Hinduism is a not a religion but a way of life to live in this earth in present birth. The most obvious misconception about Hinduism is that we tend to see it as just another religion.
Dharma is the path of righteousness and living one's life according to the codes of conduct as described by the Hindu Scriptures.
Words like Hindu or Hinduism are ANANCHRONISM
They do not exist in the Indian cultural lexicon. People have coined them to suit their needs in different points of history. Nowhere in the scriptures is there any reference to Hinduism.
A Culture More than a Religion
Hinduism does not have any one founder, and it does not have a Bible or a Koran to which controversies can be referred for resolution. Consequently, it does not require its adherents to accept any one idea. It is thus cultural, not creedal, with a history contemporaneous with the peoples with which it is associated.
Much More than Spirituality
Writings we now categorise as Hindu scriptures include not just books relating to spirituality but also secular pursuits like science, medicine and engineering. This is another reason why it defies classification as a religion per se. Further, it cannot be claimed to be essentially a school of metaphysics. Nor can it be described as 'other worldly'. In fact, one can almost identify Hinduism with a civilization that is flourishing even now.
A Common Faith of the Indian Subcontinent
ARYAN INVASION THEORY
, having been completely discredited, it cannot be assumed that Hinduism was the pagan faith of invaders belonging to a race called Aryans. Rather it was the common metafaith of people of various races, including Harappans. The Sanskrit word 'aryan' is a word of honourable address, not the racial reference invented by European scholars and put to perverse use by the Nazis.
A Culture Much Older than we Believe
Evidence that Hinduism must have existed even circa 10000 B.C. is available: The importance attached to the river Saraswati and the numerous references to it in VEDAS indicates that the Rig Veda was being composed well before 6500 B.C. The first vernal equinox recorded in the Rig Veda is that of the star Ashwini, which is now known to have occurred around 10000 B.C. Subhash Kak, a Computer Engineer and a reputed Indologist, 'decoded' the Rig Veda and found many advanced astronomical concepts therein. The technological sophistication required to even anticipate such concepts is unlikely to have been acquired by a nomadic people, as the Invasionists would like us to believe. In his book Gods, Sages and Kings
, David Frawley provides compelling evidence to substantiate this claim.
Hinduism is a Not really Polytheistic!
Many believe that multiplicity of deities makes Hinduism POLYTHESTIC
. Such a belief is nothing short of mistaking the wood for the tree. The bewildering diversity of Hindu belief - theistic, atheistic and agnostic - rests on a solid unity. "Ekam sath, Vipraah bahudhaa vadanti", says the Rig Veda: The Truth (God, BRAHMAN
, etc) is one, scholars call it by various names.
What the multipicity of deities does indicate is Hinduism's spiritual hospitality as evidenced by two characteristically Hindu doctrines: The Doctrine of Spiritual Competence (Adhikaara) and the Doctrine of The Chosen Deity (Ishhta Devata). The doctrine of spiritual competence requires that the spiritual practices prescribed to a person should correspond to his or her spiritual competence. The doctrine of the chosen deity gives a person the freedom to choose (or invent) a form of Brahman that satisfies his spiritual cravings and to make it the object of his worship. It is notable that both doctrines are consistent with Hinduism's assertion that the unchanging reality is present in everything, even the transient.
Moral Law of the World
Hinduism describes dharma as the natural universal laws whose observance enables humans to be contented and happy, and to save himself from degradation and suffering. Dharma is the moral law combined with spiritual discipline that guides one's life. Hindus consider dharma the very foundation of life. It means "that which holds" the people of this world and the whole creation. Dharma is the "law of being" without which things cannot exist.
According to the Scriptures
Dharma refers to the religious ethics as propounded by Hindu gurus in ancient Indian scriptures, TULSIDAS JI
,author of Ramcharitmanas
, has defined the root of dharma as compassion. This principle was taken up by Lord Buddha in his immortal book of great wisdom, Dhammapada
. The Atharva Veda
describes dharma symbolically: Prithivim dharmana dhritam
, that is, "this world is upheld by dharma". In the epic poem Mahabharat.
Good Dharma = Good Karma
Hinduism accepts the concept of reincarnation, and what determines the state of an individual in the next existence is KARMA which refers to the actions undertaken by the body and the mind. In order to achieve good karma it is important to live life according to dharma, what is right. This involves doing what is right for the individual, the family, the class or caste and also for the universe itself. Dharma is like a cosmic norm and if one goes against the norm it can result in bad karma. So, dharma affects the future according to the karma accumulated. Therefore one's dharmic path in the next life is the one necessary to bring to fruition all the results of past karma.
What Makes You Dharmic?
Anything that helps human being to reach god is dharma and anything that hinders human being from reaching god is adharma. According to the Bhagavat Purana
, righteous living or life on a dharmic path has four aspects: austerity ( tap
), purity ( shauch
), compassion ( daya
) and truthfulness ( satya
); and adharmic or unrighteous life has three vices: pride ( ahankar
), contact ( sangh
), and intoxication ( madya
). The essence of dharma lies in possessing a certain ability, power and spiritual strength. The strength of being dharmic also lies in the unique combination of spiritual brilliance and physical prowess.
The 10 Rules of Dharma
written by the ancient sage Manu, prescribes 10 essential rules for the observance of dharma: Patience ( dhriti
), forgiveness ( kshama
), piety or self control ( dama
), honesty ( asteya
), sanctity ( shauch
), control of senses ( indraiya-nigrah
), reason ( dhi
), knowledge or learning ( vidya
), truthfulness ( satya
) and absence of anger ( krodha
). Manu further writes, "Non-violence, truth, non-coveting, purity of body and mind, control of senses are the essence of dharma". Therefore dharmic laws govern not only the individual but all in society.
The Purpose of Dharma
The purpose of dharma is not only to attain a union of the soul with the supreme reality, it also suggests a code of conduct that is intended to secure both worldly joys and supreme happiness. Rishi Kanda has defined dharma in Vaisesika as "that confers worldly joys and leads to supreme happiness". Hinduism is the religion that suggests methods for the attainment of the highest ideal and eternal bliss here and now on earth and not somewhere in heaven. For example, it endorses the idea that it is one's dharma to marry, raise a family and provide for that family in whatever way is necessary. The practice of dharma gives an experience of peace, joy, strength and tranquillity within one's self and makes life disciplined.