Hindu Scriptures

Hindu Scriptures

Hindu religious literature, the most ancient writings in the world, is of two types: primary scriptures (Sruti) and secondary scriptures (Smriti).Ganesha at GanpatyarThe 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:

  • 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 (yajña). 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 (mãyã).
  • 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.

Bansi PanditExcerpts from
Hindu Dharma  

by Bansi Pandit

SRUTI (Primary Scriptures)
Vedas (Rig, Sãma, Yajur & Atharva) Include religion, philosophy, art, medicine, science, technology, language, music, etc.
Bhagavad Gîtã A spiritual discourse between Lord Krishna and warrior Arjuna; summary of the Upanishads.
SMRITI (Secondary Scriptures)
 Dharma Shãstras Law Codes
- 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.
 Itihãsas Epics
- Rãmãyana  Describes the life story of Lord Rãma; a most popular instrument of religious teaching.
- Mahãbhãrata  Includes the story of the Mahãbhãrata war. The Bhagavad Gîtã is a part of the Mahãbhãrata.
 Purãnas Mythology
  There are 18 major Purãnas: six devoted to worship of Shiva, six to Vishnu, and six to Brahma.
 Ãgamas & Tantras   Sectarian Scriptures
  Scriptures of the three major theological traditions: Shaivism, Vaishnavism, and Shaktism.
 Darshanas 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



[DIR] Aranyakas [DIR] Upanishads 
[DIR] Brahmanas [DIR] Upavedas
[DIR] Misc. Vedic [DIR] Vedangas
[DIR] Pratyabhijna or Kashmir Shaivism [DIR] Vedic Samhitas
[DIR] Stotra [DIR] Kashmiri Text
[DIR] Pratyabhijna Darsana 1 [DIR] Pratyabhijna Darsana 2

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