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                                   by A Hindu Monk

1. The Eternal Religion                          world. It goes even a step further and says
                                                 that it is a continuous revelation. Hence,
The correct name of Hinduism is Sanatana
                                                 according to it, a single revelation or the
Dharma, The Eternal Religion. Being based
                                                 revelations of a single individual do not
on the Vedas and practised by the ancient
                                                 exhaust the whole of the Truth. That is why it
Aryan race, it is also called the Vaidika
                                                 contemplates the advent of new Avatars, the
Dharma. The Vedic Religion and the Arya
                                                 introduction of new codes of law (Dharma-
Dharma, The Religion of the Aryans. As
                                                 shastras) and the production of new editions
regards the origin and evolution of the word
                                                 of scriptures. The greatest strength of
Hindu, Swami Vivekananda says:
                                                 Hinduism lies in the fact of its being based
"This word Hindu was the name that the           upon certain eternal truths, rather than on a
ancient Persians used to apply to the river      personality however exalted he may be.
Sindhu. Whenever in Sanskrit there is an S,      These truths are such that they can be
in ancient Persian it changes into H, so that    verified by anybody at any time.
Sindhu became Hindu, and you are all aware
how the Greeks found it hard to pronounce H      3. The Basic Scriptures of Hinduism
and dropped it altogether, so that we
                                                 Hinduism is based primarily on the Vedas.
became known as Indians."
                                                 Veda literally means knowledge or wisdom.
Some modern scholars, however, are of the        It is also called Shruti which means what is
opinion that this word also originated in our    heard or revealed. All other scriptures go
own country and is very ancient.                 under the omnibus term of Smriti (what is
                                                 remembered).       Shruti    being    divinely
2. The Propagators of Hinduism                   revealed to the great Rishis of yore in the
Unlike most world religions, Hinduism has        depths of their mystical experience, its
no founder. It is not based on the spiritual     authority is supreme. Smritis are the
experiences of a single individual, but on the   secondary scriptures which derive their
intuitions and experience of a large number      authority from the Shruti. Their business is to
of seers, saints and mystics called Rishis.      explain, elaborate and illustrate the
These ancient Rishis were only propagating       fundamental teachings of the Shruti.
this Eternal Religion and were not the           However, according to the Hindu view,
founders in the sense that is normally           revelations are not limited to any individual,
understood and applied to other religions.       time or place. Just as there have been
Their experiences have been systematised         revelations in the past, they can occur at
and handed down as a great tradition.            present or in future also. The seer is only a
Religious men of countless generations have      medium to transmit to posterity the insight
borne testimony to the truth and validity of     which he receives. Hence he is no more the
the teachings contained in them. Even today      inventor of the Veda than Newton is the
these spiritual truths can be experimented       generator of the law of gravity.
on and verified in the laboratories of our
                                                 The Vedas are four in number - the Rig
souls, just as the statement about natural
                                                 Veda, the Yajur Veda, the Sama Veda and
laws found in text-books of science can be
                                                 the Atharva Veda. The Rig Veda is the most
tested and verified in the laboratory of
                                                 ancient scripture of the world. Lokamanya
science. None the less, Hinduism is as much
                                                 Tilak, on the strength of astronomical
a revelation as any other religion of the

                                                           What every Hindu ought to know
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evidences, concludes that it is at least 8,000     warrior prince. The battlefield was the place
years old.                                         of its origination; and serious problems
                                                   concerning life and death, duty and
The Rig Veda consists of hymns which are
                                                   devotion, knowledge and meditation were
mostly prayers. The Yajur Veda deals mainly
                                                   discussed, and sensible solutions offered
with sacrificial rites. The Sama Veda contains
                                                   which hold good even to this day. Manliness
a portion of the Rig Vedic hymns set to
                                                   and selfless devotion to duty are the
music. These have to be sung at appropriate
                                                   keynotes of this great little scripture.
stages during a sacrifice. The Atharva Veda,
which is a later composition, consists mostly      Any list of the Hindu scriptures is incomplete
of morals and ethical codes as also a few          without the two great epics, the Ramayana
worldly sciences.                                  and the Mahabharata. Though these two
                                                   great books deal primarily with the story of
Each Veda is usually divided into four parts.
                                                   Sri Rama and that of the Kuru race
the Samhitas, the Brahmanas, the Aranyakas
                                                   respectively, they can more rightly be called
and the Upanishads. The Samhitas contain
                                                   the encyclopedia of Hindu religion and
prayers and mantras used in sacrifices.
                                                   culture. These two popular works have
Whereas the Brahmanas give the know-how
                                                   influenced and inspired the Hindu nation for
of sacrificial rites, Aranyakas teach the art of
                                                   thousands of years. They are technically
certain types of meditation, based mostly on
                                                   called Itihasa (history) since they contain the
well-known sacrifices. The Upanishads
                                                   history of the two most important dynasties
contain the highest philosophical flights of
                                                   that ruled and shaped the destinies of our
the Vedic sages, which can be the pride of
the whole human race for all time.
Schopenhauer, the famous German savant,            The Smritis of Manu, Yajnavalkya and
has declared: "in the whole world there is no      Parashara of the Puranas including the
study, except that of the originals, so            famous Bhagavata, the Agamas and the
beneficial and so elevating as that of the         treatises on the Darshanas are the other
Upanishads. It has been the solace of my life,     scriptures forming the magnificent edifice of
it will be the solace of my death".                Hinduism built upon the foundation of the
                                                   Vedas. The Smritis are mostly codes of law
Then comes the Bhagavad Gita, the most
                                                   intended to regulate Hindu society from time
popular of all the Hindu scriptures. The Gita,
                                                   to time, according to the principles of the
as it is shortly called, is so well-known all
                                                   Veda. The Puranas are imaginative works
over the world that it has been the second
                                                   woven round some historical matters. They
most translated work. Though the Bible
                                                   aim at teaching religious truths through
ranks first in this regard it should be
                                                   concrete examples. The Agamas are
remembered that its translations were
                                                   sectarian scriptures dealing with the worship
sponsored by the mighty machinery of the
                                                   of a particular aspect of God and prescribing
Church with the enormous material
                                                   detailed courses of discipline for the
resources at its command. As for the Gita, its
                                                   worshipper. The Darshanas are schools of
beauty, sublimity and universality prompted
                                                   philosophy. The orthodox schools among
its admirers to translate it into different
                                                   them try to develop, systematise and
languages of the world.
                                                   correlate the various parts of the Veda, each
There is a verse in Sanskrit which compares        in its own way.
the Upanishads to a milch-cow and the Gita
to its milk. In other words, the Gita gives the    4. The Philosophical Systems of Hinduism
essence of the Upanishadic philosophy in a
                                                   Ever since the beginning of civilisation, the
simple and practicable form. It is an integral
                                                   innate curiosity of man has been urging him
part of the Mahabharata and is in the form of
                                                   to delve into the mysteries of the universe.
a dialogue between Sri Krishna, the great
                                                   Who created this universe? Who am I?
incarnation of God, and Arjuna, the great

