The Vedas are the most ancient scriptures of India and indeed maybe the world, since they date back several thousand years B.C. These scriptures were composed, mainly in the form of hymns, by great sages of ancient times known as Rishis who, according to tradition, had a direct vision of Reality.
The Vedic tradition was kept alive uninterruptedly throughout the millennia, first by oral transmission from master to disciple, before taking the form of written knowledge – and even then, Vedic schools continued the oral transmission for chanting the hymns, in various specific styles. In addition, a number of families in India have been keeping perennial sacred fires alive, down the lineage of generations.
When we listen to a Vedic hymn, we immediately perceive that its sound carries something very beautiful, powerful and highly sacred. As it comes to the meaning of the words, though, things become more difficult, even for experienced sanscritists. Or we may, rather, say that Vedic hymns include various meanings at different levels, ranging from the most down to earth to the most spiritual one. The access door to their highest spiritual significance has been largely forsaken, but it can be disclosed again by beings of high consciousness.
Yajña is central in Vedanta: if I offer the Divine something that is precious to me, I get something valuable that uplifts me and nourishes my practical life in return. Vedic ceremonies reproduce this cosmic principle of yajña on earth. In many of them, hymns, priests’ gestures, and noble items such as ghee or clarified butter are offered to the sacred fire, which symbolizes the Divine. According to Indian tradition, this is how these rituals help rebalancing the energies of Nature that the mistakes of men such as conflicts, wars, environmental pollution, etc… have disrupted. They also lessen the probability of occurrence of natural disasters, or at least reduce their destructive effects; contribute to dissolving the subtle veils which limit human consciousness, thus working on the very root cause of all sufferings and evils. Vedic rituals thereby facilitate the spreading of harmony and peace at all levels.
The Vedic perspective is indeed so vast! One of the hymns addresses human beings calling them amrita putrasya i.e. children of immortality. This means that the path proposed by Vedanta for the development of consciousness is limitless: growing step by step, man can reach the state of total awareness which belongs to the immortal being that sleeps inside each one of us.