The word Hindu etymologically means an inhabitant of the land of the river Sindhu. Hinduism is Sanatana Dharma – the eternal way of life. Hinduism is a scientific and spiritual religion based on the principals of deep inner reflection and repeated thought refinement.
If the entire essence of Hinduism was to be boiled down to just one idea, it can be from the Isha Upanishad which is part of the of the Yajurveda:
tena tyaktena bhuñjîthâ
“What is given by Him, alloted to you, you enjoy only that.”
It can also be interpreted as: Rejoice in giving.
The Hindu culture is essentially based upon the sacrifice implied in duty and not upon acquisition which is implied in rights. – Swami Chinmayananda.
What do Hindus put a dot on their forehead?
The Ajna Chakra which is the spot between the eyebrows is also called the Third eye and its the seat to your intuition. It is a part of the brain which can be made more powerful through meditation, yoga & other spiritual practices. The act of applying a mixture of lime and turmeric cools this part of the brain and also stimulates blood supply around the region.
Why do Hindus light oil lamps in their homes?
An oil lamp is usually lighted twice in a day in some Hindu homes. The lamps are also burned using Ghee instead of oil because of how Ghee can drive away lethargy and bring in Chaitanya (energy) when it burns. The symbolism is that a lamp lighted during dawn and dusk, dispels darkness and removes ignorance and ushers in the rays of knowledge.
Man’s control of nature external is Civilization. His control of nature internal is Culture. ~ Swami Chinmayananda
There are 6 postulates on how to be a Hindu:
I. Hinduism is based on 4 main types of Holy scriptures:
To ask who’s the author of Hinduism is like asking who’s the author of Physics. There’s however an Adi Guru (First Teacher), Adi Shankara who’s written many commentaries on Vedantic texts like Gita, Upanishads and Brahma Sutras.
A. Vedas are Sruti:
a. The revealed knowledge. The sage Veda Vyas compiled them. There are 4 vedas. Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva. The Vedas which lay the foundation for a Vedic life are the manuals of the ideal life. It has commandments on how to retain our Prakriti – the original nature of the Self.
- Karmakaanda: Describes the rituals which purify the mind.
- Upaasanakaanda: Describes Upasana, practices which cure the restlessness of the mind.
- Jnanakaanda: Vedanta: Describes the knowledge of the Self.
b. The philosophy of Vedanta that has been derived from the Vedas is available in The Upanishads.
c. The Bhagavad Gita which is an essence of the Upanishads is like the executive summary of the Vedas.
B. Smritis: Knowledge derived from memory. Smriti Shastras are Dharma Shastras, they describe ethical and moral conduct and duties of human beings. Ex: Manu Smriti.
C. Itihasas: The Ramayana and Mahabharata.
D. Puranas: There are 18 of them: Story telling which is education oriented. Bhagavatam is the most popular one. There are 46 upa-puranas.
II. Law of Karma:
Calling oneself a Hindu, means being able to accept the law of Karma in its totality. Good actions will result in good result either in this life, or any future lives. What goes around comes around and it’s inevitable. Nothing or no one else can be blamed for the sorrows in one’s life. So the emphasis of the ideal life will be to do good actions without expecting anything in return.
Our duties are like seeds, they are cause, so nourish them well and the tree that’s the effect will be beautiful. In committing to actions, choose wisely. Your destiny is determined by choices. Choices are in your hand, whether you make a choice or not, you’ll face the consequence. Manu Smriti says: Commit actions that are healthy – Physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually.
III. Belief in reincarnation:
The soul existed long before this body came into being. In this birth, it has been given a name, a physical form and relationships which are all temporary. The body has a beginning and someday it’s physical journey will come to an end, but the soul’s journey is eternal. (Sanatana)
It was introduced to the concept of living a life of consequences. What you sow, so you reap. If you don’t want to be born again in this world filled with pain and impermanence, do good things, attain Moksha (salvation). And you will be free from the cycle of birth.
