I have been receiving quite a few mails as to which procedure to follow in the case of Brahmin Rituals.
And which Veda is the Authority on these issues?
The answer is Vedas do not speak of these codes.
Vedas are the Fundamental truths expressed by the Seers as they grasped them intuitively..
Vedas have two aspects.
Gnana Kanda, which talks about The Knowledge of Reality .and the ways of attaining the Reality.
Karma Kanda deals with the duties relating to various stages of life, that of,
Gruhstha, The married,
Vanaprastha, Retired and meditating Life and
Sanyasa, relinquishing of everything mundane.
These stages are called Asramas, Stages of Life……
All in pursuit of Reality,Brahman
But Varna, which is incorrectly translated as Caste, is based on Dispositions.
They are four.
Smritis, which came later to Vedas codified the Karma Kanda in conjunction with the Gnana Kanda.
Relevant portions of the Vedic Duties which would suit the individual’s disposition and also a group with the same disposition were organised and presented as Smritis.
There are quite a few number of Smritis to be followed .
Though all the Smritis state from the Vedas, and each one of them is an authority for all the Varnas, it is traditional for some groups to follow a specific Smriti.
Kashtriyas, Vaisyas and Sudras are to follow Manu Smriti.
Though Brahmins are expected to follow Manu Smriti, it is traditional to follow eleven Smritis, including Manu Smriti.
However in case of a conflict between Manu Smriti and the other Ten Smritis, it is traditional to follow any one of them overlooking the Manu Smriti.
The reason is that Manu Smriti addresses mostly the issues of the duties of king and other Varnas,though Brahminical Duties are also detailed.,it does not deal exhaustively with the procedures of Karmas as in the other Smritis.
The Eleven Smritis Brahmins are expected to Follow are,
Apasthambha: Apasthambha, a native of Andhra Country, belonged to Krishnayajurveda School. He belonged to fifth century BC. Apasthambha’s teachings are called Apasthambhasutra orApasthambhasmriti.
( * Apasthamba came from the Lineage of Viswamitra and codified the Smriti by taking some practices from Tamil Culture and incorporated in his Smriti, Like Thalli or Mangal Sutra which is not found in the Vedas and Thaali is a Unique concept of the Tamils)
Baudhayana: Baudhayana also belonged to Krishnayajurveda School and was an inhabitant of Andhra Country. Baudhayana’s teachings are called Baudhayanasutra or Baudhayanasmriti.
Brihaspati: Brihaspati was probably the first jurist to make a clear distinction between civil and criminal justice. Yajnavalkya referred to Brihaspati. However, Brihaspati is considered to belong to 200-400 AD. Brihaspatismriti has a lot of similarities with Dhammathats of Myanmar (Burma).
Gautama: Gautama was the most ancient sage of all Brahmin lawgivers. He was quoted by Baudhayana and belonged to Samaveda School. Gautama’s teachings are called Gautamasutra orGautamasmriti.
Harita: Baudhayana and Vasishta in their Dharmasutras quote Harita. Haritasmriti or Haritasutra is an extensive work.
Katyayana: Yajnavalkya mentions Katyayana. Katyayanasmriti is quoted in several works of Viswarupa, Mitramisra etc. Smriti Chandrika cites 600 verses of Katyayanasutras. He may belong to the same period as Narada and Brihaspati.
Manu: Manu is a mythical personality and is the ancestor of the entire humankind. Manu received the code from Brahma, and communicated it to ten sages and requested Bhrigu rishi to repeat it to the other nine. This code of conduct recited by Bhrigu is called Manusmriti. For convenience, the British took Manusmriti as the paramount law of the Indian Continent.Manudharma is not only revered by Brahmins and Hindus, but also by Buddhists in Java, Siam and Myanamar. Manusmriti was composed around 200 BC, around which time a revival of Brahminism took place under the rule Sungas in the North India.
Narada: Sage Narada was probably a native of Nepal around first century AD. Naradasmriti is the first legal code unhampered by the mass of religious and moral teachings. Some authors think that Narada belonged to Gupta period when there was a distinct revival of Brahminism and Sanskrit literature.
Vasishta: Vasishta belonged to 3rd century BC and a native of North India. Vasishta’s teachings are called Vasishtasutra or Vasishtasmriti.
Vishnu: Vishnu belonged to 1st or 2nd century AD. Vishnu’s teachings are called Vishnusutra or Vishnusmriti.
Yajnavalkya: Yajnavalkya belonged to Suklayajurveda School. He was a native of Mithila City in North Bihar and probably lived anywhere from few centuries before Christ to 200 AD. However, some scholars think he belonged to first or second century AD. Yajnavalkya Dharmasmriti has been subject of numerous commentaries. The most celebrated of all the commentaries ofYajnavlkyasmriti is Mitakshara and is practically the beginning of the Brahmin law and the so-called Hindu law. Passages from Mitakshara have been found practically in every part of the Indian Continent and became an authority. The Yajnavlkyasmriti is concise, more systematic and better arranged than the Manusmriti. From early times, commentators like Viswarupa, Vijnaneswara, Apararka, Sulapani, Mitramisra etc., from every part of India selected the Yajnavalkyasmriti as the basis of their commentaries. Passages from Yajnavalkyasmiriti appeared in Panchatantra. ‘
Even among these ten, one has to follow what one’s family has been following as our ancestors had taken into account the Brnch of the Vedas, Pravaras into consideration and followed a specific Smriti.”
- Gotras are after the Saptha Rishis, The Seven Seers.
Please read my article on Rishis, Gotras.
Reference and Citation.