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Social and political Values and Systems in India.

Bharat, Hind, Hindustan, Hinduism and Hindu Philosophy and Values

Traditional living had been an anchor, keeping our boat in safe harbor, Now that the anchor had gone and the boat is at the mercy of wild waves on a stormy ocean.

Introduction – The use terms Bharat, Hind, Hindu, Hindustan and Hinduism has historical significance.

India as Bharat –  Ancient India was referred to as Bharatvarsh before it came to be known as Hindustan. Derived from the Sanskrit term ‘Bharata’ that means ‘the cherished’, this name dates back to the ancient ‘Hindu Puranas’ (Hindu scriptures). According to it, the legendary Emperor Bharata was the first conqueror of the entire Indian subcontinent and the founder of the famous Bharata dynasty. After him, the Indian land is known as ‘Bharatavarsa,’

How ‘Bharatvarsh’ became Hindustan? –  Persians took inspiration from the name of river Sindhu to use the terms ‘Hindu’, ‘Hindustan; or ‘Hinduism’, ‘Hinduism’. The credit of the emergence of these terms go to Sind river. When Persians conquered the then Indian subcontinent and Greece in 5th century BCE, they termed land beyond Sind river as Hind or Hindustan. People living there were called Hindus from ‘Sindhu’. Their religion and culture were termed as Hinduism.

In Persian, the term Hind was originally used for Sind river, which runs mostly through present day Pakistan, Jammu & Kashmir in India and Western Tibet; the place beyond Sind River was called Hindustan ‘Stan’ in Persian means ‘land’ or ‘country,’ much like ‘sthana’ in Sanskrit means ‘place’); ‘Hindu’ is the Persian equivalent of Iranian ‘Sindhu’ that refers to people, the Indo-Aryans. These terms have been in use in Greek since Herodotus (4th century BCE)..

 Use of term ‘India’ for Bharat – By the 13th century, India became a popular alternative name for Hindustan. Since then, Latin term “India” has been widely in use for the Indian sub-continent. During the British Raj, instead of Bharat or Hindustan, where Indo-Aryan culture is strongly based there. The term ‘Hindus’ evolved to ‘Indos’ and made its first ever appearance in Old English in 9th century and reemerged in Modern English in the 17th century. After Independence, it is known as the “Republic of India”.

Hinduism – At present, Hinduism (its followers consist of 15% of the world population) comes within the range of one of the oldest and largest religion in the world after Christianity (with 33% of followers) and Islam (with 24.1% of followers).

It is believed that ‘Hinduism’, ‘a way of life’ and ’fusion of various beliefs’, mainly based on the principle ‘Dharma’. During  the 19th century, English writers added ‘ism’ to Hindu. Western thinkers have defined Hinduism as a religion/ a religious tradition or a set of religious beliefs, while translating the term ‘Dharma’ literally in English as ‘religion’. it is  not possible for the aliens to understand the true meaning, ethos and nuances Hinduism.  

Hinduism is not merely a religionHistory is a proof that Hinduism is not merely a religion like other religions, i.e.  Christianity or Islam. The term religion itself as a set of religious beliefs was shaped much later, can be said during Renaissance movement during 14th/15th centuries. And also,  Hinduism as a culture and civilization emerged into the scene centuries before other religions like Christianity, Islam, etc came into existence.

Hinduism a way of life – Hinduism was known at that time as a culture, “a way of life” and fusion of various beliefs of indigenous people living in Hindustan and migrating social groups willing to be merged in the mainstream of Hindustan.

No one can be called as the founder of Hinduism. The blending up or fusion of the language, values, systems  and culture of the indigenous people living in the region with Aryan’s gave rise to Hinduism and its Vedic Culture. It is the fusion of various beliefs.

Vedic culture originated during the period of Indus Valley Civilization (around 3300–1300 BCE) on the Indo-Gangetic Plains, (in northern parts of India) and matured by 2600–1900 BCE), and spread/flourished throughout India during 1500 BC and 500 BC.

Hinduism as a religion – According to the philologist Max Müller (the 19th century), the root of the English word religion is the Latin religio. The word means “to bind together.” For the first time the word was used in the 1500s to distinguish worldly things from spirituality  and  morality and set the domain of the church. Religion which means belief in or worship of God/Gods and a system of religious beliefs and practices.

