What is the Importance of Scriptures?
Scripture in the Western religious sense
means the Word of God as revealed in a particular book like the
Bible or Koran. Scripture can also stand for an inspired book or
source teaching that a particular religion honors as very important.
The books of various religions, like the Bhagavad Gita of Hinduism
or the Tao Teh Ching of Taoism, may be called scriptures even though
they may not literally be regarded by their followers as the Word of
God, nor may the religion itself be theistic. In this vast universe,
any number of scriptures or inspired religious books are possible.
Hindus have many scriptures like the Vedas, Agamas and Puranas but
none is regarded as the only Word of God or as literally true.
The supreme scripture, the real Word of
God or the Supreme Reality, can never really be put in human
language, which is inherently limited by time, place and culture.
The Divine Word is a state of consciousness, best revealed in
silence of mind. It is not a mere book that can be pulled off a
shelf and quoted. It is best represented by mantra, particularly the
mantra OM, which is the essence of the Vedas.
Different scriptures come into being
relative to the varying needs of people according to time, place,
culture, and individual temperament. This is the same as the
differences required in food and clothing, though there are
universal human needs for food and shelter. Some scriptures have
much spiritual truth in them, others have very little. There is no
standardized teaching or level of discourse in the various so-called
scriptures of the world.
The idea that only one scripture is true
would be like saying that only one type of food is good. The idea
that all scriptures are equally true is like saying that all food is
equally good. For this reason the Hindu tradition contains many
works that have been given a scriptural status. These include the
Four Vedas (particularly the Upanishads), Puranas (of which there
are about twenty), Ramayana, Mahabharata (including the Bhagavad
Gita), and Agamas. The highest
truth is to contact the Word of God within the heart and discover
God within oneself. Hence if a teaching does not point out a path of
Self-realization, though it be called the Word of God, it cannot
represent the highest truth. Higher than the Word of God is to know