Hinduism - The Faith Eternal

Hinduism Essay Subject Image

by Jayaram V

By Dr Satish K. Kapoor

Hinduism defies definition for it is as vast and complex as life itself. Definitions constrict and circumscribe and cannot truly project an ever-growing, ever-evolving and non-dogmatic tradition like Hinduism which has multidimensional aspects to it.

Hinduism, a popular term for Vedic-dharma or Sanatana-dharma, is the world’s oldest living faith. Yet it is not a religion in the narrow, sectarian sense since dharma, derived from the root dhri which means to uphold, sustain or support, is a much wider term connoting both the moral law and the law of one’s being, the path of worldly pursuits (pravritti) and the path of quiescence (nivritti). Dharma is both individual and universal. It refers, on the one hand, to the societal role one plays in terms of one’s milieu, potential or status and on the other to the cosmic order which pervades all without any distinction.

The dharma of an individual or a society (samāj) may change in different ages (yugas) climes or situations but the dharma of spiritual culture (sādhanā) remains the same for all irrespective of one’s caste, lineage, beliefs or social position since it entails the cultivation of inner purity. ‘That which supports, that which holds together the peoples (of the universe) is dharma’, says the Mahabharata (Karna-parva LxIx,59). Dharma should be upheld for the harmonious functioning of the cosmos since all the sentient and insentient beings owe their existence to it. A popular aphorism goes that if dharma is the root of the tree of existence, the Vedas are the main stem and the Purāņas and the Epics, its limbs. The tree shall endure and bloom if the root is healthy. Hence the universe will survive if dharma is protected from unrighteous forces.

Dharma, in its higher aspect, is not a set of dogmas but the embodiment of higher values of life enunciated and vouchsafed by realized souls from time to time. Man’s fulfillment lies in acquiring godly virtues as ‘Gods being is the goal of man’s becoming’. Dharma shows the way; it liberates. I-consciousness melts into universal consciousness when an individual performing his specified dharma perceives in the welfare of others, his own welfare. The universal dharma rests on values which are for the common good and remain valid for all times. Hence it is eternal; no pedagogic expression can encapsulate it. The Vedic sages did not tag a label to the lofty principles of Being, of life and existence. That is why the faith of the Hindus does not go by any particular name. It is called Sanātana Dharma, ‘the faith eternal’ deriving its principles from the Vedas which are apaurusheya, not the expatiation of a human being.

The Vedic Praxis

The Vedas which embody the quintessential of Dharma are cast in an eternal mould, and are regarded by the Hindus as the supreme scriptural authority. What distinguishes the Vedas from other scriptures is that they are sound (dhvani) crystallized into words. Irrespective of whether one can grasp the profundity of mantras, hymns, or appreciate their poetic beauty, their vibrations enter into the recesses of one’s being, linking the microcosmic self with the macrocosmic Self, and create divine harmony. Each Vedic hymn manifests the śabda-brahman or the supreme Godhead as sound, and carries a distinct, form and thought which can be materialized into the divinity itself. Sound-form being imperishable, the hymns too are so. This partly explains why the Vedas are called the breath of the Supreme Being.

The Vedic hymns were not consciously composed but dawned on the rishis, sages, when they were in a super-conscious state. The ‘unlettered sound’ (dhvanyātmaka śabda) in transcendental space became manifest as the ‘lettered sound’ (varņātmaka śabda) with the rishis perceiving flashes of the heavenly light of mantras and hearing the nāda, the all-pervading sound-form of the Supreme Being which arises from the paśyanti (seen) stage of human audibility. Paśyanti descends from the parā-vāk, transcendental sound. Hence the expression, mantra-dŗșţa, ‘the one who saw the hymns’, and śruti, that which was heard’ for the rishis and the Vedas respectively. Each mantra is associated with a sage who first perceived it, and combines style with substance.

Emanating from the realm of pure consciousness, the Vedas stand for the Supreme Word or logos, Supreme Speech and Supreme Knowledge (parā-vidyā) revealed by the Divinity through the medium of illumined souls for universal wellbeing. The Vedic mantras are not concatenation of words with customary meaning, but they carry a mass of divine energy which unfolds in the course of chanting. The level of impact depends on the quality of intonation and of sound. Music being the universal language of the cosmos, sound-forms of the Vedic hymns affect all the planes and levels of the discernible world, from planets, plants, trees, insects and animals to human beings. Herein lies the strength of the Vedic Sanatana Dharma, commonly called Hinduism.

