Compatibility of a text (on Hinduism) with the Srutis

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Compatibility of a text (on Hinduism) with the Srutis

Post by Seva Lamberdar on Tue Mar 05, 2013 11:22 am

According to the Hindu religio-philosophy of Mimamsa (1), a genuine Hindu religious text needs to be compatible with the Srutis (Veda). In other words, the edicts and practices mentioned in it should conform to the Srutis. Srutis, which are also mentioned in the Gita (or the Bhagavad Gita), include the Vedas (Rig, Yajur and Sam) and the Vedantic Upanisads. Note, the Gita is considered an Upanisad (even called as the Gitoapanisad) because the spiritual and philosophical contents of Gita are Upanisidic in nature.

There are many literary texts in Hinduism and these are classified as Srutis, Smritis, Puranas (Itihasas) and Epics etc. The Srutis or Vedas (meaning, literally, the acquired or compiled knowledge) belong to the earliest times when information used to be recorded and stored on papyrus and parchment etc. and transmitted from one person to other mainly through oral process (as sruti, by hearing). Since the Vedas, the most ancient Hindu texts, have stood the test of time, they are considered eternal or Sanatana. Needless to say, the most important texts in Hinduism, representing the foundation of Hindu religion and philosophy, belong to the category of Srutis or Vedas. Smritis, Puranas (Itihasas) and Epics, on the other hand (unlike the Sruti or Vedas), belong to the ancillary or secondary category. They sometimes can be used to support the Srutis on various moral issues, social traditions, and historical events etc. but only if they remain realistic and are compatible with the Srutis (1).

Although there are many texts that form the Srutis, there is a definite hierarchy or precedence related to their order. Rig Veda stands at the top in significance as a Sruti because it is recognized as the oldest or the most ancient Hindu scripture. Next in the Sruti hierarchy is Yajur Veda, followed by Sam Veda and then the Upanisads. The reason to also include Upanisads in the Srutis is that they are considered as the Vedanta or Vedas’ finale, which indicates that the Upanisads were directly tied to the Vedas. Note that, in some cases, Upanisads even form an integral part of the Vedas, e.g. the Isha Upanisad in the Yajur Veda.

The logic for establishing the importance and authenticity of various texts, i.e. assigning a certain hierarchical order to the Srutis and considering the compatibility of a given text (e.g. a smriti) with the Sruti or Vedas, is simple and straightforward. This basically helps in deciding that a genuine scriptural text meets the religio-philosophical requirements of the Srutis without violating their scriptural hierarchy or precedence. It is similar in logic and importance to the lineage principle - father coming before the son, grandfather coming before the father, and so on .

Since Rig Veda is the first among Srutis, any other text (another Veda or a smriti), needing a religious acceptance or validation, should be in agreement with the Rig Veda or, at least, it should not be in direct opposition to the essential themes of the Rig Veda. The philosophical rules on enquiry and investigation of a text with respect to the Vedas (especially the Rig Veda) are indicated below.

The rules on enquiry according to Purva Mimamsa philosophy or the Mimamsa (1) require that "The smriti and other texts (documents on traditions or customs etc.) are supposed to have corresponding sruti texts (Vedas). If certain smriti is known to have no matching sruti, it indicates that either the corresponding sruti was lost over time or the particular smriti is not authentic. Moreover, if the smritis are in conflict with the sruti, the formers are to be disregarded. When it is found out that the smritis are laid down with a selfish interest, they must be thrown out."

Thus, since Yajur Veda and Sam Veda agree quite well with the Rig Veda, they are considered as legitimate Srutis. Similarly, Upanisads also can be shown conforming to Vedic standards and as part of the Shrutis. Note, as indicated earlier, a number of Upanisads (philosophical Vedanta texts) form an integral part of the legitimate Vedas (e.g. Isha Upanisad in the Yajur Veda). Since Yajur Veda is recognized as a legitimate Sruti, because of its compatibility with the Rig Veda, the Isha Upanisad (a part of the Yajur Veda - a Sruti) is also considered belonging to the Srutis and in agreement with the Rig Veda. Needless to say, other Vedantic Upanisads (e.g. Katha, Kena, Prasna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Taittiriya, Aitareya, Chandogya, Brihadaranyaka, Kaivalya, Svetasvatara, and Bhagavad Gita), being religio-philosophically similar to Isha Upanisad (a Sruti), are also considered Srutis and ultimately compatible with the Rig Veda.

