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, Sãma and Atharva) and the Bhagavad Gîtã, 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 Samhitãs),Brãhmanas, Ãrany-akas, andUpanishads. Mantras are poetic compositions and hymns of supplication and incantation addressed to the deities, the symbolic representations of the Supreme Lord. The Brãhmanas deal with rules and regulations for proper performance of religious rites, rituals and ceremonies. The Ãranyakas (as forest books) provide the symbolic and spiritual basis for the Brãhmanas. The Upanishads reveal the knowledge about Brahman and are known as Vedãnta,meaning "end of the Vedas." They are the concluding portions of the Vedas.
Whereas the Upanishads represent the essence of the Vedas, the Bhagavad Gîtã, 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 Gîtã 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:
by Bansi Pandit
|HINDU SCRIPTURES SUMMARIZED
|SRUTI (Primary Scriptures)
|Vedas (Rig, Sãma, Yajur & Atharva)
|Include religion, philosophy, art, medicine, science, technology, language, music, etc.
|A spiritual discourse between Lord Krishna and warrior Arjuna; summary of the Upanishads.
|SMRITI (Secondary Scriptures)
|- Manu Smriti
|Includes laws for individual happiness and social stability; social philosophy.
|- Artha Shãstra
|Includes guidelines for ruling the country.
|- Kãma Shãstra
|An ancient manual of love and pleasure.
|Describes the life story of Lord Rãma; a most popular instrument of religious teaching.
|Includes the story of the Mahãbhãrata war. The Bhagavad Gîtã is a part of the Mahãbhãrata.
|There are 18 major Purãnas: six devoted to worship of Shiva, six to Vishnu, and six to Brahma.
|Ãgamas & Tantras
|Scriptures of the three major theological traditions: Shaivism, Vaishnavism, and Shaktism.
|Manuals of Philosophy
|- Brahma Sûtra
|Vedãnta philosophy of Sage Vyãsa
|- Mîmãmsã Sûtra
|Philosophy of rites and rituals of Sage Jaimini
|- Nyãya Sûtra
|Logical analysis of Sage Gautama (not Buddhã)
|- Vaisheshika Sûtra
|Atomic school of philosophy of Sage Kanãda
|- Sãnkhya Sûtras
|Sãnkhya philosophy of Sage Kapila
|- Yoga Sûtras
|Yoga philosophy of Sage Patãnjali
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