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09 April 2007, 12:10 AM
Definitions starting with the letter: V

Vaishnava - one who follows Vishnu (Visnu). From viś or "to settle, to enter" or pervade", and a suffix nu, we have
The All Pervading One. For the Vaishnava, the avatar's of Vishnu are dear to the sadhu. The number of avatar's of Vsnu
Are considered as 10, yet the Srimad Bhagavatam (1.3.6) suggest a more comprehensive list. That said, the following are considered the 10 avatars:

Dasavatara:Avatars of Vishnu in the Garuda Purana:
Matsya, the fish, appeared in Satya Yuga.
Kurma, the tortoise, appeared in Satya Yuga.
Varaha, the boar, appeared in Satya Yuga.
Narasimha, the half-man/half-lion appeared in Satya Yuga.
Vamana, the dwarf, appeared in Treta Yuga.
Parashurama, Rama with the axe, appeared in Treta Yuga.
Rama, Ramachandra, appeared inTreta Yuga.
Krishna (meaning 'dark colored' or 'all attractive') appeared in Dwapara Yuga along with his brother Balarama. According to the Bhagavata Purana Balarama is said to have appeared in Dwapara Yuga (along with Krishna) as an incarnation of Ananta Shesha. He is also counted as an avatar Vishnu by the majority of movements and is included as the ninth Dasavatara in some versions of the list which contain no reference to Buddha.
Buddha (meaning 'the enlightened one') appeared in Kali Yuga
Kalki ("Eternity" or "time", or "The Destroyer of foulness"), who is expected to appear at the end of Kali Yuga

… and why does the Supreme chose to visit this earth?
Whenever Dharma, or the situation of law and order, is endangered on this world, I incarnate onto this world to re establish Dharma, law and order, and to protect the Sadhus or saints and to destroy the evil elements of the society. (Bhagavad-Gita)

The Avatars of Vishnu in the Srimad Bhagavatam (1.3.6)
The Four Sons of Brahma or the kumara's
Varaha -The boar
Narada - The Traveling Sage
Narayana"Nara-Narayana - The Twins
Kapila -The Philosopher
Dattatreya -Combined Avatar of the trimurthi i.e. Brahma, Visnu and Siva
Yajna - Vishnu temporarily taking the role of Indra, and found throughout the Rig Veda
Rishabha -Father of Bharata; King who made earth Beautiful and Attractive
Matsya - The Fish
Kurma - The Tortoise
"Dhanvantari - Father of Ayurveda
Mohini - Beautiful/Charming Woman
Narasimha - The Man-Lion
Vamana -The Dwarf
Parasurama - The Rama with an Axe
Vyasa - Writer of the Vedas also known as Veda Vyasa, Bhagavan Sri Krsna Dvaipayana Vyasya, son of Parashara muni
Ramachandra -The King Ayodhya
Balarama - Krrsna's Elder Brother
Krsna - The Cow herder, also the Supreme Self; The fountainhead of all
Buddha - The Reformer
Kalki - The Destroyer, yet to arrive in Kali Yuga

Three additional avatars are described in other chapters (Canto's)
Prshnigarbha - Born to Prshni
Hayagriva -The Horse
Hamsa - The Swan

Additional reading and research is suggested to compare and contrast the similarities and differences of the primary philosophies of Vaishnavism, Shaivism, and one's that follow the Shakta path.

One should also note the various sampradaya, or lineage, associated with Vaishnavism. Each , they say, have roots to the Veda:
Rudra-Sampradaya Shuddhadvaita ("pure nondualism"), espoused by Acharya Vallabhacharya
Brahma-Sampradaya Dvaita ("dualism"), espoused by Madhvacharya, and also Achintya Bheda Abheda ("inconceivable oneness and difference"), espoused by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
Lakshmi-Sampradaya Vishishtadvaita ("qualified nondualism"), espoused by Ramanuja
Kumara-Sampradaya Dvaitadvaita ("duality in unity"), espoused by Nimbarka

References Used: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vishnu (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vishnu)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vishnu (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vishnu)
http://bhagavata.org/canto1/chapter3.html (http://bhagavata.org/canto1/chapter3.html)http://bhagavata.org/canto1/chapter3.html (http://bhagavata.org/canto1/chapter3.html)
http://members.tripod.com/~srinivasp/mythology/avatars.html (http://members.tripod.com/~srinivasp/mythology/avatars.html)http://members.tripod.com/~srinivasp/mythology/avatars.html (http://members.tripod.com/~srinivasp/mythology/avatars.html)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avatar#Dasavatara:_The_Ten_Avatars_of_Vishnu_in_the_Garuda_Purana (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avatar#Dasavatara:_The_Ten_Avatars_of_Vishnu_in_the_Garuda_Purana)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaishnavism#Worship (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaishnavism)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaishnavism#Worship (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaishnavism)

