The Vedas are Infinite
If the cosmos of sound (Sabda-prapanca) enfolds all creation and what is beyond it, it must naturally be immensely vast. However voluminous the Vedas are, one might wonder whether it would be right to claim that they embrace all activities of the universe. "Anantah vai Vedah", the Vedas themselves proclaim so (the Vedas are endless). We cannot claim that all the Vedas have been revealed to the seers. Only about a thousand Sakhas or recensions belonging to the four Vedas have been revealed to them.
Brahma, the Creator, alone knows the Vedas in their entirety. Before the present Brahma there was a great deluge and, preceding it, there was another Brahma. And, similarly, before him too there must have been another Brahms. But through all these vast vistas of time, through successive deluges, the vibrations caused by the Paramatman's breath have existed in space, the vibrations that urged the first Brahma to do the work of creation. These vibrations are indestructible. The Brahma who appears after each great deluge performs his function of creation with them.
The sounds we produce are never destroyed. I remember reading that what Jesus Christ spoke 2,000 years ago could still be recaptured in his own voice and that efforts are being made for the same. I don't know how far these efforts have succeeded. But I do know that there does exist such a possibility (of receiving a voice or sound from the past). We know that a sound, once it is produced, remains in space without ever being destroyed.
Brahma created this world with the sound of the Vedas and this sound is not destroyed even during a great deluge. We build a village or town with stone, earth, timber, iron, etc. All these materials are derived from the will of the Paramatman, from his thought, from the vibrations that are his will or thought. Brahma saw the sounds corresponding to these vibrations as the Vedas and he chanted them and brought all the world into existence.
We often see reports in the newspapers of trees flowering or fruiting in abundance in response to the vibrations of certain sounds. Some vibration have also the effect of stunting the growth of plants. Here is proof of the fact that sound can create, sustain and destroy.
Brahma could create the universe with the sound of the Vedas because of his power of concentration. A siddha can cure a sick man if he intones the Pancaksaramantra - the mantra that we mutter every day - and applies holy ashes to the patient's body. He is able to do it because he has greater power of concentration than we have. If the mantra is to be efficacious it has to be chanted without any tonal error whatsoever. Only then will it bring the desired result. Brahma had the power of concentration to the full since he came into being as an "instrument" for creation.
Much could be accomplished from the void of space through electricity. From the spiritual reality called the Nirguna Brahman (the unconditioned Brahman without attributes) emanates everything. During the deluge, this spiritual reality goes to sleep. Take the case of a sandow. When he is asleep his strength is not evident. But when we see him wrestling with an opponent we realise how strong he is. Similarly, during the time of creation, the spiritual reality is revealed to perform manifold functions. From the Nirguna Brahman comes a flow of energy to perform such functions. Brahma came into being as a part of this flow. Since he was all tapas, all concentration, he could grasp all the Vedas with his extraordinary power. He created the world with their sound. The Vedas are infinite and so too creation takes forms that are countless.
The great sage Bharadvaja kept chanting the Vedas over three lifetimes. Paramesvara appeared before him and said to him: "I will grant you a fourth life. What will you do during it?" The sage replied "I will keep chanting the Vedas again." It is not possible to learn the Vedas in their entirety even over many, many lifetimes. Paramesvara took pity on Bharadvaja for all his efforts to accomplish a task that was impossible to accomplish. Wanting to change his mind, Paramesvara caused three great mountains to appear, took a handful of earth and said to the sage: "The Vedas you have learned all these years are like this handful of earth. What you have yet to learn is vast, like these mountains." It is believed that Vedagiri or Tirukkazhukkunram is the place where the Vedas appeared in the form of these mountains. When I was circumambulating the hill there, people accompanying me intoned, "Deva, Deva, Mahadeva," in the course of their bhajan. I asked them to intone instead, "Veda, Veda, Mahaveda"
The story of Bharadvaja occurs in the Kathaka2 of the Vedas. We learn from it that the Vedas are infinite. The classification into the four Vedas and the one thousand or so recensions was a later development. As Brahma came into being, his heart was filled with all Vedic sound. The Vedas showed him the way to perform his function of creation. He recognised that the sound of the Vedas pervaded everywhere. To him occur all Vedas. Only some mantras have revealed themselves to the sages and these constitute the Vedas that are our heritage.
At the time of chanting a mantra we usually mention the rishi associated with it, its chandas or metre and the name of the deity invoked. In the Telugu country they mention the three for all mantras. The sages learned the mantras with the power of concentration acquired through austerities. They were bestowed with celestial ears, so they could hear the mantras in space. it is said in the science of yoga that if our heart-space becomes one with the transcendent outward space we will be able to listen to the sounds in it. Only those who have attained the state of undifferentiated oneness of all can perceive them. It is in this way that the seers became aware of the mantras and made them known to the world. It must be remembered that they did not create them. They brought us immeasurable blessings by making the mantras known to us.
If someone offers us water from the Ganga (Ganga-tirtha, Gangajal) we receive it, prostrating ourselves before him. The man did not of course create the Ganga, but all the same we reverence him in recognition of the fact that he must have travelled a thousand miles to bring us the few drops of the holy water. We cannot adore the seers sufficiently for their having made us the gift of the mantras which are beyond the grasp of our ears. That is why before chanting a mantra we hold the sacred feet of the rishi concerned with our head.
This is in Cengalpattu district, Tamil Nadu.
Of the Yajurveda.