The greatest sage, Vyasa, is the compiler and important participant in the Mahabharata. He is one of the Avatara of Lord Vishnu, who came to Dwapar Yuga to make Vedic knowledge available in writing.
It is believed that Vedas were a single vast knowledge inaccessible to simple humankind, and later Vyasa divided it into three parts, making it simpler. The fourth, known as Atharva Veda, was recognized by the Veda only much later. He has even taught Lord Dattatreya, who is known to be the Guru of Gurus and a manifestation of the Trinity – Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.
The lineage of Veda Vyasa
Veda Vyasa is the one who divided the Vedas into parts in his respective period. This was an achievement that allowed people to understand divine knowledge of the Vedas. The need for segregating Vedas into parts is a must so that it can meet the limited perseverance and application of mortal beings. Vedas are the spiritual guide for humans; if they can not be acquired by people of lesser-scholar yugas, the knowledge inside them will stay hidden.
In an actual sense, Veda Vyasa is not just a singular figure or a person. As intellectuality deteriorates, from generation to generation, someone will be born as Veda Vyasa. Swami Vivekananda considers the Veda Vyas as the title rather than a singular figure.
Attribution to Ancient Texts
The Bhagavad Gita, recorded by Vyasa, is part of the Mahabharata, but due to its uniqueness and deep philosophical meaning, it is considered a separate Vedic work. Sri Krishna told Arjuna the Gita, but Dhritarashtra’s advisor Sanjaya also heard and recounted their entire conversation with the help of mystic power.
This mystical power was bestowed on him by Vyasa. Because of Maharishi Vyasa, the world recognized Krishna as he mentioned Lord Krishna in his Mahabharata as an immortal preacher.
The heir of the Kuru dynasty, the grandson of Arjuna, Maharaja Parikshit, was cursed to death by a brahmana. And during the remaining seven days, he listened to Srimad Bhagavatam from the mouth of the 16-year-old son of Vyasa – Sukadeva Goswami. Sukadev learned about the essence of the Bhagavatam from his father, Vyasa.
The Brahma Sutra
The Brahma Sutras or Vedanta Sutras, are believed to be contributions of joint efforts from Vyasa and Badarayana. The chronicle is divided into four chapters, each subdivided into four sections.
It is interesting to note that they begin and end with Sutras, which together inquire into the true nature of Brahman. Brahman has no return, pointing to the reality that one reaches Immortality and no longer returns to the world.
Vyasa is also credited with writing the main eighteen Puraṇas, works of Sanskrit literature covering a wide range of subjects, myths, stories, legends, lives of saints, kings, and great men, allegories, and chronicles of great historical events.
Veda Vyasa in Mahabharat
Birth of Vyasa
Maharishi Parashara was blessed by Lord Shiva, who predicted that a child would be born as the greatest man of all time as part of Lord Vishnu himself at a certain time in history.
On that eventful day, Parashara wanted to cross a river, Yamuna. He spoke with the ferryman about the approach of that auspicious time. The boatman had adopted a daughter named Satyavati. The boatman was impressed with the sanctity and greatness of Parashara and offered his daughter Satyavati in marriage.
Enchanted by the beauty of Satyavati, Parashara made love with him, which immediately resulted in the birth of the child. Parashara took the child and restored the purity of Satyavati, who later married King Shantanu.
Vyasa’s father Parashara named him Krishna because Vyasa was of dark complexion in addition to the name Dvaipayana, which means born on an island. According to Vishnu Purana, Vyasa born on the island of Yamuna in Kalpi already knew the Vedas, Dharmashastras, and Upanishads since birth.
Enlightenment from the early age
Vyasa’s first permission from his mother was something that every mother would have restricted. He asked to go to the forest and practice Akhanda Tapasya, or continuous penance. At first, his mother disagreed but later approved one important condition: he appears before her whenever she wished. He studied the Shastras or scriptures with the sages Sanaka, Sanandana, and others. Vyasa also received his knowledge from the four Kumaras, Narada, and Lord Brahma himself.
Birth of Pandu and Dhritarashtra
Shantanu and Satyavati had two sons, Chitrāngada and Vichitravirya, but both of them passed away without having children. Vichitravirya was married to Ambika and Ambalika, and after his death, Satyavati asked her stepson Bhishma to marry the widows, but he declined due to his vow of celibacy.