Note, while there is a scriptural compatibility involving Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sam Veda and Upanisads, same cannot be said of many other texts. For example, in spite of Atharva Veda being called a Veda, it fails to meet the Mimamsa criterion (1) because of its contradiction of Rig Veda on several key issues, such as in its lending a support to magic and sorcery etc. which are strongly condemned in the Rig Veda. Thus the Atharva Veda, due to its violation of Rig Veda, cannot be considered a genuine Veda or Sruti. Note also that even though Atharva Veda is named after the famous ancient Vedic sage Atharvan, it might not be really his creation. Its author most likely, not Atharvan, was someone else, perhaps a lesser known person, who seems to have used the famous name (Atharvan) to make Atharva Veda popular among public. In addition, there are no references to Atharva Veda in the Srutis. For example, even though Gita mentions the names of Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sam Veda and the Vedanta (Upanisads), it does not refer to the Atharva Veda anywhere. This indicates that Atharva Veda might not be known to ancient sages, or at least they did not consider it as a genuine Veda or Sruti. Thus it seems that Atharva Veda most likely is a recent compilation by some unknown author and has little scriptural value.

The same thing, as in the case of Atharva Veda, applies to the Manusmriti as not being a genuine Hindu text. It also appears to misuse the famous name Manu (ancient sage Manu) by someone else and contradicts Rig Veda on several key issues (2).

Regarding the Puranas (including the Itihasas) and Epics, these basically represent the ancillary (secondary) texts and are not considered as part of Vedas (Srutis). They do not adhere strictly to the rules of Mimamsa. Various Puranas generally describe the same story of creation and evolution, while changing emphases on different deities, characters and places from one text (version) to other. The Epics (different versions of Ramayana and Mahabharata) on the other hand narrate stories and folklores on people and places from the past and even provide lessons in morality. In addition, Puranas and Smritis etc. are also used to convey the message of Srutis and philosophies (including the lessons on morality etc.) to people by using easy to understand examples, parables and metaphoric tales. They may even make use of animals and fictional characters for conveying the message. In general, the nature and scriptural quality of Puranas, Smritis and Epics is not at the same level as in the case of Vedas or Srutis (listed in Ref. 3).

Note that sometimes Puranas and Smritis might also include totally ridiculous explanations and unbelievable tales on deities, worship practices and social customs etc. These types of flawed narrations usually are not found in the Srutis and therefore have little support from the Vedas. Needless to say, such misleading tales and texts (in Puranas etc.) fail to qualify according to Mimamsa (1) in their acceptance as genuine and reliable scriptural sources (Srutis). Moreover, the reason for such flawed information in a Purana could be that it probably was put together rather recently by an individual or individuals who were unable to correctly explain things related to certain natural phenomenon or pre-existing customs and practices. It is thus up to a reader of these texts (Puranas, Smritis and Epics etc.) to use discretion and not believe everything written in them blindly. For example, there is no reason to take things literally if they indicate a lack of common sense and seem unrealistic (fictitious) and ridiculous. They most likely are the result of author’s misunderstanding and misinterpretation etc. and therefore totally unacceptable according to Mimamsa (1).

Furthermore, one should not miss the real message while reading an ancient text (Sruti, Smriti or Epics etc.). Note, the gambling incident related to Yudhishthira et al. in the epic Mahabharata (4). It is a very good story showing the evils of gambling. Yudhishthira, the Pandava prince in the Mahabharata, bet his wealth (the entire kingdom) and family (wife and brothers) in a dice game against Durayodhana (a Kaurava) and ended up losing it all. Due to that gambling loss by Yudhishthira, Kauravas not only got hold of his kingdom, but also tried to disrobe his wife (Drupadi) in full public view of the official court. Drupadi barely managed to avoid getting stripped completely and being humiliated, because she was able to get help from her friend Krishna in the last minute. In any case, Kauravas, after winning the dice game and grabbing Yudhishthira’s kingdom, dispatched Yudhishthira, his brothers and Drupadi to exile for several years.

