Sacred Texts: Hinduism’s Revealed Scriptures
Editor’s Note: FāVS has launched a new series on Sacred Texts. In most religious traditions they are considered sacred because it is believed they were divinely revealed or inspired, and they form part of an authoritative canon. In this series we ask how scripture is used in particular traditions and if it’s necessary or dispensable. Is it subject to interpretation? What is its purpose? How have scriptures been used to promote or justify certain types of behavior? And, do ancient scriptures have any relevance today?
Commentary by Chellappa Deva
The Vedas and the Agamas are Hinduism’s revealed scriptures.
These are the oldest scriptures in the world.
The Vedas are a collection of four books: the Rig, Sama, Yagur and Atharva. Each has four sections: hymns, rites, interpretation and philosophical instruction.
Everyday priests and lay people chant from the Vedas during temple or home worship. The Vedas can be interpreted freely by anyone.
These are Hinduism’s primary and authoritative scriptures.
The Agamas are Hinduism’s secondary scriptures.
Each of the three major sects of Hinduism has their own Agamas for their respective deity. These sects are Saivites, who worship god as Siva, Vaishnavites, who glorify god as Vishnu, and Shaktas, who worship god as the mother of the universe under the many names of Devi.
The Agamas focus on a single supreme deity, unifying each of the three major sects of Hinduism into oneness of thought. The specific doctrines and practices of day-to-day Hinduism are nowhere more fully explained than in these hymns.
Ahimsa nonviolence is the highest virtue for Hindus. It means to not bring harm to any living creature by thought, word or deed.
The law of karma and seeing the divine in all things is the basis for non-injury.