About two hundred and fifty generations ago, in the 4th millennium BCE, groups of people like the Aryans lived in and around Turkmenistan. Aryan is a term that was used as a self-designation by a group of prehistoric people as an ethnic label for themselves to refer to the geographic region known as Aryavarta where their culture was based. These were the individuals of the not-too-distant past who helped lay the foundations of the defining divisions between the spiritual practices of the Western and Eastern mystery traditions.
To begin with some of the Aryans chose to embrace monotheism and some polytheism. The latter were devoted to the ways of a powerful holy man named Krishna. He was a very influential Indian enchanter who taught about the nature of life, the permanence of the soul and the good, ethical responsibilities, inner peace, and the different types of yoga. Krishna took on his first disciple, a royal man named Arjuna, in the year 3067 BCE.
Then, in the 2nd millennium BCE an Iranian holy man named Zarathustra had mystical experiences which led him to exalt the Supreme Being under the name Ahura Mazda, meaning “Wise Lord”. The teachings of that prophetic pyromancer included concepts like the final judgement and salvation. The resulting traditions then began to serve as the basis of Zoroastrianism, which was the original monotheistic religion. This came to predominate the mystical landscape of Ancient Persia, and served as the basis for the spiritual teachings of Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad yet to come.
Meanwhile, a thousand years after Krishna’s death, priestesses in India carried on with the traditions of what would become Hinduism. Their spiritual beliefs mainly focused on concepts like reincarnation, godhood realization, and liberation from rebirth. This set the stage for Buddha, Mahavira, and other mystics to found their own religions later on. Regardless, the ancient Zoroastrians and Hindus shared a number of practices, having come from the same spiritual and ancestral line. As an example of this, both the western monotheists of Iran and the eastern polytheists of India continued to make use of the Aryan fire altar rituals, among many other customs.
The Aryan clergy also traditionally made use of a sacramental elixir known as sauma. This was made from a potent psychoactive plant and the consumption of it was seen as a necessary part of any true communion with the divine. The first Zoroastrian priests came to call the drink haoma in Avestan, while the first Hindu priestesses referred to it as soma in Sanskrit. More importantly, this magical potion is what allowed the original rishis, or Hindu sages, to better establish their religion.
The first great sadhus, or Hindu seers, led their people to a sacred river known as the Sarasvati, which was also the name of their Goddess of Knowledge. The great seekers then became inspired by their intense meditations to record the ultimate truths which they realized. To do this the ancient priestesses developed a new language, thus giving rise to Sanskrit. This allowed them to compose the earliest hymns in existence. These Vedas, as they are called, are not only the oldest scriptures of Hinduism, but that of any faith-based system in history.
The first great spiritual masters of Hinduism produced four different texts as a result of their mystical revelations, being the Rigveda, the Yajurveda, the Samaveda, and the Atharvaveda. As part of this, each Veda consists of a few different types of sacred knowledge. There are the Upasanas which deal with worship, the Upanishads which discuss mediation, the Brahmanas that describe rituals, the Aranyakas that detail sacrifices, and the Samhitas which are concerned with benedictions. Together, these make up the oldest recorded religious teachings on Earth, dating as far back as 1700 BCE.
The Rigveda alone is a rich collection of 1,028 hymns and 10,600 verses, that are organized into a 10 volume set. Those were the first books ever written, and what they contain says a great deal about our species. The eight books that were produced first describe things like the praise of deities. Later, a new first and last volume was added to complete the set. They focus on philosophical concepts about the social virtues of charity, the complex cosmic origins of the universe, and the ultimate nature of the Supreme Being, to name but a few.
Given their vast complexity, throughout the last few millennia various Hindu scholars have taken differing positions on the Vedas, thus leading to different interpretations. Regardless, any school of thought which cites the Vedas as scriptural authority is orthodox and known as astika. Meanwhile, non-orthodox traditions such as Buddhism and Jainism do not regard the Vedas in this way. These are known as the nastika schools. In any case, the Vedas definitely stand as a testament to what the human soul is capable of achieving in the pursuit of spiritual truth and the lengths to which people will go to pass it on.