There are two basic aspects of the practice of Hinduism.  These are Yoga and Yagya.  Yoga is for your own life and Yagya teaches us how to relate to and be thankful to God, other fellow human beings (including family & friends) and nature.  Some topics will be briefly considered.

 

  1. Difference between Dharma and religion.

Dharma is to follow the laws of nature, and religion is a man made set of beliefs.  Dharma binds people together, whereas religion may serve to divide people. The way religion is commonly practiced has been responsible for many wars.   Hindu dharma was originally called dharma only. Then it started to be called sanaatan dharma, which means “a religion which has been present since the inception of humanity and follows the laws of nature”.

ManuSmriti defines Dharma and also goes in to the qualities of someone who practices Dharma.

“Dharmo ave hato hanti, dharmo rakshati rakshitah

Tasmadharmo na hantavyo, ma no dharmo hato vadheet”

This means, if any one kills dharma, the dharma kills the person. On the other hand, if the Dharma is protected, Dharma protects the person.

Manusmriti also goes over the ideal qualities some of a person who practices dharma.

 

“Dhritih kshama damo’steyam shaucham-indriya nigrahah

Dhir-vidya satyam-akrodho dashakam dharma lakshanam” (Manu Smriti, Ch.VI-92)

 

Meaning: “Patience, forgiveness, self-control, non-stealing, cleanliness and purity, restraint over the senses, wisdom, knowledge, truth and calmness are the ten attributes of dharm” These are not only the attributes of dharm but also of humanism and are the cornerstones for bringing about world peace.

“Veda smriti sadaacharah, svasya cha priyamaatmanah

Etachhaturvidham praahu, sakshaddhamsya lakshanam”(Manu )

 

2 There are three basic aspects of Hinduism.

These are:  Belief in God, Rituals/ceremonies and Ethics and morals. One can be called religious only by proper code of conduct along with belief in God as defined further.

 

  1. Five Pillars of Hindu Dharma are:
  2. Parmeshwar or belief in God,
  3. Prarthana or prayer,
  4. Punarjanma or rebirth,
  5. Purusharth or law of action
  6. Praanidaya or compassion and kindness for all living beings.

 

 

 

  1. Three Eternal entities: God, Soul and Matter

 

According to Vedas, there are three eternal entities in this universe, God, Soul and nature. These entities are never created or are born. These are eternal and independent. This concept in philosophical terms is called “Tretwad” or concept of three entities. By knowing the real form and concept of these, called the true knowledge or Vidya, Jeewatma or a human being can reach to the state of complete Aanand (permanent happiness), peace and Moksha or salvation. The qualities or these entities are as follows.

  1. Nature or Prakriti: Only one quality, which is its existence or “sat” or satya or truth. No one can deny its existence. But there is no consciousness or Aanand or Bliss in it. It is therefore not to be worshiped.
  2. Jeewatma (soul): It is true or Sat and also is conscious. Even soul does not have the quality of eternal bliss or Aanand. Soul or Jeewatma can be only at one place at a time, its knowledge and power are limited. Soul is free to act and is responsible for the results or fruits of its action. Soul is always looking for eternal happiness or Aanand. According to Nyaya Darshan, Vaisheshik Darshan and Satyarthprakash, the qualities of soul are:

Desires, greed, effort, happiness, unhappiness, knowledge, vital breath with body activity breathing, opening and closing of eyes etc. When a person dies and soul leaves the body, these actions and qualities are gone.

Concept of 3 bodies, physical, psychic and causal

The psychic body consists of 5 pranas, 5 sensory organs, 5 suksham bhutas or subtle elements, mind and buddhi. (Total 17 elements)

These elements stay with the soul after death. The sanchit karma stay with this as well. There is something called Antah karn chatushtaya, which is a part of psychic body. There 4 parts are; mind, intellect, chitta and ahankar. All the sanskars stay in chitta. The ahankar is the recognition of the existence of self.

