Indian concept of Sruti and Smrti – Sanatana Dharma
When you study old books like the upnishads, you will find how much they harmonize with the thinking of the great souls, which we produced in the modern period. There is a historical continuity. This new adjustment is the same an adjustment, but in terms of the modern conditions. This is what India has been taught again and again. Circumstances change we need a new formulation of the ancient truth. Truth remains the same, only the dressing is changed. This is what we understand from our ancient and continuing tradition. There are two words Sruti and Smriti- Sruti means Vedas specially in its Upnishad portion, which deals with eternal verities, where as smritis deal with contemporary social rules and regulations, smruti is secondary to sruti, Indian tradition emphasizes this – where ever there is conflict, sruti will prevail as greater authority. Sruti is eternal, what you call - Sanatan Dharma refers to Sruti – the nature of Man , nature of God, how we achieve spiritual realization, they are eternal truths, they are same for India, America, Europe or any other country. They are universal. Just as any scientific truths are universal, so also sruti truths are universal, because they are products of a science of human beings in depth, this is what we call Sanatana Dharma, this Dharma is Sanatan or eternal. Along with this comes Yuga Dharma, Dharma for a particular period, for a particular age of history, a particular group of people. That is called smriti.
Smritis come and go. How many smritis were promulgated and set aside in India. Today all old smritis are abrogated, if they go against our national democratic constitution. We have courage to change our smritis and develop a smriti in tune with contemporary thinking. This is great idea in india – social change. And the teachings, which are eternal, are reformulated according to the change circumstances. For that you need great teachers. For they have the spiritual knowledge and authority to do it. That authority does not come from the status like bishop or a pope or priest or any traditional religious authority. It comes from spiritual realization; it comes from the infinite compassion in the heart of a spiritual teacher, that’s how new smiriti come into being. India held fast to this ideal and the result is that from the vedic age up to this modern age many changes have taken place in religion, in society, in our country and yet we are the same. We are eternal and yet changing all the time. That is the very gist of Sanatana Dharma.
India is ever ageing , but never old. This courage to change a Smriti and that also peacefully is purely a Hindu heritage. No other religion has shown that courage. In all other religion Smritis are all in all. They can not be touched. If any reformer attempts to change them he is persecuted and killed. But we say change the outdated and form a new smriti. Sri Ramakrishan used to say “Mugal coins have no currency in East india Company rule” that means old smritis have no current value. A new currency was needed under East India company and another in Republic of India. – from the writings of Swami Rangnathanandaji.