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An old blog (2006) on 'Compatibility of a (religious) text with the Srutis'

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An old blog (2006) on 'Compatibility of a (religious) text with the Srutis' Empty An old blog (2006) on 'Compatibility of a (religious) text with the Srutis'

Post by Seva Lamberdar Sun Dec 05, 2021 11:04 am

Compatibility of a text with the Srutis

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). ....    (contd., including References & Appendix).


By: Dr. Subhash C. Sharma
Date: Sept. 2, 2006
Seva Lamberdar
Seva Lamberdar

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An old blog (2006) on 'Compatibility of a (religious) text with the Srutis' Empty Re: An old blog (2006) on 'Compatibility of a (religious) text with the Srutis'

Post by Seva Lamberdar Mon Dec 06, 2021 12:54 pm

Incidentally, it is usually thought that deep philosophical insight about Brahman (God), soul and body (matter) surfaced in Upanisads as Vedanta (representing or near the end of Veda). However, that does not seem to be the case according to the following hymns which are from the Rig Veda's very first Mandala (Book 1) and which do not constitute a separate Upanisad in the Rig Veda in spite of their profound philosophical nature.

Using the parable of two birds (one the soul and other the corpse or material body), these hymns describe together the jiva (sheltering tree) which in it also has the presence of Brahman or God (Universe's mighty keeper); thus Reality, even during the earliest times, shown as comprising Brahman, soul and the material body, expounded further in detail later in the Upanisads and the Vedanta Sutra.

“Two Birds with fair wings, knit with bonds of friendship, in the same sheltering tree have found a refuge. One of the twain eats the sweet Fig-tree's fruitage; the other eating not regardeth only.” Rig Veda (Book 1: Hymn 164.20)

“Where those fine Birds hymn ceaselessly their portion of life eternal, and the sacred synods, There is the Universe's mighty Keeper, who, wise, hath entered into me the simple.” Rig Veda (Book 1: Hymn 164.21)

“The, tree whereon the fine Birds eat the sweetness, where they all rest and procreate their offspring, — Upon its top they say the fig is luscious: none gaineth it who knoweth not the Father (God).” Rig Veda (Book 1: Hymn 164.22)

“Back, forward goes he, grasped by strength inherent, the Immortal born the brother of the mortal. Ceaseless they move in opposite directions: men mark the one, and fail to mark the other.” Rig Veda (Book 1: Hymn 164.38)
Seva Lamberdar
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