Part 4: Doctrine and Scripture
1. Shruti- The Upanishads and Vedanta Sutras:
Shruti is one of the two divisions of Hindu literature meaning information that has been heard, and is usually considered to be universal truth. The Upanishads are philosophical texts in Hinduism that are thought to be lessons given by gurus to their students, which people think marks the beginning teaching using the Vedas. They contain information on some of the most important doctrines in Hinduism such as Atman, reincarnation, karma, Brahman, and how to achieve liberation. The Vedanta Sutras are a way to create a system for teaching the Upanishads that were created by the sage Vyasa by using different proverbs or anecdotes to teach the Upanishads. Most people cannot understand the Upanishads or Vedanta Sutra without guidance from smriti.
2. Smriti- The Bhagavad-gita:
Smriti is defined as knowledge that has been remembered, it is supplementary to shruti and can change over time. The Bhagavad-gita is a part of the Mahabharata and details a conversation between Krishna and Arjuna who sit on a chariot on a battlefield between the two armies. Arjuna seeks the guidance of Krishna after he sees some of his friends and family members on both sides of the battlefield and does not want to fight against them. Krishna tells him that he is associated their bodies with their Atmans, which are two separate entities. Krishna explains that the atman and the body are different things and explains how one can reach enlightenment through the different types of yoga. He also talks about God and how the soul is confused by the three gunas. The Bhagavad-gita is important to Hinduism because it is like a summary of the major concepts of Hinduism.
3. Smriti-Dharma Shastras: The Dharma Shastras contain the laws and codes of conduct related to Hinduism. These laws concern three main subjects: codes of conduct, civil/criminal law, and punishment or atonement to God. The most important one is the Manu Smriti, which was written by Manu who was a demigod and the first person to come up with laws. It establishes the duties of Hindus specifically relating to the varnas and ashrams. The Dharma Shastras establish moral and civil laws, which are the basis for Hindu society and how Hindus live their everyday lives.
Part 5: Denominations and Practice
1. Vaishnavism: Vaishnavism is a one hindu denomination that worships God in the form of Shiva. There are four main branches but the two main focuses of Vaishnavism are personally associating with God through Bhakti, and worshipping different avatars of Vishnu such as Krishna or Rama. Vaishnavism claims to have existed for millions of years, but it experienced a revival in the twelfth century when bhakti became more popular.
2. Shaktism: Shaktism focuses on worhsipping the godess Devi, who is Shiva’s official consort. Devi takes many forms such as Parvati, Durga, and Kali which are all worshipped in Shaktism. Shaktism bases a lot of its doctrine and ideology from Shaivism since Shiva is seen to represent the male and Shakti is seen to represent the female. Specifically, Shakti doctrine emphasizes that there is a difference between matter and spirit but also a creative potential in within matter. Shaktism was probably passed down through cultural customes and through Shaivism but is a prominent part of the larger Hindu community today.