About Hindu Scriptures
By Swami Sivananda
Sanatana Dharma (“Eternal Religion”), a.k.a Hinduism, is without any contest the “world champion” of Scriptures, both in its breath (covering 18 fields of knowledge, it has far more scriptures than all the other world religions put together) and its depth.
As the great Indologist Max Muller said,
“If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed the choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered on the greatest problems of life, and has found solution of some of them which well deserve the attention even of those who have studied Plato and Kant-I should point to India. And if I were to ask myself from what literature we here in Europe, we who have been nurtured almost exclusively on the thought of Greeks and Romans, and of one Semitic race, the Jewish, may draw that corrective which is most wanted in order to make our inner life more perfect, more comprehensive, more universal, in fact more truly human, a life not for this life only, but a transfigured and eternal life-again I should point to India.”
The sheer number of scriptures should not be so surprising, in light of the fact that Indians have always considered all arts, sciences, and occupations as sacred, i.e. offering the opportunity to perfect one’s love for God by carrying out our activities guided by the scriptures and the sages. Hence there are scriptures for meditation, administration, love-making, dancing, grammar, architecture, temple worship, and so on and so forth.
The Fourteen Fields of Knowledge
Indian scriptures span fourteen fields of knowledge (vidya) and four complements to the Vedas (upavedas). The fourteen fields are the four Vedas (Rik, Yajur, Sama, Atharva), the six vedangas (meter, etymology, phonetics, grammar, astrology-astronomy, rituals), and the four upangas (logic, enquiry, sacred history, code of social conduct). The four complements to the Vedas are medicine, politics-economics, warfare, and fine arts.
(The Mahabharata, Ramayana, as well as Sankhya, Patañjala, Pashupata and Vaishnava, form part of Dharma Shastras.)