Pentagonal Character

In a comprehensive sense, Hinduism is the embodiment of the total consciousness of the inhabitants of India, the crystallization of their philosophic speculations, ideas, beliefs, intellectual activities, aesthetic sensibilities and socio-cultural and economic perceptions through the course of time. It encompasses the whole corpus of values which go under the name of Indian culture. Hinduism may be said to have a pentagonal character. It stands for a civilization as old as mankind, for a mosaic of cultures shaped in different historical milieus, for a way of life based on the concepts of righteousness (dharma) and cosmic order (ŗta), for a social system with a radical framework for the conduct of human life, and for a wide variety of philosophic and religious schools and streams, each unique in itself and having its own raison d'être, each spilling out nuggets of wisdom.

Hinduism as a Faith

In the sense of a faith, Hinduism does not have doctrinal homogeneity but it represents a continuity in man’s attempts to unfold the mystery of existence. Far from being a rigid compendium of beliefs and practices, Hinduism is a quest for the timeless Reality through diverse paths leading to the same goal. It is a dynamic faith having the capacity to absorb new ideas, face challenges and revitalize itself from time to time. Hinduism is like a gigantic tree of heritage value. Its leaves have withered and fallen off and fresh leaves sprung up again but its root and the trunk with ever-proliferating branches, have existed all through.

Hinduism has no historical founder because a tradition cannot be founded. It has evolved through the course of time and, in the process, thrown up prophets, mystics, gurus, philosophers, social reformers, jurists and others to guide the people and to set their goals and priorities in a given milieu. Hinduism does not believe in a single revelation or in a divine plenipotentiary as an intermediary between god and man for all times since it holds that the Supreme Reality can reveal Itself to any number of people. God’s voice is audible in all ages and can be heard by any one who is pure in thought, word and deed. Just as the rays of the sun cannot be enclosed in a casket, the Supreme Reality cannot be limited to a single prophet, holy book or set of beliefs.
Hinduism holds that religion is a journey within one’s being – each can reveal the Reality to himself, each can be a prophet. God cannot be patented or monopolized. Each mind can be awakened to the glory of the Supreme Being. Each soul can be illumined. Hinduism does not circumscribe God to one place, direction, body or configuration since He pervades all. God is with form and without form, and is also beyond form and formlessness. He is one as the cause and many as the effect. In whatever way he is adored, he can be reached. God is not to be discovered in some distant heaven but in the entire existence. The splendor that is creation is his effulgence. Paśya meha, ‘perceive me here’, is the Vedic revelation.

The diversity of Hindu traditions and lineages (sampradāya) caters to persons of different mental levels. The Hindu is completely free to choose the object of his veneration according to his natural inclination or temperament. The three hundred and thirty million gods and goddesses of the popular Hindu pantheon are symbolic of the multiple aspects, attributes or functions of the Supreme Being. In fact, they all refer to Him alone. The paradox of an Impersonal god of the Veda coexisting with innumerable personal gods of the purānas & other texts may be jarring to a western scholar but seems logical to a Hindu who accepts the supreme Being both in his saguna (with attributes) and nirguna (without attributes) forms.

Monotheistic Base

The Rigveda speaks not only of the unity of gods but also of the organic unity of the entire existence. The ‘hymn of man’ (purusha sukta) delineates the heavens, the earth, planets, gods, living and non-living objects as the limbs of one great person who pervades the world and yet remains beyond it and inexhaustible. The characteristic of Vedic thought is that each god, when spoken of, is extolled as the supreme God, the creator of the universe and the lord of all gods. This led Prof Max Mueller to infer that Hinduism developed from polytheism through henotheism to monotheism. The fact, however, is that the Vedic religion has, from the beginning, a monotheistic orientation as evidenced by a number of hymns. ‘The One Reality is described by the wise in different ways’ (ekam sad viprā bahudā vadanti-Rig, I, clxiv, 46). ‘He is one without a second’ (ekamevadvityam-chandogya Upanisad, Vi, ii, 1), ‘All this verily is brahman’ (sarvam khalvidam brahme – chandogya, III, XIV, 1). Hindu cults like Śākta, Śaiva, Vaishnva, Saura and Ganapatya, though worshipping different deities, are at bottom, based on the concept of one supreme God. When the Azhvārs sing the glory of Vishnu, Nāyan(m)ars of Śiva, Vārkarīs of vitthal and Dhārkarīs of Rāma, they speak of the same God.