Hinduism was used as a religion only after the colonization of Indus Valley civilization and influence of Europeans, especially the British. The term religion was used originally to mean reverence for God or the gods, careful pondering of divine things, piety. Before that Hinduism was popularly known as Sanatana Dharma.

The Upanishads (Vedic texts) were composed, containing the earliest emergence of some of the central religious concepts of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Its roots are traced back to prehistoric times, over 5,000 years ago. Hinduism spread through parts of Southeastern Asia, China, Korea, and Japan. Hindus worship a single god with different forms.

The ”Rig Veda” , a scripture of Hinduism, dated to between 1500–1200 BCE said to be the oldest  complete religious holy book that has survived into the modern age. Laws of Manu, (date of publication uncertain but believed to be about 200 BC) was a hybrid moral-religious-law code and one of the first written law codes of Asia. According to Hindu tradition, the Manu Smruti records the words of Brahma. Manusmriti is also called the Mānava-Dharmaśāstra or Laws of Manu (human). In spite of its age, it has sustained paramountcy in the Hindu culture. It was also the code of conduct for inter-caste relationships in India.

Hindu Philosophy as one of the most scientific ideology – The principles of Hindu philosophy cannot be found in one single authoritative text, nor can it be attributed to one single author. Many intellectuals and reformers regard Hinduism, its values and systems, culture and philosophy, in its purest form, as one of the most scientific ideology ever developed anywhere in the world. It has taken thousands of years to take a shape of principle.

Hindu Philosophy contains an ocean of knowledge in a jarIn the beginning, the priestly schools had devised a most remarkable and effective system of transferring knowledge to succeeding generations in the form of hymns, restricting it only to those, possessing brilliant feats of memory and capability to keep extreme sanctity. Later on, it was put together in ‘Vedas’, ‘Smritis’ ‘Sutras’, and ‘Upanishads’. The Epics ‘Vedas’, ‘Smritis’ ‘Sutras’, ‘Upanishads’, Ramayana, Mahabharat and Bhagvat Gita are not only the religious/spiritual books, but also a perfect guide to living a better life in this world as well as better life after death. It is the gold mine of knowledge. It is a magnificent example of scientific division and orderly arrangement of rules, in a few words, in different branches of human knowledge, covering almost all the aspects of life, be it spiritual, phonetics, arts, literature, medicine, polity, or metrics. Its rituals are techniques for leading a harmonious life.They speak of everything- on staying healthy, social evils, improving concentration and tenets of behavior, which are relevant even today.

These Epics “contain an ocean of knowledge in a jar.”[i] Only after raising oneself from ignorance, one can understand the greatness of Vedic literature. A knowledgeable person, like a jeweler, can spot out gems from this ocean of knowledge; pick them up and leave behind the undesired obsolete elements developed into it with passage of time. Its values and rituals give to the people, a purpose to live for and ideals to be achieved.

Vedic Hindu philosophy and other value systems of Hinduism are the gold mine of knowledge, which have always inspired not only Indians, but foreigners as well.  Intellectuals from various countries have translated it in their own languages and reinterpreted it for a rational mind. It still commands the respect and attention of an average Indian. Today, when Indians are getting away from their roots, it can make their feet firmly grounded on earth and  instill right values in them.

When the rest of the world was passing through the Dark Age, India was full of light. The first few centuries are recognized as the golden period of Indian history. During this period, arts, commerce, crafts, philosophy and knowledge flourished magnificently. Its people reached a high level of intelligence having specialization in different areas. It was rich in literary, philosophical and religious fields. Values and principles of Hindu philosophy have always remained an inspiring icon of peace, harmony, compassion and other human values for the whole universe. Caste system has worked as one of the instruments to maintain the continuity of Indian culture and civilization without interruption.

