Smriti - Secondary Scripture in Hinduism
The Word, verily, is greater than name. The Word, in fact, makes known the Rig Veda, the Yajur Veda, the Sāma Veda, the Atharva Veda as the fourth, and the ancient lore as the fifth: the Veda of Vedas, the ritual for ancestors, calculus, the augural sciences, the knowledge of the signs of the times, ethics, political science, sacred knowledge, theology, knowledge of the spirits, military science, astrology, the science of snakes and of celestial beings.
Sāma Veda, Chāndogya Upaniṣad 7.2.1. ve, 111
Do Smṛiti and Sacred Literature Differ?
Hindu sacred literature is a treasury of hymns, legends, mythology, philosophy, science and ethics. From among this vast body of writings, each lineage recognizes a select portion as its secondary scripture, called smṛiti. Aum.
While the Vedas and Āgamas are shared as part of every Hindu’s primary scripture, śruti, each sect and lineage defines its own unique set of smṛiti.
The sacred literature, puṇya śāstra, from which smṛiti is drawn consists of writings, both ancient and modern, in many languages.
Especially central are the ancient Sanskrit texts, such as the Itihāsas, Purāṇas and Dharma Śāstras, which are widely termed the classical smṛiti. In reality, while many revere these as smṛiti, others regard them only as sacred literature.
Smṛiti means “that which is remembered” and is known as “the tradition,” for it derives from human insight and experience and preserves the course of culture. While śruti comes from God and is eternal and universal, the ever-growing smṛiti canon is written by man.
Hinduism’s sacred literature is the touchstone of theater and dance, music, song and pageantry, yoga and sādhana, metaphysics and ethics, exquisite art and hallowed sciences.
The Vedas inquire:
“In whom are set firm the firstborn seers, the hymns, the songs and the sacrificial formulas, in whom is established the single seer— tell me of that support—who may He be?” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
Every Hindu sect has a vast sacred literature that guides daily life, tells stories, inspires theater, defines music and uplifts the spirit.
What Texts Amplify Vedas and Āgamas?
Many texts support the Vedas and Āgamas. Vedāngas detail conduct, astrology, language and etymology. Upavedas unfold politics, health, warfare and music. Upāgamas and Paddhatis elaborate the Āgamic wisdom. Aum.
Much of Hinduism’s practical knowledge is safeguarded in venerable texts which amplify śruti.
The Vedāngas and Upavedas are collections of texts that augment and apply the Vedas as a comprehensive system of sacred living:
Jyotisha Vedāṅga delineates auspicious timing for holy rites. Kalpa Vedāṅga defines public rituals in the Śrauta and Śulba Sūtras, domestic rites in the Grihya Sūtras and religious law in the Dharma Śāstras.
Four other Vedāngas ensure the purity of mantra recitation, through knowledge of phonetics, grammar, poetry and the way of words.
The Upavedas expound profound sciences:
Arthaveda unfolds statecraft; Āyurveda sets forth medicine and health; Dhanurveda discusses military science; Gāndharvaveda illumines music and the arts; and Sthāpatyaveda explains architecture. In addition, the Kāma Sūtras detail erotic pleasures.
The Āgamas, too, have ancillary texts, such as the Upāgamas and Paddhatis, which elaborate the ancient wisdom.
The Jñāneśvarī says:
“The Vedas in their perfection are as the beautiful image of the God of which the flawless words are the resplendent body. The smṛiti are the limbs thereof.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
In the center, Śiva’s holds the holiest of scriptures, the Vedas and Āgamas. Around these evolved an array of texts which guide statecraft, astrology, religious law, chanting, arts and more.
Does Hinduism Have Epics and Myths?
The Mahābhārata and Rāmāyana are Hinduism’s most renowned epic histories, called Itihāsa. The Purāṇas are popular folk narratives, teaching faith, belief and ethics in mythology, allegory, legend and symbolism. Aum.
Hinduism’s poetic stories of rishis, Gods, heroes and demons are sung by gifted paṇḍitas and traveling bards, narrated to children and portrayed in dramas and festivals.
The Mahābhārata, the world’s longest epic poem, is the legend of two ancient dynasties whose great battle of Kurukṣettra is the scene of the Bhagavad Gītā, the eloquent spiritual dialog between Arjuna and Krishna.
The Rāmāyana relates the life of Rāma, a heroic king revered as the ideal man.
The Purāṇas, like the Mahābhārata, are encyclopedic in scope, containing teachings on sādhana, philosophy, dharma, ritual, language and the arts, architecture, agriculture, magic charms and more.
Of eighteen principal Purāṇas, six honor God as Śiva, six as Vishnu and six as Brahma. The witty Pañcha tantra, eminent among the “story” literature, or kathā, portrays wisdom through animal fables and parables.
The Bhagavad Gita proclaims:
“He who reads this sacred dialog of ours, by him I consider Myself worshiped through the sacrifice of knowledge. And the man who listens to it with faith and without scoffing, liberated, he shall attain to the happy realm of the righteous.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
Are There Other Types of Sacred Texts?
India’s lofty philosophical texts expound diverse views in exacting dialectics. Yoga treatises unveil the mysterious path to ultimate samādhis. Intimate devotional hymns disclose the raptures of consummate Divine love. Aum.
In addition to the epics, legends and supplements to the Vedas and Āgamas, there is a wealth of Hindu metaphysical, yogic and devotional writings.
Considered foundational are the early texts defining the six philosophical darśanas:
the sūtras by Kapila, Patañjali, Jaimini, Badarayana, Kaṇada and Gautama.