Raison d’etre of Image Worship

Hinduism is often dubbed as idolatrous by its critics If idolatry is sin as believed by the Abrahamic faiths each would get the taint to some extent. The crucifix is commonly used as a symbol of faith by the Christians. The consecrated bread and wine of the Eucharist are considered valid physical symbols. The Catholics make a superfluous distinction between idolatry and the veneration of images. While pagan images in stone, metal, wood or other stuff are ridiculed for being the work of man’s hands, icons works depicting the supreme savior or Christian saints are reverenced. In orthodox Christianity, worship in the form of latreia is prohibited but veneration to holy pictures is allowed. Miracles continue to be associated with the statues of Jesus and Mary. The holy custom of changing robes of the image of ‘the child of praque’ in Carmelite Church comes closer to Hindu temple rituals. Islam disdains the worship of religious figures represented in art but the tombs of saints are frequented by devotees. Image worship is abhorred because it is said to bestow on a creature the reverence due to god alone. The fact is that man who creates the image and the stuff he uses for it, is the creation of the creator himself. As God made man in His image man attempts to make an image of Him attributing to him the qualities which may signify His presence in the material world.

The image is like a finger raised towards the sky – a pointer to the higher form of being. The quest for god in human beings wants the formless to be portrayed in form. This precisely explains why the relics of a Buddha, prophet Mohammed or a Christian saint are considered sacred by the devout. The relics remind one of the person to whom they belong, and if they acquire sanctity, the worshipper may have an ecstatic feeling by just viewing them from a distance.

God or the Absolute is beyond the reach of the senses and the mind, A man of high intellect may be able to contemplate on the abstract Reality but an ordinary mind is unable to connect with something which it has not perceived before or which does not have a material form. An idol is not god but a representation of one of His countless attributes. When the form has beauty and grace, is associated with some awe-inspiring fable or myth, endowed with thaumaturgic power through some holy observance and turned into an object of faith, the mind can focus on it with whole-hearted devotion and take a quantum Jump from the sākāra to the nirākara form of God.

An Idol has its aesthetic aspect, its philosophical aspect, its esoteric aspect, its devotional aspect and its historical, mythological or sociological aspect. Each idol has a deep symbolism to it which is meaningful in may respects. Each stands for an ideal viz. the image of Lord Rama signifies dharma; of Hanuman, valour and loyalty, of the mother goddesses, power (śakti); and so on.

The idol is not equated with the Divine. It is like a staircase which helps one to climb but is abandoned as soon as one reaches the target. The fact of immersion (visarjana) of the idols of Lord Ganesha after the prescribed period of worship, is a classic example in this respect. Each image evokes a particular emotion, idea or thought in consonance with its form and character. By the law of Association, an image of the Lord Buddha evokes peace and that of a demon, fear. A figure in the nude evokes baser instinets while that of a saint dissipates it. The sight of even a handkerchief or a pair of spectacles of one’s diseased father reminds, one of him, and may brings tears. The belongings of a husband on tour remind the wife of him. Hinduism applies the law of Remembrance to the matters Divine so that the seeker could shed his feeling of I-ness and feel oneness with him.

The aesthetically-carved image pleases the eyes and goes straight to the heart. Its sacredness penetrates the soul. The devotee begins with faith; faith is transformed into feeling; feeling into emotion, the emotion into awareness and awareness into an undercurrent of consciousness beyond the form of the deity. The subtle vibrations of a consecrated image bring about transformation and inner Joy, as exemplified in the case of the saints of Maharashtra like Nivrittinatha, Jňānadeva Tukārama and others who worshipped god Vitthal in his Pandharpur shrine and of Sri Rāmakrishna who adored the goddess Kālī in the Dakshineśvara temple.

