Last updated: December 21, 2023

What Does Shastra Mean?

Shastra is a Sanskrit word that means a manual of instruction, a book of knowledge, a religious treatise or a sacred book. A shastra can be a technical manual that explains regulations and standards of an artistic or cultural discipline, or it can refer to the body of teaching on that subject. “Nitishastra,” for example, is a compendium of ethics, whereas yoga shastra is the authoritative teaching about the discipline of yoga.

In the context of religion, shastra refers to Hinduism’s sacred scriptures, which vary in number and type, depending on the tradition.


Yogapedia Explains Shastra

In Buddhism, the term shastra often refers to a commentary written to explain an earlier religious text such as a sutra or scripture.

Although not all Hindu scholars agree, shastras may be subdivided into four categories:

  • Sruti – Believed to be the result of divine revelation transmitted to the sages, this category of shastra is considered the most sacred of Hindu literature.
  • Tantra – These shastras deal with the esoteric aspects of Hinduism, including mysticism and yogic practices and philosophy.
  • Smriti – These shastras interpret and codify Vedic philosophy but are considered less authoritative than sruti because the knowledge is passed along by humans and is based on human memory.
  • Purana – This category consists of collections of narratives that cover Hindu legends, myths and even divine genealogy.

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