Why only books on Spirituality are referred to as holy texts?


1. Who comprehends the true nature of Righteousness?

This question arises because one aspect of Righteousness undergoes change. It is answered below.

  • अधर्मरूपो धर्मो हि कश्चिदस्‍ति नराधिप ।
    धर्मश्चाधर्मरूपोऽस्‍ति तच्‍च ज्ञेयं विपश्चिता ।। – महाभारत १२.३३.३२

    Meaning: (Maharshi Vyas tells Yudhishthir) O king, sometimes Righteousness assumes the form of unrighteousness and unrighteousness seems like Righteousness. A wise man should try to comprehend this. – Mahabharat 12.33.32

  • नाकृतात्‍मा वेदयति धर्माधर्मविनिश्चयम्‌ ।। – महाभारत ३.२१५.१८

    Meaning: Without control over the mind one does not realise what Righteousness and unrighteousness are.

  • सूक्ष्‍मा गतिर्हि धर्मस्‍य दुर्ज्ञेया ह्यकृतात्‍मभि: ।। – महाभारत १३.१०.६८

    Meaning: Righteousness being extremely subtle the one who has not achieved mastery over his mind finds it difficult to comprehend.

2. Observance of Righteousness (Dharma)

2.1 What is the meaning of observance of Righteousness?

It is conduct of the four classes according to the class and the stages of life. Lord Shrikrushna says –

श्रेयान्‍स्‍वधर्मो विगुण: परधर्मात्‍स्‍वनुष्‍ठितात्‌ ।
स्‍वधर्मे निधनं श्रेय परधर्मो भयावह: ।। – महाभारत ६.२७.३५

Meaning: Though following the code of Righteousness of another may be easier, following one’s own code of Righteousness although it may have some shortcomings is certainly superior. It is better to die observing one’s own code of Righteousness because following that of another is fraught with danger. – Mahabharat 6.27.35

Implied meaning: When Lord Shrikrushna preached this to Arjun in the Dvaparyug (era) only the Hindu religion prevailed everywhere. This did not mean not to convert to another faith as per the present day connotation. It means that each one should observe the code of Righteousness pertaining to his class and stage of life.

2.2 Importance

शरीरस्‍य विनाशेन धर्म एव विशिष्‍यते ।। – महाभारत १.२१३.२०

Meaning: Observing Righteousness even risking one’s own life is more commendable. – Mahabharat 1.213.20

2.3 Observing Righteousness

A. The social setup: ‘Even the authors of the Mahabharat have agreed to the fact that the Final Liberation (Moksha) should be man’s ultimate goal. However the Final Liberation being an extremely evolved state it is possible only in an evolved state of society. Doctrines of Indian philosophers proclaim that only that society in which the people are of righteous conduct, have evolved and pure thoughts; where the administrative system is excellent and social transactions occur smoothly; people are well educated, valorous and capable of protecting themselves from foreign invasions are able to attempt to undertake spiritual practice to attain the Final Liberation (Moksha) and achieve their goal.

B. Individual

  • There is no connection whatsoever between an impoverished and downtrodden ignorant society and the Final Liberation (Moksha). – Mahabharat

    क्षुधा निर्णुदति प्रज्ञां धर्मबुद्धिं व्‍यपोहति ।
    क्षुधापरिगतज्ञानो धृतिं त्‍यजति चैव हि ।। – महाभारत १४.९०.९१

    Meaning: Impoverishment deludes a man’s intellect and causes a decline in his adherence to Righteousness (Dharma). Desire destroys a man’s spiritual knowledge and snatches away his courage. – Mahabharat 14.90.91’(1)

  • यथा यथैव जीवेद्धि तत्‍कर्तव्‍यमहेलया ।
    जीवितं मरणाच्‍छ्रेयो जीवन्‍धर्ममवाप्‍नुयात ।। – महाभारत १२.१४१.६५

    Meaning: One should do everything unhesitantly to protect one’s life. Survival is better than death because one is able to follow Righteousness only if one remains alive. – Mahabharat 12.141.65