Experience not Pedagogy

Hinduism is the only religion whose key scripture the Veda itself says that the higher knowledge (vidyā) comes not through pedagogy but through experience, the implication being that the true Veda is within a man’s being. All knowledge of the world of phenomena coming under the three guna–satttva (goodness), rajas (activity) and tamas (inertia) and known through sensory organs, is inadequate without knowing the knower, the source of all knowledge. Says the Mundakopanishad (I.1.5): ‘The Ātman cannot be attained by the study of scriptures or by intelligence or by much hearing of sacred books. It is attained by him who earnestly seeks it. To him the Ātman reveals its true form.’ Spiritual experience is the realisation of one’s true nature and of one’s virāta rupa (great form). It is a reverse journey of the soul from dhārā (downward flow) to Rādha or ascension to the lofty height of the supreme source as explained by the Vaishnava mystics.

Unity not Uniformity

Hinduism regards the Infallibility–syndrome as the prime cause of religious conflicts. It encourages debate (śāstrārtha) but shuns persecution. It disapproves of killing or arson in the name of religion or of offending the sensibilities of people of other faiths by commissioning preachers to convert them. Hinduism holds that each belief-system has an intrinsic value and appeal, and limitations too. It encourages unity not uniformity. Its evolution is not tainted by crusades or jihads, holy wars in the name of religion.

Although Hinduism is founded on the highest mystical experiences of illumined souls it does not claim to be the only vehicle of God’s work on the earth. It refrains from asserting, as do the semitic religions, that salvation is impossible outside its orbit. Spirituality being a matter of direct experience, worship or meditation by any means or through any object, howsoever puerile or crude it may appear to be, brings one nearer to the Supreme Being. What one needs is a pure heart and a genuine urge. Besides, salvation (mukti) in Hinduism is not an after-death experience but an attainment in this very life as affirmed by bhakti-saints. It is a state of dying while living; dying to the world of the senses and living in a state of god-consciousness. Spiritual insight (prajňa) renders Jivanamukti or emancipation (of the soul) possible during life, which is different from videhamukti, emancipation after death.

Spiritual Aviation – The Inward Journey

Hinduism is as vast and open as the sky. It has no boundaries, barriers or set routes for one who wishes to undertake an inward journey and soar high into the firmament of consciousness. No passport is required from a priest certifying one’s caste or identity; no security-check is needed at the airport of orthodoxy, and no terminals are laid for the aircraft of the self to take off or land in the confines of one’s faith.

In a spiritual experience of mystical dimensions, one is oneself the airport, the flying machine, the fuel, the pilot, the air hostess, the radar, the path and the destination.

The only valid document for spiritual travelling is one’s earnestness; security check is the restrain on the senses; terminals can be laid at any point in the radii of one’s being; airport is within the inner recesses of one’s heart; flying instrument is one’s own mind which requires the aeronautics of self knowledge; fuel is an inflammable urge for self-enfoldment; pilot in the cockpit is the individual self; air hostesses are one’s sensory organs; the radar is one’s own conscience, the path is the chosen one of realised souls and the destination is infinity. The pilot has to traverse the path himself; the spiritual preceptor cannot guide him beyond the take-off stage.

One can operate at an altitude and at a speed according to one’s spiritual clock (like its counterpart at biological level) which functions in tune with the levels of inner awareness. As one flies past the clouds of ignorance and the mist of egoism, the infinite is seen in the universe and the universe in the infinite. All become one in the indivisible whole called God.

Since the infinite has infinite dimensions, inner experiences may assume infinite forms seemingly different from one another when expressed. The intensity and duration of an experience as also the quality of its expression may also vary from person to person. No spiritual experience worth the name can be disparaged or disputed as the experiencer has lived it himself. Nature observing some mystical protocol, does not leave a witness to vouchsafe for a personal experience. Each must experience the experience of the self to realize the eternal truth. It is like taking food to satisfy one’s hunger as none can eat by proxy on one’s behalf. A Hindu is free to describe his spiritual experiences without the least fear of being dubbed as a heretic.

