Sastra means scripture. When we analyse the meaning for sastra in the language Sanskrit, it is sasanath iti sastram, which means that which governs or directs or guides and by that way it puts us in the right path is sastra. Sastra shows us the right path in two ways; one is it gives us knowledge about what is to be done (vidhi) and the second is it gives us knowledge about what is not to be done(nishedha). Sastras explain the sanata vaidheka dharma. There are nine type of sastras through which the sanatana vaidheka dharma is explained.
The four vedas
The six Vedangas
Siksha : It gives the rules for the recitation of the mantras like how to pronounce a word, in what place the tone and pitch has to be raised etc.
Kalpa : It gives us knowledge about how to perform the Vedic rituals.
Vyakarana : vyakarana is the Sanskrit grammar.
Chandas : chandas is the arrangement of letters according to meters in Sanskrit.
Niruktam : It is the etymology; it gives us knowledge about how a word is coined based on the Sanskrit root verb.
Jyotisham : Jyotish means the heavenly body which have light. Jyotisham means the deep study of the heavenly bodies which have light. It is an entire science and what we know as astrology is only a speck of that entire science. Astrology is reading the individual horoscope and finding out how a person’s life is influenced by the other heavenly bodies.
The four Upavedas. For every Veda there is an Upaveda
The Upaveda for Rig veda is Ayurveda. It is the Indian medicinal science.
The Upaveda for Yajur veda is Danurveda. It is the science of archery. It also
give information about the duty of the rulers, how to deal with politics, the duty of the citizens etc.
The Upaveda for Sama veda is Gandharva veda. It is the study of all the art forms mainly Indian classical music, Indian classical dance and the rules of poetry. It also gives information about how sound (mainly music) influences the body and mind.
The Upaveda for Atharva veda is Stapathya Veda. It is the science of Indian architecture. It gives information about how a city must be built, how the roads must be laid, the measurements for building a house and everything concerned with building is given in this sastra.
Tantram : It is a way of worship using the mantra (sacred sound) and yantra (sacred geometry). It has great benefits.
Dharshana : That which shows a perfect path is dharshana.
There are three nastika dharshanas, six aasthika dharshanas and three special dharshanas.
The nastika darshanas are not dependent on the vedas. The three nastika darshanas are
- Charvaka darshana
- Boudha darshana
- Jaina darshana.
The six aastika dharshanas are
- Nyaya darshana
- Vaisheshika darshana
- Sankhya darshana
- Yoga dharshana
- Purva mimamsa (Vedic karma kanda)
- Uttara mimamsa (Vedanta)
The three special dharshanas are
Vyakarana (Sanskrit grammar) has its own darshana
Ayurveda has its own darshana
Tantra sastra has its own darshana
So all together there are twelve darshanas.
Smiriti : That which is to be remembered is smiriti. They are the ideas, concepts and findings of the great masters. They explain the norms of the society at different times. It is subject to change with time.
Puranas : puranas are written by Sri Ved Vyasa having the Vedic ideas and concepts in mind and merging with it the real life stories. There are eighteen puranas.
Ithihasas : They are the history. There are two Ithihasas.
Prasthana tria : Upanishads, Baghavad gita and Brahma sutras are together called the Prasthana tria. A person well versed in prasthana tria is said as a sastri.
These are the nine types of sastras through which the Sanatana vaidheka dharma is explained.
Hundreds of Rishis are involved in bringing out these sastras and hundreds of acharyas are involved in giving detailed explanation, commentary and meaning for these sastras. Thus it is brought to the common man.