The Smriti or Dharma Shastra is founded on, and stands next in authorities to the Shruti and consists of four great works written by sages, the Chief contents of which are laws and regulations for the carrying on of individual, family, social and National life. Hindu society is founded on and governed by these laws. They are –

  1. Manu Smriti (मनुस्मृतिः) or Manava Dharma Shastram (मानवधर्मशास्त्रम)-  The institutes of Manu.
  2. Yagyavalkya Smriti (याज्ञवल्क्यः स्मृतिः)
  3. Shankha Likhita Smriti (शंखलिखित स्मृतिः)
  4. Parashara Smriti (पराशर स्मृतिः)

The first of these is the chief compendium of Aryan law, Manu being the great law-giver of the race. Hindu chronology divides the history of a world into seven great periods or cycles of time, each of which is begun and is ended by a Manu, and is therefore called Manvantara( Manu-Antara)- which means between two Manus. “Six other Manus, very great-minded and a great Splendour, belonging to the race of this Manu, the descendant of Svayambhu, have each produced beings”. As there are two Manus for each Manvantara, that shows that we are in the fourth Manvantara, under the rule of the seventh Manu, who is the son of Vivasva. Some of his laws are handed down in the Manu Smriti.

The Yagvalkya Smriti follows the same general line as the Manu Smriti and is next in importance to it. The other two are not now much studied or referred to, except in some parts of southern India.

While the Shruti and the Smriti are the foundation and the walls of the Sanatana Dharma, there are two other important supports – the Puranas (पुराण), and the Itihasah (इतिहास)- History.

The Puranas consists of histories and stories and allegories, composed for the use of the less learned part of the nation, especially for those who could not study the Vedas. They are very interesting to read, and are full of information of all kinds some of the allegories are difficult to understand, and require the help of a teacher.

The Itihasa comprises two great epics:

  1. The Ramayana (रामायण), the history of Shri Ramachandra, the son of King Dasharatha, and of His wife Sita, and of His brothers , a most interesting and delightful story, as you all know.
  2. The Mahabharatam (महाभारत), the history of the Kurus, a royal family of Northern India, which split into two parties, the Kaurvas and the Pandavas, between whom a great war broke out. It contains an immense number of beautiful stories, noble moral teachings, and useful lessons of all kinds. Shrimad Bhagwat Geeta is a part of this itihasa.

These two books- The Ramayana and the Mahabharata, tell us most of what we know about ancient India, about her people and customs, and her ways of living and her arts, and her manufactures. When we read these, we learn how great India once was, and we also learn how we must behave to make her great once more.


While the Shruti and the Smriti, the Puranas and the Itihasa make the edifice of Hindu Religion, we find that the Religion itself has given rise to a splendid literature of Science and Philosophy.

The Science was devided into the Shad-angani (षडंगानी), the Six Angas, literally Limbs; and these six Limbs, or Branches, comprised what would now be called secular knowledge. In the old days religious and secular knowledge were not divided.

They included Grammar, Philology, Astrology, Poetry, together with sixty-four sciences and arts, and the method by which study should be carried on, so that anyone who mastered the six angas was a man of varied and deep learning.

The Philosophy also had six divisions, Shaddarshanani (षडदर्शनानी), the six Darshanas, or ways of seeing things, usually called the Six Systems. They all have one object : the putting an end to pain by enabling the separated human selves to re-unit with the supreme Self ; and they all have one method– the development of Gyanam (ज्ञानं )-Wisdom. The ways employed are different, to suit the different mental constitutions of men, so that they are like six different roads, all leading to one town.

As to what is contained in the Six Systems of philosophy, it will be enough for Sadhaks to know this :

The Nyaya and the Vaisheshika arrange all the things of the world into a certain number of kinds ; then point out that a man knows all things by means of his senses, or by inference and analogy, or by testimony of other wise and experienced men ; and then they explain how God has made all this material world out of atoms and molecules ; finally they show how the highest and most useful knowledge is the “knowledge of God”, who is also the inmost Spirit of man and how this knowledge is obtained in various ways.

The Sankhya explains in more detail and in new ways the nature of Purushah (पुरुषः) – Soul and of Prakritih (प्रकृतिः) -Matter, and relation of each to the other.

The Yoga says that as there are now generally known five senses and five organs ; and explains more fully how they may be developed by men who are seeking to know God, who is their own true Self.

The Mimansa explains what karma is, i.e.- action, both religious and worldly, and what are its consequences, causes and effects, and how it binds man to this world or to another.

The Vedanta finally tells fully what is the exact and true nature of God (or Atma) and shows that Jivatma is the same as this inmost God and explains how man may live so that karma shall not bind him; and finally, by understanding what the Maya Shakti of God is, by which all this world comes forth and appears and disappears, how he may (after practice of Yoga) merge himself into and become one with God and so gain Moksha.