Inherent Divinity of Man

Instead of dubbing man’s nature as intrinsically sinful as in Christianity, Hinduism recognizes the inherent divinity of all human beings placing the highest value on directly experiencing this fact by an individual. ‘Be man’ (manurbhava) exhort the Vedic sages because to be truly human is to be truly divine. Man, the microcosmic manifestation of the universe is regarded as ‘the child of immortal bliss’ (amritsya putrah-Śvetaśvatāra upanishad II.5) having an infinite possibility to grow and develop in term of his nature. Divinity was instilled into him at the time of creation (Atharvaveda, XI.8.13) and he who becomes aware of this fact considers himself Brahman, or the supreme godhead (brahmeti manyate–Atharvaveda XI.8.32) By giving precedence to the ultimately beneficial path (śreya marga) over the pleasurable path (preya marga). Hinduism helps one to realize the truth as contained in the popular upanishadic aphorism – Tattvamasi – ‘You are that Brahman’ and sarvam khalu idam brahma – ‘ All this creation is Brahman’.

Hinduism is Scientific not Dogmatic

Although Hinduism is rooted in śraddhā and vișvāsa i.e. complete faith in the design and working of the grand plan of the universe by the Supreme Being, it does not rule out enquiry. Far from being dogmatic, it considers knowledge to be the key to immortality (vidyāyamŗtamśnute-Iśāvasyopaniśad, Rhyme XI) and views it in a holistic manner, disdaining a fragmentary approach to the world of phenomena. Hindu religious thought has never been in conflict with science, the reason being that both are believed to compliment and supplement each other. While religion finds out the truth on the plane of the spirit, science discovers it on the the plane of the mind and the senses. Vedic science does not reduce everything to matter and its attributes but provides a spiritual praxis to the existential reality. Hinduism has never punished its Galileos and Brunos for holding views contrary to the conventional religious beliefs.

The Hindu sages and mystics worked in the laboratory of their inner self and derived grains of truth through intuition which a modern scientist would derive in his laboratory through experiment. Self realization did not deplete their cognitive ability but rather enhanced it by lacing it with a higher perspective to perceive the world in a holistic light. They saw through the inner eye what a scientist would perceive through gadgets and instruments and communicated through telepathy what anyone today would do through a mobile phone. They sensed the vibrations emanating from the source of Supreme Intelligence, creating orderliness in the whole universe from planets, plants and animals to humans, and came to the conclusion that all existence is one. After experiencing the presence of the same self in all beings and objects, they were surcharged with a universal vision.

In Hinduism, science is built into philosophy (darśana), philosophy into mythology, mythology intro rituals, rituals into beliefs and beliefs into dharma. A common man may be ignorant of the scientific value of such useful plants, trees and herbs as neem, pīpal, tulasi, palāśa, haldi or sesamum seeds but he is benefitted nevertheless when he uses them in ritualistic observances and in daily life. Likewise, one who performs sacrifice to gods, the Deva Yajňa by way of fire-ritual, the Agnihotra, as a matter of religious duty enjoined by the Vedas, may not know that it purifies the air, kills bacteria, cures many diseases of the respiratory system and takes away depression. Hinduism incorporates scientific findings and the understanding of natural laws into the pattern of daily life of people. Ceremonial acts, sacrificial rites, fairs and festivals, vigils, vratas, etc. embody a deeper truth than can be observed on the surface. The same is true of the Hindu mythological lore with its unique characters, ideals and symbols.

Hinduism puts forth the idea of cosmic unity in which both the animate and the inanimate worlds are integral and one. To realize the fact of universal consciousness in each object, howsoever insignificant it might appear to be, is to experience a paradigm shift in oneself from self consciousness to universal consciousness. Hinduism shows the way to self transcendence through self purification, self conquest and self enlightenment. It provides a spiritual praxis to all enterprises, social, economic, religious, cultural and political, and explains how wordly duties can be turned into sādhanā (worship) by being rooted in the self.

Reverence for Life

One of the central insights provided by Hinduism is reverence for all forms of life derived from the Vedic concept of the unity of existence. Life expresses itself in different forms yet it is the same life-force. Affinity with nature, natural elements and objects is woven into the tapestry of social and religious life of a Hindu and finds adequate expression in his day-to-day activity. Hinduism develops in one the capacity to feel and empathize by seeing oneself in the other. Love compassion and service are natural corollaries to this concept. By delineating the concept of interconnectivity with sentient and insentient beings, Hinduism helps one to understand that man may be the crown of creation but other living beings too have the right to live as they are undergoing a process of evolution inherent in creation. The plant kingdom has life but not consciousness which appears in animals. Man who is self-conscious and is able to carve out his own destiny stands higher than animals. Yet in the survival of all forms of life lies his own survival. Offering unparched rice and cereals to birds and ants, milk to snakes, flour-balls to the fish, fodder to stray animals and sacrificial food to the crow, cow and the dog, is common among the Hindus who show their gesture of goodwill towards innocent creatures (muka prāni) of nature in accordance with the Vedic injunction of performing Bhutayajňa, one of the five great sacrifices (pancamahayajňa) to be observed daily by a householder. Killing or causing pain to harmless creatures has no place in the mainstream Hinduism and is strictly prohibited in the Vedas.

