We know that Hindu Scriptures are classified as:

  • Shruti: "Which is heard", divine origin, authored by God.
  • Smriti: "Which is remembered", attributed to an author, derivative work.

Now I am confused: Is Bhagvad Gita considered Shruti or Smriti? Because:

  • It is also divine origin (authored by God), so can be considered Shruti
  • It is part of Mahabharata which is a Smriti literature, so can be considered Smriti

I found the application of Bhagvad Gita to be very important; you may find its reference in many answers on this site. It is one of the Prasthanatrayi for vedanta.

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    In the context of the Prasthana Traya, the Bhagavad Gita is called the Smriti Prasthana as I discuss here: hinduism.stackexchange.com/q/3631/36 Shruti refers to that which was heard by sages during deep meditation, not what was told to a human being during a conversation. Also, if you want to say the Bhagavad Gita was Shruti because it came from Vishnu's incarnation Krishna, then the Mahabharata and the Puranas would also be Shruti, because they came from Vishnu's incarnation Vyasa! Commented Oct 11, 2015 at 13:04
  • @KeshavSrinivasan oh yes. Now I understand. do you want to post answer? (if question is helpful)
    – Pandya
    Commented Oct 11, 2015 at 13:07
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    The Bhagavad Gita is technically Smriti, but probably it is given as much importance as Shruti, because as you said, it came directly from God. :) The Vedantins typically attribute highest priority to Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Brahma Sutras. Good question! ::)
    – Sai
    Commented Oct 11, 2015 at 14:14
  • @KeshavSrinivasan, If we consider Vyasa as sage and Krishna as God, then Vyasa heard the recitation of Gita not with his human ears, but using Divya Chakshu / Divine Vision (may be considered as meditation) BTW according to wikipedia, the meaning of Shruti is simplified to "which is heard".
    – iammilind
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 11:33
  • @iammilind First of all, it was Sanjaya, not Vyasa, who had the divine vision of the Mahabharata war, although he was blessed with divine vision by Vyasa. Only the rest of the Mahabharata was based on Vyasa's own divine vision. Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 12:33

4 Answers 4

  • According to Prasthanatrayi concept of Vedanta, Bhagavad Gita is considered as Smriti Prashthana.

    As presented in forward by T.M.P Mahadevan in English translation of BrahmaSutra Bhasya of Adi Shankaracharya by Swami Gambhirananda:

    .......The Bhagavad-Gita comes next only to the Upanishads. It is given a status which is almost equal to that of the Upanishads. As embodying the teachings of Sri Krishna and as constituting the cream of the Epic Mahabharata, the Bhagavad-Gita occupies a unique place in the Vedantic tradition. A popular verse compares the Upanishads to the cows, the Bhagavad-Gita to the milk, Sri Krishna to the milkman, Arjuna, the Pandava hero, to the calf and the wise people to the partakers of the milk. Sri Sankara describes the Bhagavad-Gita as the quintessence of the teaching of the entire Veda (samasta-vedartha-sarasangraha-bhutam). As this text forms a part of the Mahabharata which is a Smriti (the remembered, ie., secondary text based on the Veda), it is called Smriti-prasthana......

  • Aacharyas like Adi Shankaracharya etc. also mention Bhagavad Gita's verse as Smriti in his Bhashya.

    For example, Adi Shankaracharya's Bhashya on Katha Upanishad 3.1.11:

    अत एव च गन्तृणां सर्वगतिमतां संसारिणां परा प्रकृष्टा गतिः "यद्गत्वा न निवर्तन्ते" (गीता ८/२१ ; १५/६) इति स्मृतेः ।।११।।

    Here he cited BG 8.21 and 15.6 quoting "yadgatvā na nivartante" means "reaching which they do not return." and said as per Smriti

  • Brahma Sutra itself meant Bhagavad-Gita as Smriti:

    अपि च स्मर्यते।।2.3.45।।

    According to Adi Shankaracharya's Bhashya:

    1. Moreover it is so stated in Smriti.

    In the Îsvaragitâs (Bhagavad-gîtâ) also it is said that the soul is a part of the Lord, 'an eternal part of me becomes the individual soul in the world of life' (Bha. Gî. XV, 7)

  • the answer is clear then if vedanta considers it as Smriti, thats it. Why would you want to override great Adi Shankaracharya? He is incarnation of Lord Rudra. Even Bhagwad Ramanuja and Madhavacharya agree on this point. If you believe in Vedanta then you should have faith on Ancient Acharyas.
    – Yogi
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 16:26

Bhagavad Gita should be considered as Śruti.
Even though Gita is part of Mahabharata (a Smriti), as you already mentioned it was recited by God himself in form of interactive classified Q&A.

A Shruti is available to the non-audience only when someone remembers it; i.e. converted into Smriti. Hence, if something is eligible for Shruti, then it should be. Otherwise everything will become Smriti! Refer to Distinction between Shruti & Smriti:

Smritis are considered to be human thoughts in response to the shrutis. Traditionally, all smṛtis are regarded to ultimately be rooted in or inspired by shrutis.