Principles of Hinduism and Hindu philosophy General principles of Hinduism and Hindu philosophy give guidelines to common-men as a purpose to live happily, lead a worthwhile quality of life. It also suggests make the journey of soul better after the death. It speaks on everything – be it in the sphere of spirituality or material well-being – on staying healthy, overcome social evils, improve concentration and mannerism, which are relevant even today. It is important to know about the basic tenets of Hinduism, the religion followed by the majority community living in India since ages. However rituals, customs, traditions of a society should not be mixed up with the basic principles of Hindu philosophy.

Basic tenets of Hinduism and its philosophy. Following are the basic principles/culture and religion of Hindu Philosophy and its importance for the people living in India, where followers of all the religions reside:

  • Atma (Self) and Parmatma (Creator of Universe) – In Hinduism, according to Principle of non-duality, the ‘Creator’/’Bramhan’/’Parmatma’ (God) and the ‘Creation’/ ‘Atma’ (every living thing in this world) are the integral part of the same God, and therefore inter-linked. The purpose of human life, according to Indian thought, is to unite with the ultimate Reality, the Divine/Brahman.
    • Brahman is a key concept found in the Vedas, and it is extensively discussed in the early Upnishads. The Vedas conceptualize Brahman as the “world soul” or “cosmic soul”/Cosmic Principle. In the Upanishads, it has been variously described as Sat-cit-anand (truth-consciousness-bliss) and as the unchanging, permanent, highest reality. Brahman/Parmatma is the creator and destroyer of the entire Universe. He is Supreme, the Ultimate Reality in the universe. He is all-pervasive, infinite, eternal truth and bliss which does not change, yet is the cause of all changes. HE is present in all the objects, including human body.
    • Atman Atman is an integral part of the supreme, ultimate reality Brahman, It is the eternal essence of the universe and the ultimate divine reality.The predominant teaching in the Upanishads Atman means ‘eternal self’. The atman refers to the real self beyond ego or false self. It is often referred to as ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’ and indicates the true self or essence which underlies our existence. Atman is the spiritual identity of soul within the body of each and every human being and inside every other living being, be it an animal or a tree.
  • Every human has two components – the body and the soul. Soul is indestructible. Body, which is  (made up of eight elements earth, water, air, sky, fire, mind, intellect and ego) does not retain its original form or shape even during one life time. Similarly, body Death merely changes the form of the body.

. Philosophy of Bhagvat Gita – Mahabharata and Ramayana are the two great epics of India. The philosophy Gita interesting and useful. Following are lessons of Gita give an exercise to human minds in the same manner as yogic exercises to bodies:

  • Detach from illusions and attach to Divine. Give priority to divinity. See divinity all around.
  • Have enough knowledge/intellect/devotion to see the truth as it is.
  • Attachment is the cause of all distress.
  • Detachment is the way to progress and prosperity.
  • The attainment of True Knowledge is the ultimate aim of all such deeds.
  • Fight for right cause in life is the ultimate solution to all problems.
  • Live a simple life-style that matches your vision.
  • Always remain steady.
  • Renounce the ego and attain salvation leading to unending peace and happiness.
  • Every act should be done in moderation.
  • True Knowledge is far Superior to the knowledge of the Sacred Scripts.
  • Stress is on Detachment and Equanimity. Happiness and unhappiness should be considered alike. For achieving detachment or renunciation, Knowledge and intellect play an important role.
  • Principle of Reincarnation – Hinduism believes in the Immortality of the soul, and the ‘Principle of Reincarnation’ which means that the soul is an eternal entity. After death it is reborn again and again depending on the deeds of previous birth till it attains salvation. After several births and deaths of body, one can reach a state of immortality. But once it attains Salvation, it is not born again.
  • The ultimate purpose of human life is immortality/Salvation/Moksha, get rid of the pangs of rebirth and death. In order to set itself free from the cycle of multiple rebirths and deaths, one should do follow the path of ‘Dharma’. Good deeds of human can help to reach up to the stage of salvation. One needs to practice continuously detachment (restrain one’s senses from drifting towards the objects of pleasure) and balanced mindset.
  • Avatars to save humanity from evil – According to Western philosophers Hinduism believes in Avatars. According to Hindu mythology (based on some truth and some imagination), the Supreme power visits the earth from time to time in some form of Avatars to save humanity from evil. So far these Avtars have visited the earth – Matsyavatar (fish), then to Kurma (tortoise)); Varaha (wild boar); Narsimha (half animal half mam); Vamana (dwarf); Parushrama with axe (tool); Rama, the Maryadapurusha; Krishna the playful and serious avatar; and ninth, Budha the enlightened one. The world is awaiting for the 10th avatar in the form of Kalki, a genetically supreme bionic man. (‘Know your religion through its philosophy’ by Prakash Shesh, the Speaking tree, TOI, January 14, 2016, p. 20)
  • Victory of Virtue over Evil – Hinduism believes that goodness always wins over evil. Stories about each Avataar inspires and encourages the masses to follow the path of  virtue and keep themselves away from evils. Different rituals, traditions, and customs give to the people, a purpose to live for and ideals to be achieved. They inspire the people to follow the path of righteousness. Rituals, customs, traditions of a society should not be followed blindly. It is necessary to understand the purpose behind traditions or rituals. These should not be mixed up with negative thinking, practices or superstitions. Such as festivals of Dussehra, Diwali or Janmashtmi etc. are celebrated to give the people the message that mark that ‘Good always wins over Evil’.
  • Concept of Right And Wrong, according to Indian philosophy – Truth lies somewhere in between various differing opinions. To find out what is really right or wrong, one has to keep a balanced approach. In fact, right and wrong are relative terms, which depend on the total configuration of following four variables of an action. A rational opinion about it can be formed only by keeping these four variables in mind:
    1. Desha (region) – The culture of a place, in which a person is born,
    2. Kala (time) -The period of historical time, in which a person is born,
    3. Shrama (Effort)-The efforts required of him at different stages of Life,
    4. Guna (Quality)-Aptitude and innate psycho-biological traits.
  • Positive and negative Mindset of human beings (Gunas) – Hindu philosophy believes that the whole world of activities is a result of complex intermixing of three basic qualities of human nature Satva, Rajas and Tamas. When born, a person, is like a clean slate – pure, formless, undifferentiated Consciousness. What s(he) writes on it, depends on the relative strengths of three Gunas –Tamas, Rajat and Sattva. The categorization in these three groups is usually depend on degree of attachment-detachment, austerity, Purity/cleanliness of body, speech and mind, charity and positive or negative thinking.

‘Satva’ is associated with peace purity, knowledge with clarity in  thinking positive attitude and consistency in actions. (1) Fearlessness, (2) Cleanliness of mind and body, (3) Devotion towards God, (4) Acquisition of true knowledge, (5) Suppression of the senses, (6) Study of scriptures, (7) Recitation of God’s name, (8) Taking pain in following one’s own code of conduct, (9) Simplicity of mind, inner self and senses, (10)Non-violence in all its forms, (11) Speaking Truth in a pleasant manner, (12) Absence of anger, (13) Non attachment, (14) Peace of mind, (15) Not speaking ill of others, (16) Kindness towards all, (17) Forgiveness, (18) Patience, (19) Lack of ego and (20) Feeling ashamed while doing something against Laws or Traditions.

‘Rajas’ is associated with passion/lure for comfort, often makes an individual self-centered. Individuals with Tamas or negative thinking are the victims of ignorance, sloth carelessness. It usually suppresses good qualities and leads towards `Adharma (immoral behavior), Alasya (laziness) and Agyan (ignorance). Tamas/negative mindset manifests (1) the show off, (2) pride, (3) ego, (4) anger, (5) harsh words, (6) lack of knowledge and (7) falsehood.

Persons with negative mindset usually responsible for different kinds of social evils, exploitation and miseries of the people. In order to keep oneself away from negative mindset, one should first ‘Think’ before taking any step, be regular, then ‘evaluate’, and make amendments/improvements. Try to be Creative, confident, and punctual, while setting goals.

Inter-play of three qualities – Inter-play of the three qualities determine the tendencies, potentialities, limitations, traits and character of different individuals and give them direction for action. The material world through senses attracts human mind towards a mirage/illusion or attachment. Many a times, attachment leads to impurities. Freedom of mind from attachment/illusion is consciousness. In order to become civilized, one has to keep in control and observance of cleanliness – of body, speech and mind. The purpose of human life should be to overcome Tamas, refine Rajat be regular, and inculcate Sattva.