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Veda's - from the the root word vid, to know. The veda's deal with knowledge. The Veda's are considered a revealed or cognized knowledge. That is sruti, or what is revealed to a seer (rsi or rishi). Revealed from where one ask's? Within one's own consciounsess, or a pure consiiousness state, some call this Truth-consciousness (rita-cit), some call paramam vyoman, the rishi is able to cognize this knowledge from akasara ( from a or not + ksi , to destroy or parish; hence not destroyable - the Absolute). It is said the Veda comes from the breath of Lord Brahma.
Classic understanding suggests there are 4 veda's - the Rig ( Sometimes written Rk), Sama, Yajur, and Atharva. At one time the veda was one. As a new age of Kali Yuga approached, Ved Vayasa muni ( Sri Krsna Dvaipayana Vyasa, son of Parasara muni) organized the veda's into four collections or samhita's. The wise consider the the veda's three-fold or trayi. That is, mantra's in metrical form is callled rik, that is prose, yajus, and set to chanting, saman. The fourth veda is Atharva, containing riks, most of which arise from the Rig Samhita, and prose mantra from the Yajus Samhitha. In total 20,000 mantra's or verses or hymm's exist. The Rig veda contains th most at 10,552 sukta's within ten mandala's or books.
Discussion - Tradition holds that the veda's where one ( some call mula-veda) in the krta age (yuga) with an uninterrupted flow ( some call this mula vede rcho nirantarah). The one veda in the krta age, then became three in the treta age ( yuga) and then in the dvapara yuga became four, preparing for kali yuga.
The hymm's of the ved address all aspects of wisdom such as environmetal and cosmic forces, how to address and access these powers. The veda's also address math, the sciences, astronomy, etc. yet the purpose of the Veda is to systematically lead the individual and society to higer levels of consciousness i.e. perfection.
Now, what does the Veda ( some write Ved) cover:
Karma Kanda that deals with yajya (ceremonial actions and rites) for the successful completion of actions and sankalph.
Upanasana Kanda - worship
Jmama Kanda - knowlesdge in general and of Brahman in specifics.
As time passed additional knowledge was attached to the samhitas (collection) of mantras, that is the Brahmanas (discussion of the ritual), Aranyakas ( aranya means "forest", or knowledge for the mendicent on retreat) and Upanishads (philosophical writings that capute the wisdom of the veda's for comprehension and meditation).
The veda in all contains 16 types of books, divided into 4 groups: Rig, Yajur, Sama Atharva.

The hymms or sukta's
The structure of the sukta's or hymm's that make up the veda are of key import. In general, ('in general' is mentioned as the Sukla and KrsnaYajur Ved take on a different approach) the mantra's found in the veda's are composed of the following:
The Rishi of the mantra
Rishi's are seers, some call kavi. We have read of Brahmarshi and Maharshi's. We typically associate them with the great saints that have cognized the veda's, or has this internal ability to do so. It is discussed that there are several of seers: Mantra-drashtarah or mantra seers and mantra-smartarah or mantra rememberers. Within the Rk Ved we have the mantra-drashtarah , the kavi of satyam, the seers of truth. There are about 400 seers of the Rk Ved and 25 or so are female. Another name for rishi also is Kandarishi - as you would suspect, this is for the kanda's ( sections or chapters), and take the authorship of the various sections.

Chhandas, or meter
This is another name for meter. On the surface, we think of timing ( like in music , 4-4 timing, 3-4 timing)…chhandas gives us the rhythmic sound. So to make the word powerful to the native, there's 3 components:
The rhythmic sound movement + the interwoven verbal form that brings on the thought substance one experiences , + the soul/atman's vision/sense of the Supreme ( Ishtadevata, or Tad Ekam), or absorption. When you put these three together, it is then a mantra. What are these meters? Gayatri, Ushnik, Anushtubh, Brhati, Virat ( or Viraj), Trishtubh and Jagati. The type of meter is indicated by the number of syllables. We know the famous gayatri, it has 3 stanzas, 8 syllables per line, for a total of 24 syllables.
There is another chhandas mentioned in R.L. Kashyap's book on the Krisha Yajur Veda, Taittitiya Samhita , that points out Pangkti. This replaces Virat chhandas. Both have 40 syllables. Virat has two feet ( or two lines) , 20 syllables each ( for the total of 40). Each syllable is pronounced in 3 ways - udatta, anudatta, and svarita. These are pointed out in writing by the diacritical accent marks in the text.

The devata being addressed
The devata of the veda are deva', or gods, yet can be considered the creative impulses in this universe. The devata are not a concept, but beings , with consciousness. The devata , also written divya, is from the root div or to shine. The mantra's are directed to the devata toaddress them and win their favor and or give them praise. These devata were not concepts or ideas to the rishi, but a personal relationship was established with these higher beings.

References Used:
Collected Works Of T.V. Kaplai Shastri, Volume One, Book of Lights - Dipti Publications
The Secret Of the Vedas - Sri Aurobindo; Sri Aurobindo Ashram Publications
Secrets Of The Rig Veda, First 121 Sukta's - R.L. Kashyap; Sri Aurobindo Kaplai Sastry Institute Of VedicCulturePublication
Analysis of the Brahna Sutra's - Swami Krishnananda; The Divne Life Society Publication
Brahma Sutra's - by Swami Sivananda; The Divne Life Society Publication
Unveiling The Light In The Veda - R.L. Kashyap - Sri Aatguru Publications
HDF posts: http://www.hindudharmaforums.com/showpost.php?p=9171&postcount=1 (http://www.hindudharmaforums.com/showpost.php?p=9171&postcount=1)
http://www.hindudharmaforums.com/showpost.php?p=9372&postcount=1 (http://www.hindudharmaforums.com/showpost.php?p=9372&postcount=1)