The following sentence from question motivated/inspired me to introduce following two steps:
Ok, I understand there are lot of Hindu scriptures.
Step-1 Know about Hindu scriptures.
First of all you should get the basic knowledge about Hindu scriptures, you can read following articles:
The following posts can also help you regarding it:
The following part from question is also included in the this step:
I wish to read them for - meditation - to gain wisdom/knowledge
And which texts do you recommend for beginners? Would Bhagavad Gita, Rig Vedas be good start?
Step-2 Select the scripture for reading.
This is an important topic to consider. After getting basic knowledge about Hindu scriptures, you can decide which scripture to select reading. In this step you are supposed to choose the scriptures according to your interest and intellect. This also includes How can one know which path among karma, bhakti and jnana is suitable for him?. In other words, according to the intellect and spiritual-level specific path among Jnana, Bhakti, Karma and Raja Yoga may be suitable. Following are some recommendation:-
Srimad Bhagavad Gita - This is recommended considering the following factors:
- It's explanation is simple and easy to understand as compared to Upanishads.
- It's believed to be an extract of Upanishads. In other words it covers the major thoughts of Upanishads.
- It constitutes all the Yoga i.e Jnana, Bhakti, Raja and Karma as well.
- It is very suitable for almost all in today world.
So, as the beginner point of view, Bhagavad Gita is very suitable.
Ramayana & Mahabharata - These are important epics and Itihasa. These are suitable for those who are interested in learning the values and simple philosophy of Hinduism in story/epic nature. They provide the teaching of life-style i.e How to live with performing your duties ethically. This is recommended for kids and beginners as well.
Puranas - Puranas are important text of Sampradayas. Puranas covers stories of God's incarnations, creation of universe, stories of fight between Devas ans Ashuras, stories of various kingdoms and historical places, temples etc.
- Puranas are actually expansion of Vedas which nature/language is complex and monotonous for general people into simple and interesting nature/language with composing the topics/philosophy/content of Vedas by Veda-vyasa.
- The most popular is Srimad Bhagavat Maha Purana which promotes Bhakti.
- There are total 18 major Puranas. Vishnu Purana, Shiva Purana, Skada Purana, Padma Purana, Devi Bhagavat etc. have profound significance in Vaishnavism, Shaivism, and Shaktism.
The well known Durga Saptashati is a part of Markandeya Purana.
Vedas: Literally means knowledge. These are the most important Shruti texts which are considered Apaurusheya and has profound significance in Hinduism. Also visit How did the Vedas in Hinduism come into existence?.
- Actually there are Veda Pathshala, also known as Gurukula or Vidyapitha which are Vedic schools where Vedas are taught.
- It is recommended to learn Veda from / with the help of / under the guidance of Guru.
- If you're Brahmin, then you're recommended to learn your Vedas.
Upanishads - Also known as Vedanta which are extract of Vedas and full of spiritual philosophy. If you're interested in spiritual philosophy or kindly speaking curious to know the absolute/ultimate truth/reality, then it is recommended to select Mukhya Upanishads.
Vedanga, limbs of Vedas. These texts, namely Siksha, Vyakarana, Chhanda, Nirukta, Kalpa and Jyotisha are said to be essential as supportive/auxiliary texts for complete understanding and interpretation of Vedas.
- Siksha and Vyakarana are useful to learn Sanskrit, Nirukta is useful for interpretation and Chhanda for chanting. Kalpa Sutras gives various customs and Jyotisha is well known. Refer this post for more information.
Darshan Shashtras - These are the the six Hindu schools of philosophy namely Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Mimamsa and Vedanta.
- If you're interested in Hindu Philosophy, then Samkhya provides the basic terminology and knowledge. Relevant scriptures are Samkhya Karika and Samkhya Sutra
- Yoga provides the way/practice/path to attain and realize everything by means of Dhyana (meditation). If you're interested in meditation, then Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and Raj Yoga are good choice.
- Vaisheshiki is the philosophy of understanding universe by material and it's attributes/properties and Nayaya is the philosophy of judging pramana i.e epistemology by logical arguments. Vaisheshiki Sutra and Nyaya Sutra are the scriptures of these philosophies respectively.