Hailed as leading occult works on yoga, āsanas, nādīs, chakras, kundalini and samādhi are the Yoga Sūtras, Tirumantiram, Yoga Vāsishṭha, Śiva Sūtras, Siddha Siddhāṅta Paddhati, Jñāneśvarī, Hatha Yoga Pradīpikā and Gheraṇḍa Saṁhitā.
Widely extolled among the bhakti literature are the Bhagavad Gītā, Nārada Sūtras, Tiruvasagam, the Vāchanas of the Śivaśaraṇās and
the hymns of mystic poets like Surdas, Tukaram, Ramprasad, Mirabai, Andal, Vallabha, Tulasidasa, Tayumanavar, Lalla, Tagore, Auvaiyar and the saintly Nayanars and Alvars.
The Bhagavad Gītā explains:
“As a blazing fire reduces the wood to ashes, O Arjuna, so does the fire of knowledge reduce all activity to ashes. There is nothing on Earth which possesses such power to cleanse as wisdom. The perfect yogin finds this knowledge in himself by himself in due time." Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
What Is the Source of This Catechism?
The philosophical basis of this catechism is the monistic Śaiva Siddhāṅta of the Kailāśa Paramparā as expressed in the Vedas, Śaiva Āgamas, Thirukural, Tirumurai, Tirumantiram and contemporary scripture. Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
This catechism, praśnottaram, is the creation of the living lineage of seers known as the Kailāśa Paramparā, of the South Indian Śaivite school called Śuddhā Śaiva Siddhāṅta, Advaita Siddhāṅta or monistic Śaiva Siddhāṅta.
It reflects the teachings of the Vedas and Śaiva Āgamas, the profound Tamil scriptures Tirumurai and Thirukural and the revelations of contemporary Kailāśa gurus.
The Tirumurai is a twelve-book collection of hymns of numerous Śaivite saints.
Most important among these is the Tirumantiram, a siddha yoga treatise by Rishi Tirumular, recording the Śaiva tenets in 3,047 verses. It is prized as the confluence of Siddhāṅta and Vedanta.
The Thirukural, containing 1,330 couplets by the weaver saint Tiruvalluvar, is among the world’s greatest ethical scriptures, sworn on in South Indian courts of law.
Natchintanai are the sacred hymns of Sri Lanka’s Sage Yogaswami.
“I meditate on the great light of the Siddhāṅta, the thought of all thoughts, the life of all life, which, existing in all objects without distinction, causes a spring of inestimably pure and happy nectar to flow for the good of its followers.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
Just as the luminous day is born from light, so may the radiant singers shine far and wide! Truly, the poet’s wisdom enhances the glory of the Ordinance decreed by God, the Powerful, the Ancient.
Atharva Veda 4.1.5-6. ve, 105
The Word also makes known Heaven, Earth, wind, space, the waters, fire, the Gods, men, animals, birds, grass and trees, all animals down to worms, insects and ants. It also makes known what is right and wrong, truth and untruth, good and evil, what is pleasing and what is unpleasing. Verily, if there were no Word, there would be knowledge neither of right and wrong, nor of truth and untruth, nor of the pleasing and unpleasing. The Word makes all this known. Meditate on the Word.
Sama Veda, Chāndogya Upaniṣad 7.2.1. ve, 111
The man who rejects the words of the scriptures and follows the impulse of desire attains neither his perfection, nor joy, nor the Path Supreme. Let the scriptures be, therefore, thy authority as to what is right and what is
Bhagavad Gītā 16.23-24. bgm, 111
Just as gold is freed from its dross only by fire, and acquires its shining appearance from heat, so the mind of a living being, cleansed from the filth of his actions and his desires through his love for Me, is transformed into My transcendent likeness. The mind is purified through the hearing and uttering of sacred hymns in My praise.
Bhagavata Purāṇa 11.14.25. hp, 378
If daily to his home the friends who love him come, and coming, bring delight to eyes that kindle bright, a man has found the whole of life within his soul.
Pañcha tantra. pn, 218
He who worships the Linga, knowing it to be the first cause, the source of consciousness, the substance of the universe, is nearer to Me than any
Śiva Purāṇa 1.18.159. hp, 227
With the help of the gardeners called Mind and Love, plucking the flower called Steady Contemplation, offering the water of the flood of the Self’s own bliss, worship the Lord with the sacred formula of silence!
Lalla. it, 360
Who will finish this suffering of mine? Who will take my burden on himself? Thy name will carry me over the sea of this world. Thou dost run to help the distressed. Now run to me, Nārāyaṇa, to me, poor and wretched as I am. Consider neither my merit nor my faults. Tukaram implores thy mercy.
Tukaram. tu, 114-115
The pot is a God. The winnowing fan is a God. The stone in the street is a God. The comb is a God. The bowstring is also a God. The bushel is a God and the spouted cup is a God. Gods, Gods, there are so many, there’s no place left for a foot. There is only one God. He is our Lord of the meeting rivers.
Vachana, Basavanna 563. so, 84
They will find enduring joy who praise the auspicious God who knows the four Vedas and the six sacred sciences, who is Himself the sacred Word recited by scholars of the scripture.
Tirumurai 2.147.1. ps, 110
The eighteen Puranas are the rich ornaments, and the theories propounded in them are the gems for which the rhythmic style provides the settings.
Jnanesvari 1.5. jn, 25
He has become earth, water, fire, air and ether. He has become the sun and moon. He has become the constellations of the stars. Mantra and tantra has He become. He has become the medicine and those who swallow it. He has become the Gods—Indra and all the rest. He has Himself become the universe entire. This soul and body, too, has He become. He has become the four Vedas. It is He who creates bondage and liberation, and it is He who destroys bondage and liberation. In the mornings and in the evenings, do this worship and know Śiva!
Natchintanai, “Do This Worship and Know Śiva.” NT, 144