Sacred Writings of India
GURU NANAK AND THE GURU GRANTH SAHIB
According to the Guru Granth Sahib, Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, never fully acknowledged the authority of the Hindu scriptures because he objected to Vedic ceremonies, the caste system, and the worship of many gods. Tracing the source of Nanak’s beliefs, however, Sikh writer Khushwant Singh notes: “Even a casual reading of his hymns reveals the influence of the Rigveda, the Upanishads . . . , and the Bhagvad Gita.” So to understand the Guru Granth Sahib, we must examine the sources of its teachings—the Vedas, the Upanishads, and the Bhagavad Gita.—The Sikh Gurus and the Sikh Religion, Anil Chandra Banerjee, 1983, pages 133-4.
BRAHMI—INDIA’S ROOT SCRIPT
The scripts of Indian languages, such as Sanskrit, Hindi, Punjabi, Marathi, Malayalam, Tamil, and Bengali, have all “ultimately descended from Brahmi, the script used by the Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century B.C. in the earliest surviving Indian inscriptions.”—Indian Manuscripts, The British Library, 1977, page 1.
“Brāhmī, the traditional prototype of all Indo-Āryan scripts, may have been introduced in the eighth or seventh century B.C.”—A Dictionary of Hinduism, Margaret and James Stutley, 1977, page 267.
The earliest hymns of the four Vedas (Rig-Veda, Yajur-Veda, Sama-Veda, and Atharva-Veda) were composed nearly 3,000 years ago and were transmitted orally from teacher to pupil. “It was only in the fourteenth century A.D. that the Veda was written down.”—A History of India, P. K. Saratkumar, 1978, page 24.
Over a hundred treatises on Hindu philosophy and mysticism were composed about 2,500 years ago. “Though the earliest Upaniṣads were compiled by 500 B.C., they continued to be written even so late as the spread of Mahommedan influence in India.”—A History of Indian Philosophy, Surendranath Dasgupta, Indian edition 1975, Volume 1, page 39.
A class of Sanskrit writings of ancient tales and Hindu mythology. “None of the eighteen main Puranas are earlier than the Gupta Period (AD 320-480), although much of the legendary material is older.”—Hinduism, M. Stutley, 1985, page 37.
MAHAVIRA AND THE AGAMAS
The teachings embodied in the Jain scriptures, collectively called agamas, are attributed in part to Mahavira and his disciples. What was the source of their teaching?
“The philosophy of Jainism draws its inspiration mainly from the atheistic Sankhya system,” notes Epics, Myths and Legends of India (P. Thomas, 1980, page 132). The Sankhya (also Samkhya) philosophy, in turn, is based on the Upanishads and teaches that liberation from suffering and rebirth is possible through right conduct and ascetic practices. So to understand Jain beliefs, we must consider their source—the Upanishads.
THE GURU GRANTH SAHIB
A collection of almost 6,000 hymns composed by various Sikh gurus as well as Hindu and Muslim mystics. “The Guru-Granth was compiled by the fifth Sikh Guru, Arjun, in 1604 A.D.”—Sri Guru Granth Sahib, translated by Dr. Gopal Singh, 1987, Volume 1, page XVIII.
Ramayana relates the story of Rama, a prince who later ruled from the capital Ajodhya in northern India, and became deified as the seventh avatar of Vishnu.
Mahabharata describes the conflict between two families for the rule of upper India nearly 3,000 years ago.
“Both the Rāmāyaṇa of Vālmiki and the Mahābhārata of Vyāsa must have been completed between 500 B.C. and A.D. 200, the former in the first half of this period and the latter in the second half.”—Advanced History of India, K. A. Nilakanta Sastri and G. Srinivasachari, 1982, page 59.
Jain scriptures compiled in Sanskrit and Prakrit on the life and teachings of Mahavira, who lived over 2,400 years ago. “The Śvetāmbara canon of scripture, which was not given definitive form until nearly A.D. 500, consists of approximately forty-five texts, in six groups.”—Abingdon Dictionary of Living Religions, edited by Keith Crim, 1981, page 371.