The majority of Hindu scriptures are composed in the Sanskrit language. The morphology and linguistic philosophy of Sanskrit are sometimes claimed to be linked to study of the Vedas.
They are two types of sacred writings:
- Sruti (Heard),
- Smriti (Remembered).
Sruti Sacred texts
The Four Vedas: the most ancient Hinduism sacred text, the 4 Vedas are the pillar of Hinduism religion. (“Veda” means “Knowledge in Sanskrit). The four major works are gathering all the aspects of daily life:
Rig Veda (Royal Knowledge) is the most important, covering divinities and ritual prayers. The oldest (1500 BC) and has 10’589 verses divided into ten mandalas or books, of which books two to seven are the core of the work. The hymns are the work of many authors or seers called ‘rishis’ such as Atri, Kanwa,Vashistha, Vishwamitra, Jamadagni, Gotama and Bharadwaja. The books are arranged according to the number of hymns they possess.
Sama Veda (Knowledge of Chants): a liturgical collection of melodies ‘saman’, a book of hymns.
Yajur Veda (Knowledge of Sacrificial Rituals) treats the scientific branches and Sacrificial Rituals. Made to meet the demands of a ceremonial religion, it contains sacred formulas, invocations and spells muttered by the Hindu priests who performed the sacrificial rites.
Atharva Veda (Knowledge of Incarnations) is about the social field: the system of castes, and includes spells and charms.
Upanishads : discuss meditation and philosophy and are seen as religious instructions by most schools of Hinduism. There are 108 traditional Upanishads of which the most important are: Isha, Kena, Katha, Prashna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Taittiriya, Aitareya, Chandogya and Brhadaranyaka. The concept of one God, of whom all others are manifestations, takes root in the Upanishads.
Smriti Sacred texts
Bhagavad Gita: The most popular Hinduism’s sacred text, called the “Song of the Adorable One”. The sixth part of Mahabharata, is written about the 2nd century BC. The God Krishna teaches the warrior Arjuna, about important religious issues like reincarnation.
According to Krishna, the root of all suffering and discord is the agitation of the mind caused by desire.
Great theological lessons about God and life, is read by millions of bhaktas (devotees) and yogis on a largely daily basis throughout the Sanatana Dharmic world.
Bhagavad Gita has several key texts on yoga:
Yoga Goal : “When the mind comes to rest, restrained by the practice of yoga, and when beholding the Self, by the self, he is content in the Self.” (B.G., Chapter 6, Verse 20)
Bhakti Yoga: “… those who, renouncing all actions in Me, and regarding Me as the Supreme, worship Me… For those whose thoughts have entered into Me, I am soon the deliverer from the ocean of death and transmigration, Arjuna. Keep your mind on Me alone, your intellect on Me. Thus you shall dwell in Me hereafter.” (B.G., Chapter 12, Verses 6-8) “And he who serves Me with the yoga of unswerving devotion, transcending these qualities [binary opposites, like good and evil, pain and pleasure] is ready for liberation in Brahman.” (B.G. Chapter 14, Verse 26)
Karma Yoga: “With the body, with the mind, with the intellect, even merely with the senses, the yogis perform action toward self-purification, having abandoned attachment. He who is disciplined in yoga, having abandoned the fruit of action, attains steady peace…” (B.G. Chapter 5, Verses 11-12)
Jnana Yoga: “When he perceives the various states of being as resting in the One, and from that alone spreading out, then he attains Brahman. / They who know, through the eye of knowledge, the distinction between the field and the knower of the field, as well as the liberation of beings from material nature, go to the Supreme.” (B.G. Chapter 15, Verse 31/ Verse 35).
Mahabharata: called also Bharata, is the great religious and philosophical epic of India: relates the power struggle between the Pandava and the Kaurava families. It is a keystone text of Hinduism. The second longest literary work in the world.
Ramayana : A Hindu epic of 24,000 verses written by Valmiki around 300 BC. It depicts the story of Raghuvamsa prince, Rama of Ayodhya, whose wife Sita is abducted by the rakshasa, or demon, Ravana.
This rich literature exposes a complex cosmology .
Hindus think that the Universe is a large closed sphere, a cosmic egg, within which there is a paradise, a hell, concentric oceans, as well as continents with India in their center.
Entropy* determines the history of the Universe: the golden age or Krita Yuga is followed by two intermediate periods of weakening of the good, then Kali Yuga appears (age of iron and ignorance) in which we are currently.
Time in Universe is cyclic: at the end of each Kali Yuga, the Universe is destroyed by fire and floods, and then a new golden age starts.
* See also Prof Ilya Prigogine, Nobel price work on thermodynamics.