By Sarbani Rath
Parāśara says, “Know that Kṛṣṇa Dvaipāyana Veda Vyāsa is none other than Nārāyaṇa himself.” In each Manvantar, Viṣṇu took the form of Vyāsa in order to segregate the Vedas for the welfare of the world. The form Viṣṇu takes in order to divide the Vedas is known as Veda Vyāsa. Viṣṇu did this in each Dvāpara Yuga, and therefore appeared 28 times to classify the Vedas, which would merge into an unidentifiable whole after each pralaya. In each of his Vyāsa incarnations, Viṣṇu had different names such as Swayambhu Manu, Prajāpati Manu, Uśamā, Bṛhaspati, Bharadwāj, Gautama, Mṛtyu, Ṛkṣa (better known as Vālmikī), Parāśara, Jātukarṇa etc. The 28th Vyāsa is Parāśara’s son, Kṛṣṇa Dvaipāyana. The next Vyāsa is slated to be Aśvathāmā, the son of Droṇa.
Kṛṣṇa Dvaipāyana Veda Vyāsa was instructed to divide the Vedas by Brahmā, as was done by his predecessors in the preceding Dvāpara Yugas. The 28th Vyāsa’s first task was to appoint four śiśyas. These four disciples were Paila, Vaiśampāyan, Jaimini and Sumanta who helped him classify the four Vedas. His fifth śiśya was the great muni Lomaharṣana (also known as Romaharṣana), who was appointed to study the Purāṇas.
Paila arranged the hymns of the Rig Veda. Those that were chanted during religious and sacrifical ceremonies were compiled by Vaiśampāyan under the title Yajus Mantra Samhita (the Yajur Veda). Jaimini is said to have collected the chants and mantras that were set to music and melody (“Sāman”), forming the Sāma Veda. The fourth collection of incantations, mantras and chants is known as the Atharva Samhita (Atharva Veda) and was collated by Sumanta.
Vyāsa further divided the Vedas into the Hotras and Saṁhitās. His śisyas’ disciples furthered the study of the Vedas, Saṁhitās and Vedangas, among who were Yagnavalka and Māṇḍuka.
The enlightened sage Jaimini is known as a Maharishi (great Rishi), one who is associated with the spiritual plane Maha Loka, and who is responsible for rebuilding the living world, ensuring that the Vedic knowledge is not lost. He is associated with the planet Ketu, and hence is a great teacher of spirituality. Jaimini’s main disciples were his son Sumanta and his grandson Sukarmā, each of whom studied a part of the Sāma Veda and divided them further into 1000 Saṁhitās. One of Sukarmā’s two main disciples, Hiraṇyanābha, had 15 śiśyas, who created 15 more Saṁhitās. These 15 śisyas were known as the Udīcyasāmaga. Hiraṇyanābha had another 15 disciples, who also created 15 Saṁhitās and were known as the Prācyasāmagas.
The divine sage Nārada is said to have advised Veda Vyāsa to pray to Parasakti for progeny. Kruthasi, an apsaras (female water spirit) appeared in the form of a parrot and tried to distract him. Vyāsa, who saw the beautiful parrot, realized that it was really an apsara, and fell in love with her. A child was created out of his intense passion and not born from the womb. The boy was Śuka who became Vyāsa’s disciple.