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Where did I come from? Where do I go after        devoted to this Brahman. A liberated soul
death? These were the fundamental                 will never again return to mundane
questions posed by him. The relentless            existence. These are its teachings in a
search for an answer to these basic questions     nutshell.
has led to the origin and evolution of
philosophy.                                       5. Ethical and Moral Principles in Hinduism
If the west sought in the external world for a    To love thy neighbour as thyself is supposed
solution, the Hindu sages turned their gaze       to be the golden rule. But to the Hindu who
inwards and discovered their own answers          believes in the oneness of creation, there is
through meditation and mysticism. The             nothing extraordinary in this. I love my
Shaddarshanas (six systems of Hindu               neighbour because in the ultimate analysis,
philosophy) were the result. Darshana             my neighbour is also myself -that is his line
means vision of truth. Unlike the west, where     of argument. In fact the sole mission of his
philosophy based on pure intellectualism          life is to realise this oneness. To him,
and religion based on a few dogmas of the         spiritual life is impossible without a moral
church are at loggerheads, philosophy in          and ethical life. Therefore very great stress
Hinduism has been a philosophy of religion        is laid on the latter.
and religion is based on the findings of
                                                  The wonderful Hindu mind has condensed
                                                  the whole gamut of ethical and moral
The six Darshanas are:                            principles in two simple words: Yama and
1. Nyaya of Gautama;                              Niyama.       Ahimsa,      Satya,      Asteya,
2. Vaisheshika of Kanada;                         Brahmacharya and Aparigraha - these
                                                  constitute Yama. Niyama consists of Shaucha,
3. Sankhya of Kapila;
                                                  Santosha,      Tapas,     Svadhyaya        and
4. Yoga of Patanjali;
5. Mimamsa of Jaimini; and                          • Not to harm others whether in thought,
6. Vedanta of Badarayana or Vyasa.                    word or deed is Ahimsa. But it is a virtue
The Nyaya and Vaisheshika advance the                 to be practised by the strong and the
atomic theory of creation. Sankhya                    brave, and not by the weak and the
propounds the theory of the animate souls             cowardly.
and inanimate matter as the basic factors in        • Consonance of thoughts, words and
creation Yoga deals mainly with the control           deeds is Satya or truth. It goes without
of the mind. Mimamsa is more interested in            saying that these must be right and
upholding Vedic ritualism.                            good.
                                                    • Asteya      is     non-stealing,     non-
Last but not the least is the Vedanta, the            covetousness included.
pinnacle of all these systems. It can easily be     • Chastity in thought, word and deed is
called The Philosophy of Hinduism. Vedanta            the core of Brahmacharya.
means culmination of the Vedas. It is based         • Not to accept anything from others,
on the Upanishads, the Gita and the Brahma            more than what is absolutely necessary
Sutras of Vyasa, and gives the most rational          for sustenance is Aparigraha.
solution to the fundamental problems posed          • Shaucha is purity and cleanliness.
by philosophy.                                      • Contentment, absence of greed and
      Vedanta calls that Supreme Power                cheerfulness constitute Santhosha.
which projects this universe, sustains it and       • Austerity in the form of service, control
withdraws it into itself as Brahman. It holds         of speech and mind-these are
the individual soul (Atman) to be birthless           designated as Tapas.
and deathless, eternal and immortal.                • Study of sacred literature as also
Attainment of liberation is possible through          repetition of sacred mantras and
the knowledge of Brahman, by being                    prayers are termed Svadhyaya.

                                                             What every Hindu ought to know
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 • Surrender of the fruits of one's actions,       distinguished by its total renunciation of
   nay, the surrender of one's very self, is       worldly desires and a complete dedication
   Ishvarapranidhana.                              to the attainment of Moksha.
These are the ten cardinal principles of           Every rule has an exception. The ascent from
Hinduism.                                          Brahmacharya to Sannyasa need not always
                                                   be gradual. So the scriptures allowed double
6. Individual and the Society in Hinduism          or even treble promotion to qualified
                                                   aspirants. They could embrace Sannyasa
According to Hinduism, spiritual freedom or
                                                   from any stage.
Moksha is the ultimate goal of life. But
desires and passions which obstruct this do        Just as the individual's life has been divided
exist in man, ever struggling to find an           into four stages to facilitate spiritual
outlet. It is not very easy to get rid of them     evolution, the society also has been divided
overnight. Realising this, the great Hindu         into four groups (Brahmanas, Kshatriyas,
sages have provided us with right avenues          Vaishyas and Shudras) to facilitate smooth
for directing and guiding them. Looked at          working.
from this angle the conception of the four
                                                   The Brahmanas were the custodians of
Purusharthas (ends to be striven for, by man)
                                                   spiritual knowledge. Simple living and high
viz, Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha is a
                                                   thinking as also acquisition and propagation
unique contribution made by Hinduism.
                                                   of spiritual knowledge these were their
Acquisition and enjoyment of material
                                                   primary duties. The Kshatriyas protected the
wealth (Artha) and satisfaction of desires
                                                   society with the strength of their arms and
(Kama) should always be within the limits
                                                   were responsible for the maintenance of law
allowed by Dharma or righteousness. This
                                                   and order as also justice. It was given to the
helps their attenuation and man will become
                                                   Vaishyas to produce wealth and distribute it
fit for Moksha or liberation in due course.
                                                   without being greedy. Those who lived by
With this Moksha in view, Hinduism requires        manual labour and service to others were
every man to pass through the four stages of       categorised as Shudras.
life, technically called the Ashramas, viz,
                                                   There has been a good lot of criticism
Brahmacharya (student-hood), Grahasthya
                                                   against this Varna system, as this four-fold
(the stage of the householder), Vanaprastha
                                                   division is often called. It is to be
(retired life in forest) and Sannyasa (life of
                                                   remembered that this grouping was based
complete renunciation).
                                                   upon the mental make up and aptitudes of
Study of sciences (spiritual and temporal)         the individuals and as a recognition of the
and a life of strict discipline characterised by   division of labour that already existed in the
self-control are the essential features of the     society and not upon birth. However, it is
first stage. Acquisition, enjoyment and            impossible to examine each individual
distribution of the good things of life within     determine what his aptitudes are and then fix
the framework of Dharma, mark the second           his calling. And so heredity is made to serve
stage. The five daily sacrifices known as          as a sort of working principle. Normally, the
Pancha Yajnas viz, Devayajna or sacrifice to       son inherits the trade of his father as he
gods, Pitriyajna or obsequial oblation to the      shares some of his traits. But, this principle
departed manes, Brahmayajna or study of            was never intended to be applied with an
the Vedas, Nriyajna or serving fellow beings       iron hand. It was flexible and violable. There
and Bhutayajna or feeding the dumb                 is a lot of evidence in the scriptures to show
creatures, are obligatory on the householder       that man's Varna depends upon his mental
during this stage. The third stage where in        make up and the calling he chooses. There
introspection is very important is only a          have been several cases where people born
stepping stone to the final stage of Sannyasa.     in lower castes have risen higher by their
This last stage which is the acme of life is       virtues and those born in he higher ones

