Shruti and Smriti


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Sabda Pramana
Sruti-Smriti literature forms a
continuum. However as sources of knowledge, the texts are arranged in a
hierarchy. The validity of a text depends on its conformance with a text higher
in the hierarchy. Veda is at the root of this hierarchy, and smritis are valued
as secondary to Sruti. Smritis are sources of knowledge in their own right,
however in case of a possible conflict Sruti’s word supersedes that of smriti. Thus
Sruti is the independent source of knowledge, which validates itself. Smriti is
the dependent source, which is valid nevertheless but gains validity by
conformance with Sruti. The word of wise and righteous men follows Sruti and
Smriti. In case of lack of textual authority available, this is the valid
source of knowledge. In the absence of all the three, jana sruti or popular conventions/ sayings
are the sources of knowledge.

However, sabda pramana is not the
first of the sources of knowledge. Perception, inference and logical reasoning are
placed ahead of sabda pramana. Sabda Pramana comes into picture only while
validating what cannot be ascertained through these. Thus it does not supersede
reasoning, but aids where it falls short. This is how the whole range of
knowledge religious and scientific is put into a single continuum and a system
could be created where these forms of knowledge reinforce but not conflict with
each other.

It should also be noted that chronology
is not primary in the arrangement of Sastras. While Veda is the older
literature, there are portions of Sruti that are more recent than some portions
of Smritis. That however does not alter the fact that Smriti’s authority is
secondary to that of Sruti. There are multiple reasons for this. One of them is
the fact that Smriti’s tone and spirit are intended for a more popular level
knowledge than Sruti which involves higher technical rigor. There is content
visible in smritis that is temporal, that is added with the necessary
exaggerations to emphasize what is being explained and so on. Since Sruti is largely free from these, in
case of necessary clarity conformance with Sruti is the basis on which it is
determined which portions of Smritis can be treated superfluous. Jana sruti is
even more dilute in this sense, and has lesser authority.

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