Hindu dharma is world’s oldest living dharma (religious philosophy and way of life).
Hindu dharma is over 8500 years old.
It is tolerant, resilient and peace-loving.
The root of Hindu dharma lie in the Indian subcontinent, in the Indus (Sindhu) valley which had 300 advanced settlements as early as 5000 BCE.
Hindu dharma is also called Sanatana Dharma or Eternal Dharma.
Hindu dharma has no founder, the word Sanatana implies that it always existed.
Acceptance of different modes of worship.
SUMMARY OF ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS
Harmony of religions : All true religions lead to the same goal. Revere all great teachers and prophets of all religions, respect their teachings as the same eternal truths adopted to the needs of different peoples at different times. Hindus do not seek to convert.
Incarnation : Whenever righteousness declines and unrighteousness rises, God incarnates himself on earth to restore righteousness.
Non Violence : Non-violence, non-injury and non-killing (Ahimsa).
Doctrine of Karma : Belief in the doctrine of Karma and rebirth. Ignorance viewed as cause of bondage.
Unity of Existence : All things and beings are the manifestation of one Supreme Being. When the mind is transcendent through spiritual experience, the Universal spirit is seen as the sole essence of the universe.
Dharma : Righteousness and good moral and ethical practices in accordance with the scriptures. Includes all duties — individual, social and religious.
Humanism : Equality of all human beings, regardless of caste, color and creed. Respect and reverence for womanhood.
Atman : Essence of all living things and beings is Atman, infinite and eternal, unchanging and indivisible. True nature of the individual is the Atman, which is one with the underlying reality of the Universe. There is but one being, one reality “Thou art That”.
Reality : The Supreme Reality (Brahman) is both formless and with form, impersonal and personal, transcendent and imminent. The supreme reality becomes manifest in various aspects and forms, and is known by various names. There are various ways by which individuals, in accordance with his/her temperament can realize God.
Moksha : Freedom from cycle of birth and death. To make an individual a better person, so that he/she can live harmoniously in this world and seek union with God.
Authority : Non-reliance on a single book. Has many sacred writings Vedas, Upanishads, Brahma sutra, Sutras, Bhagwad Gita etc.
FIVE MAJOR DOCTRINES
Truth is one, Sages call it by different names
Rig Veda, 1.164.46
All Mankind is One Family
Hitopadesha, Subhashita Ratna Bhandagare
Law of Karma – As you sow, so shall you reap
Mahabharata, Shantiparva 299.42; BG 18.60
That mode of living which is founded upon total harmlessness towards all creatures or [in case of genuine necessity] upon a minimum of such harm, is the highest morality
Mahabharata, Shantiparva 262.5-6
Whenever there is a decline of virtue, God incarnates Himself on earth to uphold righteousness
BG 4.7, 4.8
CONCEPT OF GOD
The truth (Ultimate Reality) is one, Sages call it by different names – there is one God, (Supreme Reality) perceived differently.
Supreme Reality – Brahman has two aspects, transcendent (impersonal) and immanent (personal).
In the impersonal aspect Brahman is without attributes (nirguna Brahman).
In personal aspect (saguna Brahman) the God is creator, preserver and controller of the universe.
Saguna Brahman is worshipped in male and female form.
Hindu Deities represent various perceptions of a one God.
Hindus believe in monotheistic polytheism, rather than polytheism.
Represents Three manifestations of the Supreme Reality.
These are :
Brahma : Creation
Vishnu : Preservation
Shiva : Destruction
Hindu Trinity (Trimurti)
Three Faces of Divine
Three Cosmic Functions of the Supreme Lord
Creation + Preservation+ Dissolution
Generator + Operator + Destroyer = GOD
FOUR ENDS OF HINDU LIFE
Based on the principle of progressive evolution of soul.
Doctrine of four ends forms the basis of individual and social life of a Hindu.
