Table of Contents

  About the Author
  Books by Bansi Pandit
  What is Hindu Dharma?
  Hindu View of God
  Why Hindus Worship Deities
  Hindu Scriptures
  Principal Hindu Doctrines
  Law of Karma
  Popular Systems 
  Moral & Ethical Ideals of Hindus
  Hindu View ...
  Hindu Reverence for Elders
  Daily Routine of a Devout Hindu
  Hindu Dharma
  Hindu View of Ecology
  Some Philosophical Aspects
  Hindu Response 
  Contribution of Hindus
  Practicing Hindu Dharma
  Timeless Wisdom 
  Swămi Vivekănanda's Address
  Works Cited
  Color Plates
  Download Book

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir


Symbol of Unity


Chapter 4: Hindu Scriptures-an Overview

Hindu religious literature, the most ancient writings in the world, is of two types: primary scriptures (Sruti) and secondary scriptures (Smriti). The Sruti scriptures are of divine origin, whose truths were directly revealed to ancient rishis (sages) in their deep meditations. The Smriti scriptures are of human origin and were written to explain the Sruti writings and make them understandable and meaningful to the general population. Sruti scriptures include the four Vedas (Rig, Yajur, Săma and Atharva) and the Bhagavad Gîtă, and constitute the highest religious authority in Hindu religion. Smriti scriptures include five distinct groups of writings as shown in Table 2.

The Vedas are groups of hymns and chants containing religious and spiritual insights of the ancient sages and seers. Each Veda consists of four parts: Mantras (or Samhităs), Brăhmanas, Ărany-akas, and Upanishads. Mantras are poetic compositions and hymns of supplication and incantation addressed to the deities, the symbolic representations of the Supreme Lord. The Brăhmanas deal with rules and regulations for proper performance of religious rites, rituals and ceremonies. The Ăranyakas (as forest books) provide the symbolic and spiritual basis for the Brăhmanas. The Upanishads reveal the knowledge about Brahman and are known as Vedănta, meaning "end of the Vedas." They are the concluding portions of the Vedas.

Whereas the Upanishads represent the essence of the Vedas, the Bhagavad Gîtă, the most popular scripture of Hindus, contains the essence of the Upanishads. The Vedas reflect the dawn of spiritual insight, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gîtă contain the full splendor of a spiritual vision.

Message of Hindu Scriptures for Mankind

During their spiritual quest, the ancient rishis experienced sparks of divinity in all things and beings of the world. The vision of the Hindu scriptures is thus a vision of the unity of all existence, summarized as follows:

  • There are many ways of conceiving the Supreme Reality (Brahman) and numerous ways of approaching It. To insist that one's own way is the only way is thus wrong and harmful.
  • God is the source of goodness and truth. Man's goal in life is to seek union with Him. This union can be sought in many ways, all requiring sincerity of purpose, self-sacrifice and discipline.
  • The highest religious experience is the one in which an individual transcends the intellect and realizes God immediately.
  • The concept of "survival-of-the-fittest" is God's law for the animals. Harmlessness to all creatures is His law for humans.
  • There is natural order (rita) inherent in the natural world. There must be moral order (dharma) inherent in human life. Everyone must be responsible for his (or her) actions and their conse-quences (karma). We cannot blame God for our ills.
  • Individual responsibility and one's ethics are a foundation for individual happiness and social stability.
  • The universe is a wheel of sacrifice (yajńa). At the beginning the Supreme Lord performed self-sacrifice to create the universe and set the wheel in motion. The water sacrifices to form clouds, the clouds sacrifice to make rains, the rains sacrifice to grow food, and the food sacrifices to feed humans. In turn, humans must sacrifice for the welfare of the Mother Earth and all its creatures.
  • There is no intrinsic evil in Nature nor any evil force in the world to oppose God. Man commits evil only due to ignorance (măyă).
  • Love, freedom and peace are fruits of the tree of divine consciousness, which can be planted by worshipping God regularly and systematically through yoga, meditation, study of scriptures, by performing religious rites and ceremonies-as enjoined by scriptures-and selfless work.
SRUTI (Primary Scriptures)
Vedas (Rig, Săma, Yajur & Atharva) Include religion, philosophy, art, medicine, science, technology, language, music, etc.
Bhagavad Gîtă A spiritual discourse between Lord Krishna and warrior Arjuna; summary of the Upanishads.
SMRITI (Secondary Scriptures)
Dharma Shăstras Law Codes
  • Manu Smriti
Includes laws for individual happiness and social stability; social philosophy.
  • Artha Shăstra
Includes guidelines for ruling the country.
  • Kăma Shăstra
An ancient manual of love and pleasure.
Itihăsas Epics
  • Rămăyana
Describes the life story of Lord Răma; a most popular instrument of religious teaching.
  • Mahăbhărata
Includes the story of the Mahăbhărata war. The Bhagavad Gîtă is a part of the Mahăbhărata.
Purănas Mythology
There are 18 major Purănas: six devoted to worship of Shiva, six to Vishnu, and six to Brahma.
Ăgamas & Tantras Sectarian Scriptures
Scriptures of the three major theological traditions: Shaivism, Vaishnavism, and Shaktism.
Darshanas Manuals of Philosophy
  • Brahma Sűtra
Vedănta philosophy of Sage Vyăsa
  • Mîmămsă Sűtra
Philosophy of rites and rituals of Sage Jaimini
  • Nyăya Sűtra
Logical analysis of Sage Gautama (not Buddhă)
  • Vaisheshika Sűtra
Atomic school of philosophy of Sage Kanăda
  • Sănkhya Sűtras
Sănkhya philosophy of Sage Kapila
  • Yoga Sűtras
Yoga philosophy of Sage Patănjali


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