The causal body is the state in which a soul essentially comes in its original pure form.  This state is same for all those souls who can achieve the Turiya Avastha . It is the reason or karan for a particular rebirth or moksha.

  1. God or Eeshwar: has all the qualities. Which means it is true; it exists, is a conscious being and has the quality of eternal bliss. God is all pervading, all knowing and all-powerful, which means it does not need any one else’s help doing all what God does. God is therefore “Sacchidanand”. Soul or Jeewatma does and should be doing Prayer or Stuti, Prarthna and Upasana and try to experience God and get some of the attributes of God and achieve peace and happiness. Word Devata is distinct from God. Anyone who is giving is Devata. Foremost are parents and other well-wishing elders, teacher and atithi or guests? We Hindus consider Earth, Sun, Moon, Ocean, River; Cow etc are Devatas because they give us something’s.

The following hymn from Rgved and Mundakopanishad makes this concept clear.

“Dwa suparna sayuja sakhaya, samaanam vriksham parishasvajate,

Tayoranyah pippalam swaadvatya nashnananyo abhichaakshiti”

 

Simple meaning of this hymn is that there are two birds sitting on a tree, there are friends and always live together. One of these tastes and eats the fruits of the tree and the other is just a witness to everything. The concept here is that the tree is the nature or Prakriti, the bird that is eating the fruits is Jeewatma or human and the bird that is the witness is the God or Eeshwar. Same concept has been further explained in the Shwetashwatar Upanishad

“Bhokta bhogyam preritaram cha matva sarvam proktam trividham brahama-metat”

The meaning is that Jeewatma is Bhokta or does action and enjoys, nature is what is enjoyed and God gives the inspiration and does not get involved in action.

First mantra of the 40th chapter of Yajurveda or the Eshopanishad makes this concept very clear.

Eeshavaasyamidam sarvam, yatkincha jagatyaanjagat,

Ten tyakten bhunjeeta, ma gridhah kasyas-sitdhanam”

The meaning is that the Supreme Being is pervading is all that exists in this universe. Enjoy all that is given to you by lord with the feeling or renunciation and don’t desire or covet anyone else’s possessions or wealth by unfair means.

To finalize therefore, God is the master of all universe, creates, sustains dissolves and recreates it, Jeewatma enjoys the nature. All are eternal although the shape or form of these entities keeps changing. All are separate from each other.

God and Soul are never the same although they are always together because lord or God is pervading all that exists as detailed above. Most complete definition of God is in the 8th Mantra o Eshopanishad. No human no matter how good he/she is, can be God. In Geeta and Ramayan as well at several places this concept has been portrayed.

  1. Scriptures:

                  Vedas are as old as humanity and obviously the oldest scripture or the text known to humanity. These were not written by any person. These are believed to have been given to the 4 Rishis in the state of deep meditation in an encoded form, who then encoded these in a language form known as Vedic Sanskrit which is somewhat different than common Sanskrit. These were in the form of 4 Vedas, known as Rg Veda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharva Veda. These were then passed on to Brahama.  These were subsequently passed on by memory only, from Rishis to Rishis from generation to generation. This is why these are called Shruti. All other subsequent writings are called Shaastras. There are total 20000 hymns in Vedas, out of which Rg Veda contains 10000 and rest 3 vedas total contain the  rest of 10000. Vedas deal with all aspects of knowledge. Primarily Rg veda has jyan, Yajurved Karma, Sama Veda pure devotion to God and Atharva Veda knowledge of nature.

Subsequent human created scriputures are:

Manu Smriti, Brahmanas, Aranyaks, Upanishads, Geeta, Ramayan Mahabharat, satyarth prakash etc.

    6.  Creation

It is belived by Vedic Sages, based on their calculation according to Vedas that the

Creation is 15 Billion yrs old

Earth is 4 Billion yr old

Life on earth is 2 Billion yrs old

Human life is 120 million yrs old.

