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Re: Pancha Sooktham recitation

From: Mani Varadarajan (mani_at_best.com)
Date: Tue Sep 08 1998 - 13:38:30 PDT

> Dear Bhagavatas,
>   I have heard from a few UpAdhyAyAs that one should recite Pancha Sooktams
> only after learning it from a teacher, since it is part of the Vedas.
> Is this true? Can someone shed more light on this? Are we allowed to recite
> Pancha Sooktams by just reading from the script?

The people who told you this are absolutely correct.
The Vedas are not random words, nor are they mere
words. They are words that are set in a particular
order with particular intonations (svara) that have
a definite meaning.  This meaning is said to reflect
the very nature of reality, both material and immaterial.
Saying the Vedas wrong is tantamount to misrepresenting
reality, and is the greatest disservice one can possibly 
do to those divine words.

There are very practical reasons as to why it is
insisted that the Vedas be learnt through person-to-person
contact and never from books.  

First and foremost,
since the svara and order of the words is of utmost
importance, the student is best able to learn them
correctly when the teacher hears the student repeat
after him and corrects whatever mistakes there are.

Second, books are very often wrong in their
words and svara.  It doesn't matter how reputable
the source (Ramakrishna Mutt, Ahobila Mutt, etc.) --
printed texts of the Vedas contain numerous mistakes.

Finally, reciting Vedas in public incorrectly interferes
with those who are reciting them properly; it is no
exaggeration to say that wrong and unlearned recitation
is like pouring hot lead into the other reciters' ears.

There is no substitute to learning these in person.

A PLEA: No matter who who are, whether you consider
yourself a brahmin or otherwise, PLEASE DO NOT RECITE 
SECTIONS OF THE VEDAS WITHOUT LEARNING THEM IN PERSON.

There are always alternatives to reciting the Vedas.
During formal worship / tiru-ArAdhanam, you can
simply recite the ashTAkshara-mantra or sections
of the Divya Prabandham instead of the Vedas. These
are just as valid and sometimes sweeter, since we
can make sense of their meaning without difficulty.

I have seen many instances in this country where
people (particularly those born into brahmin families)
think that devotion necessitates Vedic recitation
at a temple.  All too often, they perform this recitation
without any prior learning.

For example, in many venues, people wantonly recite
the nArAyaNa upanishad, a section of the atharva veda.
Not only have they not learnt the upanishad from someone
who knows it properly (few do, as it is from the atharva
veda), this text plays no part in any traditional temple
ritual in India.  There is no need for it to be recited
at all, much less without proper learning. 
Need we go to this extent to show disrespect to the Vedas?

The Vedas are our wealth. Let's protect it!

Mani