Belief in karma goes hand in hand with belief in reincarnation, where the immortal soul, on its path of spiritual evolution, takes birth in various physical bodies through the cycle of life and death. Though karma can be immediate, it often spans over lifetimes and is one explanation to the commonly asked question, “Why do bad things happen good people?” or visa versa.
IV. The goal of the Hindu life is liberation:
Until the soul attains liberation, it will keep reincarnating as a body in a time and place. Freedom from the bondage of Karma is Liberation. Until that is attained therefore, the goal of the Hindu should be actions that lead to liberation.
V. Life is lived in these different stages:
An Ashrama (āśrama) in Hinduism is one of four age-based life stages discussed in ancient and medieval era Indian texts. The four asramas are: Brahmacharya (student), Grihastha (householder), Vanaprastha (retired) and Sannyasa (renunciation). The Ashramas system is one facet of the Dharma concept in Hinduism.
The final stage is the one of the highest order where withdrawal and leading a life of renunciation as mentioned in the Vedas is to be achieved.
VI. God incarnates in many forms or an all-pervasive Divine Reality that is formless (Brahman).
By accepting the divinity in all beings and all of nature, Hinduism views the universe as a family or, in Sanskrit, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. All beings, from the smallest organism to man, are considered manifestations of God. Mankind carries a special responsibility, as it is believed to be the most spiritually evolved with the capacity to not only tolerate, but honor the underlying equality and unity of all beings. In line with this idea is the commonly heard Hindu greeting of Namastê, which means “The Divine in me bows to the Divine in you.”
The 4 fundamental pursuits of human beings according to Hinduism:
- Dharma: Ethics. Dharma = Pure Karma: the ideal way of living.
- Artha: Wealth.
- Kama: Desires for enjoyment.
- Moksha: Liberation.
How should Hindus seek God?
In Lalitha Sahasranaama, there’s a shloka (verse).
Antarmukha samaradhya bahirmukha sudurlabha
God says, “You won’t find me, unless you turn inward.”
Lessons from the Universe:
The lessons start with what we can learn from the Universe: about the things we can and cannot control.
- Can you change the rain into sunshine because you are having a party?
- Can you change your siblings, parents, relatives because you don’t like the way they are?
- Can you change the way your nose is? Well…
There is a prayer called the Serenity prayer that’s taught in rehab institutions across America.
‘God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.’
That leaves you with only one thing you can change: Your mind. The only thing you possess is time and the only thing you can control is your mind. Quietly reflect on that thought.
Why should you change your mind? Why polish it and make it better?
A log of wood or for a nice table set that’s made out of that. What would you pay more for, a piece of wood or a shiny new table?
Human, is Manuṣya in Sanskrit comes from the root, Man, to think. And that’s what separates us from animals, is our ability to control our mind.
According to the scriptures, there are 3 issues of the mind that we should work on:
- Impurities of the mind
- Restlessness and
- The lack of knowledge of the self.
Sanskaaras (Inner qualities) for Optimum living:
The Gautama Dharmasutra describes 8 inner qualities or sanskaaras for optimum living. To become the best version of yourself:
- Kindness to all beings
- Patience and forgiveness
- Free from jealousy
- Purity of the mind
- Not to feel mental strain
- Being cheerful
- Giving to charity
- Be free from desires.
How does Hinduism promote holistic wellbeing?
It advocates wellness in three areas of a human’s life. Physical, emotional and intellectual. By practicing self control in consumption, we ensure physical wellbeing. By practicing non violence, we ensure emotional wellbeing. By being truthful, we ensure intellectual wellbeing.
Why is it important to go back to our Prakriti (true nature)?
I will give you just one example. Our forefathers hunted and grew food only as much as they needed. If they had excess, they would give it away to friends and family or strangers in return for something or sometimes for nothing at all. When you buy toilet paper in bulk and are using real estate in your home to store rolls and rolls of it, that’s when you know you’re living true to your original nature.
So, what is our inherent Prakriti?
- Infinite happiness: The nature of pure and unadulterated happiness that’s not connected to anything physical and doesn’t compare our phones or homes or lives to any other living being.
- Unlimited potential: The nature of realizing our biggest gifts, and our nature of believing in ourselves with the deepest commitment irrespective of what outside sources tell us.
