The ancient Vedic literature is largely divided into two sections, one called “Shruti” and the other “Smriti”. Shruti is often considered the original knowledge of self or brahman, making it the ultimate authority in Hinduism, whereas Smriti is the interpretation given to Shruti by great sages of the time.
Shruti vs Smriti
The entire sacred texts of Hinduism’s core corpus made during vedic era are marked as Shruti literature. The Vedas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas, & Upanishads are a few examples of such texts that are originally a part of the Shruti tradition.
Although shruti primarily refers to the Vedas, other sacred texts of Hinduism are also included in this category. In Sanskrit the word “Shruti” literally means – that which is heard, and “Smriti” means – that which is remembered.
Shruti literatures are considered authorless, whereas Smriti literatures on the other hand do have their respective authors. Though, they are often considered less authoritative to Shurti texts.
Shruti Literature are Timeless
It is believed that when the great sages of the pre-vedic era were in samadhi (aka, in a state of intense meditation), they heard the Vedas directly from God (or Ishwar) making it Apaurusheya (that which is not man made).
Thus, Shruti was the name given to the knowledge they received during the meditation. It’s often said that because Shruti is essentially the voice of God, it is timeless.
In scientific terms, what these ancient sages were experiencing during the samadhi was the voice of their ultimate consciousness. That’s why Shruti also termed the knowledge of Brahman or self.
Shruti texts are considered to be the basic principle, meaning they are the part of Sanatana Dharma. It got the name Sanatana (timeless) because Shruti texts are applicable to any society, religion, caste, or any period of time. They are for all of humanity.
Smriti is Which You Remember
Smriti, as previously stated, is the interpretation of the original Shruti texts given by various sages and saints. Smritis are more comparable to books of laws or dos & don’ts that were written to ensure the smooth functioning of society.
Thus, Smriti is what you remember. In other terms, Shruti is a revelation, and Smriti is a tradition. The Smriti category of Vedic literature includes the majority of Hindu texts such as Puranas, Epics, and other scriptures.
These texts share significant importance in Hindu religion, but in the event of a conflict between Smriti and Shruti texts, Shruti will always have the upper hand and be authoritative.
Smriti texts are divided into four categories: Vedanga, Upaveda, Upanga, and Darshan. These texts were written based on Shruti and passed down through tradition. In contrast to Shruti, Smriti literature is the result of human intellect, primarily that of the great sages and saints who wrote it.
You’ve probably heard of puranas like Shiva Purana, Vishnu Purana, Garuda Purana, and so on. All of these are also included in the Smriti literature, which is concerned with ancient stories and the histories of gods and deities.
Therefore, Shruti and Smriti are very much related. However, if a doubt arises while studying Smriti literature, it can be resolved by studying Shriti as well.