Purushārtha not Passivity

Hinduism is not a religion of introversion but of action. Had it not been so ancient discoveries in science and technology, exquisite pieces of art and architecture, secular and sacred texts, etc would not have been possible.

The Hindu emphasis on god-realization does not lend credence to the philosophy of passivity and self withdrawal. The four puruśārtha or aims of human life enunciated by the rishis of yore provide ample scope for the fulfilment of artha (wealth) and kāma (desire) within the parameters of dharma so that one can attain liberation (moksha).

Hinduism does not advocate a completely ascetic view of morality nor does it approve of an epicurean way of life but suggests a middle course in which a balance is sought between the fulfillment of urges and the act of restraining them. Hinduism believes not in suppression but in transcendence of human drives and passions. The man of the world is the become a man of God not through an escape from the realities of life but through right activity as explained by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavadgīta (II.50): Yogah karmasu Kauśalam – ‘Yoga is doing one’s duty skillfully.’

Conflicting Images of Hinduism

‘After a study of some forty years and more of the great religions of the world, I find none so perfect, none so scientific, none so philosophical, and none so spiritual as the great religion known by the name of Hinduism. The more you know it, the more you will love it; the more you try to understand it, the more deeply you value it. Make no mistake; without Hinduism India has no future.... If India’s own children do not cling to her faith, who shall guard it?’ So wrote Mrs. Annie Besant, the Irish woman who founded the Theosophical society and the Home Rule League and presided over the annual session of the Indian National Congress at Calcutta in 1917.

The early Western perceptions of Hinduism were, however, different – ranging from a description of it as ‘pure paganism’ (viz. in Abbe Dubois’ writing) to its denunciation as barbarous and horrendous in nature (viz. in William Brunton and Pierre Martin’s works). When Ziegenbalg expatiated on the Hindu ideas, customs and ceremonies, he was told by his Protestant patrons not to while away ‘his time with studying pagan nonsense’. The Evangelists spread the word that the Hindus were a ‘fiendish race’ who committed heinous acts in the name of religion. Some Jesuits argued that the religious ideas of the Hindus were derivative in nature. But this view could not hold ground for long. Holwell, an 18th century British Indologist, for example, contended that the mythology as well as the cosmogony of the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans had been derived from the doctrines of the Hindus, and that the religious beliefs of ancient Europeans were based upon the later perversions of Hinduism.

Although the researches of Sir William Jones, Charles Wilkins and others proved that Hinduism was neither derivative nor a bundle of fables and superstitions, the tirade of Evangelicals and Utilitarians against the ancient religion of India continued unabated. yet the inquisitive scholars found in Hinduism a qualitative system of ethics and a monotheistic base. While delivering a course of seven lectures to the ICS candidates at the Cambridge University in 1882, Professor Max Muller observed that the Āryas of India were ‘the framers of the most wonderful language, the Sanskrit...the fathers of the most natural religions, the makers of the most transparent of mythologies, the inventors of the most subtle philosophy and the givers of the most elaborate laws.’
After the conclusion of the first Worlds’ Parliament of Religions in which Hinduism was ably represented by Prof. C. N. Chakravarti, Narasimhachari, Lakshmi Narain and Swāmī Vivekānanda among others, Merwin Marie snell (President of Scientific Section of the Assembly) unequivocally stated that there was very little of profound thought and aspiration in Christendom which could not be traced to one or another of the successive influxes of Hindu ideas – either to the Hinduised Mazdaism of the Gnostics, to the Hinduised Judaism of the Kabbalists, to the Hinduised ‘Mahommedanism of Moorish philosophers’, the Hinduised occultism of the Theosophists, the Hinduised socialism of the New England Transcendentalists and ‘the many other new streams of orientalising influence which are fertilizing the soil of contemporary Christendom.’

