One of Wilfred Cantwell Smith's principal concerns in What is Scripture? is to highlight the variety of texts which are construed as scripture and the variety of attitudes which human history reveals towards such texts. We may begin by noting, for example, the inappropriateness of the term "scripture" (from scribere - to write) for the Vedas because of its emphasis on the written word as opposed to the word which is heard and preserved through oral transmission. The Vedas are more aptly referred to in Sanskrit as (that which is heard) or sabda (sound), and these terms correctly underline the traditionally aural character of these texts. The Hindu tradition, especially in the Vedanta schools, has relied on and elaborated the idea of sruti as a pramana (source of valid knowledge) and any unique features of this idea must be included in the "richness and depth with which human life has been imbued over long stretches of time for most human beings and societies, through their use of, their involvement with their scripture."

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