The divisions of time in creation are as follows

One Yr of Brahama- The entire creation

It is further divided in 14 manvantara (this is so named because it is the time the sun takes to go around once in galaxy in this time period) which is further divided in 71 Chaturyugas( 4 million yr each).  Presently, we are in 7th Manavantar called Vaivasvata manavantar and this is the 28th Mahayuga or chaturyuga of this manavantar.

Each Yuga is divided in Satyuga (1.6 million yrs), Dwapar (1.2 million yrs), Treta(.8 million yrs) and Kala yuga ( .4 million yrs).

Kalpa is one rotation of our galaxy around the super galaxy and is of 4 billion yrs.

 

  1. Yoga means union or getting together of soul and god. When we meditate, the soul becomes detached from the nature and senses which normally are busy in nature and becomes engrossed in thoughts about God. At that moment the soul unites with the Almighty. There are 8 parts of yoga. These are a. yama- rules for the conduct in society. These are honesty, nonviolence, nonstealing, celibacy, and not to take any one else’s possessions by unfair means and don’t have accumulation of wealth as the sole purpose of life.
  2. Niyama-rules for personal benefit-These are, cleanliness,
  3. Execises
  4. Pranayama or breath control
  5. pratyahar, dharna, dhyana and samadhi as the deeper and deeper stages of meditation

In Yoga Darshan 1.12, practice/efforts and vairaagya or the proper judgment of right and wrong after exercising proper logic.

 

 

      8.Murti Worship

It is believed that there was no Idol worship in India before the death of Buddha. It appears that after his death, his disciples took his hair, teeth and bones and erected some memorials over it and in course of time worships were started. This was followed by worship in Jainism and subsequently in Hinduism.

Vedas have repeatedly declared that God is formless and all knowing, all pervading and all powerful and there can be no murti or idol of God. Now the question is, how did this all come about. Logically it appears that there was this human desire to create some image form of different qualities of God. Subsequently of course the murtis were created of some historical figures, there spouses etc. It is illogical to make a physical form of all pervading God. God is same for all humans, plants, animals and rest of the creation and was present before this creation and will be present after this creation as well. The moment one makes a physical form of God, the qualities of God are finished and therefore one then has to make assumptions that God has magical and unnatural powers. That makes God partial rather than just.

 

  1. Caste System(Varna Vyavastha)

Vedas, the original scriptures of humanity, have spelled out clearly, that the society can be divided in 4 types of people. These are: those who educate and guide others(Brahmins), those who protect(Kshatriys), those who do business(Vaishyas) and finally those who cannot do any of the above trades(Shudras), provide service to the above 3 segments of society. This was called the Varna Vyavastha. Manu Smriti, written by Sage Manu, thousands of yrs. ago, which can be called the first book of Law on earth, has explained the Varna Vyavastha  in great detail. Manu ji says that everyone is born at the lowest level and only by their actions and deeds people can elevate themselves to any higher level. Manu ji also says that all segments of the society have the responsibility to take care of each other and that all are equal in society irrespective of which varna they belong to and there is no place for any discrimination.  The mantra in Rg veda 10.90.12 compares different parts of our body to these Varnas. Mouth has been compared to Brahmins, the arms to Kshatriyas, the thighs to Vaishya and finally the legs to the Shudras. These Varnas were based on the capabilities and interest of the individual rather than by birth. In the same family one sibling could be of one Varna and the other of a different Varna. There are many examples in history where people have freely changed their Varna.  In the course of time, when this system fell into selfish hands, the system became by birth rather than based on the vocation.  The “so-called” higher strata of the society who had the control in form of power and money began to misuse and torment the less privileged ones.  In the last century or two, some great reformers were born in India who worked tirelessly to bring back the original Vedic system.  In the present constitution of India there is a strict ban on any form of discrimination.  As a matter of fact, the writer of the Indian constitution was “untouchable”, and we have had a president of India who was an “untouchable” as well.  The caste system, the way it is in practice today, is by birth and therefore full of flaws. This is one of the ploys used by converters to lure people in to other faiths sighting this as a defect in Hinduism. Going back to Vedic teachings can serve to help remove this flaw in our social structure.