The above sad plight of Pandavas (Yudhishthira et al.) after the dice game basically was a result of Yudhishthira’s bad habit of gambling. Unfortunately, some people fail to hold Yudhishthira responsible for his loss and in stead blame Durayodhana and Kauravas (especially Shakuni, Durayodhana’s uncle) for cheating during the game and causing Yudhishthira to lose. But that is wrong. The real culprit in all this was Yudhishthira, who could have easily decided to stay way from the dice game and avoid losing everything and everyone to the Kauravas. This story is a great moral lesson on the evils of gambling.

Note: The APPENDIX below shows the application of Mimamsa in relation to the Vamana Purana's description of Shiva Linga.

References

(1) “The Purva Mimamsa philosophy” http://www.geocities.ws/lamberdar/purva_mimamsa.html

(2) “Manu, smriti and the medical paradox” http://www.geocities.ws/lamberdar/manu_smriti.html

(3) “Hindu Caste System & Hinduism” http://www.geocities.ws/lamberdar/_caste.html

(4) Mahabharata by C. Rajagopalachari, B.V.B. (Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, India, 1996)

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APPENDIX
(Testing the validity of a Puranic text on Shiva-linga)

Shiva-linga according to the Vamana Purana (Chap 6):

"When naked Lord Shiva was wandering in the Daruvanam forest, the wives of sages lost self control for Lord Shiva was the most beautiful and attractive man and they at once were seduced by the Lord. The sages who failed to recognize the Lord thought he was an ordinary mortal and cursed him: May the Lingam (penis) of this man fall to the ground! That instant the Lingam of Shiva fell to the ground, and the God immediately disappeared. The Lingam, as it fell, penetrated through the earth to the lower worlds and increased in height until it towered above the heavens. The earth quaked, all things movable and immovable agitated. Brahma and Vishnu then decided to find the ends of the great Lingam, while Vishnu mounted on Garuda descended down and Brahma on his lotus ascended the heavens. They returned to where they started unable to find the ends of the great Lingam, and with great reverence and praise they requested Lord Shiva to resume his Lingam. Lord Shiva thus propitiated appeared and said: If gods and men will worship, I will resume it. To this proposal Brahma and Vishnu and all other Gods agreed and since then the Lingam is worshipped by all." Ref.: http://www.sulekha.com/groups/postdisplay.aspx?cid=754187&forumid=756919


Discussion (Rebuttal)

Using the Mimamsa criterion to test the validity of above passage from the Vamana Purana on the origins of Shiv-Linga, it seems the above narration is totally unrealistic, absurd and even foolish.

For example, it describes god Shiva wandering in the nude and seducing married women, whose husbands (sages) get angry with him for seducing their wives and put a curse on him making his penis (linga) fall off. Shiva then disappears leaving his penis behind which ultimately (after appearances of other gods) becomes the object of worship, giving rise to the Shiva-linga.

Considering the vulgarity (especially on the part of God, as the story implies), absurdity and unlikelihood of events in the above narration, there is hardly any possibility that such an incident actually took place involving God, dancing in the nude among people and losing his penis due to a curse. Furthermore, the main aim of the story is to show an unparalleled potency of God (Shiva) in relation to others (mortals and gods). But if Shiva ended up losing his penis, as indicated above, through a curse (or even as physically cut) by mere mortals (albeit the sages), then the story does not hold even that promise of Shiva being the omnipotent God. This tale thus seems to be highly illogical and full of holes and most likely a complete fabrication by some Puranic authors. In any case, it fails to establish any real relation between Shiv-linga and the omnipotent God (Shiva) through his phallus.

Thus, in addition to not having any support from the Srutis (Vedas), the above Puranic story is totally unrealistic and illogical and therefore should not be admitted as a legitimate source of information on the origin and concept of Shiva-linga. According to the Mimamsaka (1), the above reference on Shiva-linga in Vamana Purana is therefore bogus and should be discarded.

Needless to say, the origin of Shiva-linga most likely is rooted in something else (perhaps being the symbolic yagna or Agni worship) and not Shiva’s phallus.

------------------------------------

by: Dr. Subhash C. Sharma
(
Sept. 2, 2006 : http://www.geocities.ws/lamberdar/sruti_compatibility.html)

Seva Lamberdar

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