Shruti (Sanskrit: , IAST: ?ruti, IPA: [?r?t?]) in Sanskrit means "that which is heard" and refers to the body of most authoritative, ancient religious texts comprising the central canon of Hinduism. Manusmriti states: ?rutistu vedo vijñeya? (Sanskrit ? ?:) meaning, "Know that Vedas are ?ruti". Thus, it includes the four Vedas including its four types of embedded texts--the Samhitas, the Upanishads, the Brahmanas and the Aranyakas.
?rutis have been variously described as a revelation through anubhava (direct experience), or of primordial origins realized by ancient Rishis. In Hindu tradition, they have been referred to as apauru?eya (not created by humans). The ?ruti texts themselves assert that they were skillfully created by Rishis (sages), after inspired creativity, just as a carpenter builds a chariot.
All six orthodox schools of Hinduism accept the authority of ?ruti,[note 1] but many scholars in these schools denied that the ?rutis are divine. A popular quote on supreme authority is ?ruti can be found in Manusmriti (Adhyaya 1, Mantra 132) that Dharma jijñ?sam?nam pramam paramam ?rutih (Sanskrit? ? ? ?, lit. means "To those who seek the knowledge of the sacred law, the supreme authority is the revelation ?ruti.
Shruti (?ruti) differs from other sources of Hindu philosophy, particularly sm?ti "which is remembered" or textual material. These works span much of the history of Hinduism, beginning with the earliest known texts and ending in the early historical period with the later Upanishads. Of the ?rutis, the Upanishads alone are widely known, and the central ideas of the Upanishadic ?rutis are at the spiritual core of Hindus.
The Sanskrit word "" (IAST: ?ruti, IPA: [t]) has multiple meanings depending on context. It means "hearing, listening", a call to "listen to a speech", any form of communication that is aggregate of sounds (news, report, rumour, noise, hearsay). The word is also found in ancient geometry texts of India, where it means "the diagonal of a tetragon or hypotenuse of a triangle", and is a synonym of karna. The word ?ruti is also found in ancient Indian music literature, where it means "a particular division of the octave, a quarter tone or interval" out of twenty-two enumerated major tones, minor tones, and semitones. In music, it refers the smallest measure of sound a human being can detect, and the set of twenty-two ?ruti and forty four half Shruti, stretching from about 250 Hz to 500 Hz, is called the Shruti octave.
In scholarly works on Hinduism, ?ruti refers to ancient Vedic texts from India. Monier-Williams traces the contextual history of this meaning of ?ruti as, "which has been heard or communicated from the beginning, sacred knowledge that was only heard and verbally transmitted from generation to generation, the Veda, from earliest Rishis (sages) in Vedic tradition. In scholarly literature, ?ruti is also spelled as Shruti.
Smriti literally "that which is remembered," refers to a body of Hindu texts usually attributed to an author, traditionally written down but constantly revised, in contrast to ?rutis (the Vedic literature) considered authorless, that were transmitted verbally across the generations and fixed. Smriti is a derivative secondary work and is considered less authoritative than Sruti in Hinduism. Sruti are fixed and its originals preserved better, while each Smriti text exists in many versions, with many different readings. Smritis were considered fluid and freely rewritten by anyone in ancient and medieval Hindu tradition.
Both ?rutis and sm?tis represent categories of texts of different traditions of Hindu philosophy. According to Gokul Narang, the Sruti are asserted to be of divine origin in the mythologies of the Puranas. For the people living during the composition of the Vedas the names of the authors were well known. Ancient and medieval Hindu philosophers also did not think that ?ruti were divine, authored by God.
That Vedas were heard was a notion that was developed by the school or darsana of P?rva-M?ms?. The M?ms? tradition, famous in Hindu tradition for its Sruti exegetical contributions, radically critiqued the notion and any relevance for concepts such as "author", the "sacred text" or divine origins of Sruti; the Mimamsa school claimed that the relevant question is the meaning of the Sruti, values appropriate for human beings in it, and the commitment to it.
N?stika philosophical schools such as the C?rv?kas of the first millennium BCE did not accept the authority of the ?rutis and considered them to be human works suffering from incoherent rhapsodies, inconsistencies and tautologies.
