Concept of God; Chapter 3 – Hinduism:
Origin of the word “Hindu”;
The word 'Hindu' has its origin in Sanskrit literature. In the Rig Veda, Bharat is referred to as the country of 'Sapta Sindhu', i.e. the country of seven great rivers. In Vedic Sanskrit, according to ancient dictionaries, 'sa' was pronounced as 'ha'. Thus 'Sapta Sindhu' was pronounced as 'Hapta Hindu'. This is how the word 'Hindu' came in to being. The ancient Persians also referred to Bharat as 'Hapta Hind', as recorded in their ancient classic 'Bem Riyadh'. That is why some scholars came to believe that the word 'Hindu' had its origin in Persia. The Greeks, who invaded Bharat under Alexander, dropped 'H' and used the name ‘Indoos’ or ‘Indus’, which later led to the formation of the word 'India'.
Age of Hinduism;
Hinduism is one of the most ancient living religions of the world. Some practices of Hinduism must have originated in Neolithic times (c. 4000 B.C.E.).
Hinduism is ‘Sanatana Dharma’.
Hinduism was not started by any single individual, seer or prophet and is not based on one single book or a set of dogmas. The basic principles of Hinduism are based on the 'eternal laws of nature' which can be defined as Sanatana (eternal) Dharma (laws of nature).
The aim of the Hindu religion is Self-realization (Atma-jnana) by each individual (jiva): to seek the Truth, to know the Truth, to be the Truth, to be a liberated soul (jivanamukta) here and now.
God or the Supreme Being is beyond the plane of physical existence (transcendent), yet within it (immanent), simultaneously surpassing and pervading it referred as Brahman.
“Brahma Satyam Jagan Mithya - Brahman only exists truly, the world is false.”
Key Hindu belief;
The key belief of Hinduism is,
“The existence of a supreme all-pervasive Being, who is both immanent and transcendent: both Creator and Un-manifest Reality.”
1. Shruti (that which is heard),
Shruti is comprised of the Vedas (Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva), which are eternal storehouse of knowledge revealed by God Himself to the ancient seers (rishi-s). Any of the four Vedas is properly divided into two parts, the mantra, or verse portion, and the Brahmana, or explicatory portion. The Upanishads are the concluding portions of the Vedas.
2. Smṛti (that which is remembered),
The smṛti-s are based on the teachings of the Vedas. They lay down the laws which regulate Hindu national, social, family and individual obligations. There are eighteen main smṛti-s, the most important are the ones given by Manu, Yajnavalkya and Parashara.
The other fifteen are those of - Vishnu, Daksha, Samvarta, Vyasa, Harita, Satatapa, Vasishtha, Yama, Apastamba, Gautama, Devala, Sankha- ikhita, Usana, Atri and Saunaka.
3. Itihasa (history),
There are four books under this heading: The Valmiki-Ramayana, the Yogavasishtha, The Mahabharata and the Harivamsa. and
4. Puraṇa (the most ancient).
The puraṇa-s contain the essence of the Vedas. There are 18 main puraṇas: The main Puranas are: Vishnu Purana, Naradiya Purana, Srimad Bhagavata Purana, Garuda (Suparna) Purana, Padma Purana, Varaha Purana, Brahma Purana, Brahmanda Purana, Brahma Vaivarta Purana, Markandeya Purana, Bhavishya Purana, Vamana Purana, Matsya Purana,
Kurma Purana, Linga Purana, Siva Purana, Skanda Purana and Agni Purana..
“Hindu” way of life;
1. Objectives of life:
1.Dharma (righteous living), 2. Artha (material prosperity), 3. Kama (enjoyment) and 4. Moksha (liberation).
2. Stages of life:
1. Brahmacharya ashrama (student life), 2. Gṛhsta ashrama (family life),
3. Vanaprastha ashrama (retirement) and 5. Sannyasa (liberation).
Observance of Dharma;
The word ‘Dharma’ is derived from the root ‘Dhr’—‘to hold’—and its etymological meaning is ‘that which holds’ this world.
That which is Dharma is verily the Truth. Whatever creates conflict is Adharma, and whatever puts an end to conflict and brings about unity and harmony is Dharma. Anything that helps to unite all and develop pure divine love and universal brotherhood is Dharma. Anything that creates discord, split and disharmony and foments hatred, is Adharma.
Manusmriti written by the ancient sage Manu prescribes ten essential rules for the observance of Dharma: Patience (dhriti), forgiveness (kshama), piety or self control (dama), honesty (asteya), sanctity (shauch), control of senses (indraiya-nigrah), reason (dhi), knowledge or learning (vidya), truthfulness (satya) and absence of anger (krodha).
