I believe it makes more sense to present you with the credentials of the Ancient Indian Civilization before discussing its rare treasure of Vedic knowledge.
Let me begin by telling you about the various eras through which human race has passed starting from the early stone age to the present times.
There have been four major eras so far.
The first one is the Ancient era which ranges from 7500 B.C. till 650 A.D. It is considered a great era since it marked the progress from hunting and tribal culture to great civilizations and eventually to great empires. Various branches of knowledge like language, literature art, music, science, statecraft, architecture religion and philosophy came into being and prospered. That is why it is also called the Classical Era.
Next came the Medieval or Barbaric Era from 650 A.D. till about 1500 A.D. This era was marked by the social and political decline due to the collapse of the classical empires, especially since the collapse was mostly caused by the barbaric rulers. Only empires at that time were Islamic Empires in the middle east. Brutality can be seen as engrained in the behavior and culture of this period. Religious injunctions ran the state and controlled the society. Art, music, literature and architecture were infused with religion. It was more an era of faith than an era of reason.
The Modern Era followed the Medieval era. It started around 1500 A.D. and lasted till 1970 A.D. It was mostly centered around Europe and was marked by several major developments, like the advent of Renaissance which marked the revival of the literature, art and architecture, a tradition started by the Classical Era, but lost during the Medieval Era. The second development was the advent of the age of Science and scientific discoveries which led to the rise of the industrialized society. The ideology of the modern era was marked by the criticism of the religion and growing interest in the secular side of life. Barbaric brutality of the Medieval Era was rejected and discarded. Civilized behavior was held in high esteem. Liberal democracy was the preferred form of Government. The Era emphasized the primacy of reason and logic which caused a major shift Religion got relegated to the background, while science, logic, material culture, humanism and liberal democracy were celebrated.
The Postmodern Era or the Contemporary Modern Era, in which we are presently living followed the Modern Era by the end of the Twentieth Century. This era is marked by the realization that logic and reason are not enough to explain life completely. The basic assumptions of the traditional Science, viz., the accuracy of measurements and exact reproducibility of those measurements, are no longer valid with the advent of the Quantum Physics describing the unpredictable behavior of subatomic elementary particles. There is an acceptance of ambiguity where things cannot be explained. Philosophical speculations are being made for making sense of situations where science is helpless, like origin of the universe, weird behavior of Elementary Particles, and so on. So, in keeping with the spirit of the times, it may not be out of place to take the help of the ancient philosophy of the Vedas for explaining the puzzling situations that we are unable to decipher.
Let us for a moment revisit the Classical or Ancient Era, the golden age of humanity, to which the Vedas belong. This era saw the rise of Indian, Mesopotamian and Chinese Civilizations in Asia; Greek and Roman Civilizations in Europe, and Incas and Mayan Civilizations in Latin America. During this period, Hinduism in India, Buddhism in east Asia, and Christianity in Europe flourished, along with some other religions like Judaism, etc.
With a recent archaeological discovery of the ruins of a very ancient city of Dwarka in India, belonging to the 7,500 B.C., it now becomes clearly established that the Indian Civilization preceded the hitherto believed most ancient Mesopotamian Civilization, which existed in 3500 B.C., by 4000 years! This mean that the honor of being called the cradle of civilization clearly goes to the Ancient Indian Civilization and the title of Mother of all knowledge goes to its ancient wisdom contained in the Vedas, from which Hinduism, the oldest religion known to mankind has emerged.
The discovery of Dwarka Civilization, which forms a part of the Aryan culture, also gives a conclusive proof that Aryans were Indians and falsifies the hypothesis that Aryans had migrated to India from Eastern Europe and Central Asia, since there was no sign of any advanced civilization anywhere in the world in 7,500 BC! It is time that the world historians took note of this epoch-making archaeological discovery and rewrote the world history.
You may wonder that if such an enormous body of knowledge in the form of the Vedas existed, how come the world hardly knows about it? The answer is that with the fall of ancient Indian empires and with the subsequent rule of Islamic plunderers from the Middle East and later of British monarchy in India, this knowledge relegated to the background. When Britishers discovered it, they were amazed by its shear grandeur. Unfortunately, their pride did not permit them to accept that their colony had such a glorious social and cultural heritage. So, they underplayed its greatness and on top of that propounded the false theory that Aryans had come to India from Europe and central Asia, and the great Indian civilization was not actually Indian!
However, things have changed now. Eventually, India’s incredible cultural and philosophical heritage is getting world recognition. That way, even without knowing about Vedas, the world has already embraced wholeheartedly the life enhancing techniques of Yoga and Meditation which have their roots in Vedas.
With this introduction of the Ancient Indian Civilization, let me now tell you about the Vedas.
Vedic Knowledge is referred to as the revealed knowledge since it is said to have been revealed by the Cosmic Consciousness to the saints of ancient India, called Rishis, when their consciousness was connected to the Cosmic Consciousness in deep meditation. It is, therefore, not created by any human being. This knowledge was passed on from generation to generation through recitation and later in around 5000 B.C. they were organized and written in the form books known as Vedas.
There are four books of Vedas known as Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda. Historians have dated the Vedic books, but we should remember that the Vedic knowledge itself has existed for a very long time prior to this dating. And from that point of view it can rightfully be given the credit of being the oldest knowledge, available to mankind.
Vedas contain a huge body of knowledge pertaining to almost every essential aspect of human life. That includes the first fully developed language known to the mankind, called Sanskrit, literature, poetry, music, culture, society, religious rituals, a detailed account of a healthy lifestyle, an herbal system of medicine known as Ayurveda, agricultural practices, trade and commerce, cities, lifestyles of kings, description of kingdoms and their politics, art of warfare and weaponry, archaeology, astronomy, mathematics and science, etc.
Apart from the knowledge pertaining to the Physical aspect of the human existence described above, Vedas also offer the knowledge about the non-physical or transcendental aspect of life, for which they are mainly known. They contain a huge body of robust philosophy about the transcendental or spiritual realm. The philosophical and spiritual part of Vedic knowledge is contained in the last chapters of each Veda which are called Upanishads.
Apart from Vedas and Upanishads, there are a few more important works which constitute the part of the ancient Indian philosophy. The most profound among them is known as the Bhagavad Gita, which summarizes all the Vedic and Upanishadic knowledge and puts it in perspective. All these texts together constitute what is known as the Vedic literature which encompasses the core of Vedic Philosophy.
There are seven concepts central to the Vedic Philosophy. These concepts are: Cosmic Consciousness, Individual Consciousness, Mother Nature, Our Visible and Invisible Bodies, Law of Karma, our Chakras, which are the energy centers in our Invisible Energy Body, and finally, the Yoga and Meditation, which is the methodology for expanding the individual consciousness till it reaches the level of the Cosmic Consciousness. I will take these up one by one in my future presentations.