PRINCIPLES OF ‘DHARMA’, ‘KARMA’ AND ‘VARNA’–The foundation pillars of the Indian social structure are the principles of Varna, Dharma and Karma. Together, these principles have given  Hinduism a distinct identity. Doctrine of Varna gives the Indian Society a stable, sustainable social structure. It has served to give Indian society coherence, stability and continuity. It has distributed and organized the performance of various functions systematically according to the attitude and aptitude.

It has organized inter-relationship of various sections of society. It has made it possible for the people to lead a quality of life and ensured the continuity despite numerous foreign invasions, migrations and assimilation of various groups. The doctrine of Dharma defines the duties and vocations for different sections of society. It has assigned specific roles to different sections of society on the basis of attitude and aptitude, ensures social harmony and prevents rivalries and jealousiesDoctrine of Karma makes the inequalities, prevalent in the society, tolerable to an average Indian.

Focus on assimilation and tolerance for others and interdependence – Hindu philosophy values interdependence, acceptance of others as they are, and tolerance.

(a) It accepts that there are different paths leading to God and be humane;

(b)It gives complete liberty to worship any god or goddess of their choice, as well as use their own methods of worship;

(c)It does not impose its own codes of conduct on other faiths;

(d) It is liberal enough to see atheism as a legitimate pursuit.

Path of assimilation – Hinduism has adopted the path of Assimilation. It gives complete liberty to all incoming social groups to worship god or goddess of their choice, as well as use their own methods of worship. It does not impose its own codes of conduct on other faiths. It is liberal enough to see atheism as a legitimate pursuit. It does not believe in conversion or imposing its beliefs, practices and customs on others. Hindu religion has neither repulsed any trend vehemently, nor allowed others to sweep its own established culture off the roots.

Tolerance Tolerance is most evident in the field of religion.  Hindu faith in an all pervading omnipresent god, multiplicity of god and goddesses as representing some portion of the infinite aspect of the Supreme Being, inspires it to accommodate people of all faiths.  Hinduism concedes validity to all the religions and does not lay down strictures against any faith or reject any religion or its god as false.  That is why, all the twelve major religions of the world are present and flourishing in India without much hindrance. It accepts that there are different paths leading to God and be humane.

Tolerance is not confined to religion alone.  It has always been seen everywhere in the Indian way of life and is the integral part of Indian ethos and is. Hinduism firmly believes in the principles, ‘Live and let live’, ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (The whole world is one family). Truth, Ahimsa, peace and non-aggression are the hallmark of Indian culture. At present, more than anywhere else in the world, India holds a multitude of thoughts, processes them and practices them. There has been co-existence of varied belief, pattern and thought due to inter-mixing and cultural mingling.

Many times in the past, Indians had accepted oppression and exploitation without much protest, while such situations, elsewhere in the world, would have led to bloody revolutions. Even today, the people are tolerating the criminalization of politics, corruption, scams and scandals and inefficiency of the administration without much protest.  Administration is one such area, where tolerance is harmful, as it not only hinders the development, but also pushes the nation backwards.

Principles of Varna, Dharma and Karma, the foundation pillars of the Hinduism – Principles of Dharma Varna and Karma are the core values of Indian ethos. These principles together has These principles have, so far, contributed to the growth of the Indian society as a whole, in a systematic way. It has prepared an atmosphere for co-existence of different sections of the society – be it ruler or ruled, rich or poor; and held together different castes and communities having diverse languages and practices for generations – thus making unity in diversity a reality.

. Doctrine of Varna – Principle of Varna provided to Indian Society, a stable, sustainable social structure; It has ensured the continuity despite numerous foreign invasions, migrations and assimilation of various groups. It has served to give Indian society coherence, stability and continuity. It has defined, distributed and organized performance of various functions systematically. It has ensured social harmony and prevented rivalries and jealousies; organized systematically the performance of various functions; provided  quality of life to its people.; defined the duties and vocations for different sections of society on the basis of their attitude and aptitude roles; organized inter-relationship of various sections of society.

