When people ask whether the Hindus have any scriptures to follow, the general answer is that Hinduism, Sanatana Dharma does not have any standard/specific texts to follow. This is because, as Dr. Radhakrishnan has observed , Hinduism is not a view of life but a Way Of Life.The philosophical systems are known as ‘Shad Darshanas’. That is Six systems of Philosophy. The term Darshana means, in this context, Perspective ‘. What it means is that each system has A Perspective. Reality is something that is Beyond Words,Space,Time,Thoughts. As such, one can not understand the full aspects, Attributes of Reality but only a Perspective of It. This depends on one’s disposition and efforts in realising the Reality,whose general Attributes are,
- Chit, Consciousness
These aspects can Experienced and never known. Reality is not an Object of Cognitive Intelligence or Cognition.So any Experience of Brahman, Reality can be only that of a Perspective relative to the Perceiver.( Who the Perceiver, Perceived,Process of Perception is the essence of Indian Thought)
Now we have,based on these points ,six systems of Philosophical Thought in India. They are,
- Purva Mimamsa and
- Uttara Mimamsa, (Upanishads)
These deal with, broadly speaking, address the issues such as
- 1. Existence and nature of Brahman
- 2. Nature of the jiva or the individual soul
- 3. Creation of the jagat or the world.
- 4. Moksha or liberation and the disciplines that lead to it.
So the issues addressed by these systems are ontological in nature and as a spin off, way of Life is discussed.
Of these texts, only Upanishads form a part of Vedas.This is taken as one of the primary sources , scriptures of Hinduism. Though there are more than one thousand Upanishads, about 108 are in use and of these Ten , sometimes Twelve are taken for philosophical discussion.They are,( Ten)
- Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
- Chandogya Upanishad,
- Aitareya Upanishad
- Taittiriya Upanishad,
- Kena Upanishad,
- Isha Upanishad,
- Katha Upanishad,
- Mundaka Upanishad,
- Prashna Upanishad, and the Mandukya Upanishad
Next is Brahma Sutras. These contain information in the form of Aphorisms about Brahman, Reality. All Acharyas have written commentaries on this, Shankaracharya, Ramanujacharya….
This is the second source that is taken as a source for Hinduism.
Then we have Srimad Bhagvad Gita.This is the third source taken as a source scripture for Hinduism.
One may note that while Upanishads contain the Philosophical Thoughts as found/ revealed in the Vedas,Srimad Bhagvad Gita contains philosophical Thoughts of Sankya,Yoga,Nyaya, Vaiseshika and traces of Purva Mimamsa as well. So the three sources, namely,
- Brahma Sutras and
- Srimad Bhagavad Gita
are the the three sources of Hinduism, Sanatana Dharma.These are called Ratna Trayi, The Three Gems.
* Not to be confused with Ratna Traya of Jainism. These are,
- Right Faith.
- Right knowledge.
- Right conduct.