Temporal Reconciliation between Śruti and Smṛti

Generalizations, not only about Hinduism in general but of periods within Hinduism, are not free from peril, but must be made, just as one must live in a polluted environment. One such generalization in the field pertains to the notion of cyclical time, which is believed to be, in the main, absent during the Vedic Hinduism but prevalent during Classical Hinduism.

The fact that the idea of cyclical time is largely absent in Vedic Hinduism may in part explain its greater interest in explaining the ‘origin’ of the universe. Even in the case of cyclical time such an explanation may be required, but when required the necessity is perhaps felt less urgently from the fact of its happening so often. Be that as it may, the Vedic hymns are full of attempted cosmogonies, modeling the emergence of the universe on a whole variety of creative paradigms visible around them. Creatures are born from eggs or living beings – the oviparous and viviparous accounts of creation are obviously suggested by them. There is even the model provided by grass growing on a field. Things which bring things into being – causes which create effects – are all grist to the mill; thought, speech, sacrifice, down to a blacksmith.

When we turn to the Smṛti literature, however, this colourful variety is compromised in the monotonous regularity of creation which a pulsating universe requires. And this is where we make our suggestion: to couple the two.

The Vedic literature speculates on various kinds of possibilities regarding the origin of the universe. Smṛti literature, on the other hand, provides different occasions for the origin of a universe which continually appears and disappears. Could the two then not be combined – with the universe originating in different ways, as it does so again and again – with a quality in its manner to match the quantity of manifestations?

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4 Responses to “Temporal Reconciliation between Śruti and Smṛti”

  1. Armchair Guy Says:

    It is interesting to note how the ancients thought about the universe and its origins. But nowadays we have much more rigorous ways of thinking about the universe (I mean physics and astrophysics and cosmology and all that). So why would we try to evolve Vedic thought on this topic? I can appreciate trying to evolve Vedic thought on say ethics because that is still relevant. But the purpose of doing cosmology through the Vedas eludes me.

  2. Rangnath Singh Says:

    if it was just to understand the nature of both mentioned period then it is ok. if not then it s tough to understand the logic behind the combining these two.

  3. Anand Viswanathan Says:

    We definitely need the vedic concepts of creation in the modern age. This is because all that we can do at any point of development of science is nothing but find out more about the contents of the universe and hence speculate about how it originated from some signals present in the cosmos now. But science is totally incapable of telling us about any cause outside space and time, since it is very much limited to only sense perceptions.
    Shruti is however not so.

    Science is a game which just updates its knowledge forever and never settles at one point. So, nothing is final. Here in shruti, we have the eternal knowledge. Why neglect a point of view for another especially when the latter is of speculative nature. I do agree though that science can give more specific knowledge of the observable worlds.

  4. Armchair Guy Says:

    @Anand Viswanathan

    If the Vedas include a consistent/valid interpretation/philosophy of “causality” outside space and time, it would certainly be interesting to learn about that and develop the ideas further. Certainly it is hard to see how “cause” could be defined at all, since time is implicit in the notions of cause and effect that we deal with in science and scientific philosophy.

    Your point of view about science being “a game which just updates its knowledge forever and never settles at one point” is valid. However, the reason we do science is it is testable and often useful (for practical progress).

    We have to ask whether Sruti can give us comparably testable and useful information. (Of course, if you absolutely insist that the Vedas are the truth the way some people do for the Bible or the Quran you may see no point in testing their predictions.) Otherwise you can use the “axioms” of the Vedas to keep creating deductions and theorems but these have no connection to the real world.

    This may be fine and even necessary for religious-minded people. Even the not-so-religious may benefit by applying these ideas to everyday life, ethics, etc. But as far as I can see it would have no value in understanding the origins of the universe.

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