Assignment of Work – According to Hindu philosophy, individuals differ from each other in natural endowments, intelligence, aptitudes, attitudes, skills, personal needs and other innate characteristics.  Their physical strength, mental capacity and moral aspirations, like and dislikes, inclination and expectations are not the same.

Focus on attitude, aptitude and deeds – According to Smritis, it is not birth, but the qualities and deeds, which fitted one into a particular group. Such as Sat or “austerity is required for pursuing knowledge, “Rajas is the quality needed for actions of courage, bravery, power and protection of the weak. But, later on, upbringing, atmosphere and convenience tended to make these groups hereditary. At present, employment/occupation/profession of people depend on number of formal degrees/ diplomas/certificates.

According to Varna system, society itself assigns specific tasks to do to different sections of society according to its natural endowment/inclinations, qualities and aptitudes/psychological characteristics.

Work is worship – Hindu philosophy taught people that Work is Worship. All types of work were worth pursuing and respectable. no work is superior/high or humble/inferior/derogatory. Any work done in its true spirit could never be derogatory or a waste.

A work should not be valued so much for its external reward, as for the intrinsic satisfaction towards realization of ‘Swadharma’. Doing one’s Swadharma gives a feeling that s(he) is also an integral part of the society and not an outsider. By doing one’s Swadharma a person earns a rightful place in the society.

. Principle of Dharma – Scholars have repeatedly commented that the word ‘Dharma’ is not translatable in English. Words like law righteousness, ethics, morality all together are not enough to give justice to the meaning of Dharma. The principle of Dharma embraced within itself religion, law, duty, righteousness, morality and conformity with truth”. Along with its being a religious idea, Dharma was also a principle and a vision of an organic society, in which all participating members were independent, yet their roles complimentary.

Any kind of work worth pursuing Principle of Dharma tells the people that any kind of work is worth pursuing and respectable, if done in its sincerely. No work is derogatory or a waste. Everyone has come with some  specific role to play in  life, as per one’s own Karmas and destiny. While performing one’s duty/action, one should develop detachment – indicating, one should not bother for fruits of Action.

It assures people that proper performance of one’s work, with honesty and sincerity assures worldly honour and spiritual happiness. The work of a priest, warrior, manual worker or yogi, all are equally important for the society and are, therefore, right, respectable and worth pursuing. Proper assignment and performance leads the whole society to live quality of life. The idea of white-collared jobs, blue-collared jobs and menial/derogatory jobs is the contribution of Western society, especially after industrial the Industrial Revolution. It has attracted the attention of common men to a great extend in modern times.

Common Dharma for all – There was a common Dharma, which was applicable to all. All the people in the society were governed by Dharma at all times, be it a ruler or ruled, parent or child, teacher or student or man or woman. It provides universal, practical and eternal guidelines to be followed in personal life, family life, community life, social life, professional life and national life. It inspires people to follow the path of righteousness and do their duties earnestly.

Separate Dharma appropriate for each Varna – Dharma also specifies duties, privileges and restrictions of each role separately and their relationship with each other. It prescribes a separate Dharma appropriate to each Varna, each class and each stage of human life. Separate Dharma for different communities is based on inherent qualities, aptitude and potentialities of its members. The social, economic or spiritual Dharma of Brahmin is not similar to that of a Shudra, or the Dharma of a student not similar to that of an old man.

Moulding life according to Dharma not an easy task – Moulding life according to Dharma is not an easy task. It requires a strong will-power and character. Individuals with weak faculties finds it difficult to observe Dharma. Dharma along with Karma is the means to reach up to the desired goals of ones life, the ultimate aim being salvation from the cycle of birth and death.

Karma with Detachment – Doctrine of Karma makes the inequalities, prevalent in the society, tolerable to an average Indian. Karma is perhaps the centre piece of Bhagwat Gita. The Philosophy of Gita is simple. It guides people ‘Rely on one’s own Laws and Traditions. Do one’s own duties/deeds without hesitation and with complete devotion towards God, and achieve what is generally achieved by such deeds.

Every act should be done in moderation. For doing so control over mind is necessary. Control over mind is needed for purification of Soul. One should try to practice doing everything in proper manner and in moderation.