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have been degraded due to their vices.            Upanayana sacrament, study the Vedas,
Hence it is obvious that the present day caste    become teachers or even ascetics if they
system, with its watertight compartments          wished. But during the middle ages there
and mutual animosity is nothing but a gross       was a criminal neglect of their welfare.
degeneration of the once sublime idea that
                                                  With the advent of modern education, the
formed the basis of this division.
                                                  impact of science and western civilisation,
                                                  things have changed no doubt, but the
7. Women in Hindu Society
                                                  remedy seems to be worse than the disease!
No bird can ever fly on only one of its wings.    Now woman seems to want to out-man man
Women, being the other-wing of the society,       himself! Getting discontented with her role
it is but proper that their role be discussed     of child-bearing and home making she
here.                                             wishes to devote herself to some other
                                                  higher activity! Consequently, homes are
Ideals constitute the very heart and soul of a
                                                  slowly being replaced by hotels! In the name
nation. Hence a real understanding of the
                                                  of economic independence, life is tending to
Hindu nation and its womanhood would
                                                  become more and more hectic, irregular
essentially depend on that of its ideals. An
                                                  and even vagrant! By engaging herself in
already stated, Hinduism considers Moksha
                                                  activities, which prejudice the work of
or spiritual freedom as the summum bonum
                                                  preservation, the modern Hindu woman is
of life, whether for man or for woman.
                                                  coming into conflict with her own inner
Consequently the disciplines described and
                                                  nature. By blindly imitating man, she cannot
the paths prescribed for the attainment of
                                                  be the giver of joy, the inspirer of activity
this Moksha are almost identical. Purity, self-
                                                  and the consoler in distress that she has all
control, devotion and austerity are as much
                                                  along been. This is what the world famous
necessary for woman as for man. However,
                                                  scientist Dr. Alexis Carrel says: "The
Hinduism does not shut its eyes to the
                                                  differences existing between man and
differences that do exist between man and
                                                  woman are of a fundamental nature.
woman, biological as well as temperamental.
                                                  Ignorance of these fundamental facts has led
That is why it has defined their areas of
                                                  promoters of feminism to believe that both
activity depending upon their Svadharma or
                                                  sexes should have the same education, the
special characteristics and prescribed
                                                  same powers and the same responsibilities.
slightly different modes of life and
                                                  In reality woman differs profoundly from
                                                  man. Every one of the cells of her body
The strength and the soundness of a society       bears the mark of her sex. Physiological laws
are sustained by those of the family, and         are as inexorable as those of the sidereal
woman is the central figure in a family. Just     world. They cannot be replaced by human
imagine the tremendous responsibility that        wishes."
is placed on her! A Griha or home is no
                                                  What then is the solution? "But now female
home but for the Grihini (the mistress of the
                                                  education is to be spread with religion as its
family). Hence, the ideal placed before the
                                                  centre. All other training should be
Hindu woman is that of the ideal Grihini, who
                                                  secondary to religion," says Swami
again is an ideal wife, an ideal friend and an
                                                  Vivekananda. Mahatma Gandhi exhorts our
ideal mother all rolled into one. It is Sita,
                                                  women not to ape the West but apply
Savitri, Damayanti and Gandhari the songs of
                                                  methods suitable to the Indian genius and
the Hindu soil that have inspired the lives of
                                                  Indian environment. Says he: "Theirs must
millions of Hindu women for aeons.
                                                  be the strong controlling, purifying,
Women had plenty of freedom in the Vedic          steadying hand, conserving what is best in
and Epic age. They had equal opportunities        our culture and unhesitatingly rejecting what
and scope, especially in the religious and        is bad and degrading. This is the work of
spiritual fields. They could undergo the

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Sitas, Draupadis, Savitris, and Damayantis,       of the senses from their objects), Dharana
not of amazons and proudes."                      (fixing the attention on the ideal), Dhyana
                                                  (steady flow of the mind stuff towards the
Will our mothers and sisters heed this
                                                  ideal) and Samadhi (perfect concentration
                                                  on the ideal) these are the subsequent steps
                                                  in that order.
8. Hindu Sadhanas
                                                  Discriminate between the real (the Self) and
Spiritual disciplines are called Sadhanas.
                                                  the unreal (the world appearance). Give up
They are paths to perfection, roads to
                                                  the unreal mercilessly. Cling to the Self, the
realisation of the truth. Since there are
                                                  eternal and immortal reality. Hear about It,
temperamental differences among the
                                                  brood over It and mediate over It. Become
individual seekers of truth, Hinduism
                                                  one with it. This is the sum and substance of
recognises the need for a variety of spiritual
                                                  Jnana Yoga.
disciplines or Sadhanas. These Sadhanas can
be brought under four broad categories
                                                  9.   Place of Rituals, Temples and
called Yogas: the Karma Yoga, the Bhakti
                                                       Festivals in Hinduism
Yoga, the Raja Yoga and the Jnana Yoga.
Karma Yoga is the path of disinterested           Philosophy without religion becomes
action suited to the active type. Bhakti Yoga,    meaningless.     Religion    without    rituals
the path of love of God, is most suitable to      becomes insipid. The rituals of a religion,
the emotional type, Raja Yoga, the path of        like the husk of a seed, preserve its life and
psychic control, is meant for the                 make it germinate. It is only when the rituals
introspectives. Jnana Yoga, the path of           are separated from the faith and assume an
discrimination and knowledge is ideal for         independent existence that they become
those endowed with a sharp intellect and a        mechanical and lifeless.
keen power of discrimination. However, the
                                                  Human beings have not yet reached those
four    qualities   of    activity,  emotion,
                                                  heights where they can dispense with all
introspection and intellect are found in
                                                  sorts of symbols and rituals and devote
everyone though in varying degrees. Hence,
                                                  themselves to purely abstract principles. A
a balanced combination of all the Yogas,
                                                  flag hoisting, an oath taking or a convocation
with more of one and less of others
                                                  is as much a ritual as worship or sacrifice. To
depending upon one's temperament, is
                                                  give a concrete shape to the abstract
desirable for quick results.
                                                  spiritual ideals and to add colour and zest to
Do your work, the duties that fall to your lot,   life, Hinduism recommends the performance
nicely and efficiently. But be alert, never get   of several rituals. Out of these, a few are
attached, either to the work or to the fruits     obligatory and the rest are optional.
thereof. This is the essence of Karma Yoga.
                                                  Practice of meditation at sunrise, noon and
Love God with all your heart and soul.            sunset with the repetition of the famous
Cultivate an intimate loving relationship with    Gayatri Mantra, worship of God through
Him. Surrender yourself completely to Him.        symbols and images, offering oblation into
Desire for Him alone and for nothing else.        specially consecrated sacrificial fires these
This is the core of Bhakti Yoga.                  were some of the rituals obligatory on almost
                                                  all the Hindus during the ancient days. Even
Raja Yoga prescribes an eight fold discipline
                                                  to this day, these have been kept up though
leading to the perfect control of the mind
                                                  in a modified form, and with lesser intensity.
and culminating in the vision of the Truth.
                                                  A wisely planned and solemnly conducted
Yama and Niyama, the moral and ethical
                                                  ritual prepares the ground, creates the
disciplines already described, are the first
                                                  atmosphere, suggests the mood and
two steps. Asana (steady and comfortable
                                                  predisposes the mind so that the spiritual
posture), Pranayama (rhythmic breathing
                                                  aspirant may easily detach himself from the
and breath control), Pratyahara (withdrawal

