Shruti and Smriti

Gummuluru Murthy gmurthy at MORGAN.UCS.MUN.CA
Wed Jun 3 06:58:10 CDT 1998


This is a part-response to Shri Nanda Chandran's query questioning the
supremacy of the vedas, and is in addition to Shri Ram Chandran's very
well-thought-out response of yesterday (thread:vairAgyam).

In my readings yesterday, I came across a section in "Sankara digvijaya"
by Madhava-VidyaraNya (translated by Swami Tapasyananda, Ramakrishna Math,
Madras, 1981) which is relevant to the topic. This is the debate between
MaNDana Mishra and Shri Shankara and I quote from the above book.


[MaNDana and Shri Shankara are not discussing shruti vs smriti but
the discussion is still relevant]

MaNDana: The Vedic passage speaking of difference gets only greater
strength and validity from the support it gets from another means of
valid knowledge like Pratyaksha (sense experience). It is not thereby
weakened, as you say, because of sense knowledge confirming it. Therefore
these dualistic passages surely affect the validity of non-dualistic
passages, which are without the support or confirmation of any other means
of knowledge.

Sankara: O Learned one, The strength of the Vedic passage is not affected,
because no other means of knowledge can confirm it. If your contention is
conceded, the Veda ceases to be a means of valid knowledge,
self-validating in itself. This is the uniqueness of the position of the
Veda among the means of right knowledge - namely, **that it gives
knowledge that cannot be derived through any other means. If your position
is accepted, Shruti becomes merely a means for confirming knowledge that
can be got through other means also. It becomes very weak and purposeless
thereby.** (GM's emphasis on this part).


Thus, as Shri Ram Chandran also pointed out, the knowledge of the Vedas
cannot be derived from any other source. That is not to say, the Smriti
is unnecessary. Shri Shankara never down-graded the importance of the
Smriti. If He did not think they were important, He would not have
written Gita-bhAshhya. (Gita also says in the Introduction that it is
the essense of the upanishhads). However, Vedas have a special place.
And this point was repeatedly made by Shri Shankara in various writings
(B.U. Bh. III.4.2, also in Kena Bh. and other places). I am trying to get
other AcAryAs' statements also to the same effect.

It is not my intent to denigrade Smriti. It is most important and very
useful to understand and appreciate. If I can make an anology, which
may not be entirely proper, but I make it anyway: If Shruti is the
original Shakespearian drama, Smriti is the Coles Notes on that; if
Shruti is the original classic, Smriti is the Reader's Digest condensed
volume of that. They serve a very useful purpose,,but are based on the
Truth enunciated by the original Shruti.

Gummuluru Murthy
Yadaa sarve pramucyante kaamaa ye'sya hr^di shritaah
atha martyo'mr^to bhavatyatra brahma samashnute   Katha Upanishhad II.3.14

When all the desires that dwell in the heart fall away, then the mortal
becomes immortal, and attains Brahman even here.

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