Detachment is the doorway to self-realization and to have control over restless mind. If a person wants peace of mind, he should not try to feel elated with the feeling that he is the doer of the deeds. Dedicate the results of all your deeds to God. Then one can keep the mind free from attachment towards the results of his deeds. In that manner you should reach beyond the scope of the three qualities – (saintly, worldly lethargic).

Knowledge necessary for giving Karma its due meaning – Knowledge is supposed to be necessary for giving Karma its due meaning, direction and value. Ignorance is considered to be leading to futile efforts destroying direction. On the basis of thorough research and experience, Rishis and Munies of ancient India set norms for the ignorant masses from time to time. Knowledge was supposed to be necessary for giving Karma its due meaning, direction and value. Ignorance was considered to be leading to futile efforts destroying direction. Therefore, discipline was inculcated among ignorant masses, and a sense of direction was given to them through infinite variety of rituals, prayers, practices, customs and meditation.

Quest for knowledge – Vedas teach that creation and quest for knowledge is a constant process, without any beginning or an end. It is a never ending process (‘Neti’, ‘Neti’). In olden days, Sages, Rishis and Munies (Intellectuals of that time) believed that even Vedas are not the end for quest for knowledge or prescribes any final absolutes.

As per Gita, senses are superior to the body, mind is superior to the senses and knowledge or intellect is superior to the mind. Gita tells: knowledge is better than abhyas (practice), meditation is better than mi Dayanand knowledge and renunciation of the fruits of action is still better than meditation as peace immediately follows such renunciation.

Gita prescribes for ‘action’/’deed’ combined with intellect. There are choices before human beings – take action with developed mind/intellect or action with weak mind, bridled with desire, based on emotion, impulse, hatred, greed and selfishness. It quite often leads to agitation/aggression and discontent. Intellect needs to be developed to make mind rational. A mind governed by intellect makes a person calm and content.

Sanatan Dharma ( a compact life package) Sanatan Dharma is a set of eternal (beyond the time) values. It is the Universal Truth which sustains the very core of Universe and its beings. It nurtures the basic instincts of human beings over nature, after a deep study of natural instincts, inherent attributes and natural behavioural pattern and takes care of the basic physical, mental and spiritual needs of the human beings at different stages of life. 

After a deep study of natural instincts, inherent attributes and natural behavioral pattern of human beings, Indian philosophy has developed a Sanatan Dharma. It nurtures basic human instincts over nature. In keeping view the felt needs at different stages of life, it takes care of their basic physical, mental and spiritual well-being of the people.

Sanatan Dharma facilitates to achieve Sachchidanand (Bliss, consciousness and delight), to follow one’s Dharma and Karma without difficulty and to lead an ideal way of life. The scheme is in conformity with time and forces of nature, which affects the circumstances of the people. It is applicable to all, irrespective of the Varna, caste, creed or place for all time to come. Even today it is as relevant as it was earlier.

According to it, there are four stages in human life. For living life fully and fruitfully and aging gracefully, everyone one has to pass through four stages of life and perform different duties in different stages of life –

. Stage I – Brahmcharya Ashram – During this stage, Society is the giver and individual recipient. Tasks of an individual are Learning and acquisition of knowledge of all Aspects and ramification of Dharma. For mental and physical discipline, learn to get control over senses, mind and intellect. Yoga and knowledge play an important role. Lead a simple life. A period of strict discipline.

. Stage II. Grahatha-ashram – This is the most energetic period of life. It provides a real ground to utilize one’s intellectual and physical capabilities. To indulge one-self in economic activities in order to fulfill one’s dreams and ambitions, to keep direct contact with the society, and to take proper care of the dependents, which included elders, children, members of extended family and strangers in need of help.

During this stage, Society is the recipient, individual makes contribution. It presents opportunities to practice and cultivate all the three Dharmas – Artha/finance (to fulfill his duties), Kama/desrires ( and financial and material success for full enjoyment of life) and Moh/attachment. An Individual has direct contact with  society and makes direct contribution to  society consistent with the dictates of his own knowledge and conscience.

This is the time, when a person gets opportunity to lead an active married life. His tasks are practice of Dharma and protection to his dependents with love and care.Proper management of other three Ashrams depends on Grihasthashram as their needs (like provision of food and financial help) are directly or indirectly supported by  householders.

