Adventures in Advaita Vedanta, the philosophy and science of spirit. We are one you and I; are you curious why?..


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Shruti? Smriti?

Hari OM

'Text-days' are for delving into the words and theory of Advaita Vedanta.

For the past five weeks we have seen the teaching direct from Gurudev in respect to the makeup of "Man" as represented in the BMI chart.  It is hoped that you will have understood the simplicity of this explanation of what it is that drives us and that something of the complexity of unwinding the knots of what ties us to BMI is appreciated.

In fact the work has been done for us.  It is presented through the great texts of the Rsis.  All that is required is that we embark upon study. As with any art, any sport, any science... it is possible to attain levels of proficiency which can only benefit us.  Rising to total mastery, naturally, requires greater dedication, deeper researches, stronger application and constant practice. Whether you wish simply to feel less 'dragged down' by daily living, or do indeed aspire to genuine spiritual ascendancy, taking up a daily reading of scriptures, listening to the teachings, giving due consideration (mananam) to their relevance in your life cannot fail to benefit.

From next week we shall undertake study of a small but strong text of Adi Sankaraacharya which underlines this point.

Today though, let us understand a little of how Sanskrit texts are arranged.

The title of today's post shows two major definitions.  श्रुति /shruti are those texts for which there is no established 'physical' authorship.  स्मृति /smriti are those writings for which some authorship is attributed.
Shruti comes from Sanskrit root 'shr' and means hearing, or listening (the same root from which shravanam arises); thus we understand the texts were heard by the Rsis before they gave voice to them. Smriti means to remember and refers to the human recording and utterances, still of sacred nature but not of divine origin. Smriti is also used in the context of tradition and example; what we read is that which are expected to emulate.

If one were to put this into Biblical context (some lenience is taken here but it can aid comprehension); the marking of the tablets in Moses' vision with God atop the mountain could be said to be shruti, as no human hand was involved and Moses only listened; whilst the writing of the book Deuteronomy where the telling of the happening is recorded could be termed as smriti, by virtue of its being human narrative.

Whenever there are apparent conflicts or doubts the ultimate source of reference is always 'mother' shruti.

Texts considered to be shruti in Sanskrit; 
चातुर्वेदाः /(chaatur-veda-s) THE FOUR VEDAS 
ऋग  वेद /Rig-veda
यजुर  वेद /Yajur-veda
साम  वेद /Saama-veda
अथर्व  वेद /Atharva-veda
Each of these is constructed in three parts; Brahmanas (Karma-kanda - dealing with liturgy, rites, rituals, etc), Araanyakas and Upanishads (Gyaan-kanda - dealing with philosophy and mysticism). There is also samhita, which sets the metrical 'rhythm' of the mantras chanted in each.
Almost all other texts are thus termed as smriti.  Within these we have other categories.

वेदङ्गाः /VEDANGAS; are the six disciplines for approaching study of vedas.  They are;
शिक्षा /shikshaa - phonetics/linguistics
कल्प /kalpa - ritual
वयाकरण /vyaakarana - grammar
मिरुक्त /nirukta - etymology
छन्दस /chandas - meter
ज्योतिष /jyotisha - astrology

उपनिषदः /UPANISHADS; of which there are many,  Commonly it is stated that there are 108, as this is considered a highly auspicious number, but there are more.  Of these, 10 or 11 were taken up by Adi Shankaraacharya for treatise and are therefore considered as the 'greater' upanishads; however this is a misleading terminology as some of the 'lesser' texts are equally if not more profound.  Rather it seems that the most accessible of the texts have been included.

पुराणाः /PURAANA-s; these are 'of history'. Again these are many but all are there for the purpose of relating the lives of divine figures. One of these is the Bhavishya Puraana (a hotly debated work), in which reference to "Isha Mesiha" on Mount Kailash is used as one of the proofs of Christ in India.

इतिहास /ITIHAASA; relating to historical event. These are less the history of Gods, per se and more about the presence of God on Earth; notably in महाभरतं /Mahaabharatam (from which is drawn the key story of श्रीमद  भगवद् गीता /Shriimad Bhagavad Giitaa) and the रामायणं /Raamaayanam. (The Gospels could be entered in this category.)

Advaita Vedanta draws from the प्रस्थान त्रयी /PRASTHAANATRAYI; three foundational sources. These are the Upanishads, the Brahma Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita.

The tradition has always been oral/aural; guru to shishya.  Even today, despite all the printed availability, when one undertakes study at gurukula, chanting and memorising of the texts is enforced. It is how the integrity of the teachings is maintained. Meter is all important for correct understanding and emphasis. In learning these chants, a vibrational element to learning is set up.  It becomes a part of the being.  Those of you who feel the depth of Gregorian chant will understand this.  Sound carries the unwritten text.  It is said that the very first sound was OM and that word was the voice of Brahma, giving voice to the world.  From Om all arose and all shall return to OM. From that sound arose the symbols of language which is called Sanskrit - 'fine culture'. From it arose all knowledges. Knowledge belongs to no one but OM.

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