The secrets of true inner transformation:
- Man has five senses of action: EYES, EARS, NOSE, TONGUE and SKIN. They help him perceive the world.
- He has five organs of action: SPEECH, HANDS, LEGS, GENITALS and ANUS. He has four emotions that he can act upon:
- MIND: Buddhi
- INTENTION: Sankalpa
- IMAGINATION: Vikalpa and
- EGO: Ahankara
These 14 tools can give birth to DESIRE. And when Desire arises, it dilutes the person’s inner core.
The life of a student according to Hinduism:
The scriptures offer how students should lead their lives. Brahmacharya is an attitude of intelligent contact with the world. According to the Brahmacharya phase postulates:
If you desire comfort, give up the desire to gain knowledge; if you desire knowledge, give up comfort.
Laziness is a friendly monster. Its nice to you, but realize that it doesn’t want the best for you in the end. The order of reverence that a child must follow is given in this sequence:
Matha Pitha Guru Deivam
“Mother Father Teacher God”
A Smart Student is
At his best form he has these qualities:
- Never Tough
The life of a Parent according to Hinduism:
Lalanam premavarsha hi raksabhavastu palanam
Siksanam jivkartham ca posanam balavardhanam
Cuddling children is to indeed shower them with love. Protecting children is to give them a true sense of security. Educating children is to equip them with a means to earn their livelihood. and nourishing children is to empower them.
The Essence of Hinduism:
1. Look inward.
2. Know your strengths.
3. Speak the truth.
4. Follow Dharma: Do your duties. Duties toward home, society, work, place of worship, mother nature and the animal kingdom. And most importantly towards yourself.
5. Practicing non-violence:
Practicing non-violence by Speech:
- a. Bad hurtful words.
- b. To lie.
- c. To complain, to spread rumors and gossip.
Practicing non-violence by Mind:
- a. Imagine the silence of your mother. Is it hurtful?
- b. Jealousy.
- c. Greed.
- d. Selfishness.
- e. Competition.
Ahimsaa Paramo Dharma
“Non injury to any other living being”
6. Seek mentors: Seek their blessings.
7. Give selflessly: If you’re able to give it means that you’re in a better position than the person receiving. Give to all those who deserve.
8. Shraddha: Faith in leadership, school system, humanity and yourself. Trust in your parents to take care of your basic needs.
9. Acquire wealth: Not only money, but friends, knowledge and a remarkable support system around yourself.
10. Wake up: You don’t see gravitational forces, but can you deny it? Our clarity of thoughts and intellect gets diffused by worldly pleasures and our friendly monster, Laziness. Keep the fire of your intellect pursuit burning.
11. Upasana: Believe in prayer. Some sort of worship, to find time to quiet down. You don’t even have to have a belief in anything.
12. Attitude of gratitude: Towards the world: We say thanks to people who hold doors to us. Its just common sense. We now know how icecream is made and how we can bring it home and preserve it. Say thanks to the guy who invented icecream and the refrigerator.
The concept of Panca yajnas:
- Our offerings to God.
- Our obligations to our forefathers.
- Our gratitude to animals and birds.
- For our guests and the needy. They are part of our the human ecosystem.
- To our scriptures because they show us a way of life.
13. Attitude of gratitude: Towards yourself:
a. Upon waking up: Look at your palms with gratitude. They are your wealth, they are the doers, they’re the bread winners.
KaraAgre Vasate Lakshmi,
Kara-Madhye SaraswatiKara-Moole Sthitaa Gowri,
b. Before sleeping: Ask for forgiveness for all the sins that were committed by your hands, feet, speech, the body and the mind.
Kara-Caranna Krtam Vaak-Kaaya-Jam Karma-Jam Vaa |
Shravanna-Nayana-Jam Vaa Maanasam Va-Aparaadham |
Vihitam-Avihitam Vaa Sarvam-Etat-Kssamasva |
Jaya Jaya Karunna-Abdhe Shrii-Mahaadeva Shambho ||
14. Execute: Apply everything that you’ve learnt so far. Keep revising your life tomorrow with all the things you learnt yesterday.
