What is Hinduism?

Hinduism and Judaism are the mothers of all modern religions in the world. Buddhism, Sikhism and to some extent Jainism and Zoroastrianism originated from Hinduism.

Of course, Jainism existed during Rig Vedic Period. Statues of Rishabha, the first Thirthankara and founder of Jainism was found in the Mohenjo-Daro, Harappa excavations.

Islam and Christianity came from Judaism. Judaism, Islam and Christianity have Abraham as the common father figure. All three have many common prophets. There is even mention about Jesus Christ in the Holy Koran.

Coming back to Hinduism, C.S. Lewis, the great author and theologist wrote, finally it will come to two religions. Hinduism and Christianity.

The first (Hinduism) will grow absorbing ideas and concepts from everywhere and later (Christianity) will keep away from everything that is foreign to it. What C.S. Lewis wrote is very true.

Hinduism cannot be destroyed, even if we burn every Hindu scripture and kill every Hindu theologian on earth. Hinduism or Hindu Culture is a very dynamic living, breathing Reality.

Strength of Hinduism lies in its most amazing ability to adapt to different circumstances and different ages while maintaining its very strong continuity with the past. How does it do that? That is a billion-dollar question.

What is Hinduism?

Hinduism is "a way of life." It is the true culture of Indians in India. It is not an organized religion like Christianity or Islam. It has no founder. It has no Pope. It has no hierarchy. Just a lot of scriptures.

Thirty (30) years ago, long, long before the birth of “Google” and “Facebook”, I wrote and published my first book “Am I A Hindu?” to help my young son to understand all about Hinduism, when he was attending a Catholic school in USA.

I never ever thought it will become an international best seller when it was published during 1988. Today that book is used in many universities in USA and Canada as well as in many schools and colleges in India, in their religion classes.

Am I A Hindu? received many rave reviews.

The Hindu, Chennai wrote:" - the need of the hour not only for those overseas but even here in India - ".
The Hindu Times, Nepal wrote," - We treat this book as a very valuable contribution to the world of religions - "

Mr. Walter Isaac son, Managing Editor of Time Magazine wrote," - this book is extremely interesting to me, and I plan to share it with others who may be curious about Hindu religion - "

Hinduism Today wrote, " - Viswanathan has indeed done his homework and his well-crafted answers should prove useful to many who like their Hinduism liberal - -"

Editor-in Chief Lisa Peschel, The Llewellyn News Times wrote, " - -The very best introduction to the tenets of Hinduism I have yet to read - -"

Library Journal USA wrote: “The book is useful not only to American Hindus but to those who want a nontechnical introduction to Hinduism as lived today. The book also explains how Hinduism engages in dialog with Western science and culture. Recommended for large public libraries and undergraduate collections.”

Recently, I published another book, “Amazing Secrets of Hinduism- Hindu Culture & Incredible India” describing in in simple words many secrets of Hinduism and the contributions of India to the world.

Who is the founder of Hinduism?

Nobody in particular. It is the research output of countless learned men called Rishis who were the scientists of the ancient age, through centuries.

Who is a Hindu?

I believe anyone who search after truth is a Hindu. There is One and only God and One Truth. The very first book of Hindus named Rig Veda proclaim, "Ekam Sat, Viprah Bahudha Vadanti". (There is only one truth, only men describe it in different ways).

So, a Jew or a Christian or a Moslem who is in search after truth is automatically a Hindu. There are about 800 million Hindus in the world. There are more than 800,000 Hindus in the U.S., and about 160,000 in Canada.

Who are Aryans?

Who are Aryans? Sounds like a million-dollar question.

Why of all the nations in the world, India alone is historically known as “Aryavarta”, the land of the Aryans? If the Aryans really came from Europe or elsewhere, those countries too should have been known as the same name “Aryavarta.”

Aryan invasion theory as proposed by the British and other European scholars. Authors like Max Muller reinforced the idea of Aryans as foreigners coming to India. Once again, no other country, land, or region was historically known by the name of “Aryavarta” than India.

