Sunday, 20 March 2016

Hinduism... And Sanaatan Dharm

There is a rather disturbing trend, currently at very minute levels, of identifying  the rise of a doctrinaire tenet in what we like to call Hinduism. I find this observation surprising at worst, and a sweeping generalisation at best. First of all, The word "Hinduism" has no historical or religious basis. Our religion has no name; Hinduism is name coined by our Colonial Rulers, to the best of my knowledge. I have not found this term beyond the colonial era; be that as it may – most of us accept it as the name for our religion. So be it.




There is no mention of any name anywhere in all our religious texts. None whatsoever; the closest one comes to a name is the repeated reference to the term "Sanaatan". Thus, over time, it came to be called Sanaatan Dharm - closest translation : "The Eternal Path" . The religious connotation of the term Hindu is of colonial origin; the earlier term refered to a people from a particular geographical tract, south-east of the river Sindhu, wrongly known as Indus.




It is a non-proselytising faith; the books are explicit : this is not to be revealed to anyone UNLESS asked, and that too by a true devotee, or learner, to a true Guru or Guide. Further, the description of the term devotee or learner is also explicit - and contains references to a lifestyle, path, deeds, duties, ethics, truth, etc. That is why I find the entire concept of Hindu Fundementalism laughable, current events notwithstanding. It wont happen, our path does not allow for it - explicitly so




It is becoming a fashionable statement to look at current events and proscribe Sanaatan Dharm as a doctrinaire faith – or rather, to be specific – identify a rise of doctrinaire trends; I don’t deny the recent events and the upsurge along a particular tangent; but, seen in the light of a full analysis, there is no cause to label an entire faith as doctrinaire, as some people are beginning to call it.




These people are, I respectfuly submit, seeing only one side of the coin. I think I can see another side, and prefer to dwell on it. Even within these so-called doctrinaire times, I can spot a revival of the Old, the Sanaatani path, as the Sanaatani throws off the colonial yoke and revives what was once a golden path. This is a strong backlash that is rising fast, with the spread of education and awareness.




Second, there a strong trend of basics in terms of Sanaatani thoughts that identify them as one of the Eternal Path, Sanaatan Dharmis. Note that ours is a broad faith, to each his own almost.  The fringe may be there -doctrinaire, hardline. But that hardline is a very very soft hardline as compared to other religions, which pretty much finishes that argument. Add to that the real fact of targeting of the "Hindu" identity, ridicuing etc, and you get the current status!




I have previously stated above that the term Hinduism is of relatively recent origin, and was a term that evolved out of interaction with external forces and stimuli. These stimuli also set in motion other changes, which is also quite relevant – like the hardline niche segment, or the doctrinaire aspects that some people see. This distinction is rather important, for anything that occurs as a result of external forces is by definition ephemeral by nature. It may be a transient phase in our way; unless it causes a fundamental change in the roots of our faith, it is not likely to last very long.




And the roots are still where they were : the Eternal Path, as told in the scriptures. The recent media focus on The Shrimad Bhagwad Geeta {for example} is bound to create a list of people who will actually read it; and anyone who reads it by his own volition, is highly unlikely to stray from the Eternal Path for a very long time indeed. The rising interest in Sanskrut, though politicised, in bound to create some people who will truly read and understand the vast body of knowledge that it contains, and reach the same conclusions others have.




I agree that the present has some tenets of doctrinaire faiths in a small niche, but I respectfully submit that is only skin deep. If you scratch away the surface, it reveals a rock-hard foundation of the tenets of The Eternal Path, Sanaatan Dharm. The basics of our faith - they are all there is body and spirit; and I not talking of externalities, but rather of deep seated beliefs, upto and including rebirth.




I refer to the adherance to the basics of Sanaatan Dharm which enables people to see it as the same as so-called Hinduism. Belief in Karm / Dharm, focus on family, adherance to the mantras and methods of prayer etc. They may not know the reason for these; for that you have to perforce study the scriptures.





Our scriptures are worded so beautifully and in such a sublime fashion, that no one will understand unless he or she has a basic desire to understand. Further, the faith does not allow for preaching in any form - which is why you can see that while the Shrimad Bhagwad Geeta is sold in book form, but rarely does it feature as a holy play or as a Leela. The reason, imho, is that it is impossible to portray the complete wisdom of that blueprint of life in any form except the written word.




But, coming back to the point, the doctrinaire aspects : are they really doctrinaire? We dont have a central body accepted by all, or even by a siziable number; we are not required, by social force or religious dictat, to pray or even to visit a temple; we do not have any acceptance of a body representing our faith. These are classic Sanaatani traits which is very open and permissive by nature




The focus is still on the individual and not on the community as a whole; that is precisely what Sanaatan Dharm is. In fact, it is the founding stone of Sanaatan Dharm - the hunt for self, which continues till you find yourself, understand yourself. That is something modern day Hinduism will instantly recognise. There is no community level activism on a religious scale whatsoever, and a continued tradition of individuality continues as a strong foundation stone. The Sanaatan Dharm follower is still indivualistic and self-oriented, focussed on the self. There is no presence of a community force, totally unlike the Abrahamic Religions, which are by definition doctrinaire.




Externalities have changed; but then there is a reason. The era has changed; the scriptures are handed down from Parmatma; and are the word of God. That means - Satyug. This is Kalyug, and in between the oldest scriptures and now, the Parmatma has had to come at least in 18 differnt avatars, to give us light and direction.





Two forces are important : first, these were avatars who came to help us, and two - the lack of, or the erosion of the reading of our scriptures. These two taken together meant a change in the visible externalities of The Eternal Path, which was branded as Hinduism by the White Man.





But at its core- the basic tenets were retained. There is still no universally accepted central body, or sectwise bodies that differentiate people, again unlike the Abrahaminic faiths. You can pray to Lord Ganesh, Sai Baba, or to The Lord Shiv, or to Lord Vishnu, or Shri Ram, or Shri Krishna - you are still a Hindu, or as the real name goes - Sanaatan Dharmi. Most of us {all of us?} pray to many avatars, without differentiation and as per the occasion.




Documents, studies and treatises of the various Maths {for example} are read by all; they are the Gurus; the scriptures clearly lay out the need for an enlightened Guru unequivocally. The more knowledgeable among them have written lengthy anaylses that still hold relevance. Shankaracharya comes to mind immediately.




Thus, we can see that while externalities have altered, the basics of Sanaatan Dharm are present. The rest is part politics, part historical misunderstanding, and part inferiority complex present in some among us who like to ape The West...





I don’t understand why we should call ourselves “Hindus”. Fine, it is an accepted name – I have no issues with it, and we can continue to do so. It is a legal requirement to name your religion in the modern day, and we need a name to give to the documents. But why cant we call ourselves by the original name, or rather the closest to a name the scriptures state : Sanaatan {Sanaatan Dharm}? 


For the first time this month, I wrote Sanaatan Dharm as my religion while checking into the hotel. It felt more natural to do so... 

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