  • यस्‍यैव बलमोजश्च स धर्मस्‍य प्रभुर्नर: ।। – महाभारत १२.१५२.१८

    Meaning: Only the one who possesses both strength and effulgence becomes capable of observing Righteousness. – Mahabharat 12.152.18

  • धर्मार्थकाममोक्षाख्‍यं य इच्‍छेच्‍छ्रेय आत्‍मन: ।
    एकमेव हरेस्‍तत्र कारणं पादसेवनम्‌ ।। – श्रीमद्‌भागवत ४.८.४१

    Meaning: Accomplishment of the four pursuits of life viz. Righteousness, wealth, desire and the Final Liberation bestows prosperity and to attain them the only path is service unto Shrihari (The Lord). – Shrimadbhagvat 4.8.41

C. The chief of a religious order: The points below will illustrate the importance of the chief of a religious order.

  • Each one is supposed to shoulder his own responsibilities but on the contrary each one tries to shirk them.
  • A common method of spiritual practice was prepared so that society could unite; however due to regional variations and variations in time people give it up. This poses a threat to the very existence of the group.
  • Though an organisation is fond of gathering people it does not like to observe discipline. To discipline it administration becomes necessary. The word anushasan meaning to administer, is derived from two words, anu meaning to imitate, to nurture and shasan meaning to control. It is the duty of the chief of a religious order to combat the above mentioned obstacles and to make efforts to keep the organisation united. He is also called a leader (agresar). Agra means ahead and sru sar means one who goes.

    नियन्‍ता चेन्‍न विद्येत न कश्चिद्धर्ममाचरेत्‌ ।। – महाभारत ४.६८.४५

    Meaning: If there is no one to exercise control (on an organisation) then no one will behave righteously. – Mahabharat 4.68.45

2.4 Not following Righteousness (Dharma) – pardonable and unpardonable

The two reasons for not behaving righteously are internal and external. Internal means the conduct forgotten due to loss of awareness for the body when practising Spirituality (yoga) and external means travel, illness or unfavourable circumstances. Average people are forgiven by the Vedas if they forget to observe Righteousness in both these circumstances. However other reasons are not pardonable.

2.5 Consequences of not observing Righteousness

The consequences of not observing Righteousness will be illustrated by the topic ‘Importance of Righteousness (Dharma)’.

दर्पो नाम श्रिय: पुत्रो जज्ञेऽधर्मादिति श्रुति: ।। – महाभारत १२.९०.२६

Meaning: It is said that pride (darpa) is a son born of unrighteousness to deity Lakshmi. – Mahabharat 12.90.26

2.6 Compulsion to behave righteously

‘Mere preaching does not change a person. To turn man towards Righteousness either the incentive of rewards or the fear of punishment is necessary. Religious scriptures or the Purans describe the benefits of various religious rites. Hence people are seen following the righteous path in order to gain these rewards. However preaching or explaining the benefits of following Righteousness does not have any effect whatsoever on people with immoral tendencies. Such people have to be punished and brought to the righteous path. Since the rule of Righteousness cannot be established without punishment and rewards, the following three constituents of Righteousness prove essential.

  • Decisions about Righteousness and unrighteousness: In this it is decided whether an act is righteous or unrighteous and specific punishment is meted out for a particular unrighteous act and a specific reward is awarded for a particular righteous act.
  • Decisions about punishment and rewards: This is called justice in other words. Here it is decided that a particular person who has performed a particular righteous or unrighteous act should receive a particular reward or punishment.
  • The administration: Arresting and punishing the unrighteous and rewarding the righteous are functions executed by the administration (government).

