The Sruti And The Smriti: The Sruti and the Smriti are the two authoritative sources of Sanatana Dharma. This is a lengthy discussion so we have divided it into two parts that is Sruti and Smriti for better understanding. Sruti literally means what is heard, and Smriti means what is remembered. Sruti is revelation and Smriti is tradition. Sruti is direct experience. Great Rishis heard the eternal truths of religion and left a record of them for the benefit of posterity. These records constitute the Vedas. Hence, Sruti is primary authority. Smriti is a recollection of that experience. Hence, it is secondary authority. The Smritis or Dharma Sastras also are books written by sages, but they are not the final authority. If there is anything in a Smriti which contradicts the Sruti, the Smriti is to be rejected he Srutis: The Srutis are called the Vedas, or the Amnaya. The Hindus have received their religion through revelation, the Vedas. These are direct intuitional revelations and are held to be Apaurusheya or entirely superhuman, without any author in particular. The Veda is the glorious pride of the Sanatana Dharma as well as of the whole world! The term Veda comes from the root Vid, to know. The word Veda means knowledge. When it is applied to scripture, it signifies a book of knowledge. The Veda is the source of the other five sets of scriptures, why, even of the secular and the materialistic. The Veda is the storehouse of Indian wisdom and is a memorable glory which man can never forget till eternity. Revealed Truth: The Vedas are the eternal truths revealed by God to the great Rishis of India. The word Rishi means a seer, from DRIS, to see. The Rishi is the Mantra-Drashta, a seer of Mantra or thought. The thought was not his own. The Rishis saw the truths or heard them. Therefore, the Vedas are what are heard (Sruti). The Rishi did not write. He did not create it out of his mind. He was the seer of thought which existed already. He was only the spiritual discoverer of the thought. He is not the inventor of the Veda. The Vedas represent the spiritual experiences of the Rishis of yore. The Rishi is only a medium or an agent to transmit to people the intuitional experiences which he received. The truths of the Vedas are revelations. All the other religions of the world claim their authority as being delivered by special messengers of God to certain persons, but the Vedas do not owe their authority to any one. They are themselves the authority as they are eternal, as they are the Knowledge of the Lord. The Vedas are eternal; They are without beginning and end: An ignorant man may say how a book can be without beginning or end. By the Vedas, no books are meant. Vedas came out of the breath of the Lord. They are the words of God. The Vedas are neither the utterances of persons nor the composition of any human mind. They were never written, never created. They are eternal and impersonal. The date of the Vedas has never been fixed. It can never be fixed. Vedas are eternal spiritual Truths. Vedas are an embodiment of divine knowledge. The books may be destroyed, but the knowledge cannot be destroyed. Knowledge is eternal. In that sense, the Vedas are eternal. The Four Vedas And Their Sub Divisions: The Veda is divided into four great books: 1. The Rig-Veda 2. The Yajur-Veda 3. The Sama-Veda 4. The Atharva-Veda The four Vedas The Yajur-Veda is again divided into two parts: 1. The Sukla Yajur-Veda 2. The Krishna Yajur-Veda. The Krishna or the Tattiriya is the older book and the Sukla or Vajasaneya is a later revelation to Sage Yajnavalkya from the resplendent Sun-God. The Rig-Veda is divided into twenty-one sections, the Yajur-Veda into one hundred and nine sections, the Sama-Veda into one thousand sections and Atharva-Veda into fifty sections. In all, the whole Veda is thus divided into one thousand one hundred and eighty recensions. Each Veda consists of four parts: 1. The Mantra-Samhitas or hymns. 2. The Brahmanas or explanations of Mantras or rituals. 3. The Aranyakas (philosophical interpretations of the rituals). 4. The Upanishads (The essence or the knowledge portion of the Vedas). The division of the Vedas into four parts is to suit the four stages in a man’s life. 1. Brahmacharza 2. Grihastha 3. Vanaprastha 4. Sannyasa (Refer also to Dharma, Artha, Kama & Moksha) The subject matter of the whole Veda is divided into 1. Karma-Kanda 2. Upasana-Kanda 3. Jnana-Kanda. The Karma-Kanda or Ritualistic Section deals with various sacrifices and rituals. The Upasana-Kanda or Worship-Section deals with various kinds of worship or meditation. The Jana-Kanda or Knowledge-Section deals with the highest knowledge of Nirguna Brahman. (Nirguna = without attributes or forms. Brahman = the Supreme Reality). The Mantras and the Brahmanas constitute Karma-Kanda (rituals). The Aranyakas constitute Upasana-Kanda (worship). The Upanishads constitute Jnana-Kanda (knowledge). The Mantra Samhitas: The Rig-Veda Samhita is the grandest book of the Hindus, the oldest and the best. It is the great Indian scripture, which no Hindu would forget to adore from the core of his heart. Its style, the language and the tone are most beautiful and mysterious. Its immortal Mantras embody the greatest truths of existence, and it is perhaps the greatest treasure in all the scriptural literature of the world. Its priest is called the Hotri. The Yajur-Veda Samhita is mostly in prose and is meant to be used by the Adhvaryu, the Yajur-Vedic priest, for superfluous explanations of the rites in sacrifices, supplementing the Rig-Vedic Mantras. The Sama-Veda Samhita is mostly borrowed from the Rig-Vedic Samhita, and is meant to be sung by the Udgatri, the Sama- Vedic priest, in sacrifice. The Atharva-Veda Samhita is meant to be used by the Brahma, the Atharva-Vedic priest, to correct the mispronunciations and wrong performances that may accidentally be committed by the other three priests of the sacrifice. The Brahmanas and The Aranyakas There are two Brahmanas to the Rig-Veda: 1. The Aitareya 2. The Sankhayana The Satapatha Brahmana belongs to the Sukla Yajur-Veda. The Krishna Yajur-Veda has the Taittiriya and the Maitrayana Brahmanas. The Tandya or Panchavimsa, the Shadvimsa, the Chhandogya, the Adbhuta, the Arsheya and the Upanishad Brahmanas belong to the Sama-Veda. The Brahmana of the Atharva-Veda is called the Gopatha. Each of the Brahmana has got an Aranyaka. The Upanishads: The Upanishads are the concluding portions of the Vedas or the end of the Vedas. The teaching based on them is called Vedanta. The Upanishads are the gist and the goal of the Vedas. They form the very foundation of Hinduism. There are as many Upanishads to each Veda as there are Sakhas, branches or recensions, i.e., 21, 109, 1000 and 50 respectively to the four Vedas (The Rig-Veda, The Yajur-Veda, The Sama-Veda and the Atharva-Veda). The different philosophers of India belonging to different schools such as Monism, Qualified Monism, Dualism, Pure Monism, Difference-cum non-difference, etc., have acknowledged the supreme authority of the Upanishads. They have given their own interpretations, but they have obeyed the authority. They have built their philosophy on the foundation of the Upanishads. Even the Western scholars have paid their tribute to the seers of the Upanishads. At a time when Westerners were clad in barks and were sunk in deep ignorance, the Upanishadic seers were enjoying the eternal bliss of the Absolute (God), and had the highest culture and civilisation. contd..