Vedic Literature: Smriti

Discussion in 'Vedas' started by Aum, Sep 22, 2015.

  1. Aum

    Aum New Member

    the Sruti are the Smritis or secondary scriptures. These are the ancient sacred law-codes of the Hindus dealing with the Sanatana-Varnasrama-Dharma. They supplement and explain the ritualistic injunctions called Vidhis in the Vedas. The Smriti or Dharma Sastra is founded on the Sruti. The Smritis are based on the teachings of the Vedas. The Smriti stands next in authority to the Sruti (Vedas). It explains and develops Dharma.

    The works that are expressly called Smritis are the law books, Dharma Sastras. Smriti, in a broader sense, covers all

    Vedic Sastras (scriptures) & save the Vedas.

    There are five main classification of smriti they are: Itihasas, Puranas, Agamas, Darshanas, & Dharma Shastras.

    The Itihasas (history):

    The Friendly Treatises And the Commanding Treatises. There are four books under this heading:

    1. The Valmiki-Ramayana

    2. The Yogavasishtha

    3. The Mahabharata

    4. The Harivamsa

    **The Bhagavad Gita:

    The most important part of the Mahabharata is the Bhagavad-Gita. It is a marvelous dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna on the battlefield, before the commencement of the Great War. Sri Krishna explained the essentials of Sanaatana Dharma to Arjuna. Just as the Upanishads contain the cream of the Vedas, so does the Gita contain the cream of the Upanishads. Upanishads are the cows. Lord Krishna is the cowherd. Arjuna is the calf. The Gita is the milk. The wise men are those who drink the milk of Gita.

    The Gita is the most precious jewel of Sanatana literature. It is a universal gospel. The Gita teaches the Yoga of Synthesis. It ranks high in the religious literature of the world.

    The Puranas:

    The Puranas are of the same class as the Itihasas. They have five characteristics (Panch-Lakshana):

    1. History

    2. Cosmology ( with various symbolical illustrations of philosophical principles)

    3. Secondary creation

    4. Genealogy of kings

    5. Manavantaras

    All the Puranas belong to the class of Suhrit-Samhitas. Puranas are created by different pandits time to time in the name of vedo vyas, Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa, the son of Parsara.

    There are eighteen main Puranas and an equal number of subsidiary Puranas or Upa-Puranas.

    The main Puranas are:

    Vishnu Purana, Naradiya Purana, Srimad Bhagavata Purana, Garuda (Suparna) Purana, Padma Purana, Varah Purana, Brahma Purana, Brahmanda Purana, Brahma Vaivarta Purana, Markandeya Purana, Bhavishya Purana, Vamana Purana, Matsya Purana, Kurma Purana, Linga Purana, Siva Purana, Skanda Purana and Agni Purana.

    Of these, six are Sattvic Puranas and glorify Vishnu ; Six are Rajasic Puranas and glorify Brahma ; six are Tamasic Puranas and glorify Siva.

    The eighteen Upa-Puranas are: SanatKumara, Narasimha, Brihannaradiya, Sivarahasya, Durvasa, Kapila, Vamana, Bhargava, Varuna, Kalika, Samba, Nandi, Surya, Parasara, Vasishtha, Devi-Bhagavata, Ganesa and Hamsa.

    The Agamas:

    Another class of popular scriptures are the Agamas. The Agamas are theological treatises and practical manuals of divine worship. The Agamas include the Tantras, Mantras and Yantras. These are treatises explaining the external worship of God, in idols, temples etc. All the Agamas treat of:

    1. Jnana or Knowledge

    2. Yoga or Concentration

    3. Kriya or Esoteric Ritual

    4. Charya or Exoteric Worship

    They also give elaborate details about entology and cosmology, liberation, devotion, meditation, philosophy of Mantras, mystic diagrams, charms and spells, temple-building, image-making, domestic observances, social rules, public festivals etc.

    The Agamas are divided into three sections:

    1. The Vaishnava

    2. The Saiva

    3. The Sakta or Tantras

    The chief sects of Hinduism, that is, Vaishnavism, Saivism and Saktism, base their doctrines and dogmas on their respective Agamas.

    The Vaishnava Agamas or Pancharatra Agamas glorify God as Vishnu.

    The Saiva Agamas glorify God as Siva and have given rise to an important school of philosophy known as Saiva-Siddhanta, which prevails in South India, particularly in the districts of Tirunelveli and Madurai.

    The Sakta Agamas or Tantras glorify God as the Mother of the Universe, under one of the many names of Devi (Goddess).

    The Agamas do not derive their authority from the Vedas, but are not antagonistic to them. They are all Vedic in spirit and character. That is the reason why they are regarded as authoritative.