India was and is the birthplace of Aryans, the ancient men of nobility, the original Vedic Kshatriyas who worshipped Brahma Prajapati, inhabited the Indus-Rajputana belt, and who were frequently mentioned in the Upanishads.

The word "Arya" is probably one of most misused, misunderstood and misinterpreted words in recent times. No one is sure how the word came into existence but after Hitler adapted the word to denote pure German race, the word became synonymous with racism.

The truth is the world was used in ancient India to denote people of certain social background rather than a particular race. It is used in Sanskrit both as a noun and as an adjective to denote a person, quality, character and social status rather than a race.

Who are the Rishis?

Rishis were the scientists of the ancient age. They were not preachers and they allowed even atheists to debate them.

* They discussed and debated like scientists about every aspect of life.
* They even discussed about human sexuality.
* They explored the universe.
* They even allowed atheistic philosophies to prevail in Hinduism.
* They never beat up or killed people who put down Vedas.


Rishis only cared for only for truth and nothing else. They did not have any other agenda what so ever. Rig Veda 1:89:1 states: “Aano bhadra krtavo yantu vishwatah” meaning

"Let noble thoughts come to all from every direction.”

Rishis (ancient Hindu seers) did not write, “Let noble thoughts come to us all from India. ”The Rishis ask us to search for truth all over the universe

What Attracts people to Hinduism?

The concepts of “utmost freedom of thoughts and actions. “That's what attracts many to Hinduism. Hinduism never forbids any one to question its fundamentals.

Even an atheist has the right to condemn Hinduism in the public and still proudly proclaim he or she is a Hindu.

What happened to William Tyndale (1494-1536 CE), who published the very first translation of the Holy Bible never happened to anyone in Hinduism. Alas! William Tyndale was condemned as a heretic, beaten, strangled and burnt at stake.

The Charvaka philosophy or Nastika philosophy, (existed during the Vedic period) founded by Charvaka rejected the existence of God and considered religion as an aberration. Nobody beat up Charvaka or killed him. He died in bed because of naturally by old age.

Voltaire in Essay on Tolerance wrote: "I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death, your right to say it." Hinduism is the symbol of what Voltaire wrote.

Why don’t Hindus actively convert others to Hinduism?

Hinduism is a culture. It is not an organized religion. Rishis, the saints of the ancient age, were actually scientists of that era. They gave more importance to truth than to any personal ego. Rishis had no agenda whatsoever but to search after truth and educate everyone about the unwritten laws of the universe.

They never ever wrote in any of the Hindu scriptures that Hinduism has the monopoly on truth or on God or on salvation.

They believed that when people search after truth, they automatically end up in Hinduism, since Hinduism is man's everlasting search after truth.

That is the reason why a Hindu never tries to convert anyone to Hinduism. A Hindu knows that everyone will finally end up in Hinduism the minute they search after truth.

A flower never goes after the bees. At the same time, millions of bees will come to a flower without any invitation or coaxing. Similarly, Hinduism does not need any advertisement or marketing.

Like bees flying into a flower, people will come in millions to the blossoming flower called Hinduism.

Who are “Rishikas?”

Women Rishis in Vedas are called Rishikas. Some of the great women thinkers and writers during Vedic age are Gargi, Maitreyi ( one of two wives of the Vedic Rishi Yatnavalkya). Ghosha, Lopamudra, Sulabha. Gargi, composed several hymns that questioned the origin of all existence.

Among many hymns in Rig Veda, at least 10 are accredited to Maitrei. The Rig Veda has long conversations between the sage Agasthya and his wife Lopamudra Ghosha has two entire hymns of the tenth book, each containing 14 verses, assigned to her name.

How were women treated in ancient India?

During Rig Vedic period women occupied the same position as man in intellectual and spiritual life. Women Rishis in Vedas are called Rishikas.