Food according to Hinduism: Food is medicine.
The Gita has verses that describe the three types of people based on the foods they consume: Satvik, Rajasic and Tamasic.
- Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 17 – Verse 7
Food should be consumed after a sincere thought about the methods of sacrifice, austerity and charity that went into the production of the food.
- Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 17 – Verse 8
Food that increase ones life, energy, strength, health, happiness and satisfaction, that is succulent, fatty, wholesome and appealing is dear to those in the mode of goodness.
- Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 17 – Verse 9
Food that is too bitter, too sour, too salty, too hot, too pungent, too dry and creates a burning sensation within, causes pain, sorrow and disease. Such food is dear to those in the mode of passion.
- Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 17 – Verse 10
Food that is stale, tasteless, foul-smelling, rotten, left by others and unfit for sacrifice is dear to those in the mode of ignorance. Good are drawn to good, bad are drawn to the bad.
The Section 9 of the Chandogya Upanishad tells how food is processed in the body:
1. What happens to food?
2. What happens to water?
3. What happens to fire in the food? Like Oily foods and nuts?
The Gāyatrī Mantra:
The Gāyatrī Mantra from the Rig Veda (Mandala 3.62.10) is dedicated to the Sun:
May my perception of the world be clear, my discrimination subtle, my judgments correct and quick, my comprehension of situations and being precise and wise.
The Hindu Caste system:
Much has been made of the Hindu caste system in India. But, let me tell you what the Scriptures say. Caste classification can be done in two ways. One based on Guna (qualities) and one based on Karma (actions), but never by virtue of birth.
Caste system based on Karmas:
1. Brahmins (The thinking class): 6 karmas of the Brahmins are:
The ability to study, research, invent, discover, teach and other such work that requires thought.
2. Kshatriyas (The leader class): 5 karmas of the Kshatriyas are:
The ability to protect people, give to charity, perform yajnas, study scriptures, and not engross in sense objects. They are the ones who are expected to courageously fight battles when necessary.
3. Vaishyas (The Business class): The ability to perform yajnas, study scriptures, give to charity, do business, commericial and agricultural. They have a propensity to produce wealth for themselves and society.
4. Sudras (The Labor class): Their karma is to serve without having any jealousy. To provide labor to the rest of the classes.
Caste system based on Gunas:
1. Sattva: Nature of knowledge: A desire for knowledge adn the qualities of love, faith, kindness and compassion.
2. Raj: Nature of activity: Numerous desires and ambitions are its manifestations.
3. Tamo: Nature of inertia: Manifests as dullness and little interest or ambition of any kind.
Janmana jayate sudrah
Manusmrti says, “Everyone is born as Sudra”
Think of our society as a cup of coffee. Water + Coffee + Milk + Sugar makes coffee. So they don’t individually have coffee in them, but only as a combination can bring the taste.
The Law of Renunciation:
Renunciation of actions with desires; the wise declare the abandonment of the fruits of all actions as Tyaaga (sacrifice). Desire and anxiety bring about restlessness.
Give up desires. I don’t mean be passive about it, but not give up the desire to improve. Not to give up the desire to succeed.
The Law of Non-duality:
The essence of Hinduism: Is to be able to look inward and tell yourself:
“I am Brahman, I am infinite.”
The 7 original qualities of our Atma are:
1. Gyana (Knowledge)
2. Pavitrata (Mental cleanliness)
3. Sukha (Bliss)
4. Santhi (Peace)
5. Sakthi (Strength)
6. Aananda (Joy)
7. Prema (Love)
We forget that we are embodiments of bliss. We forget that we are knowledge, we are peace, we are strength, we are love. When we’re already everything within us, why is our happiness dependent on external factors? Reflect on this.
But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
How Hindus live their lives:
- Who Am I by Ramana Maharshi
- Freedom from the Known by J. Krishnamurti
- Autobiography of Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda
- Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
- Why we do what we do by Chinmaya Mission
- A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle
- Be Here Now by Ram Dass
Header image: Shiva from the Holy Trinity of Hinduism