Hindu scriptures prescribe 52 rites of passage (samskara-s), of which 16 are considered more significant. They are meant to purify and sanctify the individual at every important milestone in his life from birth to death.
The Rig-Veda is divided into twenty-one sections, the Yajur-Veda into one hundred and nine sections, the Sama-Veda into one thousand sections and the Atharva-Veda into fifty sections. In all, the whole Veda is thus divided into one thousand one hundred and eighty sections.
Each Veda consists of four parts: the Mantra-Samhitas or hymns, the Brahmanas or explanations of Mantras or rituals, the Aranyakas and the Upanishads. The division of the Vedas into four parts is to suit the four stages in a man’s life.
The Rig Veda (c. 1500 B.C.E.), is the most ancient extant Indian text, is the foundational text of Hinduism. It consists of about a thousand hymns. The great majority of the hymns are from five to 20 verses in length.
The greatest number of the thousand plus hymns of the Rig Veda are devoted to Indra, king of the gods, a deity connected with rain and storms who holds a thunderbolt, and Agni, the god of fire.
Upanishad in its literal definition means “to sit down near.” They represented secret teachings reserved for those who sat near their Guru in the forest.
Upanishads make clear that the individual self, seen from the highest consciousness, is nothing but the ultimate reality in all its glory, the all- encompassing Brahman, both manifest and Un-manifest.
The most important Upanishads are Isa, Kena, Katha, Prasna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Aitareya, Taittiriya, Chhandogya, Brihadaranyaka, Kaushitaki and Svetasvatara and Maitrayani.
Bhagavad Gita means “Song about God.” It is a segment, dating from around 200 B.C.E., of the Mahabharata , the classic Sanskrit epic traditionally ascribed to Vyasa. It has 18 chapters totaling approximately 700 verses. It is a marvelous dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna on the battle-field, before the commencement of the Great War. The Bhagavad-Gita contains the cream of the Upanishads. The poem presents a philosophy of life and states principles guiding the practices of Yoga.
Krishna, is God himself, though he has taken a role here as charioteer. He outlines several yoga’s that will help Arjuna fight the battle of existence.
1. The first of the yoga’s is that of knowledge (JNANA), which involves insight into the Truth of Ultimate Reality, BRAHMAN. This practice involves meditative focus on the Ultimate as beyond all forms and categories.
2. Next is the yoga of devotion(BHAKTI), which involves focus on God—Krishna himself, in this case—in a steady, yogic poise of consciousness involving surrender to the Divinity, the being that oversees the universe.
3. The third yoga is that of action (KARMA). Krishna explains how one can act in the world through yoga without regard to the fruits of one’s actions.
4. Underlying all the three yoga’s is the fourth yoga, Raja yoga, or the yoga of MEDITATION (dhyana).
“…………………..He who sees inaction in action and action in inaction, he is wise among men; he is harmonious, even while performing all actions……..”
----- (Bhagavad Gita - Ch. IV-16, 17, 18).
Asato Ma Sadgamaya Lead me from the unreal to the Real;
Tamaso Ma Jyotir-Gamaya Lead me from darkness to the Light;
Mrityor-Ma Amritam Gamaya Lead me from mortality to Immortality.
Om Santi Santi Santih! Om Peace! Peace! Peace!
Story of Sriketu;
The Chandoga Upanishad explains this in the parable of the salt. Sretaketu had studied the Vedas for twelve years. His father Uddalaka asked him a question which he was unable to answer. However he then proceeded to teach him a lesson about the fundamental truth of which he was entirely ignorant. He told his son to put a piece of salt into water and report back to him the following morning. When his father asked him to produce the salt, Sretaketu could not find it because it had completely dissolved. Uddalaka proceeded to question him:
'Would you please sip it at this end? What is it like?' he said.
'Sip it in the middle. What is it like?'
'Sip it at the far end. What is it like?'
'Throw it away and then come to me.'
He did as he was told but [that did not stop the salt from] remaining the same.
His father said to him: 'My dear child, it is true that you cannot perceive ‘Being’ here, but it is equally true that it is here. This
First essence - the whole universe has as its Self: That is the Real: That is the Self: that you are, Sretaketu!'
Thus even though we cannot see it, Brahman pervades the world and, as Atman, is found eternally within each one of us.
1. All about Hinduism by Sri Swami Sivananda.
2. Encyclopedia of Hinduism by Constance A Jones and James D Ryan.
3. Sanātana Dharma a.k.a. Hinduism by Rupali Gupta.
4. What is Hindu Dharma? - Article by unknown author.