“The Blessed Lord said: I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Ikshvaku.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.1)
इमं विवस्वते योगं
प्रोक्तवान् अहम् अव्ययम्
विवस्वान् मनवे प्राह
मनुर् इक्ष्वाकवे ऽब्रवीत्
imaṁ vivasvate yogaṁ
proktavān aham avyayam
vivasvān manave prāha
manur ikṣvākave ‘bravīt
“What religion do you belong to? Who do you worship? What is your faith? What is the name of your God? Are people condemned to hell in your religion if they don’t believe? What are you allowed to eat? Is there something similar to a church and a pope?”
The common identification used for people practicing a specific branch of religion that has the Vedas as its origin is “Hindu,” attaching to the idea of “Hinduism.” Rather than engage in a lengthy discussion, explaining this key teaching and that, there is just a quick acknowledgement. “Sure. I’m Hindu.”
They may not feel comfortable with that label, however. They understand higher concepts which make such an identification invalid or without meaning.
1. The word is nowhere to be found in the Vedas
The word “Hindu” is nowhere to be found in the Vedas, which is the literature-set of authority to such people. Too vast to put a fixed number, the Vedas have many branches. The Sanskrit word means “knowledge,” and since it describes a being who is infinite, the work is never done. That is to say the Vedas continue to glorify the Almighty, and therefore the number of volumes of recorded teachings and glorifications continues to increase. The individual consulting Vedic literature can be both omnivorous and voluminous in their pursuit.
Hindu and Hinduism are terms created from outside identification. People who were not immersed in the culture needed a way to identify it, as it was separate from their own. Using geography the term Hindu eventually emerged, though such a word has no meaning at all with respect to daily practices, books of reverence, and paths of liberation.
2. Not one book, one founder, or one time period
As there are so many volumes to Vedic literature, the information is not limited to a specific period. There is not just one savior who appeared at a specific time to deliver the people from that point on, into the infinite future, or at least until the end of the world.
There is a famous work known as the Bhagavad-gita, where a person of authority imparts the highest wisdom to a person with a genuine inquisitive spirit. The key distinction is that the speaker is purported to be God Himself; not just a representative or mysteriously the only amsha, or expansion, coming from the man in the sky.
Yet even the Bhagavad-gita is not locked in time. Shri Krishna says that He gave the same instruction to the sun-god at the beginning of the creation. The universe goes in cycles of creation, maintenance and destruction, so there is always a point in time where the wisdom of the ages is available.
There are many books, as well. Though the Ramayana has a different format, with more stories of historical events told than explicit teachings covering high philosophy, the effect of association is identical. A person reading the Ramayana or Shrimad Bhagavatam has the same chance at liberation as the person only studying Bhagavad-gita.
3. More than just a faith; guides all aspects of life
Not simply an acknowledgment of faith made to an established institution, with perhaps a weekly attendance requirement, the basis behind Hinduism describes a way of life. The key questions puzzling mankind since before anyone can remember get addressed.
“Why am I here? What is the purpose of life? Why do some people suffer and others don’t? Why is it that the wealthier I become, the less happy I am? How to find real and lasting peace?”
From morning until night, from birth to old age, from working to retirement, from student life to married life, from completely ignorant to the ways of the world to a firm understanding of the nature of man – the Vedas have everyone covered.
Even the greatest atheists of the past had some connection to Vedic culture, as they were interested only in sense gratification and increasing wealth. Those paths get described as well, but in the proper way, so that advancement of the consciousness can occur simultaneously. In other words, even while you are playing in the mud, not heeding the warning of the parents, there is a chance to make real progress.
4. Has a scientific basis
They say that religion and God cannot be proven; that is why there is faith. A hope that the unknown is real, that there is something beyond this world. Perhaps Hinduism is just another belief set.
In fact, there is a mind-blowing level of scientific information provided. The solar system, with its stars and planets, the distances between these large objects are covered in Vedic literature. The science of medicine, of maintaining good health, of dealing with other people, of administering a government, of making a profit in business, of begetting good progeny – a vast array of subjects.
The Bhagavad-gita alone has a strong scientific basis. There is the foundational teaching of the difference between body and spirit. The three modes of nature, how anger brings negative consequences, how following duty opens the gates of heaven, how consciousness is the determining factor in the next kind of body – these concepts surely must be accepted with some faith in the beginning, but there is the opportunity to test validity. See for yourself if what Krishna teaches makes sense or not.
5. Discusses the fate of both believers and non-believers
Everyone worships to some extent. Even if they say that they don’t consider Shri Rama or Shri Krishna to be God, that Hinduism is a manmade religion, they can still benefit from the teachings. Hinduism is really sanatana-dharma, or the eternal way of living matching the qualities of the individual, who is spirit soul at the core.
Does a person believe in the world? This is known as vishva in Sanskrit. Do they believe in an origin? This is known as adi. Do they believe in people, places and things, jana? Do they believe in the future, bhavishya? Whatever the knowledgebase, whatever the highest concept acknowledged, take that to be Krishna or Rama. That is to say everyone already believes in the universe, the entire everything viewed at the aggregate level. That everything is just another manifestation of Krishna, or God.
The name may be different and the personal features unknown to most, but the concept is still applicable. Believers and nonbelievers alike benefit from the culture, which makes it more than a faith. The nonbeliever, or atheist, worships the rear portion of God, or something like His shadow. The result of such worship is continued distance from Him. An inferior worship bringing inferior results.
The believers, the devotees, get superior results because they connect directly with God. This is the purpose to an existence, after all. Religion exists for this reason, and in the highest understanding religion can only be one.
In higher understanding one,
With ignorance variety to come.
That religion superior is mine,
Yours with something different to find.
With this mindset Hinduism the tag,
But only external viewpoint’s flag.
Sanatana-dharma proper to call,
With knowledge applicable to all.
Categories: the five