Each of these Vedas include the following texts, and these belong to the ?ruti canon:
Of the above ?rutis, the Upanishads are most widely known, and the central ideas of them are the spiritual foundation of Hinduism. Patrick Olivelle writes,
Even though theoretically the whole of Vedic corpus is accepted as revealed truth [?ruti], in reality it is the Upanishads that have continued to influence the life and thought of the various religious traditions that we have come to call Hindu. Upanishads are the scriptures par excellence of Hinduism.-- Patrick Olivelle
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Translation 1: The whole Veda is the (first) source of the sacred law, next the tradition and the virtuous conduct of those who know the (Veda further), also the customs of holy men, and (finally) self-satisfaction (Atmanastushti).
Translation 2: The root of the religion is the entire Veda, and (then) the tradition and customs of those who know (the Veda), and the conduct of virtuous people, and what is satisfactory to oneself.
? ? ? ? ?
? ? ? ? ?
Translation 1: The Veda, the sacred tradition, the customs of virtuous men, and one's own pleasure, they declare to be the fourfold means of defining the sacred law.
Translation 2: The Veda, tradition, the conduct of good people, and what is pleasing to oneself - they say that is four fold mark of religion.
Only three of the four types of texts in the Vedas have behavioral precepts:
For the Hindu all belief takes its source and its justification in the Vedas [?ruti]. Consequently every rule of dharma must find its foundation in the Veda. Strictly speaking, the Samhitas do not even include a single precept which could be used directly as a rule of conduct. One can find there only references to usage which falls within the scope of dharma. By contrast, the Brahmanas, the Aranyakas and the Upanishads contain numerous precepts which propound rules governing behavior.-- Robert Lingat
Bilimoria states the role of ?ruti in Hinduism has been inspired by "the belief in a higher natural cosmic order (Rta succeeded later by the concept Dharma) that regulates the universe and provides the basis for its growth, flourishing and sustenance - be that of the gods, human beings, animals and eco-formations".
Levinson states that the role of ?ruti and sm?ti in Hindu law is as a source of guidance, and its tradition cultivates the principle that "the facts and circumstances of any particular case determine what is good or bad". The later Hindu texts include fourfold sources of dharma, states Levinson, which include atmanastushti (satisfaction of one's conscience), sadacara (local norms of virtuous individuals), sm?ti and ?ruti.
The ?rutis, the oldest of which trace back to the second millennium BCE, had not been committed to writing in ancient times. These were developed and transmitted verbally, from one generation to the next, for nearly two millenniums. Almost all printed editions available in the modern era are copied manuscripts that are hardly older than 500 years. Michael Witzel explains this oral tradition as follows:
The Vedic texts were orally composed and transmitted, without the use of script, in an unbroken line of transmission from teacher to student that was formalized early on. This ensured an impeccable textual transmission superior to the classical texts of other cultures; it is, in fact, something like a tape-recording.... Not just the actual words, but even the long-lost musical (tonal) accent (as in old Greek or in Japanese) has been preserved up to the present.-- Michael Witzel
Ancient Indians developed techniques for listening, memorization and recitation of ?rutis. Many forms of recitation or pathas were designed to aid accuracy in recitation and the transmission of the Vedas and other knowledge texts from one generation to the next. All hymns in each Veda were recited in this way; for example, all 1,028 hymns with 10,600 verses of the Rigveda was preserved in this way; as were all other Vedas including the Principal Upanishads, as well as the Vedangas. Each text was recited in a number of ways, to ensure that the different methods of recitation acted as a cross check on the other. Pierre-Sylvain Filliozat summarizes this as follows:
These extraordinary retention techniques guaranteed an accurate ?ruti, fixed across the generations, not just in terms of unaltered word order but also in terms of sound. That these methods have been effective, is testified to by the preservation of the most ancient Indian religious text, the ?gveda (c. 1500 BCE).
This part of a Vedic student's education was called sv?dhy?ya. The systematic method of learning, memorization and practice, enabled these texts to be transmitted from generation to generation with inordinate fidelity.
Swami Sivananda in his book Self-Knowledge stated: "The Srutis are authoritative. They will guide you. They will inspire and elevate you. You must have unshakable faith in their teachings. Then only you will be saved from the clutches of Maya or death. Do not destroy them by means of your sophisticated reasoning. The intellect is a frail and finite instrument. Do not depend upon your intellect alone. If you do so, there is no hope for attaining immortality."
Quote: There are different views among Hindus about which scriptures are shruti and which fall into the other important category of sacred literature, smriti, that which is remembered or handed down.