    The Vaishnava Agamas:

    The Vaishnava Agamas are of four kinds:

    1. The Vaikhanasa

    2. Pancharatra

    3. Pratishthasara

    4. Vijnana-lalita

    The Brahma, Saiva, Kaumara, Vasishtha, Kapila, Gautamiya and Naradiya are the seven groups of the Pancharatras. The Naradiya section of the Santi Parva of the Mahabharata is the earliest source of information about the Pancharatras.

    Vishnu is the Supreme Lord in the Pancharatra Agamas. The Vaishnavas regard the Pancharatra Agamas to be the most authoritative. They believe that these Agamas were revealed by Lord Vishnu Himself. Narada-Pancharatra says: "Everything from Brahma to a blade of grass is Lord Krishna". This corresponds to the Upanishadic declaration:

    There are two hundred and fifteen of these Vaishnava texts. Isvara, Ahirbudhnya, Paushkara, Parama, Sattvata, Brihad-Brahma and Jnanamritasara Samhitas are the important ones.

    The Saiva Agamas:

    The Saivas recognise twenty-eight Agamas, of which the chief is Kamika. The Agamas are also the basis of Kashmir Saivism which is called the Pratyabhijna system. The latter works of Pratyabhijna system show a distinct leaning to Advaitism (non-dualistic philosophy). The Southern Saivism, i.e., Saiva Siddhanta, and the Kashmir Saivism, regard these Agamas as their authority, besides the Vedas. Each Agama has Upa-Agamas (subsidiary Agamas). Of these, only fragmentary texts of twenty are extant. Lord Siva is the central God in the Saiva Agamas. They are suitable to this age, Kali Yuga. They are open to all castes and both the sexes.

    The Sakta Agamas:

    There is another group of scriptures known as the Tantras. They belong to the Sakta cult. They glorify Sakti as the World-Mother. They dwell on the Sakti (energy) aspect of God and prescribe numerous courses of ritualistic worship of the Divine Mother in various forms. There are seventy-seven Agamas. These are very much like the Puranas in some respects. The texts are usually in the form of dialogues between Siva and Parvati. In some of these, Siva answers the questions put by Parvati, and in others, Parvati answers, Siva questioning.

    Mahanirvana, Kularnava, Kulasara, Prapanchasara, Tantraraja, Rudra-Yamala, Brahma-Yamala, Vishnu-Yamala and Todala Tantra are the important works. The Agamas teach several occult practices some of which confer powers, while the others bestow knowledge and freedom. Sakti is the creative power of Lord Siva. Saktism is really a supplement to Saivism.

    Among the existing books on the Agamas, the most famous are the Isvara-Samhita, Ahirbudhnya-Samhita, Sanatkumara-Samhita, Narada-Pancharatra, Spanda-Pradipika and the Mahanirvana-Tantra.

    The Six Darsanas:

    These are the intellectual section of the Hindu writings, while the first four are intuitional. And the fifth inspirational and emotional. Darsanas are schools of philosophy based on the Vedas. The Agamas are theological. The Darsana literature is philosophical. The Darsanas are meant for the erudite scholars who are endowed with acute acumen, good understanding, power of reasoning and subtle intellect. The Itihasa, Puranas and Agamas are meant for the masses. The Darsanas appeal to the intellect, while the Itihasas, Puranas, etc., appeal to the heart.

    Philosophy has six divisions (Shad-darsana). The six Darsanas or ways of seeing things, are usually called the six systems or six different schools of thought. The six schools of philosophy are the six instruments of true teaching or the six demonstrations of Truth. Each school has developed, systematized and correlated the various parts of the Veda in its own way. Each system has its Sutrakara, i.e., the one great Rishi who systematized the doctrines of the school and put them in short aphorisms or Sutras

    The Sutras are terse and laconic. The Rishis have condensed their thoughts in the aphorisms. It is very difficult to understand them without the help of commentaries by great sages or Rishis. Hence, there arose many commentators or Bhashyakaras. There are glosses, notes and, later, commentaries on the original commentaries.
  2. Aum

    Aum New Member

    The Shad-Darsana (the six schools of philosophy) or the Shat-Sastras are:

    1. The Nyaya founded by Gautama Rishi

    2. The Vaiseshika by Kanada Rishi

    3. The Sankhya by Kapila Muni

    4. The Yoga by Patanjali Maharshi

    5. The Purva Mimamsa by Jaimini

    6. The Uttara Mimamsa or Vedanta by Badarayana or Vyasa


    The next among the supplementary Angas is Nyaya Sastra or logic, written by Sage Gautama. It consists of 537 Sutras in five chapters. It helps in obtaining an intimate knowledge of topics like Prameya, Pramana and other items of learning. It deals with the analysis of the mental process of knowing. One Vatyayana has commented on it.