- Mimansa is an analysis on Brahmanas of Vedas. It provides philosophical justification and rules on rites, rituals and sacrifices that are discussed in Brahmanas. It establish the authority of Vedas to be authoress and has profound significance on interpretation of Vedas.
- Vedanta is the most popular philosophy which is based on three primary texts known as Prasthanatrayi. Brahma Sutra is very important text which summarise and systematize the philosophical and spiritual ideas in the Upanishads and leads to various doctrines. If you want to be Vedanti, then this is what you're looking for!
Considering the title of question
Step-3 How to read scriptures.
For Vedas & Upanishads, it is better to learn Vedas under the guidance of Guru instead of just reading. Visit already asked related questions : Start reading Hindu Vedas and What order should I read the Vedas and Upanishads in?.
For Bhagavad Gita, we've already a post How to start reading Bhagavad Gita? which may help you.
Here are some general guidance:
- As per my observation and experience, for many scriptures (talking about purchased hard copies), when you start reading you'll find the instruction given for the method of reading. Some prescript and guidance should be given on Ramayana, Mahabharata, Puranas etc. scriptures. You can follow it.
The following topics from question can be solved by considering following things
-raise positive vibrational energy - but most importantly break out of bad karma do (I believe in reincarnation)
- Common things to consider are:
- Open mind: It is very important to grasp/absorb the knowledge.
- Positive thinking : It is also important for ensuring that the true goal is not getting diverted/distorted as well as for establishing supportive/favorable nature of mind/intellect for interpreting texts.
- Shradhha (faithfulness/trustfulness/reverence) in Bhagavan/Ishwar as well as in scriptures you're reading.
- Maintaining Satva Guna over Rajas and Tamas. You can read some qualities of Satva from Bhagavad Gita Adhyaya 18 verses- 9, 10, 20, 23, 26, 30, 33, 51-53 etc.
- Nishkama Karma helps in Chitta Suddhi (purification of mind) which is necessary in spirituality.
Considering following topic from the question
Can I read it continuously till I finish, and then start again?
Or are some parts read during some times of the day.
There is no strict rules to be followed but as earlier discussed, it depends upon your interest, intellect and the level of spirituality or as guided by Guru.
The general tip/guidance would be: Generally the scripture is divided into some parts called Adhyaya (अध्याय). You can allocate certain time for one Adhyaya daily according to the length of Adhyaya and the time you're going to provide everyday or alternatively as per your convenience but once you've decided and started to reading, then it is expected to follow it regularly with concentration.
Following part is suitable for spiritual readings like Upanishads/Vedanta:
Note that just reading scripture only is not enough/effective. Learning of scripture includes three steps/aspects: Shravana, Manana and Nididhyasana.
- Shravana means listening the thoughts or gist/significance of Shruti from Guru. Here you can roughly compare it with reading scriptures.
- Manana means deep thinking/reflection or consideration/contemplation on what is listened (here you can roughly compare it with what read) in first step.
- Nididhyasana means repeated meditation (Dhyana) on the true sense of scripture (more precisely absolute truth of Upanishad) till it gets realized!
Above aspects are explained in Panchadasi and Sarva Vedanta Siddhanta Saar Sangrah.
Quoting some related verses on it:
At last let me quote one interesting verse from Mundaka Upanishad:
तत्रापरा ऋग्वेदो यजुर्वेदः सामवेदोऽथर्ववेदः
शिक्षा कल्पो व्याकरणं निरुक्तं छन्दो ज्योतिषमिति ।
अथ परा यया तदक्षरमधिगम्यते ॥ ५॥
5 Of these two, the lower knowledge is the Rig—Veda, the Yajur—Veda, the Sama—Veda, the Atharva—Veda, siksha (phonetics), kalpa (rituals), vyakaranam (grammar), nirukta (etymology), chhandas (metre) and jyotisha (astronomy); and the Higher Knowledge is that by which the Imperishable Brahman is attained.
Hope this would help you in 1.Knowing about Hindu scriptures 2.Selecting scripture for reading 3.How to read scripture and some general guidance for proper/effective reading and getting the true knowledge from Hindu scriptures.