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world and feel the mysterious presence of         or places of pilgrimage, have been another
the Supreme Power called God.                     potent factor in the religious life of our
                                                  society. Though the rules and regulations of
Hinduism considers religion and spirituality
                                                  a festival introduce an amount of austerity in
to be purely a personal affair. It concerns
                                                  personal life, they also tighten this burden
with the eternal relationship between the
                                                  and elevate the mind when performed
Eternal Soul and the Eternal God. Hence, the
                                                  properly. A rathotsava (temple-car festival)
Hindu is obliged neither to build a temple
                                                  or a mela (religious fair) has its own story to
nor pay a visit to it on any particular day. To
                                                  tell and lessons to teach. The former seems
him his own body is the temple, the abode of
                                                  to signify that if you are too busy to go to the
the Lord. However, for the sake of the
                                                  Lord, He Himself will come to you! The latter
ordinary people who are incapable of
                                                  provides an opportunity for like-minded
comprehending this truth, who always need
                                                  devotees to congregate in a place and
an external support for the practice of their
                                                  strengthen one another spiritual vibrations.
religion, temples are recommended. Even
                                                  That is why they have become part and
the temple is only an external symbol of this
                                                  parcel of our life, for centuries.
body. In fact, many of the technical names of
the various parts of a temple are identical
                                                  10.   A Few Rituals and Sacraments of
with the names of the various parts of the
body. Actually the temple represents the
Lord and His creation (the universe) in all its   It will not be out of place here to dilate a little
aspects.                                          upon a few of the more important rituals and
                                                  sacraments that have embellished Hinduism
Usually the gateway to a temple will be a
                                                  since ages.
massive and magnificent construction. When
we stand in front of it we are made to feel so    Sandhya, Puja and Homa are the most
insignificant before the Lord of the universe!    important rituals still in vogue. Jatakarma &
As we proceed inwards leaving behind the          Namakarana, Annaprashana, Upanayana,
grand carvings and decorations of the             Vivaha and Antyeshti including Shradha are
outside, we notice that the sanctum               the more common Samskaras or sacraments
sanctorum itself is small and dark. We can        prevalent even today. Sandhya is the ritual
have the darshan of the Lord only when a          practised at dawn, noon and dusk.
light is lit up and waved before Him. This        Ceremonial sipping of water (Achamana),
indicates that we have to leave the grand         rhythmic breathing (Pranayama), expiation
external world outside, direct our minds          of sin (Aghamarshana), offering water to
inward, light up the lamp of knowledge            Sun-god (Arghyapradana), repetition of the
there and behold the Lord within the              Gayatri Mantra coupled with meditation on
sanctum sanctorum of our hearts.                  Sun-god and obeisance to Sun-god
                                                  (Upasthana) these comprise the ritual.
Ours has been a land of temples. There is no
town or village without a temple, be that of      The mode of Puja or worship is a replica of
Shiva or Vishnu, Devi or Hanuman, Ganesha         the services that are usually rendered to a
or Subrahmanya. They are standing                 beloved guest or an honoured king. Only,
monuments to the continuing spiritual             the King of kings is the recipient here! After
traditions of our country. And they have          invoking the presence of the Diety
played a very significant part in the             (Avahana), a seat is offered (Asana); the feet
community life of our country, helping to         are washed (Padya); a respectful offering of
preserve and enrich our religion and              water mixed with sandalwood paste and rice
culture, arts and crafts through jatras,          is made (Arghya); sandalwood paste is
rathotsavas and festivals.                        smeared (Chandana); flowers are offered
                                                  (Pushpa); incense is burned (Dhupa); lighted
Festivals connected with certain sacred days
                                                  lamp is waved (Dipa) and food offering is
and associated with certain temples or rivers

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made (Naivedya) along with drinking water         ritual. The first symbolises the beginning of a
(Paniya). Finally the Deity is given a farewell   life of self-control. The Yajnopavita suggests
(Visarjana).                                      that from now on, his life is a continuous
                                                  sacrifice. The Gayatri is particularly apt for a
Homa is actually Vedic sacrifice adopted to
                                                  celibate      student    seeking    intellectual
Agamic requirements. It is nothing but Puja
                                                  development in the right direction. It marks
offered to the Deity invoked into the
                                                  the beginning of a life-long spiritual
sacrificial fire. Except in some details it is
                                                  struggle. Going round for aims reminds him
almost identical with Puja.
                                                  of his dependence on society whose debts
Samskara literally means a purificatory rite.     he has to discharge throughout his life.
It is socio-religious in character. By
                                                  Of all the Hindu sacraments, Vivaha or
performing it, the life of the Hindu is
                                                  marriage is considered to be the most
                                                  central one. Hinduism rightly emphasises
Though the Samskaras are sixteen in               the importance of the life of the householder.
number, only the principal ones mentioned         The sacrament of marriage impresses upon a
above, will be dealt with here.                   person that earthly life is not to be despised;
Jatakarma is the rite performed immediately       rather it should be consciously accepted and
after the birth of the child. Repetition of a     elevated to the level of spiritual experience.
mantra for the generation of talent               Marriage is not a license for indulgence, but
(Medhajanana) and wishing the baby                a human institution aiming at moderation in
longevity and strength are the main items         conjugal life leading ultimately to the
involved.                                         conquest of self. It is essentially a fellowship
                                                  between a man and a woman who seek to
Namakarana or name giving ceremony is             live creatively in a partnership for the
performed usually on the tenth or the twelfth     pursuit of the four Purusharthas. Besides the
day. The choice of the name for the child is      two parties to a marriage the bride and the
generally associated with religious ideas.        bridegroom there is the third party, Dharma,
Anna-prashana in the first feeding of the         (their joint religious duty) through which
child with solid food which has been              only they have been united. Consequently, a
previously consecrated by offering it to          Hindu marriage is considered to be too
various deities.                                  sacred to be dissolved.

Upanayana or the sacrament of initiation into     The most important steps of this sacrament
higher life stands for taking the child to a      are: Kanyadana (gift of the bride to the
teacher for education. >From the cultural         bridegroom by the legitimate guardian),
point of view this is the most important          Vivaha homa (marriage offerings in sacred
sacrament. The most striking feature of the       fire), Panigrahana (clasping the hand of the
Upanayana lies in the belief that by its          bride by the bridegroom), Saptapadi
performance the initiate is given a cultural      (walking     seven   steps),   Ashmarohana
and spiritual rebirth. It is a great advance      (mounting the stone), Suryalokana (looking
over the primitive types of initiation like the   at the sun) and Dhruvadarshana (gazing at
endurance test, temporary seclusion or            the Pole star).
mutilation of the body still current among        Panigrahana symbolises that the bridegroom
many religious communities.                       has taken over her responsibility here
Receiving the loin-cloth (Kaupina) and the        afterwards. Saptapadi is symbolic of
girdle (Mekhala), investiture with the sacred     prosperity and felicity. At the end of this
thread (Yajnopavitadharana), initiation with      ceremony the bride passes into the family of
the Savitri Mantra (better known as the           the bridegroom. Marriage is regarded as
Gayatri) and going round for aims these           complete with it. Suryalokana indicates that
constitute the most essential aspects of the      the sun is a witness to the sacrament.

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Ashmarohana and Dhruva Arundhati darshan         was developed in course of time into a
represent stability and constancy.               highly complicated labyrinth of sacrifices,
                                                 there arose the dynamic sages of the
The last sacrament in the life of the Hindu is
                                                 Upanishads condemning it in no uncertain
Antyeshti. Since a Hindu consecrates his
                                                 terms and preaching the direct method of
entire life through the performance of
                                                 realising the truth through contemplation
various sacraments at suitable stages, at his
                                                 and knowledge. This was the first reform
death, his survivors consecrate the event by
death rites for his future good and spiritual
felicity. Though performed after a man's         This was further supplemented by the next
death, this sacrament is no less important,      movement started by the Gitacharya Sri
because for a Hindu, the value of the next       Krishna who reconciled the warring groups
world is higher than that of the present.        of his times, who were advocating either
                                                 action or knowledge or contemplation or
It is customary to drop Ganga-water and
                                                 devotion. He provided a place in his system
Tulasi leaves into the mouth of the dying
                                                 for every one of these in such a way that one
person. The body is carried on a bier by the
                                                 need not be in conflict with the others.
nearest relatives and friends of the
deceased. It is then either cremated or          Then     came     Gauthama Buddha, the
buried according to the custom of the            compassionate, who was more interested in
community. If cremated, the ashes and the        the greatest good of the largest number than
bones are later on collected and immersed        in the philosophies of the privileged few.
in the sacred waters of the nearest river. If    Teaching simple moral and spiritual
buried, a mound is raised over the remains       principles bearing more directly on the life
as a mark of remembrance Shraddha or             here than on the life hereafter, he captured
offering to the dead also forms an important     the hearts of millions and set a dynamic
item of the last rites. It is performed on the   spiritual revolution into motion.
eleventh or the thirteenth day after death
                                                 Buddha's apparent condemnation of the
and consists of Homa, Pindapradhana
                                                 Vedic religion and his discreet silence on
(obsequial offering of rice balls) and feeding
                                                 the life hereafter were thoroughly misunder-
the Brahmanas.
                                                 stood and even misrepresented by his later
                                                 followers. It was given to Shankara, the first
11. Reform Movements in Hinduism
                                                 missionary Hindu monk, to make a whirlwind
Hinduism is like the centre-of-gravity doll      tour of the country, expose their fallacies and
which regains its equilibrium howsoever it       re-establish the pristine glory of Hinduism.
be disturbed. Wave after wave of alien           By admitting Buddha into the galaxy of
invasions have come and gone upon this           incarnations the Post-Buddhistic Hinduism
sacred land but none of them really              sealed the fate of Buddhism in India once for
succeeded in uprooting it. That is because       all.
the basis of Hinduism is strong and sound.
                                                 Then followed an era of invasion and
Standing firmly on this, it has always shown a
                                                 conquest by foreigners and it looked, as
remarkable dynamism, a unique capacity for
                                                 though the Eternal Religion would just
change      and     adjustment       whenever
                                                 collapse. However, the task of keeping it
circumstances have demanded it.
                                                 very much alive was admirably fulfilled by
Whenever the essential core was forgotten        the various Bhakti movements started by
and too much fuss was made over the non-         Ramanuja,        Madhva,       Basaveshwara,
essential crust, there has always been a         Chaitanya, Ramananda, Kabir, Nanak,
reaction and a rebellion from its own ranks      Mirabai, Tulasidas, Tukaram, Purandara Das
to put things in their proper perspective and    and a host of others. Special mention must be
show a better way in conformity with the         made of the Sikhism of Nanak, which
times. When the simple Rig Vedic religion        effectively prevented large number of