Of all the Ashrams, Grihasthashram is given a high place of honour as it offers opportunities for practice and cultivation of all Guna and establishes direct contact with the society.

. Stage III, Vanaprastha Ashram (Adulthood withdrawal)- It is a Neutral phase of life. During this period, a person should prepare himself for loosening earthly bonds and to achieve happiness through good deeds and social service. Material success is not aim. Task assigned to this group is teaching Dharma and extended care.

. Stage IV, Sanyas (senior citizens) – It is a Phase of resignation and renunciation. By now, a person is completely free from any obligation. Senior citizens are advised to achieve complete detachment and lead a simple life.

In ancient period, when human life was not so complicated and men were closer to nature, people could follow the Sanatan Dharma without any hassle.  But as the atmosphere became more complex and moral values eroded, it became difficult to observe it truthfully in real life. At present, very old people, in their greed for power, position and wealth, remain active in politics and don’t plan to retire till the end.

Vedic Literature – Vedic literature is a magnificent example of scientific division and orderly arrangement of rules, in a few words, in different branches of human knowledge, covering almost all the aspects of life, be it phonetics, arts, literature, medicine, polity, metrics, law, philosophy, astrology or astronomy. 

The priestly schools had devised a most remarkable and effective system of transferring knowledge to succeeding generations in the form of hymns, restricting it only to those, possessing brilliant feats of memory and capability to keep extreme sanctity.  Only after raising oneself from ignorance, a person could be able to understand the greatness of the Indian value system.

Like a jeweler, one could spot out gems from among worthless pebbles.  A knowledgeable person could pick up knowledge and leave the undesired obsolete elements developed in it with passage of time.  This gold mine of knowledge inspired not only Indians, but foreigners as well.  Intellectuals from various countries have translated it in their own languages and reinterpreted it for a rational mind.

Self-discipline, self-reliance and self-restraint – Vedic literature has given importance to the considerations of self-discipline, morality, and knowledge. All social groups i.e. Varnas/Castes are supposed to lead a self-restraint and self-disciplined life in all respect, be it in the matter of daily routine, occupation or inter group relationship. In the past, ranking of different social groups was done on some principles. Self-discipline, hygiene, cleanliness, morality, knowledge, spirituality of different social groups and usefulness of their work to the society as a whole were the considerations, which determined the social, economic or political status of a group in society vis-a vis others. Higher a varna/caste, purer it was considered, and greater were the self-restrictions on its behaviour through rituals.

Truth, Ahimsa, peace and non-aggression – Truth, Ahimsa, peace and non-aggression are the hall-mark of Hindu philosophy. They have always been the part of Indian ethos. Indians  endure without much protest injustice and unfairness until they are pushed right to the wall. It has prevented its people to exercise coercion, force, violence or aggression. In the past, intolerance of people elsewhere in the world had compelled the people to work under the threat of a whip or led to bloody revolutions as had happened in ancient Greece, Rome or other European countries. However, tolerance in India had kept on adapting itself to changing times and had prevented people from taking up the path of violence. It is continuously internalizing the changes and has kept on adapting itself to changing times. India has entered the modern era without any cultural break.

Winding up – Ever since an average Indian has lost faith in these principles, (s)he has also lost faith not only in her/his fellow beings, but also in herself/himself. Almost all persons are heading towards indiscipline, violence and chase of sheer materialism/consumerism based on ruthless competition. The knowledge of the foundation pillars/core values and principles of Hinduism will lead to more tolerance and acceptance by all the communities settled in India.

While living for centuries under aliens domination, Indian people have faced many changes. Then modernization and globalization have shattered its old ways of thinking, lifestyle, values and systems of Indian people. systems and values. Now India  is desperate to pick up the lost threads of its true culture, beliefs. Once again, it is trying to create an atmosphere, where different identities can live together in harmony and can proudly say ‘we belong to a nation known as India, Hindustan, and Bharat’. 


[i]            Basham, Wonder That Was India, p51-52.

          [ii]           Basham, Wonder That Was India, p51-52.

         

May 23, 2020 Posted by | General, Social and political values and systems | Leave a comment

   

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