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As I discuss in this answer, how the Vedas originated is that from time immemorial, sages known as Dhristas (literally seers) have heard sacred verses (mantras) directly from the gods during a state of Tapasya (deep meditation). And then in the Dwapara Yuga (the age before the current one), a sage named Krishna Dwaipayana Vedavyasa (Vyasa for short) compiled these verses from all those different sages into a coherent work, dividing them into a set of four books we call the Vedas. (Technically Vyasa only compiled the Rig, Yajur, and Sama Veda; the Atharvana Veda was compiled by the sages Atharva and Angiras).

But Vyasa wasn't the first one to compile and divide the Vedas, and he won't be the last. Vedavyasa is in fact a title, assigned to a different person in every Dwapara Yuga, as described by Vyasa's father Parashara in the Vishnu Purana:

Twenty-eight times have the Vedas been arranged by the great Rishis in the Vaivaswata Manwantara in the Dwápara age, and consequently eight and twenty Vyásas have passed away; by whom, in their respective periods, the Veda has been divided into four. In the first Dwápara age the distribution was made by Swayambhu (Brahmá) himself; ... I [Parashara] was the Vyása of the twenty-sixth Dwápara, and was succeeded by Jaratkáru; the Vyása of the twenty-eighth, who followed him, was Krishńa Dwaipáyana. These are the twenty-eight elder Vyásas, by whom, in the preceding Dwápara ages, the Veda has been divided into four. In the next Dwápara, [Ashwatthama] Drauńi (the son of Drońa) will be the Vyása, when my son, the Muni Krishńa Dwaipáyana, who is the actual Vyása, shall cease to be (in that character)

My question is, why do the Vedas need to be recompiled and redivided in every Dwapara Yuga? I can understand if the knowledge of the Vedas is lost over the generations as people die, and thus in every Dwapara Yuga someone needs to go back to all the sages and find out the verses they heard from the gods. But most of the people mentioned in the above quote are Chiranjeevis (immortals), so why doesn't the new Vedavyasa just ask some previous one for their compiled work?

Vyasa's father Parashara is immortal, for instance, so couldn't Vyasa have just asked his dad for the verses he had compiled two Dwapara Yugas ago? And Ashwatthama is immortal (as I discuss in this answer), and he's alive right now, so rather than waiting until the next Dwapara Yuga, couldn't he just walk into a bookstore tomorrow and buy a copy of Vyasa's version of the Vedas? Or if there's an issue of all the original Shakhas (recensions) not being included in the books they sell in bookstores, couldn't Ashwatthama have just gotten the Vedas from Vyasa himself in the last Dwapara Yuga, especially considering that he was a student of Vyasa?

Is the issue simply that the compiled Vedas grow in size each time, because in the intervening years between Dwapara Yugas, sages will have heard certain verses from the gods that had never been heard before? Is Vyasa's version of the Vedas bigger than Parashara's, and will Ashwatthama's be even bigger? Are there any scriptures that describe this?

  • Good question. I think the answer is what you gave in the last part. Vedas must be relocated and upgraded after every 4,320,000 years. It might be that, for example many people translate Geeta according to their own understanding, like Tilak did for Geetarahasya, Dnyaneshwar for dnyaneshwari, etc. So vedas also must be getting changed according to each person's thinking. During this period, original Sanskrit verses must be untouched. Hence to revive the original meaning, Vyas must again revive the whole text and preach its meaning. – Shreemay Panhalkar Aug 18 '14 at 5:32
  • well that verse says 'twenty and eight Vyasas have passed away' so that could mean they are not around to be asked. also it says 'shall cease to be' with (in that character) added in paranthesis ! so that means the verse is implying that Vyasa will no longer be (in a physical body) at that time, isn't it? How else would you interpret those words – Sai Jan 7 '15 at 22:58
  • @Sai I think "cease to be in that character" just means cease to be the Vedavyasa, not cease to be in their physical body. The present Vyasa's father Parashara was still alive at the time that Vyasa was compiling the Vedas; in fact Parashara is the one who is telling this list of Vyasas to his disciple Maitreya, after His son had already done the work. – Keshav Srinivasan Jan 8 '15 at 3:21
  • Maybe the concern is that at the end of Kali yuga, leading into Dwapara, the Vedas have been essentially lost. – Gratus D. Jan 8 '15 at 18:35
  • @KeshavSrinivasan just saying that the only thing parashara says is cease to be the rest was in paranthesis meaning he didnt say it. It s just the interpretation of the translator. It is possible that Parashara was alive (or in physical) when this was going on. But his description is a more general one i think. – Sai Jan 8 '15 at 20:01
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Good question. I think the answer is what you gave in the last part. Vedas must be relocated and upgraded after every 4,320,000 years. It might be that, for example many people translate Geeta according to their own understanding, like Tilak did for Geetarahasya, Dnyaneshwar for dnyaneshwari, etc. So Vedas also must be getting changed according to each person's thinking. During this period, original Sanskrit verses must be untouched. Hence to revive the original meaning, Vyasa must again revive the whole text and preach its meaning.

