akshamala (rosary of beads) in right hand and conch in left hand.

ॐ नमिः सामवेदाय

Om Namah Samavedaya Om, Obeisance to Sama Veda

सामजालजलाकीर्णं छवदिः कल्लोलसङ्कु लम् । तवरग्राहान्ववतं ववदे सामवेदमहार्णणवम् ॥

I prostrate to Samaveda, the great ocean with web of Samas as water, chandas (metric systems) as waves and tantras as crocodiles.

Why were the Vedas not written down so that it could be read and learnt 
Some sounds do not lend themselves to be accurately reproduced phonetically. They fall in between two syllables and there are many such sounds in the Vedas. They can be transmitted only orally. In addition the Vedic mantras have to be recited in a certain cadence or rhythm to produce the necessary vibrations. Trying to write this down with annotations, asterix remarks etc will lead to errors resulting in improper accent, intonation & pronunciation. This will lead to lessening of the intended effect.
The full benefit of the Vedic mantras can result only if no word is changed, no unauthorised upward or downward drift in the note occurs while reciting. The Yoga Shastra says there is a link between ones ear’s and the spatial expanse of the universe. If this is established one obtains divine ears. With the aid of these divine ears the Rishis were able to cognise the sound waves which are diffused in the sky from time immemorial by the grace of God. They thus became the first to know the Vedas.
Story about the limitlessness of the Vedas
The great sage Bhardwaja studied the Vedas through 3 spans of earthly life specially granted to him for the purpose. Lord Shiva appeared before him and said I will give you a fourth span – what will you do with it? Bharadwaj said he would utilise the extra time also to study the Vedas. Since it was not possible to study the Vedas even during countless spans of life the Lord took pity on the Rishi’s futile effort and desired to correct him and give him an idea of the tremendous difficulty that he faced. He made 3 huge mountains to appear and picking up a handful of earth said – What you have studied so far is equal to this earth, what you have yet to learn is the order of the mountains. This episode of Bharadwaj is found in the Kaathaka portion of the Vedas. Thus we see the limitlessness of the Vedas.
It is incorrect to say that the Rig Veda is the oldest 
The codification into 4 Vedas and the thousand odd Shakhas is something that came much later. As mentioned earlier a lot of mantras are common across the Vedas. the knowledge of the Vedas is infinite , they are Anaadi – they came from the breath of the Supreme Being. It is incorrect to say that the Rig Veda is the oldest.
There are 6 methods that are not correct for chanting Vedic Mantras
Geetee is one who chants it in a sing song way. Though Sama Veda is musically related it can be recited only in the approved musical way and not as one pleases. Recitation in the wrong Swara is not just inappropriate – it can be harmful
Seeghree – is one who chants in a quick tempo and ends the recitation quickly. The Vedic words should be intoned by closely adhering to the time limits prescribed for uttering each word sound if full benefits are to be realised.
Shirahkampee – Is one who shakes and nods his head needlessly while chanting. One should sit straight in concentration and allow th pulse vibrations to occur naturally by themselves. Nodding the head like a musician disturbs the vibrations.
Likhitapaathakah – One who learns from a written script. This is not right. It should be learnt by the ear by oral chanting from a teacher and committed to memory.
Anarthajnah – One who does not understand the meaning. It is necessary to know the meaning of the words of the mantra to have full effect.
Alpakantha – is one who recites in a feeble voice. In order for the sound vibrations to have good effect the sound should be properly audible and not mumbled.
Vedas must be chanted with grandeur so that the sound can be properly heard. Vedic mantras not only produce beneficial vibrations in the pulse of one who chants them properly but Las similar vibrations in those who hear them. Since it is spread in the atmosphere it ensures well being therefore it must be chanted audibly so that it can spread far and wide.
References 
  • Sama Veda by R.L.Kashyap
  • The Vedas by Sri Chandrashekarendra Saraswati
  • Photo of Sama Veda presiding Deity from Pandit Mishra Samaveda Parayana
  • Video of the Sama Veda Parayanahttps://youtu.be/IxAZvXoYiFE
  • Inputs from Dr Vish Ramamaurthy & Mrs Muthulaxmi Rao
  • Brihat Sama Inputs from Srikant Vadyar

 

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