SASTRAS – A set of law codes

The Sastras (precepts, rules) are a class of texts that cover religion as well as law, medicine, and the (pre-) science of that period. They were classified as tradition (smriti), ranking below the Vedas in sacredness. They have some mythological material, but it is their insight into the context of duty (dharma) according to the goals (vargas), stages of life (asramas), and castes (varnas) that constitute their great value for mythology.
Before the Sastras there were three, rather than four, life goals, expressed as the three goals of life (trivargas): social responsibility (dharma), material respon­sibility (artha), and responsible pleasure (kama). As such, these three goals of life represented Brahmanical ideals and together constituted the summum bonum of
Aryan culture. Only after Buddhist and Jain asceticism were ingeniously accom­modated by a fourth goal, liberation (moksha), and a fourth stage of life, renun­ciation (samnyasa), was the life-affirming ethic of Brahmanism altered and made inclusive of ascetic ideals. And that is the situation reflected in the Sastras.
The most important of the law codes (Dharma Sastras) for Hindu mythol­ogy were the “Laws of Manu” (Manava Dharma Shastra). They described ritual duties (samskaras), as well as the four goals (catur-vargas) and the four castes (catur-varnas). The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana, also considered a Sastra, revealed how responsible pleasure was taught to the wealthy citizen (nagaraka) and how life was to be lived to its fullest. The acquisition of power and wealth, along with the experience of maximum pleasure, was thought to be compatible with earning heaven (svarga)—a point of view reflected in so many nonascetic myths.

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