The four Ends are :
Righteousness and good moral and ethical practices in accordance with the scriptures. Includes all duties — individual, social and religious
Not an end in itself but basic necessity, one must earn enough wealth in order to raise a family and maintain a household
Wealth must not be for hoarding but for sharing with those who are poor, handicapped or less fortunate
Dharma and Artha must be coordinated in order to earn decent living while recognizing that artha is not an ultimate end of Hindu religious life
Denotes the wants and desires of body and mind in the form of desires, passions, emotions and drives
Satisfaction of genuine human desires such as art, music, savory food, sports, conjugal love, filial affections, clothes, jewelry etc. are not suppressed but must be satisfied in a controlled fashion
Through controlled satisfaction of genuine desires and passions, an individual becomes free from kama.
Freedom from sensual desires and passion is necessary for attaining moksha and is made possible by the proper coordination of dharma, artha, and kama
Freedom from cycle of birth and death. To make an individual a better person, so that he/she can live harmoniously in this world and seek union with God.
THREE DEBTS DURING LIFE
First Debt to God that can be repaid by dedicating one’s life to the service of God – this is done by :
Service to all mankind
Reverence for elders, teacher
Practice of non-violence, truthfulness, respectfulness
Obeying scriptural injunction
Protection of the Earth
Vegetarianism or Purity in Diet
Second Debt to sages and saints that can be repaid by
Reverence and and service to saints, sages and gurus
Transmission of the scriptural teaching and cultural heritage
serving the society and poor, without expectation of returns
Third Debt to one’s ancestors
Can be repaid by raising one’s family in accordance with the moral and ethical principals of dharma
TO FOLLOW TEN GREAT OBSERVANCES
Patience, firmness and stability (Dhruti)
Self-control and contentment (Dama)
Not to steal or conceal, or be selfish (Asteya)
Cleanliness, purity and honesty (Saucham)
Control over senses and sexual energy (Indriya Nigraha)
Right knowledge of the scripture (Dhee)
Material and spiritual knowledge or study (Vidya)
Absence of anger (Akrodha)
FOUR STAGES OF HINDU LIFE
This stage begins when a child enters school at an early age and continues until he or she has finished all schooling . The goal is to acquire knowedge, build character and learn to shoulder resonsibilities.
This stage begins at marriage. In this ashrama an individual pays three debts (service of God, serving sages and saints and to ancestors), and enjoys good and noble things in life in accordace with Artha-Kama-Moksha.
After the responsibilities of Grahastha ashrama are complete (when one’s children have reached adulthood) one enters this ashrama. This is known as ascetic or hermit stage of life. In this stage one gradually withdraws from active life and begins devoting more time to study of scriptures, contemplation and meditation.
This ashrama is the final stage of life in which an individual mentally renounces all worldly ties, spends all of his or her time in meditation and contemplation and ponders over the mystries of life. In ancient times one wouldpart company with one’s family and become a mendicant
SACRED SYMBOL – AUM
The most sacred symbol in Hindu dharma. Aum (OM) is the sound of the infinite.
Aum is said to be the essence of all mantras, the highest of all matras or divine word (shabda), brahman (ultimate reality) itself. Aum is said to be the essence of the Vedas.
By sound and form, AUM symbolizes the infinite Brahman (ultimate reality) and the entire universe.
A stands for Creation.
U stands for Preservation.
M stands for Destruction or dissolution.
This is representative of the Trinity of God in Hindu dharma (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva).
The three portions of AUM relate to the states of waking, dream and deep sleep and the three gunas (rajas, satva, tamas).
The three letters also indicates three planes of existence, heaven (swarga), earth (martya) and netherworld (patala).
All the words produced by the human vocal organ can be represented by AUM. A is produced by the throat, U & M by the lips.
In the Vedas, AUM is the sound of the Sun, the sound of Light. It is the sound of assent (affirmation) and ascent (it has an upwards movement and uplifts the soul, as the sound of the divine eagle or falcon.
WHO IS A HINDU?