All these constituents instead of being under the purview of an individual should be controlled by different people or organisations because when only one person, organisation or class controls it, it generates terror among the people. This is well illustrated by the story of King Ven from the holy text, Bhagvat. Ven undertook the responsibility of both, the administration as well as deciding about Righteousness (Dharma) and unrighteousness, upon himself. This led to the development of fear and unrest among his subjects. The sages then united, slew King Ven and instated the crown prince Pruthu as the king.’(2)

2.7 True Righteousness

यस्‍य धर्मो हि धर्मार्थ: क्‍लेशभाङ्‌ न स पण्‍डित: ।
न स धर्मस्‍य वेदार्थ सूर्यस्‍यान्‍ध: प्रभामिव ।। – महाभारत ३.३३.२३

Meaning: The one who follows Righteousness just for its sake without understanding the principle behind it is certainly not wise, on the contrary ultimately he becomes unhappy. He is unable to understand the meaning of Righteousness just as a blind man cannot perceive sunlight. – Mahabharat 3.33.23

3. Religious texts

3.1 Literature on Spirituality and on other subjects

Literature on subjects other than Spirituality that is from the Great Illusion (Maya) does not last for long because the Great Illusion has an end. On the contrary spiritual literature being in the context of Brahman (God) which has no beginning and is infinite also lasts eternally. That is exactly the reason why holy texts like the VedasUpanishadsDarshansMahabharatYogavasishthaRamayanGitaBhagvat, etc. have stood the test of time for thousands of years and other literature which has even won laurels like the Dnyanpith award in India and the Nobel prize has not survived for long. Millions of years ago the sages have written down the knowledge about creation and other topics which They acquired from God, in the form of these holy texts. The Vedas are the scriptures narrated by the seven great sages (saptarshi). Today we observe that some news items undergo a lot of variation until they are printed although they are collected from a number of media. Hence the holy texts like the Vedas, UpanishadsRamayanMahabharatShrimadbhagvat, etc. written by sages endowed with a spiritually activated rutambhara intellect in a superconsciousness state of devotion are considered as the authority over the passage of time.

In His book, the Dasbodh, Samarth Ramdasswami (dashak 7, samas 9) describes a holy text as follows –

A holy text in the true sense is one which augments a seeker’s spiritual practice, increases his devotion and purifies his mind and makes him feel like being devoted unto God wholeheartedly. – 30

A holy text is one which after being heard reduces the pride of an individual, gets rid of his delusion or one which after being read instantly makes one turn to God, in the true sense. – 31

A holy text in the true sense is the one by the study of which one becomes detached, one’s defects get reduced and spiritual descent is prevented. – 32

The study of that which generates courage in the body, bestows one with good thoughts to perform actions beneficial to others and the reading of which destroys the desire to derive happiness from the physical body is a holy text in the true sense. – 33

That which teaches man how to attain God by its study, bestows a seeker with Self-realisation by its constant company and makes a man attain fulfillment of his life’s objectives is a holy text in the true sense. – 34

That is why only books on Spirituality should be called as holy texts (grantha). Books on other subjects should not be referred to as holy texts simply because of their voluminous pages.

Forms of Righteousness (Dharma) and holy texts

  • The indirect (paroksha) form: ‘The form of Righteousness understood from an inference is uncertain. This uncertain form itself is also the indirect form of Righteousness.
  • The direct (aparoksha) form: The definitive form of Righteousness should be called its actual form because from it one is able to perceive whether an act is righteous or unrighteous at once. The absolute certification of the direct form of Righteousness is a word or a group of words (shabdapraman), that is a holy text.’(3)

3.2 Comparison of literary works of an ordinary writer and those of a saint

  Literature work of
an ordinary man
Literature work of
a saint
1. Energy of words % 2 30
2. Energy of sound % 2 30
3. Based on the spiritual level
of the author the energy
generated by his
subconscious impressions on
the words and sound (nad)%
1 40
Total effective energy% 5 100

This table will clearly show that the energy in literature by saints is far more than that in other literature which is why it has successfully withstood the test of time.

3.3 Intellect, faith and holy texts ( Books on Spirituality )

‘Sages and other evolved beings acquire the ability to make resolutions and impart initiations due to Their divine experiences. It is this very authority of Theirs which makes the institution of Righteousness evolved and powerful. Holy texts ( Books on spirituality )  by such Self-realised souls serve as the absolute axiom of Righteousness.

Righteousness requires intellectual support along with the support of spiritual experiences or Self-realisation. Intellectual support can be divided into two parts – benevolence and truth. All that which bestows prosperity, brings about auspiciousness and the means to acquire these constitutes the beneficial aspect. Righteousness (Dharma) expects either merging or suitability of the target and the tool. Hence Righteousness necessitates the blending of the means and the end and values both equally. This beneficial objective itself is termed as the path of Spirituality (Paramartha). The objectives, tools and targets of human beings are one and the same. A doctrine states that they themselves are righteous as well as moralistic.