In order to produce an heir, Satyavati revealed her secret past and asked Bhishma to bring her firstborn, Sage Vyasa, to impregnate the queens under the Niyoga tradition. By that time, Vyasa had compiled the Vedas.
Vyasa was unkempt after months of meditating in the forest, which frightened Ambika and caused her to shut her eyes during their meeting. This resulted in the birth of their son, Dhritarashtra, who was blind. When Ambalika met Vyasa, she turned pale, which led to the birth of her son, Pandu, who was born pale.
Vyasa, Kauravas and Pandavas
When the sons of Vichitravirya grew up, Bhishma arranged their marriages. Dhritarashtra was married to Gandhari, the princess of Gandhara, and Pandu married Kunti and Madri. Pandu eventually left the kingdom, leaving Dhritarashtra as the acting king.
Since Gandhari was blessed with more than 100 children, after two long years of pregnancy, Gandhari gave birth to a hard mass that appeared to be an iron ball. Vyasa when knew this came to the kingdom. Using his knowledge, divided the mass into one hundred and one pieces and placed them into pots for incubation. A year later, 101 Kauravas were born. On the Pandu side, Kunti and Madri gave born to five Pandavas.
Reciting Chronicles of Mahabharat
Vyasa is known as the chronicler of the epic Mahabharata and also plays an important role in it. In the first book, Vyasa asks Ganesha to help him write a text that imposes a precondition that Ganesha will only do so if Vyasa tells the story without pause.
To write such an epic chronic, Vyasa requested Lord Ganesha to first understand the verses. Vyasa’s narration and Lord Ganesha’s writing provided mankind with the Mahabharata (including the Gita), all the Upanishads, and the 18 Puranas.
Some people also believe Veda Vasya to be an expansion or avatar of Lord Vishnu, who was born on Dwapar Yug to change the oral tradition of reciting Vedas to written form.
Contribution of Veda Vyasa
- Vyasas edited and divided the Vedas into a simpler form and wrote the Brahma Sutras for a quick and simple understanding of the Shrutis.
- He wrote the Mahabharata to enable ordinary people to understand higher knowledge in the simplest way.
- Vyasa’s 18 Puranas formed the teaching system through Upakhyanas or discourses, which established the two paths of Karma, Upasana (devotion) and Jnana (knowledge).
- At the instigation of the divine sage Narada Muni, Vyasa wrote the Bhagavatam.
- In Dwapar Yuga, Vyasa divided the Veda, which is, in fact, one, into many parts to adapt it to the abilities of the living beings and the bodily form that he takes to carry out this classification.
Disciples of Veda Vyasa
Vyasa’s son Shuka
According to Skanda Purana, Vyasa married a woman named Vatikā, who was the daughter of a sage named Jābāli. This union produced his son Shuka, who was named after repeating everything he heard, like a parrot.
Some texts like Devi Bhagavata Purana describe Shuka’s birth differently, where an apsara named Ghritachi appeared in front of Vyasa as a beautiful parrot and caused him sexual arousal, leading to the birth of Shuka.
Vyasa had four disciples – Paila, Jaimini, Vaishampayana, and Sumantu – and each was given the responsibility of spreading one of the four Vedas. Paila was in charge of Rigveda, Jaimini of Samaveda, Vaishampayana of Yajurveda, and Sumantu of Atharvaveda.
In Sankara Digvijaya, Vyasa confronts Adi Shankara, who has written a commentary on the Brahma-Sutras and asks for an explanation of the first Sutra, which leads to a debate that lasts for eight days. Shankara, who was supposed to die at the end of his sixteenth year, expresses his desire to leave his body in the presence of Vyasa, but Rishi Vyas dissuades him and blesses him to live for another sixteen years to complete his work.
The Eternal Influence of Vyasa
Maharishi Veda Vyasa is considered one of the eight immortals who remained on earth to help and guide their followers. It is said that he gives his Darsana to the true and faithful only and that Adi Shankaracharya had his darshan like many others. Maharshi Vyasa’s work and life story inspire us and the entire world to this day in countless ways.
The festival of Guru Purnima (Vyasa Purnima) is dedicated to Maharshi Veda for his influence as a humankind influencer and spiritual teacher. The Hindu tradition evolved and people began to thank or worship their respective teachers.