If you are wondering what is Shruti and Smriti this article can provide you the right answer. Shruti and Smriti are concepts often encountered by those trying to understand Hinduism. These two are broad categories into which the sacred literature of Hinduism is divided. Many students confuse between Shruti and Smriti because of the similarities in the sacred literature classified under these categories. Shruti and Smriti are the two basic forms of the sacred text in Hinduism. There are some clear cut differences between these two types of Vedic literature that will be discussed in this article.
What is Shruti
Shruti is a word in Sanskrit that literally means what is heard. On the other hand, Smriti comprises that part of Vedic literature that is remembered. Text contained in Shruti is what has been revealed by God himself. Thus, it is not open to judgment or evaluation. Sacred text that is called Shruti is unquestionable and canonical in nature. It mainly consists of the four Vedas that are as follows.
• Rig Veda
• Yajur Veda
• Sama Veda
• Atharva Veda
All four Vedas deal with different aspects of Hinduism and they are in the form of poetic hymns. In general, the sacred text contained in these four Vedas can be classified under three subgroups. These are,
Aranyakas are the philosophies contained in the four Vedas whereas Brahmanas are the commentaries made to the Vedas. There is a Brahmana for every Veda. Upanishads are elaborations of the philosophies contained in the Vedas and they form the bulk of later Hindu religion and philosophy. Thus, it can be said that Shruti is that form of Vedic literature that is the supreme authority and one that is a revelation and cannot be questioned.
What is Smriti
Sacred texts other than Shruti are categorized as Smriti. They have secondary authority and in fact, they derive their authority from Shruti. Whereas Shruti are considered authorless and eternal in nature, Smriti are the creations of ancient seers and sages. Depending upon the text, Smriti are classified under four categories.
Vedangas are subjects that one must learn to fully comprehend the meaning of the text contained in the Vedas. Unvedas deal with various arts and sciences. Dharma forms the basis of Upangas while Darsanas are considered to be windows to the truth. If one goes by types, Smritis are basically of two types. One type is that which explains shastras while the other type deals with codes of conduct.
The epics Mahabharata and Ramayana are prime Smriti examples. Bhagavad Gita is another text that falls in the category of Smriti. It deals with philosophy of life. Puranas are Smritis that are concerned with ancient stories and histories while Dharma Shastra books are Smritis that can be roughly equated with law books of the past.
It is clear then that both Shruti and Smriti are forms of Vedic literature and both are crucial for those interested in understanding Hinduism. If you are reading Smriti and have some doubt, you can always fall back upon Shruti to clear your doubts as they remain the final authority in sacred literature of Hinduism.