When the question of who is a Hindu is discussed today, we get a multitude of confused and contradictory answers from both Hindu laypersons and from Hindu leaders. That we have such a difficult time understanding the answer to even so fundamental a question as “who is a Hindu?” is a starkly sad indicator of the lack of knowledge in the Hindu community today.
Some of the more simplistic answers to this question include: Anyone born in India is automatically a Hindu (the ethnicity fallacy), if your parents are Hindu, then you are Hindu (the familial argument), if you are born into a certain caste, then you are Hindu (the genetic inheritance model), if you believe in reincarnation, then you are Hindu (forgetting that many non-Hindu religions share at least some of the beliefs of Hinduism), if you practice any religion originating from India, then you are a Hindu (the national origin fallacy).
The Real Answer
The real answer to this question has already been conclusively answered by the ancient sages of Hinduism, and is actually much simpler to ascertain than we would guess. The two primary factors that distinguish the individual uniqueness of the great world religious traditions are a) the scriptural authority upon which the tradition is based, and b) the fundamental religious tenet(s) that it espouses. If we ask the question what is a Jew?, for example, the answer is: someone who accepts the Torah as their scriptural guide and believes in the monotheistic concept of God espoused in these scriptures. What is a Christian? – a person who accepts the Gospels as their scriptural guide and believes that Jesus is the incarnate God who died for their sins. What is a Muslim? – someone who accepts the Qur’an as their scriptural guide, and believes that there is no God but Allah, and that Mohammed is his prophet.
In general, what determines whether a person is a follower of any particular religion is whether or not they accept, and attempt to live by, the scriptural authority of that religion. This is no less true of Hinduism than it is of any other religion on earth. Thus, the question of what is a Hindu is similarly very easily answered.
By definition, a Hindu is an individual who accepts as authoritative the religious guidance of the Vedic scriptures, and who strives to live in accordance with Dharma, God’s divine laws as revealed in the Vedic scriptures.
Only If You Accept the Vedas
In keeping with this standard definition, all of the Hindu thinkers of the six traditional schools of Hindu philosophy (Shad-darshanas) insisted on the acceptance of the scriptural authority of the Vedas (shabda-pramana) as the primary criterion for distinguishing a Hindu from a non-Hindu, as well as distinguishing overtly Hindu philosophical positions from non-Hindu ones. It has been the historically accepted standard that, if you accept the Vedas (and by extension Bhagavad Gita, Puranas, etc.) as your scriptural authority, and lived your life in accordance with the Dharmic principles of the Vedas, you are then a Hindu. Thus, an Indian who rejects the Veda is obviously not a Hindu. While an American, Russian, Indonesian or Indian who does accept the Veda obviously is a Hindu.
How To Be an Ideal Hindu
Being an ideal Hindu simply implies living a righteous life by obeying the two basic tenets of Karma, ie, doing one’s duty and Dharma, ie, believing in what is right in order to attain salvation from this world.
Time Required: Everyday, lifelong
- Rise up from bed before sunrise.
- Complete morning ablutions and bath.
- Pay homage to the family deity.
- Spend 10-15 minutes praying, meditating and reciting from the scriptures.
- Prepare breakfast and eat it only after offering the same to the family deity.
- Then throughout the day execute the tasks pertaining to one’s profession with complete devotion, sincerity and honesty for the maintenance of the family.
- In the evening perform group prayers in the family shrine along with all the members of the family.
- This is followed by supper and obeisance to the family deity before retiring to bed.
- Besides this daily routine, an ideal Hindu is advised to visit the nearest Hindu temple once in a while.
- You should observe several important Hindu festivals with due reverence, and go on pilgrimage to a few holy places.
- A Hindu is expected to give charity, help the needy, respect the elders in society and scrupulously pursue the path of moral rectitude in both personal and social life.
- Compassion, consideration for others, love, sympathy, non-violence should be the ruling words in the life of an ideal Hindu.
- Avoid the seven deadly sins of wrath, envy, pride, covetousness, gluttony, sloth, and lechery.
- Family deity can be any god or any saint whom you consider your own true god.
- Have faith in God and believe in yourself.