Essentials of Hinduism -The Smritis

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The Smritis

Next to the Vedanta come the Smritis. These also are books written by sages, but the authority of the Smritis is subordinate to that of the Vedanta, because they stand in the same relation with us, as the Scriptures of the other religions stand with regard to them. We admit that the Smritis have been written by particular sages; in that sense they are the same as the Scriptures of other religions, but these Smritis are not the final authority. If there is anything in a Smriti which contradicts the Vedanta, the Smriti is to be rejected ; its authority is gone. These Smritis, we see again, have varied from time to time. We read that such and such Smriti should have authority in the Satya Yuga, such and such in the TretS. Yuga, some in the Dw&para Yuga, and some in the Kali Yuga, and so on. As essential conditions changed, as various circumstances came to have their influence on the race, manners and customs had to be changed, and these Smritis, as mainly regulating the manners and customs of the nation, had also to be changed from time to time. This is a point I specially ask you to remember. The principles of religion that are in the Vedanta are unchangeable. Why ? Because they are all built upon the eternal principles that are in man and nature; they can never change. Ideas about the soul, going to heaven, and so on, can never change; they were the same thousands of years ago, they are the same to-day, they will be the same millions of years hence. But those religious practices which are based entirely upon our social position and correlation, must change with the changes in society Such an order, therefore, would be good and true at a certain period and not at another. We find accordingly that a certain food is allowed at one time and not at another, because the food was suitable for that time ; but climate and other things changed, various other circumstancer required to be met, so the Smriti changed the food and other things. Thus it naturally follows, that if in modern times our society requires changes to be made, they must be met, and sages will come and show us the way how to meet them ; but not one jot of the principles of our religion will be changed ; they will remain intact.

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