I was asked about the Hindu understanding and interpretation of scriptures, and what they mean to me. I decided that I would answer this in a post rather than as a comment reply.
There are various types of Hindu scripture, the oldest of which are the Vedas. All orthodox Hindus regard the vedas as the divine word of God. The vedas are mostly songs of praise, and so are open to a number of different interpretations. Some of these are resolved by the Upanishads, philosophical discourses on the vedas. Again these texts are regarded as sacred by all orthodox Hindus.
In addition to these universally accepted scriptures, each sect has agamas, which detail the worship of the deity or deities worshipped by that sect. These are regarded as sacred by the followers of the sect, though they see them as only applicable to sect members. The vedas and agamas are known as Shruti, meaning “that which is heard”.
There are also scriptures known as Smriti means “that which is remembered”. These include the Itihasas, the great epics of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Some sects may take these literally, others symbolically, and others as just moral stories which teach the concepts of Dharma. Continue reading