According to Sanskrit dictionary:

smṛti स्मृति

Definition: f. the whole body of sacred tradition or what is remembered by human teachers (in contradistinction to śruti-or what is directly heard or revealed to the ṛṣi-s;in its widest acceptation this use of the term smṛti- includes the 6 vedāṅga-s, the sūtra-s both śrauta-and gṛhya-,the law-books of manu- etc. [see next];the itihāsa-s[ exempli gratia, 'for example' the mahābhārata- and rāmāyaṇa-] , the purāṇa-s and the nītiśāstra-s; iti smṛteḥ-,"accord. to such and such a traditional precept or legal text")

Gita was supposedly retain as it is without any personal opinion from Vyasa. For Arjuna and Sanjaya, it's still categorized as Shruti.

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    The Shruti vs. Smriti distinction is not about how you personally know of a text; there's no such thing as "Shruti for Arjuna and Smriti for everyone else". Shruti and Smriti literally mean "having been heard" and "having been remembered", but what they refer to is the following. Shruti refers to eternal truths which are contantly reverberating and which are heard during a very specific state of Tapasya. Smriti refers to humanly composed works which are considered a reliable source of truth because the tradition of their origin is known and the person who uttered them is a reliable authority. Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 12:47
  • @KeshavSrinivasan, Keeping aside Arjuna & Sanjaya if Shruti = having been heard (from God) then Gita is definitely a Shruti. Now the idea of specific Tapasya is unheard for me and even if it's true, we cannot judge whether Vyasa was in Tapasya mode or not, will be just a moot debate. Anything is heard can be remembered later, hence all Shrutis will become Smritis. That's why in the wikipedia article, it's clarified that usually the origins of Smritis are in Shrutis (not necessary though). Sage Vyasa may not have altered the course of Gita and the message is quite eternal too.
    – iammilind
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 12:58
  • Sanjaya most definitely was not in that specific state of Tapasya required to hear the reverberations of the eternal truths. He was just awake and conscious and talking to Dhritsrashtra. Let me explain what "Smriti is rooted in Shruti" means. Smriti refers to those texts which are authored by a reliable authority figure in order to elucidate the eternal truths whose sound is reverberating in the Universe. And it doesn't matter of the message of the Gita is eternal; the message of all Smriti texts is eternal. What matters is whether the specific words used are eternal or chosen at the moment. Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 13:05
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    @KeshavSrinivasan But there is no Smriti text that is present in original state. Major part of the puranas is nothing but interpolation but Gita is in it's original form. So it can be considered Shruti.
    – Pinakin
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 5:07

Neither. Itihasas & Puranas (histories) are not part of Shrutis or Smritis. Definitely not smritis. It is in its own category - Itihasa Purana - they are sometimes also called the Fifth Veda. This is given in the Vedas themselves:

"itihāsapurāṇaṃ pañcamaṃ (fifth) vedānāṃ" - Chandogya Upanishad (7.1.2)

"As clouds of smoke proceed by themselves out of a lighted fire kindled with damp fuel, thus, verily, O Maitreyî, has been breathed forth from this great Being what we have as Rig-veda, Yagur-veda, Sama-veda, Atharvâṅgirasas, Itihâsa (legends), Purâna (cosmogonies), ... From him alone all these were breathed forth." Bṛhad-āraṇyaka Upaniṣad 2.4.10.

"All the Vedas are manifested along with the kalpas, rahasyas, Brahmanas, Upanishads, Itihas, anvakhyatas and the puranas." - Gopatha Brahmana purva 2:10.

"The Itihasas and Puranas are Vedas." (yad brahmananitihasa-puranani) - Taittiriya Aranyaka (2.9)

Their divine origin is also mentioned in the mantra portion of Vedas:

Atharva Veda 11.7.24: “The Rg, Sama, Yajur and Atharva became manifest from the Lord, along with the Puranas and all the Devas residing in the heavens.”

Atharva Veda 15.6.10–12: “He approached the brhati meter, and thus the Itihasas, Puranas, Gathas and Narasamsis became favorable to him. One who knows this verily becomes the beloved abode of the Itihasas, Puranas, Gathas and Narasamsis.”

So they are neither Shruti nor Smriti, but they are about equal to Shruti.

There are many characters in Mahabharata and their words are very contradicting at times. So you cannot say just because something is in MBH it is authoritative. There are lots of bad people speaking and their word is not authoritative. So coming to Bhagavad Gita it is dependent on whether you are Vaishnav, Smart, Shaiv or Shakt.

  • If you are first two you will consider it pretty authoritative, just like Shruti for many Vaishnav
  • If you follow Shiv-Shakti then Vaishnav Itihasa, word of Krishna has little importance and is not authoritative. It is words of Shiv-Shakti in MBH that are important and like the Shruti.
  • According to some Shaktas, Krishna was avatar of Kali so it becomes authoritative, close to Shruti

The contradiction in the episodes of Mahabharata are cleared by Shri Madhwacharya in Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnaya. He just reconciled the conflicting information in the Mahabharata, and conflicting information in the Ramanya from the moola Ramanya which is older than Valmikki Ramanaya.

For example, why Lord Rama told Sugreeva that he was unable to distinguish between the Vaali and Sugreeva and why he hit Vaali from behind a tree is explained at https://anandatirtha.wordpress.com/2011/08/11/mahabharata-tatparya-nirnaya-chapter-6-part-1/

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