Along with the beneficial aspect, Righteousness also preaches an intellectual truth. This intellectual truth is the doctrine of creation and composition of the universe. The Darshans and other philosophies describe this doctrine very beautifully. Desire and faith is the foundation of Righteousness. Intellectualism exists in the school of righteous thinking in the form of a seed. The tools of intellectualism have originated in human culture very late. Before intellectualism progressed Righteousness had become vast and expansive. Righteousness has acquired this vast form because of the faith of man.’(4)

3.4 ‘Try to understand the scriptures on Righteousness but do not interpret them’

‘There is a vast difference in the information procured by reading various holy texts and that obtained through spiritual experience. Quotes of saints are evidence in the spiritual realm because they are based on spiritual experiences actually experienced by Them. People should take into consideration the fact that even if scholars of the Sanatan religion or rationalists poke their noses and misinterpret the quotes, the truth in them shall still remain unaltered.

One important thing that one constantly forgets in the context of thoughts supporting scriptures on Righteousness is that if a particular thought is unacceptable to oneself then one distorts it by interpreting it as one wishes and thus defeats the opposite party. However people do not realise that out of the Absolute Truth and thoughts on it the former (e.g. God) comes first and the thoughts follow it.’(5)

3.5 Characteristics of holy texts ( Books on Spirituality )

None of the sciences from among the Vedas, DharmashastraNyayaMimansaTarkaVedantaPurans, astrology, Sutras, spiritual rites (sanskars), code of conduct (achar), or the Ayurveda preach adversely about the other. There is no difference in opinion between them because the indepth, ultimate objective of all scriptures is the same; i.e. the attainment of The Supreme Soul, realisation of God and fulfillment of the purpose of life.

3.6 Fundamental holy texts ( Books on Spirituality )

The fundamental holy texts on which even the modern day holy texts such as the Shri Bhavarthadipika (Dnyaneshvari) and the Shri Dasbodh depend are 1. The Vedas (Shruti), 2. Darshans, 3. Smrutis (holy texts of scriptures), 4. Ramayan, 5. Yogavasishtha, 6. Mahabharat, 7. Shrimadbhagvadgita, 8. Purans and 9. Shrimadbhagvat.

Though the Yogavasishtha is the knowledge imparted to Rama by Sage Vasishtha and the Gita is a part of the Mahabharat yet due to their great significance they have been accorded a special status.

3.7 Terminology used in holy texts ( Books on spirituality )

‘The Vedic Sanskrut language has evolved through the course of the holy texts – the SanhitasBrahmansAranyaks and Upanishads. That is why the language in the Brahman holy texts is different from that in the Sanhitas. Vaiyakaran first formulated a pure language after undertaking an indepth study of Vedic terminology. Such pure language was first found in the RamayanPanini composed aphorisms (sutras) in the Ashtadhyayi and bound the Sanskrut language with rules. Hence a vast difference is apparent in the Sanskrut from the Vedas and from the works in the post-Panini period. Thus the Sanskrut language has four phases of development – the Vedic period, the Brahman period, the Sutra period and the post-Panini period.’(6)

3.8 Style of literature of the holy texts ( Books on spirituality )

A. The Sutras: They were written in the period from 400-150 B.C. ‘Along with the Vedas another type of Sanskrut holy texts known as the “Sutras” came to the forefront. A sutra refers to “a compact, clear and abridged statement”. Because of this style such a vast science became abridged in short sentences and was easy to learn by rote. A speciality of this style is its minute abridgement. To create such abridgement the practice of creating comprehensive words to express concepts originated and later they were also used in poetry. One comes across the heights of abridgement in the Ashtadhyayi by Panini.’(7) ‘After realising the utility of aphorisms (sutras) in the Vedange (sciences related to the Vedas) they also began to appear in other scriptures. The holy texts written in the ensuing period were the MimansasutrasBrahmasutrasYogasutrasNyayasutrasVaisheshiksutras, etc. Panini’s Ashtadhyayi and Bharat’s Natyashastra are holy texts written in the form of aphorisms. References to Bhikshuksutras and Natasutras are found in the Ashtadhyayi.’ (8) Righteousness (Dharma) is the subject described in the Kalpasutras. This style of writing is not much prevalent in the texts on political science (arthashastra). Vatsyayan too has composed aphorisms on the science of sex (kamashastra).

