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Values in Later Texts
Soon after the propagation of Vedanta through the Upanishads and other texts, the Rishis, steeped in tapas and the spiritual experience they gained therefrom, composed the Smrithis, expatiating upon the codes of conduct for the people, during the various stages of life as well as when they occupied various statuses in society. The Smrithis, however, did not acquire the authority that the Vedantic texts had, for they dealt with rights and responsibilities, duties and obligations.
Such Smrithis can be found in sacred scriptures being adored by followers of other religions. They consider such social codes and individual guidelines given by their Prophets and Seers as valuable and binding. We too revere them and should continue to revere them as regulations set up for the good of society and the progress of man. For, we must admit that they were framed by mahapurushas, outstanding sages and well-wishers of the people.
But, in process of time, the Smrithis suffered change, by omissions and additions and by differences in emphasis. The sages allotted for each era or Yuga, a particular Smrithi, as authoritative, for, too many Smrithis with divergent counsel, caused confusion and doubt. They said, those in the Kritha yuga have to consider one Smrithi as specially laid down for them, that those in the Thretha yuga have to follow the dictates of another, that in the Dwapara yuga, people have to observe the path prescribed in a third and that the Kali Age people have to resort to a fourth. When centuries roll over the land one after another, new problems arise, new situations and predicaments confront man, and so, the laws and limits of the past have to be altered here and there. Indeed, such adjustments are a part of the Design. The people have to be shown the path to spiritual progress, under the altered circumstances and so, the Smrithi that suits the new era is declared as binding.