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people from being forcibly converted into        completely. Similarly since it is not possible
Islam. No less important was the movement        to experience the result of all the actions that
started by Ramanuja to broaden the outlook       we do in one short life, it is reasonable to
of Brahmin orthodoxy.                            admit of our future lives. The wide variety
                                                 and differences among human beings, which
The British conquest as also the impact of
                                                 have no logical connection with the present
western civilisation with its science,
                                                 life, force us to hypothesise about their
technology and Christianity gave another
                                                 causes existing in past lives and resulting in
shaking to the native religion and culture.
                                                 the present ones. Since Hinduism posits the
Bang came the reply in the form of several
                                                 soul as eternal and immortal, the theory of
reform movements each trying in its own
                                                 Karma and Rebirth fits in admirably with it.
way to set things right. If the Brahma Samaj
                                                 This is the best hypothesis that the human
and its offshoot, the Prarthana Samaj tried to
                                                 mind can conceive of, to solve the problem
give a Christian look, to Hinduism, the Arya
                                                 of good and evil, to explain the variety and
Samaj tried to bring back the pure Vedic
                                                 diversity in the universe.
religion. The Theosophical Society too tried
to do its bit with its mystical and esoteric     The doctrine of Adhikara Bheda is the
doctrines. However it was Sri Ramakrishna        recognition of the simple fact that the same
and Swami Vivekananda who struck a               cap cannot fit everybody. In any field
perfect balance between the past and the         especially in the spiritual field, capacity and
present, the East and the West by showing        necessity should be the deciding factors and
the people how to combine the best of both.      not merely the desire or ambition. A blind
This regeneration is still continuing through    man is certainly unfit to become a pilot and
the work of the Ramakrishna Math and             the tame should never attempt Mountain-
Mission and other organisations drawing          climbing, however intense their desires may
inspiration from them.                           be! That is why like a loving mother catering
                                                 to her children with a variety of dishes
A very recent attempt at uniting the Hindu
                                                 depending upon their digestive capacities,
society, protecting and spreading its
                                                 Hinduism has opened up manifold spiritual
religion and culture, is the formation of the
                                                 paths to suit a variety of tastes and
Vishva Hindu Parishad which is steadily
                                                 temperaments. If the intellectual is
gaining ground.
                                                 recommended Jnana Yoga, the active person
                                                 finds an outlet for his energies in Karma
12.   Special Contribution of Hinduism to
                                                 Yoga. If the emotional type finds a solace in
      World Thought
                                                 Bhakti Yoga, the introspective one finds his
Hinduism has made a very significant             peace in Raja Yoga. Thus no one need be
contribution  to    world    thought   in        disappointed.
propounding the three doctrines of Karma
                                                 The Avatara Vada,-the doctrine of descent of
and Rebirth, Adhikara Bheda and Avatara
                                                 God on earth, declares that the Supreme
                                                 Power descends on this earth wherever and
The doctrine of Karma is nothing but the         whenever necessary to restore the spiritual
extension of the well-known principle, As        balance and to help genuine religious
you sow, so you reap, to the moral and           aspirants in their struggle for perfection.
spiritual field. We have to reap the             This is truly a marvellous doctrine filling the
consequences of our actions sooner or later.     hearts of millions of aspirants with
The present is the result of the past and the    tremendous hope. An unbiased study of the
future will be the result of the present.        spiritual history of mankind proves this
The doctrine of rebirth is a logical corollary   beyond all doubt. It is foolish to limit the
of this theory of Karma. We may burn our         powers and capacities of the Almighty God
finger in fire for only a few seconds but it     by arguing that He descended only once in a
takes a couple of weeks to cure it               particular chosen land and that He will never

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come again. Regimentation in religion and         14. Ubiquitous Hindu Culture
proselytisation with political motives which
                                                  It is this very universality of Hinduism that
are doing immense harm to humanity have
                                                  carried it far and wide into the world beyond
their origin in such bigotry.
                                                  the borders of Bharat. Along with its
                                                  civilisation and culture, philosophies, arts
13. Hinduism: The Religion Universal
                                                  and sciences, mythology and rituals,
Any religion to be universally acceptable,        Hinduism has practically inundated all the
must appeal both to the head and to the           major cultural regions of the world. It is a
heart of the maximum number of people.            well-known historical fact that the countries
And Hinduism does it. The dizzy heights of        of South East Asia, Sri Lanka, West Asia, part
its Advaita philosophy can easily slake the       of the African continent, Europe and America
thirst of the brainiest of philosophers. Its      are full of the impress of Hindu culture and
conception of the Personal God can more           civilisation. The Sanskrit language, the two
than satisfy the refined theologians. The         great Epics, temples dedicated to Shiva,
modes of Bhakti enunciated as well as the         Vishnu and Ganapati, and a few of the rituals
rituals recommended soothe the hearts of          and sacraments are to be found even today
the emotional types. The advocates of             in     Malaysia,     Singapore,     Indonesia,
activism are easily accommodated by the           Cambodia and Philippines. There is
doctrine of selfless action. And the mystics      overwhelming evidence to show that the
can always count upon Yoga.                       great sage Agastya journeyed to those lands,
                                                  spreading the unfailing message of the
Hinduism considers that man is potentially
                                                  Eternal Religion. Shustery says in his
divine and not a sinner. Hence, even the
                                                  Outlines of Islamic Culture that the Haj
worst of sinners finds a place in its bosom.
                                                  pilgrim while approaching the great Mosque
He has not committed any sin but only
                                                  at Mecca had to wear the dhoti and the
mistakes, says Hinduism, because he had
                                                  uttareeya (upper cloth)! As regards the
forgotten his essentially divine nature! What
                                                  teaching of the Christian missionaries like
a wonderful doctrine! What a marvellous
                                                  Plotinus, Clement, Gregory, Augustine and
                                                  others Dean Inge was obliged to declare: "it
By declaring that the whole universe is but       is the ancient religion of the Brahmins (that
the projection of the Cosmic Mind, and that a     is) masquerading in the clothes borrowed
fundamental thread of unity passes through        from the Jewish, Gnostic, Manichaean and
the innumerable and diverse manifestations        Neoplatonic allegories." Diwan Chamanlal
in it, Hinduism carries conviction to the         has accumulated unassailable mass of
modern scientists also.                           evidence in his Hindu America to show that
Even the agnostics and the atheists find a        the Hindus migrated to the American
place in it because Hinduism preaches that        continent long before Columbus. The effect
to be good and to do good is the whole of         of Hindu culture is evident even to this day,
religion, all other things being secondary.       especially in Mexico. Should we not be
                                                  proud of this?
Gross materialists, instead of being
condemned, are advised to be a little less        15. Hindus outside India
selfish while enjoying the good things of life!
                                                  This takes us to the next topic, that of the
If this is not the Religion Universal which       Hindus living outside their Motherland, In
other one can be? In fact Hinduism being          proportion to the spiritual and cultural debt
more a way of life than a dogmatic creed, the     that is cast upon the world by Hinduism, the
whole of humanity ever struggling from            number of Hindus who live outside India is
lower truths to higher truths come under its      rather small. Though this is a glorious tribute
protective wings whether they accept it or        to its non-aggressiveness and cultural
not.                                              refinement Hinduism certainly did not try to