    Vaiseshika Sastra which is supplementary to it (Nyaya) was written by Sage Kanada and it consists of about 373 Sutras in twelve chapters. This science helps us to get a clear knowledge of the six-fold type of existing things like Dravya (money), Guna (Sattwa, Rajas, Tamas), Karma etc. The metaphysics and logic of both are more or less the same. This science recognises the scripture.


    The third in this list is Mimamsa Sastra which is of two kinds: the Karma (or Poorva) Mimamsa and Sharirika (or Uttara) Mimamsa or Vedanta. Sage Jaimini composed the first which consists of 12 chapters. Shabaraswamin has written a commentary on it. Sage Jaimini has also written the Upasana Kanda in four chapters.

    Brahma Sutras:

    The second kind known as Brahma Sutras, consist of four chapters and is said to have been written by Sage Bhadrayana or Vyasa. It starts with "Athatho-Brahma-Jignyasa." The great Acharyas have written commentaries on it. The object of Mimamsa Sastra is to explain the process of realising the identity of Jiva (individual soul) with Brahman (Supreme Reality). In the first, the world is taken as eternally dynamic while in the second it is phenomenal.


    Mention may also be made of what is known as Sankhya system of philosophy. The text is in six chapters and is attributed to Sage Kapila, according to whom the world is real, balanced by intelligence, activity and matter. The goal of life according to this Sastra is to get absolute freedom from the three kinds of miseries from the knowledge of the difference between Prakriti and Purusha. Sage Gaudapada and Sage Vachaspati Misra have commented upon it. This science recognises the scriptures as a source of valid knowledge.


    The Yoga system explains the practical side of Sankhya. Sage Patanjali is the author of the text on this branch and it consists of 194 Sutras in four parts. Sage Vyasa has commented upon it. Control of Character by control of body, mind (emotions), intellect etc., forms the subject matter of the eight-fold steps taught in this Sastra. It is also known as


    The philosophical views of the physical world in Indian Sastras are of three kinds. They are known by the names of Arambha Vada, Parinama Vada and Vaivartha Vada. According to them atoms are of four kinds- of the earth, water, light and air. They become molecules and gradually grow into the universe. Logicians hold that Asat itself has grown into the universe. Mimamkasa hold that the triple Gunas - Sattwa,Rajas, Tamas - become Mahat, Ahankara and develop into the universe. But the Yoga, Pasupata and Sankhya Schools hold that Sat itself brings the universe into being. The Vaishnava School holds that the universe is only a manifestation of Brahman. Brahmavadins hold that the universe is the illusion caused by the Maya of Brahman. All these views veer round the one God.

    The Darsanas are grouped into three pairs of aphoristic compositions which explain the philosophy of the Vedas in a rationalistic method of approach. They are:

    1. The Nyaya and the Vaiseshika

    2. The Sankhya and the Yoga

    3. The Mimamsa and the Vedanta

    Each set of Sutras has got its Bhashya, Vritti, Varttika, Vyakhyana or Tika and Tippani.

    Dharma Sastras:

    Next come the Dharma Sastras or Smritis, the fourth supplementary Anga of the Vedas. A number of Smritis are known to exist.

    Some of them are the Manusmriti, Vishnu, Angirasa, Daksha, Shatatapa, Gautama, Yagnavalkya, Yama, Vasistha, Samvarta, Parasara, Shanka, Harita, Ushanasa, Katyayana, Devala, Apasthamba, Vyasa, Brihaspati, Narada and Paitheenasa-Smritis, going by the name of the respective authors.

    These are in the nature of texts prescribing or codifying social and religious norms during different stages of evolution of our society.

    Although popularly known as epics, the Ramayana of Valmiki and the Mahabharata of Vyasa may be classified under the head Dharma Sastras for the purpose of this survey. The famous Bhagavad Gita is a portion of the Mahabharata. The Bhagavad Gita is considered an Upanishad and has been commented upon by great Acharyas and savants. The Bhagavad Gita teaches the practical steps for the realisation of the high Upanishadic ideals.


    These constitute the entirety of Sanskrit literature- sacred and secular. The Sruti is the root; the Smritis, Itihasas and Puranas are the trunk; the Agamas and Darsanas are the branches; and the Subhashitas, Kavyas, Natakas and Alankaras are the flowers of the tree of India’s Culture.

    The Smritis, the Itihasas, the Puranas, the Agamas and the Darsanas are only developments of the Veda. Their ultimate source is the Veda. Their one common aim is to enable man to annihilate his ignorance and attain perfection, freedom, immortality, and eternal bliss through knowledge of God or the Eternal. Their purpose is to make man like God and one with Him.

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