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
the following table.
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
- 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.
|HINDU SCRIPTURES SUMMARIZED
|Vedas (Rig, Săma, Yajur &
||Include religion, philosophy, art, medicine, science,
technology, language, music, etc.
||A spiritual discourse between Lord Krishna and warrior
Arjuna; summary of the Upanishads.
- 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.
||Describes the life story of Lord
Răma; a most popular
instrument of religious teaching.
||Includes the story of the Mahăbhărata war. The Bhagavad
Gîtă is a part of the Mahăbhărata.
||There are 18 major Purănas: six devoted to worship of
Shiva, six to Vishnu, and six to Brahma.
Ăgamas & Tantras
||Scriptures of the three major theological traditions:
Shaivism, Vaishnavism, and Shaktism.
||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
- Vaisheshika Sűtra
||Atomic school of philosophy of Sage Kanăda
- Sănkhya Sűtras
||Sănkhya philosophy of Sage Kapila
- Yoga Sűtras
||Yoga philosophy of Sage Patănjali