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    "Vedas also must be getting changed according to each person's thinking." No, great pains are taken to ensure that the exact words of the Vedas are preserved from generation to generation. But even if later generations had lost or changed some of the original words, that wouldn't matter, because the whole reason I'm asking the question is that the previous Vyasas are still alive, and they would presumably know the uncorrupted version. So Vyasa could just ask his father Parashara for the version that he had compiled. – Keshav Srinivasan Aug 19 '14 at 19:51
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    "i think the answer is what you gave in the last part." I don't want speculation, I want a definitive answer based on scripture. – Keshav Srinivasan Aug 19 '14 at 19:53
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It is because kali yuga is the time when humans are manda bhAgya ( of poor fortune and capacity to attain brahman) , manda buddhi(of poor intellect) and alpa Ayushkas (people with short lifespans). They are incapable of learning all the vEdas and shastras , preserving them and propagating them and, benefiting from their entirety. So, in order to benefit people of kali yuga and to preserve the sanctity and extant of the vEdas, and to allow people of kali to continue to have a relationship with the divine through the vEda, Vyasa who is an avatar of Vishnu, analysed and synthesised them into smaller, more easily consumable capsules. You can check for the validity of the nature of kali people in the bhAgavta purAna.

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    Unfortunately, this doesn't answer my question. I already knew why it's necessary to divide the Vedas for the benefit of people in the Kali Yuga. But my question was, why does this work of division need to be done from scratch by a new Vyasa every time? Why couldn't the present Vyasa just use the division that previous Vyasas had done in past Dwapara Yugas? Couldn't he just ask his father Parashara for the division he had done two Dwapara Yugas ago? Couldn't Ashwathhama, who became a disciple of the present Vyasa after all, just use the work that the present Vyasa already did? – Keshav Srinivasan Jan 9 '15 at 21:42
  • One possible explanation is that each new Vyasa expands on the work of the previous one, incorporating Vedic hymns that were heard from the gods more recently. But so far I haven't found any scriptural basis for an explanation like that. – Keshav Srinivasan Jan 9 '15 at 21:52
  • @KeshavSrinivasan - Yup, that seems quite logical. Another reason could be to record the activities of recent saints and bhaktas. For instance, the works of Sri Purandara Dasa, Narsimha Mehta, Mirabai, etc. might go into the next recompiled version. – Prahlad Yeri Feb 15 '15 at 11:03
  • @PrahladYeri We're talking here about the Samhitas of the Vedas, i.e. the core part of the Vedas heard from the gods. (That's what Vyasa compiled.) The Samhitas don't contain much in the way of stories about rishis or devotees. They mostly just consist of hymns praising various gods. Here's the Rig Veda Samhita, for instance: sacred-texts.com/hin/rigveda/index.htm – Keshav Srinivasan Feb 15 '15 at 11:08
  • "They mostly just consist of hymns praising various gods." - I was referring to the same. The works of Purandara dasa contain several hymns praising lord Vishnu as part of Kannada Literature - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purandara_Dasa – Prahlad Yeri Feb 15 '15 at 11:18
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Vyasa does not "compile" the Vedas every Dwapara Yuga, Vyasa splits or divides the Vedas every Dwapara Yuga. The word Vyasa means "divider."

From the Srimad Bhagavatam:

Verse 47: Observing that people in general were diminished in their life span, strength and intelligence by the influence of time, great sages took inspiration from the Personality of Godhead sitting within their hearts and systematically divided the Vedas.

And the division of the Vedas is done simply by teaching each of his four sishyas each part of the Vedas (Rk, Yajus, Saman, and Atharvan).

Text 51: The most powerful and intelligent Vyāsadeva called four of his disciples, and entrusted to each of them one of these four saṁhitās.

Texts 52-53: Śrīla Vyāsadeva taught the first saṁhitā, the Ṛg Veda, to Paila and gave this collection the name Bahvṛca. To the sage Vaiśampāyana he spoke the collection of Yajur mantras named Nigada. He taught the Sāma Veda mantras, designated as the Chandoga-saṁhitā, to Jaimini, and he spoke the Atharva Veda to his dear disciple Sumantu.

And since the current Vyasa is an incarnation of Vishnu, he automatically knows all the Vedic mantras, so he doesn't need to ask the other Rishis for their mantras:

The almighty Lord, exhibiting a divine spark of a portion of His plenary portion, then appeared in the womb of Satyavatī as the son of Parāśara. In this form, named Kṛṣṇa Dvaipāyana Vyāsa, he divided the one Veda into four.

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