B. Foremost commentaries: ‘Initially aphorisms were taught verbally. Later they began to be written down. Such explanations later came to be known as bhashyavarttikvruttitikaupatikavyakhyatippaninibhandha, etc. depending on their scope, objective and authority. In most scriptures the varttik is a commentary on aphorisms. However Panini’s Vyakaran gives a commentary on the sutravarttiks. The commentary by Maharshi Patanjali on Panini’s Ashtadhyayi is called the Mahabhashya (the great commentary). The Sanskrut scriptures written in the form of aphorisms around 150 B.C. are classified based on “the concept of the four pursuits of life (purusharthas)”.’(9)

C. Holy texts on commentaries and compositions: ‘Generally the period of scriptural literature falls into three parts. The third period extends from the 7th century A.D. till 1800 A.D. during which various commentaries on the Smrutis and compositions (nibandha) summarising the quotes from all the Smrutis were penned. The first part of this period which produced famous commentators constitutes the golden age.

After the 12th century A.D. instead of commentaries on only one particular Smruti the tendency of the authors began to turn towards incorporating quotes from the various Smrutis on the subject from the scriptures into compositions in summarised form. Examples of such literary works are the KalpataruSmrutichandrikaChaturvargachintamani and various Ratnakars written by Chandeshvar.’ (10)

D. Prose and poetry: ‘In literary history the Yajurveda is the first holy text written in prose. This trend was then continued by the Brahman holy texts which describe the methods of performing a sacrificial fire (yadnya). The IshKath and Mundak out of the ten main Upanishads are in poetic form. The Ken Upanishad is both in prose as well as poetry. The remaining Upanishads are in prose. At first it was the practice to write the scriptures in prose. A form of commentary known as varttik dealing with the positive points and shortcomings of the main holy texts is both in prose and poetry. Language in the scriptures mostly appears difficult.’ (11)

E. The SanhitasAgams and Tantras: ‘Literature known by these names is included in the literary works on devotion. Among these the Sanhitas belong to the Vaishnav sect (worshippers of Lord Vishnu), the Agams to the Shaiva sect (worshippers of Lord Shiva) and the Tantras to the Shakta sect [worshippers of Divine Energy (Shakti)]. Nevertheless they are all commonly referred to as Tantrik literature. This literature has probably been compiled in the 5th or 6th century A.D.’ (12)

3.9 Period of composition from the historical viewpoint

The Vedas have no beginning from the spiritual point of view. The table below gives the historical period of composition of the Vedas and other holy texts.

Holy texts Period of composition from
the historical viewpoint
Vedic SanhitasBrahman texts
and some Upanishads
4000 – 1000 B.C.
Some UpanishadsNirukta 800 – 500 B.C.
Main Shrautsutras and some
600 – 400 B.C.
Panini’s Vyakaransutras
600 – 300 B.C.
Jaimini’s Purvamimansasutra 500 – 200 B.C.
Kautilya’s Arthashastra,
Patanjali’s Mahabhashya
300 – 100 B.C.
200 B.C. – 300 A.D.
Naradsmruti, some Purans 100 – 400 A.D.
Other Smrutis and some Purans 600 – 900 A.D.
Compositions of Adi
788 – 820 A.D.
Universal commentary on
Medhatithi’s commentary on the
800 – 1100 A.D.
Nirnaysindhu and other holy
texts by Kamalakarbhatt
Dharmasindhu by Kashinath
1610 – 1790 A.D.

Source : Sacred Text

Author: Aditya Bhuyan

I am an IT Professional with close to two decades of experience. I mostly work in open source application development and cloud technologies. I have expertise in Java, Spring and Cloud Foundry.

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