The Vedas:  an introduction

Robert Anderson BSc(Hons) PhD

4 February 1942 to 5 December 2008


This is the draft script Bob wrote for a public lecture.  Unfortunately, the Power Point presentation was not completed.  Even so, we at CONNECTED believe this is worthy of posting our our website.


I want to talk to you about The Vedas.  The Vedas are the oldest and most sacred of India’s scriptures and the oldest in the world.  The sage, Bala Ganadhar Tilak, put them at 13,000 years old.  Buddha lived about 2500 years ago, Christ 2000 years ago and Islam was formed 600 years later.  These dates enable us to see that Vedic Dharma is the grandfather, Buddhism the son, Christianity the grandson and Islam the great-grandson.

Sai Baba has said:  “If there is any misunderstanding between them it is but a family affair.  All share in this ancestral property.”

The Vedas embody the sublime truths experienced by ancient sages and seers.  Veda is derived from the root 'vid' which means knowledge.  The Veda proclaims the truths, which are valid for all time, for all of the three worlds:  the physical, mental and spiritual.  They relate to the well-being of humankind and the conversion of human life into the divine.

The Vedas taught the principles of daily life and how people should order their lives.  They originally constituted a single body of hymns which were later divided into Saama Veda, Yajur Veda, and Atharva Veda. 

So what is the basic teaching of the Vedas?

It is that to whichever economic, social or intellectual group you belong, you are a child of Immortality.  The Vedas come from certain fundamental sounds and their variations.  The slightest modification of the sound changes the meaning of what is said.  No written language is able to represent all of the Vedic sounds.  Even in Sanskrit, it is impossible to write many of the words.

The Vedas are considered by sages to be God's breath and can be transmitted from person to person only by voice.  In all of India, there are only a handful of people who can recite the Vedas correctly.  The Vedas did not emanate from any human individual.  They are in fact words and sounds that have been heard during deep meditation on the divine.

The ancient sages who heard the Vedas through their inner senses passed them on to their disciples by word of mouth.  Because the Veda have been obtained in this way, by listening to divine sound, it is referred to as 'Scruti'.  Hence Veda is said to be the Breath of God, for Word or Voice is Breath.  Thus it can truly be said, the Vedas emanated from God Himself.

Attempts have been made in recent years to write the Vedas and print them in books, but such effort is largely wasted.  They cannot be written down.  The six systems of philosophy – Shaddharshanas - are profound expositions of the many meanings of the Vedic texts.  And this awe-inspiring work is India's rational and convincing answer to those people who dismiss Indian philosophy as a collection of blind beliefs.  These laid bare to the world the deep scientific thought and wisdom contained in the Vedas.  They proclaim the Truth of creation as the projection of the Divine through Its own Will, when It was disturbed by the desire to separate Itself from Itself.  Ekoham Bahusyam - I am ONE, I shall become Many.  'Being' willed to 'Become', say the Vedas.

The Vedas proclaim the Truth of creation as the Projection of the Divine through Its own Will, when it was disturbed by the desire to separate Itself from Itself.  I am one, I shall become many.  ‘Being’ willed to ‘Become’ say the Vedas.

“When I love Myself, I love you. When you love yourself, you love Me.  We are one.”

Plumbing the very depths of humanity, they dispelled the fear, the sorrow and the deep anxiety, seated in the human heart.  Keeping the welfare of humanity uppermost in its mind, the old masters gifted to the world a philosophy of hope, well-being and serenity, showing to mankind the art of self purification.  What I personally found incredible was that all branches of knowledge which exist in the world originate from the Vedas - from the calculus of mathematics to Newton’s gravity.  (

Setting aside the study of the secular knowledge which dealt with the transient and temporary, the seers of old devoted their lives to the study of the immortal science of Divinity.  By dint of penance and meditation, they learned the great truths of eternity which they then shared with others.  This is what is known worldwide as the Ancient Wisdom.

The Vedas represent the orthodox system of Hindu philosophy, although it is important to realise they have universal application to us all.  There is a famous saying:  “The Hindu religion is the ocean into which all other rivers of religion flow.” 

It is important here to realise that the term “Hindu” is strictly a term coined originally from the British rule of India.  Most people do not realise this and assume that the name of the religion came from the people themselves.  It did not.  The Indian people who followed the Vedas had no name as such for themselves.  They simply followed its teachings.

The significant thing to realise, is that the Vedas are not designed to enable one to have direct experience of God.  They constitute a body of knowledge.  It is the Vedanta which deals with self-realisation.  For the spiritual journey, it is the guide-post and the destination.  The term Vedanta in Sanskrit means ‘the conclusion’ of the Vedas.  It is really the essence of the Vedas enshrined in the Upanishads.  Although there are several schools of Vedanta the most famous is that of Advaita Vedanta (Ad = not vaita = 2).

It may interest you to know that Modern Physics is now looking very carefully at the concepts enshrined within it.  It was originally brought to the West by Vivikananda over 100 years ago.  The fundamental Vedanta texts are:

  1. The Upanishads; 
  2. Brahma-Sutras (packets of knowledge - the most famous being the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali);
  3. The famous poetic dialogue ‘The Bhagavad-Gita (The Lords Song).

The influence of Vedanta on Indian thought has been profound and Hindu philosophy is now taken to be a distillation of these ancient truths.  It should be realised that this philosophy is a sublime code of conduct for all human beings.

