The Vedas are, by common consent, the oldest and the most authoritative fountainhead of almost all traditions in India and it lies in the heart of every Indian. In fact, it is with respect to the express acknowledgment or denial of their authority that the various traditions tend to define themselves and be defined by others. Except for Buddhism, Jainism and certain forums of Tantrism, even radical movements against Brahminism tended to make themselves accepted by claiming derivations. From the Vedas or at least by accepting their authority. However to the question of what it is whose authority is being invoked or being denied, a clear answer is not found forthcoming.
Of course, we know that it is the Mantras and Brahmanas that we are referring to, but questions like ‘do the Brahmanas include or exclude the Aranyakas and the Upanisads, and in case they are included then whether they include all of them or only some of them’ need to be addressed. It is difficult to accept that the Upanisads composed as late as the 14th century are to be included in the Vedic corpus.
On the other hand, if we include only those Upanisads that form an integral part of the Samhitas; the Brahmanas, or Aranyakas, then we would have to exclude such well-known Upanisads from the Vedic corpus as the Mundaka, the Mandukya, the Prasna, and the Svetasvatara which do not form a part of any of them.
Thus the question as to whether the Upanisads form a part of the Vedic corpus or not or has always been there. But even those who have not hesitated to give an affirmative answer to the question, have not generally accepted all the texts that have been known as the Upanisads in the tradition as part of the corpus. Nor have they ever been able to give any specific reason why only some of the Upanisads should be merged in the corpus and the others excluded. However, the same has never been the situation with respect to the Samhitas and the Brahmanas.
As for the Aranyakas, there is no one who has raised any arguments or any questions about them. Those who have regarded the Samhitas and Brahmanas as alone forming the genuine Vedic corpus, have ignored both the Aranyakas and the Upanisads and relegated them to a secondary place in the context of the acceptance of authority in the Vedic tradition of India.
On the other hand, those who have chosen the inclusion of the Aranyakas and the Upanisads as important parts of the Vedic compilation, have intended to emphasize the latter and treated the former as providing a transition to the latter and thus a sort of no man’s land to which neither the votaries of Karma in the technical Vedic sense nor those of Jnana(knowledge) found any interest what so ever.
It is also to be noted that among the four vedas, instead of the proclaimed harmony, there is a continuous one up manship amongst the specialists of the different vedas.
It is only the Samaveda who relegates the R.K Samhita to the realm of the lifeless body whose soul is the same. The Atharvaveda explicitly asserts that those who study the three-fold Vedas will read the highest heaven, yet the atnarvans go beyond the great worlds of Brahman. As for the Yajurveda, it places itself not only in the center of the sacrificial ritual but by making the ritual itself as central to the Veda, it relegates all the non-ritual parts of the other Vedas to secondary status and dismisses them as arthavada”.
The Vedas, the foundation texts of Indian thinking, have to be rescued from the age-old forms in which they have been imprisoned. For this, a new way of looking at the texts is required.