Some of the great women thinkers and writers during Vedic age are Gargi, Maitreyi (one of two wives of the Rishi Yajnavalkya). Ghosha, Lopamudra, Sulabhah. Gargi, composed several hymns that questioned the origin of all existence.

Believe it or not, there are hymns in Rig Veda indicating very high status to women during Vedic age.

Women were allowed to marry men of their choice through Swayamvara as well as enter in a living in relationship like Gandharva Vivaha.

Many great women like Sati, Sita, Kunti, Panchali, Damayanti chose their husbands through Swayamvara. Girls were married only after attaining the age of maturity. During Rig Vedic times, women were treated with respect by men.

When did Hinduism take Birth?

Nobody knows. If you go by the Hindu mythological stories, Hinduism is trillions of years old. If you go by Max Muller, the German philosopher, it is at least 8000 to 9000 years old.

Studying the relics of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa excavations, I conclude, relics of the Indus civilization shows merging of many cultures and concepts. The Indus Valley was home to the largest of the four ancient urban civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, India and China. Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro were cities in the Indus Valley civilization that flourished around 3,500 BCE in the western part of South Asia.

The roots of Hinduism can be traced to this civilization.

What was the original name of Hinduism?

Sanatana Dharma or Righteousness Forever was the original name of Hinduism. It was Persians who came to India during 6th century BCE. who gave the name Hinduism meaning the religion of people living near the Indus river.

In Persian the letter H and S are pronounced almost the same so they mistook the word Sindhu (Sanskrit name for Indus) to H and then started calling Hindus and Hinduism.

What is the “Hindu Law?”

You will never see the words like “Hindu” or “Hinduism” in any of the Hindu scriptures.

Words like Hindu and Hinduism stuck after the first British governor General Warren Hasting (1773 to 1785 CE) enforced “Hindu law” to rule Hindus in India.

Hindu Law is the code of laws used to govern Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs in British India.

What is the language in which the Hindu scriptures were written?

Sanskrit, which is older than Hebrew and Latin. The first words in English language came from Sanskrit. The word “mother” came from Sanskrit word “mata” and “father” came from Sanskrit word “pita” as per the PBS (The Public Broadcasting Service of USA) video "The Story of English".

Believe it or not the word geometry came from a Sanskrit word named “Gyaamiti” meaning 'measuring the earth'. The word trigonometry came from the word “Trikonamiti” meaning 'measuring triangular forms'.

Sanskrit, which literally means "cultured or refined" was the classical language of India and is the oldest and the most systematic language in the world. Forbes Magazine, (July, 1987) wrote: "Sanskrit is the mother of all the European languages and is the most suitable language for the computer software."

How did Hinduism Start?

According to Hindu scriptures it started as “Shruti - that which is heard.” The great seers of ancient times called Rishis who had perfected themselves have heard in their hearts, eternal truths and they taught those truths to disciples by telepathy and later they wrote them in books. Vedas and Upanishads are known as Shruti literature rest is called “Smriti - that which is remembered -literature.”

All Hindu scriptures were considered as revealed truths of God. In fact, Hindu scriptures say that all Hindu Scriptures were written by God. According to Christian Theologians Holy Bible is considered to be Holy Spirit inspired book.

According to Mimamsa school of thought, all Shruti literature existed all through eternity in the form of sounds. Therefore, those sounds of words of Vedas and Upanishads are very important to Hindus.

What are the Sacred Books of Hinduism?

The very first sacred books of Hinduism are called Vedas. Vedas means knowledge.

There are four Vedas and they claim to teach men the highest aspects of truths which can lead them to God. Vedas and Upanishads are Shruti scriptures. The word Veda came from the root word "vid" meaning "to know".

Vedas are the very first scriptures of Hinduism. Vedas as per scriptures was written by God. Vedas state "Self-Realization" is one and only goal of human life. Vedas also discuss in detail rituals and ceremonies to attain self-realization. There are 4 Vedas. They are:

Rig Veda – 10589 verses
Yajur Veda - 3988 verses
Sama Veda – 1549 verses
Atharva Veda - 6000 Verses

Each Veda is divided into 4 parts.

