What are Śruti - Revealed Scriptures
As when a fire is lit with damp fuel, different clouds of smoke come forth, in the same way from this great Being are breathed forth the Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sāma Veda, Atharva Veda.
Śukla Yajur Veda, Brihadaranyaka Upaniṣad 2.4.10. ve, 691
What Are Hindu Revealed Scriptures?
The Vedas and Āgamas, revealed by God, are Hinduism’s sovereign scriptures, called śruti, “that which is heard.” Their timeless truths are expressed in the most extraordinarily profound mystical poetry known to man. Aum.
Veda, from vid, “to know,” means “supreme wisdom or science.” Similarly, Āgama, which names the sacred sectarian revelations, means “descent of knowledge.”
The Vedas and Āgamas are eternal truths transmitted by God through great clairaudient and clairvoyant rishis. They are Hinduism’s primary and most authoritative scriptures, expounding life’s sacredness and man’s purpose on the planet.
These psalms of wisdom were disclosed over many centuries, memorized and orally conveyed from generation to generation within priestly families, then finally written down in Sanskrit in the last few millennia.
The subtly symbolic language of śruti, the cherished word of God, is lyrical and lofty. In imparting religious practice, rules and doctrine, the Vedas are general and the Āgamas specific.
The Vedas extol and invoke a multiplicity of Gods through elaborate fire rituals called yajña. The Āgamas center around a single Deity and His worship with water, flowers and lights in sanctified temples and shrines.
The Tirumantiram lauds:
“Two are the scriptures that Lord Śiva revealed—the primal Vedas and the perfect Āgamas." Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
A rishi, his knotted hair high on his head, scribes verses on a palm leaf. Sitting before a Śivaliṅga, he listens intently to the divine voice within, writing down all he hears. The source is none other than Lord Śiva, whose hand and noose are barely visible.
What Is the Nature of the Veda Texts?
The holy Vedas, man’s oldest scripture, dating back 6,000 to 8,000 years, are a collection of four books: the Rig, Sāma, Yajur and Atharva. Each has four sections: hymns, rites, interpretation and philosophical instruction. Aum.
The oldest and core portions of the Vedas are the four Saṁhitās, “hymn collections.”
They consist of invocations to the One Divine and the Divinities of nature, such as the Sun, the Rain, the Wind, the Fire and the Dawn—as well as prayers for matrimony, progeny, prosperity, concord, domestic rites, formulas for magic, and more.
They are composed in beautiful metrical verses, generally of three or four lines.
The heart of the entire Veda is the 10,552-verse Rig Saṁhitā. The Sāma and Yajur Saṁhitās, each with about 2,000 verses, are mainly liturgical selections from the Rig; whereas most of the Atharva Saṁhitās nearly 6,000 verses of prayers, charms and rites are unique.
The Sāma is arranged for melodious chanting, the Yajur for cadenced intonation.
Besides its Samhitā, each Veda includes one or two Brāhmaṇas, ceremonial handbooks, and Āraṇyakas, ritual interpretations, plus many inestimable Upanishads, metaphysical dialogs.
In all there are over 100,000 Vedic verses, and some prose, in dozens of texts.
The Tirumantiram confirms:
“There is no dharma other than what the Vedas say. Dharma’s central core the Vedas proclaim.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
How Are the Vedas Significant Today?
The Vedas, the ultimate scriptural authority, permeate Hinduism’s thought, ritual and meditation. They open a rare window into ancient Bharata society, proclaiming life’s sacredness and the way to oneness with God. Aum.
Like the Taoist Tao te Ching, the Buddhist Dhammapada, the Sikh Ādi Granth, the Jewish Torah, the Christian Bible and the Muslim Koran—the Veda is the Hindu holy book.
For untold centuries unto today, it has remained the sustaining force and authoritative doctrine, guiding followers in ways of worship, duty and enlightenment—upāsanā, dharma and jñāna.
The Vedas are the meditative and philosophical focus for millions of monks and a billion seekers. Their stanzas are chanted from memory by priests and laymen daily as liturgy in temple worship and domestic ritual.
All Hindus wholeheartedly accept the Vedas, yet each draws selectively, interprets freely and amplifies abundantly. Over time, this tolerant allegiance has woven the varied tapestry of Bharata Dharma.
Today the Vedas are published in Sanskrit, English, French, German and other languages. But it is the metaphysical and popular Upanishads which have been most amply and ably translated.
The Vedas say:
“Just as the spokes are affixed to the hub of a wheel, so are all things established in life, the Rig and Yajur and Sāma Veda, sacrifice, the nobility and also the priesthood.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
A father and his sons chant Vedic mantras together outside their adobe dwelling. The boys struggle earnestly to master the Sanskrit verses, as father patiently repeats them again and again in daily practice sessions. Lord Śiva listens from the Śivaloka.
What Is the Nature of the Holy Āgamas?
The Āgamas, Sanātana Dharma’s second authority, are revelations on sacred living, worship, yoga and philosophy. Śaivism, Śaktism and Vaishnavism each exalts its own array of Āgamas, many over 2,000 years old. Aum.
In the vast Āgamic literature, tradition counts 92 main Śaiva Āgamas—10 Śiva, 18 Rudra and 64 Bhairava—77 Śakta Āgamas and 108 Vaishnava Pāñcharātra Āgamas.
Most Āgamas are of four parts, called pādas, and possess thousands of metered Sanskrit verses, usually of two lines.
The charyā pāda details daily religious observance, right conduct, the guru-śiṣya relationship, community life, house design and town planning.