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spread by force or fraud - it is also a sad       graduate student and a higher secondary
commentary on the strength, wisdom and            student are not supposed to exchange their
foresight of the Hindus living here.              text-books and books and thereby get
                                                  bewildered! It is here that a correct
The fourteen million Hindus living outside
                                                  understanding and appreciation of the
and scattered over several countries are
                                                  doctrine of Adhikara Bheda comes to our
today badly in need of our help. They want
religious institutions to bring them together
and inspire them. They want preachers to          SECOND OBJECTION: Hinduism preaches
educate them in our Dharma. They are eager        rank idolatry and encourages superstition.
to learn the more tangible rituals and
                                                  Idolatry means worship of idols considering
sacraments to purify and sustain themselves.
                                                  that they themselves are God. No Hindu ever
Any further delay and neglect on our part         worships a stone or a metal image with this
will hasten their decay. And, the grave sin       attitude. He always worships God through
will be squarely ours! Should we not hurry        them. If an objection is raised even against
up to offer them what they are hankering for?     this, then there is no reason why the
                                                  Christians who worship the image of Jesus
16. Criticisms Galore                             and the Bible or the Mohammedans who kiss
                                                  the Kaaba stone or the patriots who salute
In spite of its most sublime theories,
                                                  the national flag, should not be dubbed as
universal doctrines and an unlimited
capacity for tolerance and adjustment, no
religion on earth has perhaps been so much        Even Hinduism considers image-worship as
misunderstood, deliberately distorted and         only the primary step - like using an abacus
mercilessly criticised as this Mother of all      to teach arithmetic to children - and exhorts
religions. Brushing aside all unjust criticism    its votaries to rise gradually to the highest
based more on spite than on solid truths, it is   level wherein they will have the direct
still worthwhile considering some of the          experience of the all-pervading Supreme
more common, apparently reasonable and            Power.
sometimes genuine, criticisms in the spirit of
                                                  As for superstition, the less we talk, the
an honest enquiry after truth.
                                                  better. The merciless witch-hunting carried
FIRST OBJECTION: There are innumerable            on in Europe during the middle ages or the
gods and goddesses in Hinduism as also            considering of number thirteen as unlucky
countless religious works leading its             even during this twentieth century by the
adherents   to    utter confusion and             Western society, are just two concrete
bewilderment.                                     examples which reveal who is really more
                                                  superstitious. Actually most of the Hindu
Well, this may appear so to one who has not
                                                  practices dubbed as superstitions have
understood the spirit of Hinduism. But to one
                                                  deeper philosophical and psychological
who has understood that it is one and the
                                                  truths behind them than meets the eye. Even
same God that has manifested Himself
                                                  granting that superstitions do exit, they are
through all these forms, there is no problem,
                                                  all harmless. Lastly, the blind belief of the
no confusion, much less any bewilderment.
                                                  modern man in science and technology, as if
One who has known the nature of water will
                                                  they are omnipotent, forgetting that they
never be confused or bewildered if he
                                                  have miserably failed to give him peace of
encounters ice, bubble or steam. Rig Veda
                                                  mind (which alone is the aim of life) is the
itself has unequivocally declared that the
                                                  greatest superstition of all!
Truth is one and the sages call it by various
names. As regards the countless religious
works, they are meant for different types of
people who are in various stages of
intellectual and spiritual evolution. A post-

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THIRD OBJECTION: The caste system has              the gradation and variety in the universe but
divided the Hindu society into numberless          also in leading a good life.
groups engaged in mutual hatred and
                                                   As regards the objection as such, we say that
fighting. A religion which shelters such a
                                                   quite the opposite effect will be produced if
system is no good.
                                                   the doctrine is properly understood and
The caste system is a logical extension of the     applied. If my present state is the result of
Varna system whose underlying philosophy           my previous actions, that gives me a
has already been explained. There is no            tremendous hope and opportunity for
country, no race or society in this world          shaping my future by my present action. This
which is free from caste system in some form       is the Hindu attitude. Consequently, a Hindu
or the other. Even in the so-called socialistic    who has understood the spirit of the Karma
countries, where all are supposed to be            theory is a dynamic believer in himself. Of
equal, it is an open secret that some are          course, fatalism and lethargy have often
more equal than others! A society based on         crept in to the detriment of the Hindus. But
the division of labour is far superior to a        this is solely due to the misunderstanding of
society divided on the basis of wealth or          the Karma theory. Ignorant and half-baked
colour of the skin. What is to be condemned        people who misunderstand, and misapply
is not the caste system as such, but the claim     even sublime theories are not confined to
to privileges by certain castes or the hatred      the Hindu society alone but will be found all
and ill-will towards the other groups. The         over the world.
division of an office into several departments
                                                   FIFTH OBJECTION: In the name of the
is only a matter of administrative
                                                   doctrine of Adhikara Bheda, Hinduism has
convenience. That does not mean that these
                                                   meted out very unequal treatment to its
departments should fight one another. If it is
                                                   adherents and has done great injustice to
remembered that there is no bar on practice
of true religion by any member of any caste,
all this fuss becomes meaning-less. Hence a        Whenever      understood     properly    and
religion that has invented such a wonderful        practised sincerely this doctrine has always
social institution is not only good but has also   helped, and not hindered, the material and
rendered signal service to mankind by              spiritual progress of the Hindus. To say that
showing the right path.                            all men are born equal or made equal, is a
                                                   blatant denial of facts and experience. But
It is interesting to note that both Swami
                                                   this does not mean that people should not be
Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi who
                                                   given equal opportunity and scope for self-
themselves did not belong to the highest
                                                   development. In fact Hinduism has been
caste, have upheld and admired the caste
                                                   more liberal and generous towards the
system in its true form.
                                                   weaker sections of the society. As in every
FOURTH     OBJECTION:    The doctrine of           other society, there have of course been a
Karma has introduced fatalism and lethargy,        small minority of black sheep who have
and has killed the initiative among the            exploited and wronged the masses.
Hindus.                                            However, taking the Hindu religion and
                                                   society as a whole and comparing it with
The alternatives to the doctrine of Karma and
                                                   others, this doctrine has worked more as a
Rebirth are the positing of a partial and
                                                   blessing than as a curse.
unjust God or to accept the theory that the
origin of this universe lies in an accident or     SIXTH   OBJECTION:       A religion which
chaos. These alternatives satisfy neither the      confers the status of the highest incarnation
theologian nor the logician and much less a        of God on a mythical and immoral person
scientist. As already pointed out, this theory     like Sri Krishna is paving the way for the
of Karma is the most sensible and reasonable       whole society to become likewise.
hypothesis which helps not only explaining

