* Shruti which refers to the Vedas which are the rites and hymns of the earliest Hindu tradition.
* Smriti refers to the Dharmashastra texts as well as other Sanskrit texts like the Indian Puranas and the Epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana.
* Achara or practice refers to the customs established by people who know and live by the first two sources of dharma.
In Manu Smriti and Yajnavalkya Smriti atmatusti is also given as a source of Dharma. However later texts and commentaries do not mention this source of dharma. The sources are mainly the Vedas, Brahmanas, Upanishads, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, Samhita, Aranyakas, Sutras and Smritis, the Nitis, the Puranas and the Dharmashastras. The first of these consisted of myths and legends which have been borrowed from the Puranas and the Epics. There are stories from Mahabharata and Ramayana. All these stories, myths and legends have a particular moral. The moral is emphasized when the particular myth is narrated on certain ritual occasions. The very theme of Mahabharata is the doctrine of karma, dharma and rebirth. The third source of dharma is universally accepted by all castes. The nature of dharma is complex. The principles of dharma are deep and the average common man generally follows the path trodden by his ancestors and predecessors. Tradition is the best source of dharma. Traditions vary from caste to caste and from region to region.
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