Sunday, 31 May 2015

Our Heritage Revisited - Introduction to the Shruti texts

My book "Our Heritage Revisited: A glimpse into ancient Indian texts" is now downloadable on the sites of amazon across several countries. I thought of uploading bits of it on my blog. Here starts the first.

When asked which are the main religious texts that we Hindus follow, many of us draw a blank. These are not the commonly known Ramayan or Mahabharat which, though great expositions of Hindu religion, are epics or stories, not pure religious texts.
The primary reason for the confusion is that there is a vast multiplicity of thoughts and their resultant scriptures (texts) that have coexisted over centuries, giving rise to the inability or difficulty in mentioning a single or even a limited number of texts describing the Hindu religion and its associated practices and beliefs. Hinduism has emerged as a way of life, a philosophy encompassing varied traditions rather than a set of directives on which our religion is based. Hinduism does have some tenets and pillars but allows for many variations and viewpoints.

No single book leads to the principles of our religion. There are many sacred writings that are sources of Hindu doctrine. Ancient Hindu philosophy is represented in a corpus of texts where the authors and dates of the composition are typically unknown. The earliest knowledge that we have is of deep-thinking philosophers, and their literature is characterized by a deep and constant concern with mans spiritual destiny as manifested by their rich philosophical concepts and the great epic poems written subsequently. Chief among these texts are those collectively known as the Veds (वेद), perhaps the oldest religious texts in the world. They consist mainly of praise / hymns to the gods of Nature as also instructions for the rituals of worship. The latest works within the class of texts known as the Veds, are the Upanishads and these are generally more philosophical. These Indian scriptures very loosely laid the foundation for most of India's philosophical schools.

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