Greatness of the Vedas
The glory of the Vedas knows no bounds and it is manifested in the affairs of the world in a manner that defies comparison.
Of all the sacred places on earth Kasi comes foremost. When we speak in praise of other hallowed centres, we say that they are equal to Kasi in holiness. From this we know the importance of that city. In the South there is a pilgrim centre which has come to be called "Daksina Kasi" (Southern Kasi). There is an Uttara Kasi (Northern Kasi) in the Himalaya. Vrddhacalam in Tamil Nadu is also known as "Vrddha-Kasi". In Tirunelveli district (of Tamil Nadu) there is a town called "TenKasi" (this also means "Southern Kasi"). When we speak in praise of a sacred place it is customary to describe it as being "equal to Kasi". But Kumbhakonam is considered greater than Kasi ("in greatness it weighs one grain more than Kasi"). Here is a stanza that speaks of the high place accorded to Kumbhakonam:
Anyaksetre krtam papam punyaksetre vinasyati
Puiiyaksetre krtam papam Varanasyam vinasyati
Varanasyam krtam papam Kumbhakone vinasyati
Kumbhakonam krtam papam Kumbhakone vinasyati
"The sin committed in any (ordinary) place is washed away in a sacred place. That committed in any sacred place is washed away in Varanasi (that is Kasi). The sin committed in Varanasi is wiped away in Kumbhakonam. And the sin earned in Kumbhakonam, well, it is destroyed only in Kumbhakonam."
The glory of Kasi is that all other sacred places are likened to it. Even when a place is said to be superior to Kasi the implication is that Kasi is uniquely great. It has acquired a distinction by being made an object of comparison. A great man has composed a poem on Kasi. "Ksetranam uttamanam api yad upamaya ka'pi loke prasastih," so it begins. It means: "By being likened to it even highly esteemed places become famous - that is Kasi."
Similarly, when you speak highly of sacred tirthas you liken them to the Ganga or say that they are more holy than that river. We must conclude from the foregoing that Kasi comes first among the sacred places and that the Ganga is the holiest of the tirthas.
It is in this way that, when any work is to be extolled, it is said to be "equal to the Vedas". The Ramayana is a very famous poetic work. There are many versions of it. Take any language in India: the story of Rama will be seen to be a theme in drama, poetry, music, etc, in its literature. The greatness of the Ramayana is such that it is exalted to the position of a Veda. "Vedah Pracetasadasitsaksadramayanatmana." The Veda itself was born as Ramayana to Valmiki, the son of Pracetas.
The Mahabharata too is celebrated as a Veda: in fact it is called the fifth Veda ("panchamo Vedah").
Vaisnavas glorify the Tiruvaymozhi as a Veda. It is the work of Nammazhvar, who is also called Sathakopan and Maran. They say : "Maran Sathakopan composed the Tamil Veda." The famous Tamil work on ethics, the
Tirukkural, is also called the "Tamil Veda".
During the time of the author of the Kural, Tiruvalluvar, there was the "Kadai Sangam"1 in Madurai. In that city there was a seat received as a gift from Sundaresvara2. Only the worthy could sit on it. The unworthy would be pushed aside. Was such a thing possible? We cannot believe it; but we do believe that when a coin is inserted in a machine we get a ticket.
[Here the Paramaguru tells the story of Tiruvalluvar and his Kural and how the poets of his time came to regard Tamil as great as Sanskrit since it had now come into possession of a work like Kural which, they said, was equal to the Vedas. This story occurs in "The Vedas in their Original Form" ]
Saivas (in Tamil Nadu) regard the Tiruvachakam as the Tamil Veda. To the Christians in India the Bible is the "Satya-Veda". Thus we see that the Vedas have a special place of honour. The Vedic river is ageless and it traverses the length and breadth of our land as the very life- blood of our culture. This river should not be allowed to dry up. There is no greater responsibility for a Hindu than that of keeping the Vedas a live and vibrant tradition.
The sound of the Vedas must pervade everywhere, must fill all space. The truths enshrined in them must be spread far and wide and the rituals enjoined on us by them must he made to flourish. Sufficient it would be if the Vedic dharma remains vigorous and is maintained at least in our land. If a man's heart is stout he will survive even if all other parts of his body are afflicted. In the same way, if the Vedas flourish in this land all nations will prosper and live in peace and happiness. This is the prayer of the Vedic dharma.
"Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu."
The third and last Madurai academy which had 49 men of letters.
Sundaresvara is Siva, the consort of Minaksi of the famous Madurai temple