The Veda itself is called śruti for two reasons. (1) It was heard (śruti), not “authored.” This is why it is called apauruṣeya (unauthored). Accurate perception of reality (“knowledge” / Veda) exists intrinsically with reality itself, it is not separately created. (2) The sound (śruti) of it is very important, and very strict grammatical rules are in place to insure that any changes or curruptions to the mantra sounds can be detected and corrected.
By the second paradigm, the purāṇa and itihāsa are not to be considered śruti. They are part of another branch of the Vedic library: smṛti (thought, where the concept has precidence over the verbal form it is expressed in – so the verbal form can expand and contract as various narrators narrate the texts).
By the first paradigm, the purāṇa and ihihāsa are indeed to be considered śruti – because they are a “fifth part” of the original Veda put into words originally by Śrī Brahmā.
“The blessed and powerful master, Vyāsa, accepted and empowered me [Sūta] to narrate the Itihāsa and Purāṇa. First he had organized the one Yajur-Veda into four sections, defining four aspects of sacrifice. The section called Yajur defines the preparations for sacrifice; the Ṛg section defines the sacrifice itself; Sāma defines the hymns sung to please the gods during the sacrifice; Atharva defines the supervision, correction and consummation of the sacrifice. After organizing the Veda into these four parts, that supreme scholar compiled the Purāṇa and Itihāsa by combining various explanations of the Vedas. The Śāstra describes that all of these originate from the original, single Yajur-Veda.”
— Vāyu Purāṇa (60.16-18, 21-22)
“Knowing that the Purāṇa fade and scatter over time, I become Vyāsa to reestablish them aeon after aeon. The four-hundred thousand verses of these eternal Śāstra are, aeon after aeon, in each and every Dvāpara Aeon, organized into eighteen and distributed on earth in that form. Even then, however, they continue to exist in the immortal realms in their original form with one billion verses. The four-hundred thousand verse compilation fully communicates their complete meaning.”
— Matsya Purāṇa (53.8-11)
The phrase, “All of these originate from the original, single Yajur-veda.” indicates that the Purāṇa are as much a part of the original Yajur Veda as are the four divisions bearing the names Ṛg, Yajur, Sāma, and Atharva. The portion of the original Veda that did not have a place in the organization of four components of sacrificial became the four-hundred thousand verses of the Purāṇa distributed among mortals.
“The Competent Master condensed the Veda and then organized it into four divisions. Because he edited (vyasta) the Veda, he is named ‘Veda Vyāsa.’ He then condensed the remaining billion mantras into the four-hundred thousand verses of the Purāṇa, although the original billion-verse version still exists in the immortal realms.”
— Śiva Purāṇa (18.104.22.168-38)
Argument: No Way! No How!
Some argue that the Purāṇa are not śruti in any sense of the word.
If that were so, why does their very name imply that they embody the complete śruti? It is said, “Because they complete (pūraṇa) the Veda, they are called Purāṇa.” Just as one cannot complete a gold bracelet with lead, one cannot complete the Veda with something non-Vedic.
The fact that the traditional method of studying the Veda includes study of the Purāṇa also proves that the Purāṇa are Vedic.
“…it includes the Brāhmana, Itihāsa, and Purāṇa.”
— Taittirīya Āraṇyaka (2.9)
Further pramāṇa from śruti:
“Ṛg, Yajur, Sāma, Atharva, Itihāsa, and Purāṇa arise with the exhalation of the Supreme.”
— Mādhyandina-śruti (Bṛhad-Āraṇyaka 2.4.10)
“I studied the four Veda — Ṛg, Yajur, Sāma, and Atharva — and the fifth Veda: the Itihāsa and Purāṇa.”
— Chāndogya Upaniṣad (Kauthumīya 7.1.2)
“The mantras of Ṛg, Sāma, and Yajur manifest from the Supreme Divinity, as did the Purāṇas and the gods.”
— Atharva Veda (11.7.24)
“Moving towards the Bṛhatī meter, the beloved Vedic Itihāsa, Purāṇa, Gāthā and Nārāśaṁsī manifest.”
— Atharva Veda (15.6.10 & 12)
“Thus all the Veda manifest, including the Kalpa, Rahasya, Brāhmaṇa, Upaniṣad, Itihāsa, Anvākhyāta and Purāṇa.”
— Gopatha Brāhmaṇa, (Pūrva 2.10)
“Ṛg, Yajur, Sāma, and Atharva are the names of the four Veda. The Itihāsa and Purāṇa are known as the fifth Veda.”
— Chāndogya Upaniṣad (7.1.4)
“One who thoroughly studies the Veda with their expansions into six appendices and the Itihāsa and Purāṇa becomes a true knower of the Veda.”
— Vyāsa-smṛti (4.45)
“In antiquity the grandfather of the immortals underwent difficult discipline to manifest the Veda, their six appendices, and their usage manuals. Then all the Purāṇas manifest — auspicious, sure, and composed of the eternal, sacred knowledge of all the one-billion mantras of the Veda.1 The divisions of Purāṇa that emanated from Brahmā’s mouth begin with the Brahma Purāṇa”
— Skanda Purāṇa (Prabhāsa 2.3.5)
“Ṛg, Yajur, Sāma, Atharva issue in that order from Brahmā’s mouths. The Itihāsa and Purāṇa are the fifth Veda, the masterwork spoken by all of Brahmā’s mouths, once he had seen and understood everything.”
— Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (3.12.37,39)
“The Itihāsa and Purāṇa allow one to comprehend the Veda.”
— Mahābhārata (Ādi.1.267) & Manu Saṁhitā
These quotes are from Śrī Tattva Sandarbha, according to my translation, in a book I have published called, Basic Truths of Gaudiya Philosophy, as a result of studying it with Śrī Satyanārāyana Dāsa Bābājī who is the foremost specialist in Śrī Jīva’s Bhāgavata Sandarbha. The next section of Śrī Tattva Sandarbha goes on to present pramāṇa that the Purāṇa are currently more reliable than the other parts of the Veda. I encourage the inquisitive reader to study this book very carefully.
Vraja Kishor das