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Bitter criticism and ridicule of Hinduism as       innumerable miracles performed by him.
also malicious propaganda against it, very         Why don't then, these wise critics, accept
often centres round the life, personality and      these miracles also as true? If these are
doings of Lord Sri Krishna. A dispassionate        accepted, it will be established that Sri
study and analysis will however reveal the         Krishna was God Himself, since no ordinary
hollowness of these arguments.                     being can ever perform them. And God's
                                                   actions are above all human logic and
At the very outset, let it be known that Sri
Krishna's historicity has been established
beyond doubt by several scholars including         The critics often jeer at Sri Krishna because
Sri Aurobindo. The mighty river of Hinduism        he had sixteen thousand wives. Perhaps, it is
will continue to flow on irrespective of the       more due to jealousy than any moral sense
historicity of Ramas and Krishnas (who are         because he could manage sixteen thousand
just ripples in this river) because it is based    wives whereas they can hardly manage one!
on eternal principles and not on                   Since these poor girls had been deserted by
personalities.                                     their own people just because they had been
                                                   in the captivity of the demon Narakasura,
The earliest reference to Sri Krishna and an
                                                   Krishna the rescuer, had no option but to
unfoldment of his true personality occurs in
                                                   legally accept them as his wives so that he
the great epic and history of the Hindus viz,
                                                   could shelter them. This is one explanation.
the Mahabharata. Curiously enough, this
epic has always treated him as a Kshatriya         Then there is the other, the real explanation,
King. Not even his bitterest enemies like          which describes the esoteric significance of
Shishupala, who figure in this great book,         this. Sixteen thousand really represents
ever allude to his so-called immorality. In        sixteen. The mind, the five senses of
fact, Duryodhana, another critic of his, has all   cognition, the five organs of action and the
admiration for his wonderful personality and       five fundamental elements (like the earth
even admits of his divinity! It passes one's       etc.) - these are the sixteen. The zeros
understanding how a genius like Sri Krishna        signify the number- less products, variations
who bequeathed a most wonderful bunch of           and manifestations of these sixteen. Sri
universal spiritual teachings could ever have      Krishna is the Purusha or the self who
been a moral wreck.                                liberates them from hellish ignorance
                                                   (Naraka) and redirects them unto Himself.
The      secondary     scriptures   like   the
Bhagavatam which deal with Sri Krishna's           Contrary to the objectors' contention, Lord
story in greater detail, were actually written     Krishna has been the unseen dynamic power
several centuries later and hence need not         guiding the Hindu religion and society in the
be taken as literally true. Even according to      right direction through his Gita ever ringing
these scriptures, Sri Krishna was a small boy      its message for thousands of years. He is the
at the time of the Brindavan Leela. Again, the     greatest national hero and guides, and it is a
tradition of considering oneself as the hand-      pity that the sons of our own soil often
maid of God and love Him as one's husband          disown Him
(whereby the baser instincts are sublimated)
is not peculiar to Hinduism alone. It exists       17. The Menace of Materialism
among the Christians and the Sufis also. The
                                                   At this juncture it is necessary to pinpoint the
reference to brides of God in the Bible or the
                                                   menace of materialism also. Hinduism has
Christian nuns considering themselves as
                                                   never forbidden the acquisition and
brides of God does not certainly warrant us
                                                   enjoyment of material wealth, comforts and
to brand either God or Christ as polygamous
                                                   pleasures. It has only introduced the safety-
or immoral!
                                                   valve of Dharma, that is all. If Artha and
Moreover, the very same scriptures that            Kama become the sole aims of life and
describe his Rasakrida also describe the           Dharma is totally neglected, then it becomes

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gross materialism, which is another name for        of iron and nerves of steel. Upanishads
the law of the jungle. Now-a-days the               declare that there is no salvation for the
tendency towards such materialism is                weak! There is a lot of truth in that saying of
increasing to the detriment of our nation.          Darwin, survival of the fittest.
Hence comes the necessity to recognise and
                                                    Two Hindus cannot join together and work.
check this menace.
                                                    Obedience and cooperation are allergic to
A glance at the so-called advanced and              our constitution! Jealously seems to be in our
civilised countries of the world will reveal        blood! We seem to forget that this has been
what havoc has been brought about by                the greatest single factor for our downfall
materialism. Incidence of the most heinous          over the centuries. Unless we learn to put
crimes and awful mental illnesses is                away our petty jealousies, subjugate our ego
increasing at an alarming rate. According to        and organise ourselves unitedly, there is no
a report put up by the police department of         hope for us.
the U.S.A., the average rate of crimes per
                                                    Neglect of intellectual life seems to be
hour is as follows. one murder, theft of forty
                                                    another disease ailing us. The great Rishis,
cars and ten robberies! That is why many of
                                                    our forefathers, astonished the world with
the Western savants and scientists are fast
                                                    their wonderful discoveries in several fields
turning towards religion for solace and
                                                    of knowledge through hard work and deep
                                                    thinking. In our generation, even a small boy
Atheism, the counterpart of materialism, is         must have a ready-made notes to pass his
another evil that is trying to sway the minds       examination! There is no short-cut to
of men. Even a little of serious thinking will      knowledge. Let there be no illusion about it!
convince us how hollow the arguments of             Unless      we,   especially   the   younger
atheism are. That the universe was formed           generation, wake up and cultivate a real
by a fortuitous course of atoms, can no more        thirst for knowledge, develop the capacity to
be believed than that the accidental                think deeply and intensely, we just cannot
jumbling of the letters of a word making set        compete with the other nations of the world!
would fall into a most wonderful treatise of
                                                    Lethargy is yet another disease which is
philosophy! Actually the sciences are maps
                                                    eating into our vitals. A Hindu thinks but
of universal laws; the universal laws are
                                                    rarely acts - thus remarked an English officer
channels of universal power; and the
universal power is but the outgoing of a
Supreme Universal Mind.                             The last but not least of our weaknesses is
                                                    our ignorance of our own religion. An
Every nation has its special characteristic
                                                    average Christian or an average Muslim is
trait. In our country it is religion. If it goes
                                                    better informed about his religion than an
"India will die in spite of politics, in spite of
                                                    average Hindu. Whereas they have a
reforms, in spite of Kubera's wealth poured
                                                    positive and dynamic faith in their religion,
upon the head of everyone of her children."
                                                    most of us not only lack such faith but even
                                                    go to the extent of deriding our own Dharma!
18.    The Internal Dangers
                                                    It seems to have become a fashion to do so,
Now let us turn our attention inwards and           especially among our students going
find out what exactly ails our society from         abroad!
                                                    A Hindu child learns very little about our
The most serious defect of an average Hindu         Dharma and culture either at home or at
is his physical weakness and consequent             school. Parents and teachers, most of whom
cowardice, often clothed in high-sounding           are themselves ignorant in this respect,
words like Ahimsa! Swami Vivekananda                cannot guide the youngsters. Or, if they try
called weakness as sin and death. He                to guide, it is like the blind leading the blind!
exhorted our young men to develop muscles           No wonder that these youngsters are fast