Vivekananda, in his famous speech in 1896, prophesied that Advaita Vedanta would be the only rational religion for Western intellectuals in the years to come.  When we are established in these principles, ignorance of our true nature is removed, and the real purpose of existence is understood.  The Vedas tell us the Self is unbounded, it animates the mind, it is only for the sake of the Self that this world exists.

The Self is obscured by the world in order that the reality of both may be discovered.   It is ignorance of our true nature that causes the Self to be obscured.  From these truths we see that the Laws of life:  Non-violence, Truthfulness, Integrity, Purity, Self referral.  These laws are universal and are unaffected by time or circumstance.

Devotees of Sai Baba will see that these laws correspond to his human values:  Non-violence; Truth; Right Conduct; Love; and Peace.

From time immemorial, creation has been completely dependent on what we may call these laws of Dharmic conduct.  They form the foundation for the welfare of humanity.  They are the truths which are stable for all time.  When Dharma is in danger of collapse - as we witness in our world today - all order and spiritual values are destroyed.  Chaos is the result.  So from these laws stem the Rules of Life, which are also five:  Simplicity; Contentment; Purification; Refinement; and Surrender to the infinite unbounded Consciousness.

Simplicity destroys object referral and brings freedom.  Anything and everything in existence can be mastered when all effort is relaxed and the mind is absorbed in this infinite unbounded consciousness.

We are then no longer upset by the play of opposites and life is lived in freedom and joy.  This world is the play of the Gunas:  Thamasic, Rajasic and Satwic.  The Vedas have declared that it is only when man overcomes these three will he be able to rid himself of Maya, the illusion of seeing the unreal as real. 

If we look at Patanjali’s Sutras, we see there are five causes of suffering:  Egoism; Object referral (attachment); Aversion (clinging to pain); Fear of death (which is a mistake of our intellects); Ignorance of our real nature, the source of the other four.  All of these cause suffering while we remain in the prison of our intellects.

Negative feelings, such as violence, are damaging to life, whether we act on them ourselves or condone them in others.  They are born of greed, anger or delusion.  They may be slight, moderate or intense.  Their fruits are endless suffering.  To remember this is to cultivate the opposite.  When we are firmly established in truthfulness, action accomplishes its desired end, and all riches present themselves freely

When we are firmly established in integrity, the Self, nature and the purpose of existence is understood and great power is generated.

We are living in historic times.  A major transformation is taking place in the mind of humankind.  Old ideas are dying and new ones are being born.  There is an air of expectancy as we move into the new millennium.  I think our purpose will be to hold fast to our faith - whatever that faith may be.  We should not let events disturb our peace.  We should keep in mind those grand lines of Francis Thompson:

All things by immortal power

Near and far, hiddenly

To each other linked are

Thou canst not stir a flower

Without troubling of a star

In my recent talk on consciousness, I shared the latest information which continues to show us that we are not the body.  The body is in our mind and all this happens to us because our higher Self finds it interesting.

We should make every effort to follow the counsel of Vedanta and realise that Self.  I would like to read to you a statement from an old man who knew what it was we should strive for in order to remain sane and above the pessimism of this world, he said, and I quote:

“Our true self sheds its radiance on all that comes within its focus of awareness and nothing is excluded.  It does not know evil nor ugliness.  It hopes, it trusts, it loves.  You do not know how much you miss by not knowing your own true self. You are neither the body nor the mind.  They appear arid, disappear according to their own laws.  That which you are, your true self, you love it and whatever you do, you do for your own happiness.  To find it, to know it, to cherish it should be your basic urge.  Since time immemorial you loved yourself but never wisely.  Use your body and mind skilfully in the service of the self.  Be true to your own self.  Love yourself self absolutely.  Do not pretend that you love others as yourself.  Unless you have realised them as one with yourself, you cannot love them. 

Do not pretend to be what you are not.  Do not refuse to be what you are.  Your love of others should be the result of self knowledge, not its cause.  Without self-realisation, no virtue is genuine.  When you know beyond all doubting that the same life flows through all that is and you are that life, you will love all naturally and spontaneously.  When you realise the depth and fullness of your love of yourself, you know that every living being and the entire universe are included in your affection.  But when you look at anything as separate from you, you cannot love it for you are afraid of it.  Alienation causes fear arid fear deepens alienation.  It is a vicious circle.  Only self-realisation can break it.  Go for it resolutely.”

This statement reminded me of a wonderful story of the little ocean fish.  ‘Excuse me,’ said the little fish. ‘You are older than I, so can you tell me where to find this thing they call the ocean?’  ‘The ocean,’ said the old fish, ‘is the thing you are in now.’  ‘Oh, but this is water, what I am seeking is the ocean,’ said the disappointed little fish as he swam away to search elsewhere.  ‘Stop searching little fish. There isn’t anything to look for.  All you have to do is look.’


Robert Anderson BSc(Hons) PhD

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Robert Anderson was a Quaker, teacher and writer.  He was a Trustee of Physicians and Scientists for Global Responsibility (, a member of Amnesty International, a Theosophist, and a campaigner for peace and disarmament.  He believed everyone has the right to equality and respect, freedom of speech and religion   He lectured frequently for the Theosophical Society and other organisations on many subjects.  He maintained the public had a right to be independently informed on issues of science, the environment and social justice and lectured widely on those issues. 

Robert authored eleven books and regularly wrote for a number of periodicals.  Enquiries about the books he wrote should be addressed to

We at CONNECTED recommend you read other items on this site; e.g. the lecture, Search for Consciousness and Becoming one with the Universe; also articles on this website.