Since I mentioned Vyasa yesterday for Guru Purnima, I thought I would tell you a little more about him today! Guru Purnima is also called Vyasa Purnima and is said to be both his birthday and the day he arranged the Vedas into four parts.
Vyasa is a famous figure from Hindu history. He is a sage who is said to have composed great Indian epic The Mahabharata (in which The Bhagavad Gita appears). He was also a character within it. He is credited with arranging the Vedas and writing the Brahma Sutras (though Adi Shankara has this as a separate author) as well as the eighteen major Puranas.
Some say that he is a half avatar, so partly Vishnu. He may also be an immortal and therefore, still present today. Others think that he is reborn over and over so there is always a Vyasa, but not necessarily the same one.
In The Mahabharata, the plot centers on a fight over inheritance. Two sets of cousins are each claiming a kingdom (this is, of course, majorly simplifying the longest book ever written in the world!). Those sets of cousins, the Pandava and the Kaurava, both have Vyasa as a grandfather.
Here is a scene from my favorite movie version of The Mahabharata. This is the opening where Vyasa begins to tell the story and explains that this story is the history of mankind.
It was because of Vyasa’s organization of the Vedas that people were able to understand them at all. Vyasa exemplifies what it is to be a teacher and it makes sense that a celebration for him has turned into a holiday to celebrate all teachers and wise ones.