The kriyā pāda, commonly the longest, extols worship and temples in meticulous detail—from site selection, architectural design and iconography, to rules for priests and the intricacies of daily pūjā, annual festivals and home-shrine devotionals.
The yoga pāda discloses the interior way of meditation, of rāja yoga, mantra and tantra which stimulates the awakening of the slumbering serpent, kundalini.
The jñāna pāda narrates the nature of God, soul and world, and the means for liberation.
The Tirumantiram declares:
“Veda and Āgama are Irai- van’s scriptures. Both are truth: one is general, the other specific. While some say these words of God reach two different conclusions, the wise see no difference.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
How Are the Āgamas Significant Today?
While the Vedas, with myriad Deities, bind all Hindus together, the Āgamas, with a single supreme God, unify each sect in a oneness of thought, instilling in adherents the joyful arts of divine adoration. Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
God is love, and to love God is the pure path prescribed in the Āgamas.
Veritably, these texts are God’s own voice admonishing the saṁsārī, reincarnation’s wanderer, to give up love of the transient and adore instead the Immortal.
How to love the Divine, when and where, with what mantras and visualizations and at what auspicious times, all this is preserved in the Āgamas.
The specific doctrines and practices of daily Hinduism are nowhere more fully expounded than in these revelation hymns, delineating everything from daily work routines to astrology and cosmology.
So overwhelming is Āgamic influence in the lives of most Hindus, particularly in temple liturgy and culture, that it is impossible to ponder modern Sanātana Dharma without these discourses.
While many Āgamas have been published, most remain inaccessible, protected by families and guilds who are stewards of an intimate hereditary knowledge.
The Tirumantiram says:
“Nine are the Āgamas of yore, in time expanded into twenty-eight, they then took divisions three, into one truth of Vedanta-Siddhāṅta to accord. That is Śuddhā Śaiva, rare and precious.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
The efforts of man are stated to be of two kinds, those that transcend scriptures and those that are according to scriptures. Those that transcend scriptures tend to harm, while those that are according to scriptures tend to Reality.
Śukla Yajur Veda, Mukti Upaniṣad 2. upa, 7
There, where there is no darkness, nor night, nor day, nor being, nor nonbeing, there is the Auspicious One, alone, absolute and eternal. There is the glorious splendor of that Light from whom in the beginning sprang ancient wisdom.
Krishna Yajur Veda, Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad 4.18. ve, 83-84
Taking as a bow the great weapon of the Upanishad, one should put upon it an arrow sharpened by meditation. Stretching it with a thought directed to the essence of That, penetrate that Imperishable as the mark, my friend.
Atharva Veda, Muṇḍaka Upanishad 2.2.3. uph, 372
By the power of inner harmony and by the grace of God, Śvetāśvatara had the vision of Brāhman. He then spoke to his nearest hermit- students about the supreme purification, about Brahman, whom the seers adore.
Krishna Yajur Veda, Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad 6.21. upm, 97
Aum. One should meditate on this syllable as the Udgītha chant, for every chant starts with Aum. Of this the explanation is as follows:
The essence of all beings is earth; the essence of earth is water; the essence of water is plants; the essence of plants is man;
the essence of man is speech; the essence of speech is the Rig Veda; the essence of the Rig Veda is the Sāma Veda, and the essence of the Sāma Veda is the Udgītha chant.
Sāma Veda, Chāndogya Upaniṣad 1.1.1-2. ve, 772
The Śaivism of Siddhāṅta is the Śaivism of the Āgamas, the first of which is the Kāmika.
Kāraṇa Āgama 65. sa, 158
Riches from obloquy free, the spreading sky and Earth, the directions all, and the godly hosts who there hold sway, all flourish in victory’s wake when brāhmins true, with Vedas commencing, pursue the sacrificial way.
Tirumantiram 214. tm
In the beauteous Veda, aptly named the Rig, as the moving mood behind He stood. In the trembling chant of the Vedic priests He stood, Himself the eye of vision central.
Tirumantiram 53. tm
By the grace of the Lord I came to realize the inner meaning of the Āgamas, which are on par with the Vedas, the greatest of the scriptures that thrill the heart.
All the world may well attain the bliss I have—who hold firmly to the heavenly secret the books impart, who chant the hymns that thrill the flesh and swell the heart.
Strive, always strive, then it will come.
Tirumantiram 84-85. tm
Behold the father of the elephant-faced Ganapati who dons the konrai garland and has matted locks, the author of the ageless Vedas, the Auspicious One. He is ours by virtue of spiritual efforts (tapas). He abides in the hallowed temple of Rameśvaram.
A thousand scriptures speak of His attributes and signs, His shrines, His paths, His greatness—O witless people, that your hearts have not been won!
Tirumurai 5.204.6. ps, 95
As heaven resounded with Hara’s name, with the chants of the Veda and Āgama, and the hymns of the learned brāhmins, the Highest God in Notittanmalai showed me the path, the Lord who gives all blessings gave me a splendid elephant to ride.
Tirumurai 7.100.8. ps, 322
May the sun and moon be my protection! May all beings everywhere be my protection! May mantras and tantras be my protection! May the four Vedas, the Śaiva Āgamas and the whole world be my protection!
Natchintanai, “My Protection.” NT, 239
The body is a temple, the controlled mind the acolyte. Love is the pūjā. Know that! Through this device you’ll find that naught is lacking. That is what the Vedas declare.
The Lord, who not a whit is separated from you, those of impure mind can never see. The mind is a temple; the soul is its lamp. Meditate, meditate! Then Truth will dawn for you.
Natchintanai, “The Body Is a Temple” NT, 98