Antiquity, Mantras, Rishis, Book-form, Part-reading
There is a beautiful devotional song 'For your worship, mind temple is the magnificent one.' Brick and mortar temple is a very poor substitute. This was first sung in the movie 'Bharat Ki Beti' in 1935 A.D., roughly 75 years ago. It is sung these days but rarely; many newer songs catch our attention. In year 2035 or still further 2135, this song might have passed into oblivion as happens with almost everything. For example, we do not have much record and, definitely not, memories of songs of, say, 200 years ago.
Anyhow some may argue that we still recite devotional songs of Surdas, Mira, Kabir and Ravidas, to name a few.
Let us look a little further behind, around the beginnings of Kali Yuga or the end of Dvapara Yuga. The Bhagavad Gita was sung on this earth roughly 5000 years ago. It is still much read, recited and respected by devotees as well as learned. The epic Mahabharata of this period and its host of stories are very popular among people.
Still, prior to that, a minimum of 864,000 years ago according to tradition (in Treta Yuga), Lord Rama happened to be here on this earth. We have the epic Ramayana on the life of Lord Rama. To date it is enacted every year during the nine nights prior to Dussehra (or Vijaya Dashami).
In such a big time frame, we certainly lose much but still try to retain the wisdom and lore as much as we can. But, sadly, many things pass and have to.
However, we find that the Bhagavad Gita refers to the Vedas as very ancient. Even the Ramayana mentions Rama as the knower of the essence of the Vedas and its organs. ... All this points to that the wisdom is not just recent, but ancient and prehistoric.
Then, when were the Vedas first sung?
In the scheme of Yugas (eras), there are 4 yugas, namely: Satya, Treta, Dvapara and Kali. They succeed in this order only. Moral and physical standards keep declining with every successive yuga. Kali's period is 432,000 years (it is currently 5000 years old); Dvapara's span is its twice; Treta's thrice and Satya's four times. Together, the four-yugas last for 4.32 million years. ... Then, one can say that the Vedas were sung in the Satya Yuga.
The Vedas were certainly sung in the Satya Yuga, BUT not for the first time.
WHY? Because this four-yuga period is the 28th in the series of four-yugas. Sadly, we do not have memories of any of previous four-yugas. Our memory of past is miniscule and is constantly flooded by newer events and forms.
Still if we go behind, this 28th four-yuga period is part of Vaivasavat Manu. Prior to Vaivasvat, there were 6 other Manus (each Manu has a total period of 71 four-yugas).
So, to cut story short, the current four-yuga period is 454th. So the Vedas are as ancient as the first four-yuga period.
Sadly, the stories of our mythology (the Puranas) too cannot go that far in time. But the Vedas being equated with the omniscient Brahma are beginningless, ageless.
Still one can say there is beginning in terms of creation. No. Here we are talking about one day of Brahmā. [NOTE: Do not confuse Brahmā with Brahma; the former is a god with fixed life term, while latter is the Self (Ātman) of all creations and even gods and without any constraints of time.] In fact, his day (or Kalpa) is equal to 1000 four-yugas; accordingly, the current four-yuga period is only the midday. His night (vikalpa) is also of 1000 four-yugas; night precedes the day. So his day-night is 2000 four-yugas equivalent. Days and nights keep alternating eternally, without beginning and without end.
Brahmā's life term consists of 36000 such day-nights. But there were countless Brahmās in the past and countless Brahmās in future. [Strangely, the current day is the first day of the 51st year.] ...
Creation is a recurring theme; and the Vedas its eternal song. Things pass; but the Vedas endure. The Vedas being eternal and ever-relevant and often called Brahma itself ought to be recited regularly.
In his commentary of the Vedanta Sutra, the Advaita philosopher Shankara earnestly rejects the opponent’s suspicion about permanence of the Vedas, when the opponent argues that cow, horse and gods like Indra mentioned in the Vedas are born with the creation, they were not there before creation and so would not be after this creation. He therefore finds that the Vedas are not relevant for all times. To him Shankara explains that the Vedas donot talk of a particular cow, horse or god but of the species of cow, horse and god. These names are class nouns. That also suggests that Indra is not a particular person, but any person who performs duties of Indra or acts like Indra. We should call Indra as the Indra. For example, Buddha means enlightened and not just Gautama. The name is not Gautama Buddha, but, more precisely, Gautama the Buddha. Buddha is a title. It can be used for any enlightened person. ... Similarly, people often say that Indra is the most celebrated/invoked god in the Vedas. However, it is better to say that is the most celebrated name of Brahma: Indra literally means supreme lord (paramesvara).
Similarly, names occurring in mantras are not in particular sense, but in general one. So to conclude mantras as posterior to that name is ridiculous. It is customary to borrow names from scriptures.
Remember: Mantras or hymns float around freely and Rishis are their seers/realisers (and not their authors) and carry them and pass on as oral tradition. Mantras as currently available in book form is only a recent development. At the end of Dvapara Yuga, when mantras were in the danger of being lost and when questioning/doubt (or reason) replacing Sraddhā (unflinching faith) had crept into people's mentality, the sage Veda Vyasa (who is also the author of epic Mahabharata) got them compiled into four books, all the hymns of various Rishis then traditionally sung in hermitages or clans of Rishis. [According to devout tradition, this compilation occurs in every four-yuga period in order to preserve the Vedas.]
Moreover, it is seen that particular Rishis sing only a few hymns and at times those hymns do not cover all the gods. It therefore shows that their hymns are in fact addressed to supreme, universal Brahma/Ātman, and not just to particular supernatural powers figuring in their hymns.
So this also explains that it is not necessary that one has to read the whole Veda or all the Vedas. Part-reading is fine. However, more can correct one's distortion if any.
Dvija (twice-born man) not studying the Veda
When labours on something else;
He instantly falls to lower caste (i.e. gets defiled)
In this life together with his progeny. (The Manu Smriti)
The Taittiriya Upanishad is categorical while it compares the bliss enjoyed by various deities up to Brhama (the Universal Ātman) and declares that the bliss of any of them is equally enjoyed by one versed in the Vedas and unsmitten by desire. This line is used as refrain there
Srotriyasya chākāmahatasya ...
Of the one versed in the Vedas and unsmitten by desire ...