To better understand what it means when we talk about the Vedas being Eternal and Aparusheya - not created by man - let us see what His Holiness, the Sage of Kanchi has to say:
It is not possible to tell the age of the Vedas. If we say that an object is "anadi" it means that nothing existed before it. Any book, it is reasonable to presume, must be the work of one or more people. The Old Testament contains the sayings of several Prophets. The New Testament contains the story of Jesus Christ as well as his sermons. The Qu'ran incorporates the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed. The founders of such religions are historical personalities and their teachings did not exist before then. Are the Vedas similarly the work of one or more teachers? And may we take it that These preceptors lived in different periods of history? Ten thousand years ago or a hundred thousand or a million years ago? If the Vedas were created during any of these periods they can not be claimed to be "anadi". Even if they were created a million years ago, it obviously means that there was a time when they did not exist.
Questions like the above are justified if the Vedas are regarded as the work of mortals. And, if they are, it is wrong to claim that they are "anadi". We think that the Vedas are the creation of the rsis, seers who were mortals. So it is said, at any rate, in the text book of history we are taught. Since the Mantras are associated with the names of sages, we make the wrong inference that they may have been composed by them. But it is
not so. As a matter of fact. "Apaurseya" means not the work of any man. Were
the Vedas composed by one or more human beings, even if they were rsis,
they would be called "pauruseya". But since they are called "Apauruseya"
it follows that even the seers could not have created them. If they were
composed by the seers they (the latter) would be called "Mantra-kartas" which means
"those who 'created' the Mantras". But as a matter of fact, the rsis are called "Mantra-drastas", those who "saw " them.
When we say that
Remained unknown to the world. The seers now made them known to the mankind.
So it became customary to mention their names at the time of intoning them. The publisher of a book is not necessarily its author. The man who releases a
film need not be its producer. The seers disclosed the mantras to the world but
they did not create them. Though the mantras had existed before them they
performed the noble service of revealing them to us. So it is appropriate on our part to pay them obeisance by mentioning their names while chanting the same.
Do we know anything about the existence of the mantras before they were "seen"
by the rsis? If they are eternal does it mean that they manifested themselves at the time of creation? Were they present before man's appearance on earth? How did they come into being? If we take it that the Vedas appeared with creation, it would mean that the Paramatman created them along with the world. Did he write them down and leave them somewhere to be discovered by the seers later? If so, they cannot be claimed to be anadi. We have an idea of when Brahma created the present world. There are fixed periods for the four yugas or eons, Krta, Treta, Dvapara and Kali. The four yugas together are called a caturuga. A thousand caturugas make one day time of Brahma and another equally long period is his night. According to this reckoning Bramha is now more than fifty years old. Any religious ceremony is to be commenced with a samkalpa("resolve") in which an
account is given of the time and place of performance in such and such a year of
Brahma, in such and such a month, in such and such a fortnight (waxing or
waning moon), etc. From this account we know when the present Brahma came into
being. Even if we concede that he made his appearance millions and millions of years
ago, he can not be claimed to be anadi. How can then creation be said to have
no beginning in time? When creation it self has an origin, how do we
justify to the claim that the Vedas are anadi? The Paramatman, being eternal, was present even before creation when there was no Brahma. The Paramatman, the Brahman are the Supreme Godhead, is eternal. The cosmos, all sentient beings and insentient objects, emerge from him. The Paramatman did not create them himself : he did so through the agency of Brahma. Through Visnu he sustains them and through Rudra he destroys them. Later Brahma, Visnu, Rudra are themselves destroyed by him. The present Brahma, when he became hundred years old, will unite with the Paramatman. Another Brahma will appear and he will start the work of creation all over again. The question arises : Does the Paramatman create the Vedas before he brings into being another Brahma?
We learn from the Sastras that the Vedas has existed even before creation. Infact, they say, Brahma performed his function of creation with the aid of Vedic mantras. I shall be speaking to you about this later, how he accomplished the creation with the mantras manifested as sound. In the passage dealing with creation the Bagavatha also says that Brahma created the world with the Vedas. Is this the reason (that Brahma created the world with the Vedic mantras) why it is said that the Vedas are anadi? Is it right to take
such a view on the basis that both the Vedas and Isvara are anadi? If we suggest that Isvara had made this scriptures even before he created the world, it would mean that there was a time when the Vedas did not exist and that would contradict the claim that they are anadi. If we believe that both Isvara and the Vedas are anadi it would mean that Isvara could not have created them. But if you believe that Isvara created them, they cannot be said to be without the origin. Everything has its origin in Isvara. It would be wrong to maintain [according to this logic] that both Isvara and the Vedas have no beginning in time. Well, it is all so confusing.
What is the basis of the belief that the Vedas are anadi and were not created by Isvara? An answer is contained in the Vedas themselves. In the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad(2. 4. 10) ---the Upanishads are all part of the Vedas---it is said that the Rg, Yajus and Sama Vedas are the very breath of Isarva. The word "nihsvasitam" is used here. It goes without saying that we cannot live even a moment without breathing. The Vedas are the life-breath of the Paramatman who is an eternal living Reality. It follows that the Vedas exist together with him as his breath. We must note here that it is not customary to say that the Vedas are the creation of Iswara. Do we create our own breath? Our breath exists
from the very moment we are born. It is the same case with Iswara and the Vedas. We can not say that he created them.
When Vidyaranyaswamin wrote his commentary on the Vedas he prayed to his guru regarding him as Iswara. He used these words in his prayer : "Yasya nihsvasitam Vedah" (whose --that is Isvara's – breath constitutes the Vedas). The word "nihsvasitam" occurs in the Upanishads also. Here too it is not stated that Iswara created the Vedas.
The Lord says in the Gita : "It is I who am known by all the Vedas "(Vedaisca sarvair aham eva vedyah). " Instead of describing himself as "Vedakrd" (creator of the Vedas), he calls himself "Vedantakrd" (creator of philosophical system that is the crown of the Vedas). He also refers to himself as "Vedavid" (he who knows the Vedas). Before Vedanta that enshrines great philosophical truths had been made know to mankind, the Vedas had existed in the form of sound, as the very breath of Isvara -- they were ( and are) indeed Ishvara dwelling in Ishvara.