 

9.Swastika:

I realize that the simple mention of the swastika may raise some eyebrows and bring the feeling of hatred.  However, I would like to submit to you the following.

  1. The word swastika really means “for the well-fare or goodness”. It just so happens that Hitler misused something so noble in the meanest way possible.
  2. It is the symbol of the sun, earth, and cosmos in a dynamic whirl. It represents divine energy which pervades the universe in all directions.
  3. The next statement generally made is that the Hindu swastika and the Nazi swastika are written differently. It is not true.  The many variations of it found and the swastika as used by Hitler has been prevalent in India for thousands of years before his use of it.
  4. The next question is as to how did this come to Germany? For this one, one has to go back to the history of the Vedic civilization.  It is a topic in itself and cannot be discussed here in depth.  The theory of Aryan invasion was secretly proposed in a meeting of Royal Asiatic Society on the 10th of April in 1866 in London.  The goal of this was “to induct the theory of Aryan invasion of India so that no Indian may say that the English are foreigners.  That, India was ruled all along by outsiders and so the country must remain a slave under British rule.”  This was a political move by British rulers.  There is extensive evidence that the civilization existed for at least ten thousand years where it is today and with a reasonable certainty, one could argue that there were no invaders in India, but it was these civilized people who moved and interacted with people in Europe, bringing their civilization and insignia with them.  One could surmise that there was Indian influence of ancient times in Germany.  One could therefore conclude that the original meaning of the good of the humanity misused by Hitler.

 

        10.Bindi:

This seems to be purely a cultural decoration historically used by married women.  Of course now it is purely a park of makeup.

 

11.Sanskars (Sacraments):

Sanskar (sacraments) means “transformation or giving a new shape to life”.

Sanskars can eliminate or at least modify to improve the already present vices and inducts virtues in life.  It comes from Vedas.

 

The question now comes as to what is the need of sanskars?  This can really be compared to the road map and signposts on the road to a certain destination.  It is very easy for us in our daily walks of life to loose sense of duties as a human being, which distinguish us from animals.  Sanskars remind us our responsibilities and can help us lead a proper life.

The next question comes as to what do we mean by sanskars.  In our lives we continue to perform actions, some good some not so good.  We don’t always see the clear result of each and every action.

The Sanskars are the total sum of 3 things.  The actions of previous births, genetics the parents and family we are born in and the 3rd and last is our environment we live in, ever since birth.  Actions of past are Sanskars of today and actions of today will be the Sanskars of tomorrow.

It is believed that by proper guidance and appropriate conduct it is possible to change the Sanskars or the character of an individual.  This is what the Sanskar system is all about.

This whole system is based on the Vedic belief that besides the physical body, which is physical and part of nature and is cremated or buried after birth, there is so called Psychic or subtle body which is physical enough to interact with the physical body and non physical enough to interact with the soul.  Upon death, the soul leaves the body and the subtle body goes with it, carrying with it the fruits of previous actions which is incorporated in the Sanskars in the next life as has already been explained above.

A system of 16 Sanskars has been put together.  which are as follows;

 Before birth: 3, during life: 12   & after death: 1

Vedic mantras are recited because to have certain effect, appropriate sound waves have to be created, which is achieved by Vedic Mantras.

  1. Holidays:

The main religious holidays for hindus are holi, deepawali, raksha bandhan, and shivratri.

 

  1. Life after birth as outlined above

 

14. Cremation v/s Burial– Death is defined as the leaving of soul or the conscious part of us leaing behind nature or the visible physical body, which must then be returned to nature in its original form and therefore is creamated ASAP. Of course, availability of plenty of wood where this system originated historically and hot climate may have something to do with it as well.