सनातन धर्म भूमिका

Meaning of "Smriti"







In General

All the Hindu text other than Veda which is Sruthi comes under Smriti. This include Purana, Itihasa, Vedangas, various Sutras. However, the class of literature with suffix as Smriti (like Manusmriti) is called as Smriti or Dharmasastra in the limited sense. They are set of rules and regulation for running the society. The Purana and Itihasa portray ideal character and motivate people to cultivate good manners. Based on the nature of knowledge, the literature other than Purana and Itihasa in Smriti were of two types: one that expounds Sastra and the other that outlines codes of conduct. Texts like Paniniya Astadhyayi (Vyakarana), Gautama Sutras (Nyaya), Tarka Samgraha (Tarka) expound specific Sastras as against Dharma Sutras and similar literature that expound codes of conduct, judiciary, suddhis (purificatory ceremonies), prayaschitta (expiatory rites) etc.

Again the Smriti literature can be divided into sutra and metrical. Sutra method is a concise way of stating information, where entire text is arranged in a sequence of rules. A rule below borrows context from the above ones, unless stated otherwise. Thus, the size of text reduces considerably but do not keep each sutra as an independent statement. For instance texts like Astadhyayi and Dharma Sutras follow the sutra method. Whereas metrical texts are elaborate explanation where each treatise is full in itself.

The Smriti text are remembered texts. This simply means Rishis have remembered the spiritual experiences they have had once and created Smriti by their own. But this doesn’t mean Smrities are independent view of any particular Sage; they are rather view of Vedas interpreted by Rishis as law. The division of Sruthi and Smriti reveal the fact that Sruthi alone is the revealed Texts. Smriti depend on Sruthi and can be changed in a limited manner in the true spirit of Sruthi but not amendable to fit to any occasion. Smriti normally fills the gap or whatever not clearly said in Sruti for daily practice of religion. The Smritis aim at outlining and giving a picture of how to live life in a way to fulfill the purpose of life, thus make life meaningful and regulate life closest to natural laws as seen in the Veda.

Smriti are in verses that one can understand very easily and are a detailed account of the subject they are dealing with. Smriti elaborate the dharmic instruction with regards to the rites and convention to be followed. There are rituals to be conducted from the time of conception of the child and until to the death. The smriti also lay down the daily routine to be followed by all of us. Smriti in short tell us about ones duty in detail, the do’s and don’ts, and how the rites are to be performed. Eighteen Sruties are said as most important. All the Smriti do not talk about all the customary duties and rites; also some of the Smrities differ from the other. In the case of controversy the case is easily settled by following the practices of one’s region and tradition of his forefathers

Kalpa sutra also do the same work as that of Sruthi, but they are generally guideline that outlines ideal practices. Smriti keeps in mind that real life is not however ideal, and recommends what is best. There is always a deviation from ideal life so, the Smriti advocate a goal as close to it as possible. What Smriti attempts is to direct common man towards giving his best try to follow the Smriti. In case of a deviation, Smriti also advocates ways how one can correct himself and fall back in line.

This is why, while we find Smriti saying what is not to be done, it also says how to deal in cases of things happening otherwise. For instance, having said one should not have extramarital relation, it says what should be legally done in cases of such relation and offspring of such relations (such as property, inheritance). Having said a Man should not drink, it explains how a drunkard should be dealt with in various situations. This shows that while outlining what is best, Smriti takes into consideration all combinations in which things can happen (which are in agreement or disagreement with Smriti), and explains how to deal with all those situations. Thus Smriti is thoroughly founded in life and society and is not an out of the world text. Also, because of the flexibility it thus offers, it applies to all times with the fewest modifications. In fact it should be said that the modifications needed to make Smriti suit any kind of times are much smaller than the level of deviation from it otherwise existent in the society. Further, Smriti seeks to present with clarity the rights and wrongs of a situation along with do’s and don'ts. While describing the actions of most righteous (as in case of Itihasa and Puranas) it demonstrates how one can realize ideals in life. It also clarifies the dilemmas and confusions a man faces in various life situations and explains what its stand is and why.

Thus smriti is a comprehensive guide to life that defines goals of life, gives methods to achieve them, clarifies where there are confusions, and explains how to stick to those goals and how to correct one if he is going wrong in the path. It also outlines social design such as various stages of life, functions of man and woman, various classes/sections of the society, administration, judiciary and polity. They tells us how a householder have to do things in an orderly way, with regards to matter pertaining to everyday life and those things one has to perform throughout his life.

Smriti is a systematic exposition of the Dharmasastras. They are mainly concerned with the social conduct of man rather than the practice of rituals. Their contents can be classified under three heads, Achara, Vyavahara and Prayaschitta. Under the first head the Samskara and rules relating to them are given. The most exhaustively treated Samskara are the upanayana and Vivaha as they inaugurate the first and second stage of life of an individual. Panchamahayajnas or five great sacrifices also figure very prominently in the Smriti. Manu give very high important to them and describe them at length. The Smriti also offer us a mass of information about prayers and sacrifices, household duties, eschatology, funeral ceremonies and sacrifices to the dead. We find in them discussion on the right of performing the Samskaras, minor ceremonies and rites, the worship of deities at various occasion in life not mentioned in Grhya Sutra and Dharma sutras. Not all the Smritis deal with the Samskara. Some like Narada Smriti are entirely devoted to Vyavahara or Law, while others like the Parasara Smriti are given to the prescription of Prayaschitta.

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