Samhitas - basic texts for hymns to deities, formulas and chants. The Sanskrit word Samhita means "put together".

Brahmanas - description as well as directions for performance of rituals. The word originated from the word Brahmins. Brahmins are the original Hindu priests and they follow Brahmanas to conduct rituals.

Aranyakas - contain Mantras and interpretations of rituals. This book is also known as "the forest books" since this book is used by saints who meditate in the forests.

Upanishads - texts revealing ultimate truths by different saints. Upanishads teach men that there is One and Only thing and that is Brahman. You and I are just reflections of Brahman. Or we are indeed God... Upanishads teach us "Tat Tvam Asi" - That Thou Art.

Rig Veda - Knowledge of Hymns - 10589 verses

The Hindu Rig Veda is the foremost book of Hindus. It is the oldest book in the world. Nobody knows when Rig Veda was written. The Rig Veda, which is the oldest amongst Veda, might be 7000 years old. Rig Veda is older than Gilgamesh (2500 BCE) and the Old Testament.

The very first Veda, Rig Veda very clearly shows that it was written when nomad men first settled down on the banks of rivers like Ganges, Brahmaputra, Indus etc.

That is the reason why, in Rig Veda, you see people are worshiping natural powers like lighting, rain, Sun, fire (Agni); water; air, that effects cultivation. It consists of 1028 hymns, comprising of 10,589 verses in 10 chapters known as Mandalas. 33 gods are worshiped in Rig Veda.

There are 100 hymns addressed to Soma; 250 addressed to Indra; 200 hymns addressed to Agni; Many addressed to Surya. Few addressed to Ushas, Aditi, Saraswati, Varuna and Asvins. Lord Vishnu is a minor god in Rig Veda.

One of the most important statement which came from the Rig Veda is "Ekam Sat, Viprah Bahudha Vadanti ” - meaning "Truth or God is one but men describe it differently". Lord Vishnu has minor importance in Rig Veda. Name of Lord Siva is mentioned as Rudra. Soma in Rig Veda is intoxicating drink to gods.

The word “Sura,” came from those who drink an intoxicating drink which I think is Soma. The word Asura came from those who do not drink that drink.

What is Dharma? Whether it is mentioned in the Rig Veda?

The word “Dharma” has multiple meanings in Hinduism. The Sanskrit word “Dharma” originated from the root word “dhr” which means to “hold, maintain and keep.” It is the cosmic order of the universe as well as embodies the fundamental principles of religion, law and duty governing all reality.

Dharma is the most central concept which is shared by many religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism as well as by the Indo-Iranian faith Zoroastrianism.

“Dharma” originated from another word “Rta”, meaning the natural order of things that regulates and coordinates the operation of the universe and everything within it. In Rig Veda, the word “Rta” appears more than 390 times.

As times progressed, “Dharma” eventually grew to overshadowing “Rta” in the later Vedic and early Hindu literature. “Dharma” includes action, duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues, and the "right way of living.”

Rig Veda 1-75- 5 states, " ritam. satyam vijnani ", which would literally mean "absolute truth which is Rta, is the only true knowledge."

Creation Hymn in the Rig Veda.

When people settled down on the banks of rivers Indus, Ganges, Dharmaputra, like everybody else on earth, the first thing they did was to start cultivation.

Then they looked at the stars and asked questions about the paradox of the origin of creation.

Rig Veda 10:129 hymn in the 10th chapter clearly indicates desperate search for answers questions such as Who are we? Why are we here? etc.

Like scientists of today, 6,000 years ago, Indus valley dwellers also asked:

How could the universe have sprung into existence?
Did it come out of nothing?
How is that possible?
Did God create everything or God came after creation?


More by :  Ed Viswanathan

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