Discussion in 'Smriti' started by garry420, Dec 25, 2015.

  1. garry420

    garry420 Well-Known Member

    Smriti (Sanskrit: स्मृति, Smṛti) literally “that which is remembered,” refers to a specific body of Hindu religious scripture, and is a codified component of Hinducustomary law. Smriti also denotes non-Sruti texts and is generally seen as secondary in authority to Sruti. The literature which comprises the Smriti was composed after the Vedas around 500 BCE. Smriti also denotes tradition in the sense that it portrays the traditions of the rules on dharma, especially those of lawful virtuous persons. This is understood by looking at traditional texts, such as the Ramayana, in which the traditions of the main characters portray a strict adherence to or observance of dharma (the same however need to be understood as experiences rather than binary haves or have-nots).

    Role of Smriti within Hindu law
    Smriti is the second source of authority for dharma. The first source of dharma is Sruti: the Vedas or Revelations. With regards to Hindu Law, scholars have commonly translated Smriti as “tradition”. Although Smriti is also considered a written source; it differs from Sruti in that Smriti does not have divine origins. Smriti’s literal translation, “to remember” explains this. In a sense, Smriti consists of the memories of wisdom that sages have passed on to their disciples. These memories consist of traditions. It is these memories that make up the second source of dharma and consequently have been recorded to become a written source; commentaries such as Laws of Manu, for example. The Smrti texts have become a binding of “sacred literature” which includes the six Vedangas, the Ithihasas : the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, as well as, the Puranas It is within all of these works that the rules of dharma remain and are passed down. However, Smriti is still only considered a second authority after Sruti and becomes relevant only when Sruti provides no answer.

    • There are two important sides of Smriti: Smriti as Tradition and Smriti as Texts. Smriti as Tradition consists of Smriti as memories. It is from these memories that the rules of dharma are preserved and passed down. Conversely, Smriti as Texts refers to the notion of Traditional Texts. These consists of mostly the dharmasastras and are described as literature which has been “inspired by the smrti”
    Smriti as Tradition
    The history of smriti begins around 500 BCE. Some scholars argue that the original meaning of smriti differs from the medieval Sanskrit commentators’ understanding of smriti. This is understood by looking at passages where the word smriti appears. It is from the context in which the word is used that scholars find evidence for a switch in the meaning and understanding of the term. The present general understanding of smriti consists of non-Vedic literatures that portray the rules of dharma; for example, the Dharmashastra, Itihasa, and Purana. Some scholars argue that this general understanding is inaccurate. The view of Smriti as literature, specifically that of Dharmashastra texts, has created this notion of smriti as Traditional texts. However, some scholars argue that the original meaning of smriti was used to refer to tradition in its simplest understanding and not to texts. This process looks at the textualization of tradition and examines passages where smriti refers to literature in contrast to passages where there are no connections between smriti and literature. The earliest texts where the term smriti is used are also examined. By a process of looking at the context of what is being stated within the passage, a scholar is able to better derive the correct definition. Scholars also argue about smriti in terms of it meaning “specifically ‘Brahmanical tradition’”.

    Smriti as Texts
    The smritis are metrical texts. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of texts that fall into this category and it is remarkable how consistent the topics and reasoning used in these texts are. Though the smriti texts acknowledge variability in regional religious and legal practices, their principal concern is to explain dharma. This unity of purpose led to a standardization of topics dealt with by the texts, even though the texts still exhibit differences between them. Whether these differences can be attributed to differences in the provenance or time period of the texts, to ideological or other disagreements between authors, or to some other factor is an issue open to debate.

    The most famous and the earliest known smriti text is the Laws of Manu, which dates to approximately the first century AD. The Laws of Manu, or Manavadharmashastra, has recently been critically edited and translated by Patrick Olivelle (2004, 2005). His introduction and translation are perhaps the best starting points for understanding the nature of Dharmashastra and its contents. A major piece of the Hindu law tradition is, however, not represented in the main body of this translation, but rather in its footnotes – namely, the commentarial or scholastic tradition that took texts like the Laws of Manu and explained and elaborated upon them in an unbroken tradition that extended at least up to the time of the British and in some ways beyond. Similar to other scholastic traditions of religious law, the Dharmashastra commentators’ first concern was to explain the sacred legal texts precisely, with careful attention to word meanings, grammatical structures, and principles of legal hermeneutics.

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