The Jesuit scholars who made a reappraisal of Hinduism in the 1960s described Hinduism as the richest cluster on the variegated tree of human religion. They observed that the whole of mankind can be proud that in India ‘the human quest for truth has been so diversified and unrelenting.... Plurality and tolerance appear rather as the true ornament of Hinduism.’

Concluding Observations

Such being the antiquity and richness of the Hindu tradition it is strange that it is still being distorted and misinterpreted, and continues to be equated with caste, untouchability and obscurantist beliefs. Only a Hindu can transcend Hinduism and seek good from all quarters in accordance with the Vedic aphorism: ‘Let noble thoughts come to us from every side’ (Rigveda, 1, 89,1). In Hinduism one may explore, analyze, discuss, debate or even doubt the very essence of its metaphysics without the fear of being excommunicated. Hindu views on god, man and the universe, the immortality of the human soul, karma and reincarnation have had a number of interpretations from time to time but the spirit of inquiry and intellectual quest has never been suppressed. In Hinduism alone there is scope of worship of all the saints and prophets belonging to different religions. A Hindu prays not just for himself but for humanity as a whole, as is evident from the popular benediction: sarve bhavantu sukhinah, ‘may all the happy.’ Hinduism thus stands for assimilation of ideas, tolerance of views and practices, peaceful coexistence and social harmony. The Vedic seers prayed:

Common be your prayer,
Common be your end;
Common be your purpose;
Common be your deliberation,
Common be your desire;
Unified be your hearts;
Unified be your intentions;
Perfect be the Union amongst you.

- Rigveda, x.191-3-4.

Hinduism provides social and moral orientation to human activities so that virtue may prevail. The Taittiriya Upanishad (I.XI) says: ‘Hold on to truth; hold on to righteousness’ (satya na pramaditavyam; dharman na pramaditavyam). Hinduism believes in the ultimate triumph of truth over untruth, of virtue over vice and of soul-force over brute-force. The well known adage from the Mundaka Upanishad (III.1,6) – satyameva jayate - ‘Truth alone triumphs’, figures in the national emblem of India.

Suggestions for Further Reading

 

About the Author: : Dr.Satish Kapoor is a Punjab University gold medalist and record holder in history from Punjab University, Chandigarh, a former British Council Scholar at School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, an Associate editor of the 18-volume Encyclopedia of Hinduism(a project of India Heritage Research Foundation) to be released in 2010, and a contributor to Encyclopedia of Sikhism(Punjabi University, Patiala) and Encyclopedia of Indian Art and Culture(Harman Publications). His publications entitled, CULTURAL CONTACT AND FUSION; SWAMI VIVEKANANDA IN THE WEST and THE KHALSA; SUBSTRATUM,SUBSTANCE AND SIGNIFICANCE have been applauded for in-depth research and new insights. Besides , he has contributed twelve chapters to published books, some of them by GND University, Amritsar and Punjabi University, Patiala. He has also published about 400 articles, book reviews etc. to newspapers, periodicals and research journals and broadcast /telecast more than 200 talks/features/documentaries. For nearly three years he did a daily column SPIRITUAL NUGGETS for THE TRIBUNE,CHANDIGARH.

Dr. Satish Kapoor was a PG Lecturer in History and Director, Centre for Historical Studies at Lyallpur Khalsa College, Jalandhar before being elevated to the post of Principal in 2005. After serving the institution till 2008, he joined as Secretary, Dayananda Institutions, Solapur(Maharashtra) which comes under the umbrella of DAV College Management Trust ,New Delhi.

On 5th April 2009,he was bestowed with Shahid Rajpal DAV Literary Award by sh T.N.Chaturvedi,former Governor of Karnataka. The award is given for original research in arts, science, literature, indology ,Vedic studies etc. He was honored for his research on the subject; HINDUISM ;1000 YEARS ;IMAGES,IMPACT AND PERSPECTIVES.

This introductory essay is part of a book entitled HINDUISM ;1000 YEARS ;IMAGES,IMPACT AND PERSPECTIVES. by Dr.Satish Kapoor which is due for publication soon.

 

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