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on chanting the Veda properly

From: Mani Varadarajan (mani_at_be.com)
Date: Fri Sep 11 1998 - 11:29:47 PDT

Dear Bhaktas,

One member mentioned to me in private email that
he had heard that it was permissible to chant the Vedas
without intonation (svara), as opposed to incorrect
intonation (apa-svara).

A person (not a member of this list) who has studied
the Vedas more than most in this country had this to
say on this issue:

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As far as this non-swara business of Veda-adhyayana goes: 

No!! Patanjali's statement is proof of this

alpaksharaha swaratho varNatho vaa
mithyaaprayukto nathamarthamaahaha
sa vaak vajro yajamaanam hinasti
yathendra shatru swarathOparaadhaat.

The Veda gives the illustration of this - it is also in the PuraaNa
and Patanjali states this.

Twaashtha wanted a Son to avenge the death of Trishira - his Son whom
Indra adopted as a preceptor in the time Brihaspathi had left him due
to the disrespect Indra had shown toward his Acharya. Indra found that
Trishira had an Asura Mother and when he offered oblations into the
Sacred Agni for the victory of the Devas, he also uttered the mantras
for the victory of the Asuras with his other mouth ( he had 3 ) -
consequently the wars were stalemated. Indra in his anger killed
Trishira with his Vajram and incurred Twaashtha's wrath.

The mantra which Twaashtha chanted had the words "Indra shatru" in it.
In this the Indra was to chanted with anudhaatam and the shatru with
swaritam.  Twaashtha made the mistake of chanting the word Indra with
swaritam and the Shatru with anudhaatam - he consequently got a Son -
Vritra - not one who would kill Indra - but one who would be killed by
Indra. The meaning changed due to the incorrect swara and hence the
term "Yajamaanam hinasti".

There are many out there who claim that we can have our will with the
Veda. With due respect these are people who have done no adhyayanam in
a paathashaala or those who have had no formal teaching of the Veda
from one who has learned it from someone educated in a
paathashaala. These are in my view the paathakaadhamaas.  I will not
give serious credibility to this view. Sri Paramaachaarya is vehement
in his stand on the correct intonation of the Veda as well as
uchchaaraNam.

In my life, I have seen several people who said things like this - and
I have argued with them. 

Without Swara the Veda is not only meaningless - worse it has
vipariita artham (contrary meaning). It is tantamount to chanting
everything in one tone - swara - whatever you call it.  Hence,
wrong. Just as you cannot live without working, you cannot speak
without intonation of any kind. Whatever you say - however you say it,
by default has a swara - so there cannot be any non-swara chanting of
anything - leave alone the Veda - there can only be apaswara chanting.

Just a hundred years ago, people like us were learning the 18 Vidyas -

The 4 Vedas - Rig, Yajus, Saaman, AtharvaNa
The 6 Vedangas - Siiksha, VyaakaraNa, chchandas, nirukta, jyothisha and kalpa
The 4 upangaas - Nyaaya, Miimaamsa, PuraaNa and Dharmashaastra
The 4 Upavedas - Ayurveda, Dhanurveda, Gaandharvaveda and Arthashaastra

One student spent 18 years in a Paathashaala learning and assimilating
these 18 Vidyaas.  We have lost all of it. We have lost all of
it. What remains is the broken fabric of the Vedic chants - some
correct chanting - mostly incorrect chanting.

Sri Raama charaNau sharaNam prapadye.