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failing an easy prey to alien influences! It is   deserve! It is a wonder how they have
the foremost duty of the parents and elders       continued to remain as part of the Hindu
to learn a little more about our glorious         society in spite of the crimes and atrocities
Dharma and culture, and to impart it              committed against them! If the Hindu society
effectively to their children and wards. On       does not wake up to their problems and try
the negative side, let them take all the          for their upliftment through education and
necessary steps in counteracting the              improvement of economy, they will all be
mischievous and malicious propaganda of           absorbed one day into the folds of alien
the enemies of our Dharma.                        faiths! Let us remember that whoever goes
                                                  out of the Hindu Dharma is not only lost to us,
19. Some Problems and Possible Solutions          but also we have in him one more enemy!
Every nation, every society, has its own          The second problem we have to face is that
problems. We too have ours. Let us consider       of conversion. The overt and convert
a few of the more important ones and discuss      methods of the Christian missionaries in
the possible solutions.                           perverting the faith of our people are well-
                                                  known. How to stop this? Let us try our best
The first problem that often agitates the
                                                  to Hinduise the Hindus first by a proper
minds of the enlightened Hindus is that of
                                                  dissemination of our Dharma. At the same
caste. The rigidity of the caste system, the
                                                  time let us keep an eternal vigil over the
consequent social inequalities, the hatred
                                                  nefarious designs of others to convert our
and animosity it has bred, are threatening
our society with disintegration and
destruction.                                      Let us remember that the doctrine that a
                                                  Hindu is born and not made, is absolutely
Well, this problem has been made
                                                  false. For hundreds of years our Dharma has
sufficiently complex that, there cannot be an
                                                  quietly absorbed people of alien faiths
immediate ready made solution. Economic
                                                  without fuss. As regards the question of
upliftment of the masses, a proper type of
                                                  reabsorption,      Swami      Vivekananda's
education enlightening them in the
                                                  observations are interesting and instructive:
fundamental principles underlying our
                                                  "Returning converts will gain their own
Dharma and culture these will help to a great
                                                  castes of course. And new people will make
extent in levelling and cementing out
                                                  theirs." The advanced sections of our society
society. In addition, a sincere spirit of give
                                                  can render signal service to the new
and take must be infused among the various
                                                  converts by voluntarily coming forward to
caste groups. The more educated and
                                                  absorb them into their own fold.
cultured groups of our society (from any
caste), especially the Brahmins, must             It is here that the orthodox traditional
recharge their own lives with the high            monasteries can play a major part. In the
spiritual ideals that once guided them and        earlier years they have done a wonderful job
take up their spiritual mission through           of keeping aloft the burning torch of our
Simple living and high thinking. Swami            Dharma. However with the accumulation of
Vivekananda who was not a Brahmin himself         wealth their men decayed. Pelf, prestige and
by birth, makes an impassioned appeal for         power became their primary concern. Even
the restoration of the original four Varna        today if they wake up to realities, give up
system by merging all the sub-castes in the       their fossilised ways of thinking and acting
respective major caste.                           and move with the changing society, all the
                                                  while sticking to the eternal values in our
In this connection, the treatment meted out
                                                  Dharma, they can achieve still greater
to the Harijans by the so-called caste Hindus,
                                                  wonders what with their learning, wealth and
deserves special mention. For centuries
                                                  prestige. They should make vigorous efforts
together these poor people have been given
                                                  for the propagation of the core of our
a treatment which even the brutes do not

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Dharma, simplify the rituals, draw up a code      wonderful achievements in various fields are
of conduct practicable for all the Hindus,        our proud heritage. Let us be worthy of
make the four sacraments of Jatakarma,            them, nay, let us try to excel them! It is here
Upanayana, Vivaha and Antyeshti simple            that a devout study of our scriptures helps us
and obligatory on all the Hindus and issue        greatly. Every Hindu must at least be familiar
injunctions to their respective followers to      with the Bhagavad Gita and the great
reabsorb and rehabilitate the reconverts.         characters of the two Epics.
This will go a long way in making the Hindu
                                                  Cultivation of the ten virtues listed under
society more homogeneous and united.
                                                  Yama and Niyama is a must.
And now a word about our temples and
                                                  The importance of silent meditation which
priests: Though the temples should be the
                                                  calms the mind and soothes the nerves,
holiest of the holy places, they are usually
                                                  cannot be over emphasised. Meditation is to
kept awfully dirty with the pilgrims and
                                                  be practised at least twice a day after
visitors adding their share! The noise and
                                                  learning about it from a proper preceptor.
disorder in temples far exceed our devotion!
The nuisance and harassment that the poor         The family is the fundamental unit of society.
pilgrims have to put up with at the hands of      Again, the strength of the society and that of
the greedy and ignorant priests is                the family depends upon the character of the
disgusting. What is the solution? Apart from      individuals who constitute them. Hence a
renovating old temples and building new           very great responsibility is cast upon the
ones, we have also to take the trouble of         head of the family. It is his duty to pay
keeping them clean. Our public has to be          special attention to bring up the people
vigorously educated in this.                      under his care, especially on the moral and
                                                  spiritual side. This can be achieved by his
As regards the priests, colleges for training
                                                  leading group meditations and chanting as
them should be established and only such
                                                  also the observance of sacred festivals (with
qualified priests should be employed in the
                                                  greater stress on the side of austerities) in
temples with decent salaries.
                                                  his household. Occasional or regular visits to
                                                  temples and pilgrimages to important
20. What Every Hindu Ought to Do
                                                  Kshetras should also be undertaken.
After thus touching upon the glories, the
                                                  Contact   and cooperation with Mathas,
maladies and the remedies of our religion
                                                  Ashramas and other religious institutions is
and society let us now dilate a little upon
                                                  another essential thing. It is obvious that we
what every Hindu ought to do, with himself,
                                                  can do better service if we work through an
his family and the society.
                                                  organisation. For the last thousand years or
The first and foremost thing that every Hindu     more, Dharma has been understood and
ought to do is to cultivate tremendous faith in   practised only in its personal aspect to the
himself. Development of brawn and brain           exclusion of the social aspect. This has
along with the conviction that we are             resulted in tragic developments such as (i)
essentially divine this is the way to achieve     good and pious religious men joining hands
it.                                               with foreign aggressors without their
                                                  religious conscience being in the least
Equally important is the nurturing of even
                                                  troubled; (ii) the performance of rites only
greater faith in that Supreme power whose
                                                  with a view to acquiring personal religious
sparks we are. A reverent study of the lives
                                                  merit without caring for its social effects; (iii)
and teachings of men of God is a great aid in
                                                  the wrong interpretation of the Shastras.
this direction.
                                                  Hence, every Hindu must remember this
Next, we must have abundant abhimana, a           social aspect of our Dharma constantly and
sense of dignified pride that we are the          emphasise it as the supreme need of the
descendants of the great Rishis of yore. Their    hour.

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Finally every Hindu has to cultivate equal          of tolerance but even positive respect,
respect for all other religions too, because        towards other faiths. What has gone on for
Hinduism preaches that these also lead to           thousands of years can go on for thousands
the same goal. However, it goes without             of years more.
saying that his relationship with his own
                                                    However, when others attack his religion he
religion should be considered as very
                                                    has no option but to fight back, at least in
                                                    self-defence. Some of the observations made
                                                    in this booklet are to be understood only in
21. Conclusion
                                                    this light. It is only to prove that none is
Though religions are many, the Religion is          perfect.
only one. It is the Religion of Man. Man is
                                                    It is the duty of all religious groups to find
essentially divine and not a sinner. The goat
                                                    out the areas of agreement and cooperate in
of all religions is to help him realise his inner
                                                    them. Where we differ let us agree to differ
                                                    honestly; let us live and let others also live
Hence the Hindu has no quarrel with                 peacefully. In fact, if all understand and
anybody. He concedes that there can be as           practise the essence and the spirit of their
many paths as there are persons. Ultimately,        own religions properly, peace will certainly
every man has his own religion. What suits          reign on this earth!
one may not and need not suit another. That
                                                    Let us humbly pray for it!
is why he shows a remarkable spirit, not only

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