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Hindu, Hinduism and Hindustan: Part LXVI
by Dr. Jaipal Singh Bookmark and Share

Seven Pillars of The Sanatana Dharma

Continued from Part LXV

The Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism) is neither a dogmatic religion based on a religious treaty or any stated divine book with embargo on further rational and logical discussion or reform nor it is based on the tenets of any ancient king, warlord or ordinary mortal portrayed as the prophet or messenger carrying the will of God. Instead, it is based on the teachings and writings of many Vedic and post-Vedic rishis inspired by the divine wisdom and knowledge, the valued repository of which have been the scriptures mainly Vedas and Upanishads. Even the wisdom and knowledge contained in the aforesaid texts have further been reviewed, interpreted and explained in various Shastras, Sutras and other writings. Similarly, the gist of the aforesaid wisdom and knowledge is also incorporated in the historical books of Puranas and Epics for easy reach and understanding of the common people.

Hinduism is perhaps the only major surviving religion in the world which is essentially based on monotheism (or even monism) but due to its liberal and diversified culture, philosophy and doctrines is often interpreted by many scholars and common people as a polytheistic religion. The other day, in a gathering of a reasonably enlightened group of multi-ethnic character, a few participants raised a point which was something like as follows:

Christianity is originally based on the Trinity i.e. the entities of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and Ten Commandments, which essentially talk about worshipping only the particular god, respect parents and stay away from murder, adultery, stealing, telling a lie and things belonging to others. Similarly, Islam is essentially based on five pillars that there is no other god but Allah and Prophet Muhammad is the ultimate Messenger of Allah, and that the remaining four pillars are Salat (prayer), Zakat (alms), Sawm (fasting during Ramadan) and Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca). So what are those pillars or tenets on which Hinduism is based?

It is indeed a difficult subject in view of the diversified nature and intricacies of the Sanatana Dharma as already referred to above. However, this author briefly tried to answer the question in his own way and the same answers are reproduced here in a little more expanded form.

Basic Pillars or Tenets of Sanatana Dharma

Unlike Abrahamic religions, Hinduism is not a dogmatic religion with a simple set of rules having been imposed on the adherents as infallible thereby leaving no scope for any further discussion, revision or any course correction. Ever since the Vedic age, while offering sacrifices (worship) to various forces and energies of the nature, the adherents of the Sanatana Dharma indeed believed and talked about only one Supreme Being in the universe recognized as Brahman in Vedas. Besides, the people also professed and adhered to a host of many universal virtues and moral principles like Satya (truth), Ahimsa (non-violence), Karma (action), Dharma (righteousness), and so on. Such core beliefs and value systems of the ancient Indian society are essentially codified in four Vedas and further expanded through detailed analysis and illustrations in ten Principal Upanishads and many other important Hindu texts like the Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Shastras and Sutras, etc.

From the vast available treasure of the wisdom and knowledge codified in the aforesaid scriptures and text, it is rather a painstaking and risky job for an ordinary author to derive an agreed set of the core pillars or tenets of Hinduism. Notwithstanding constraints, the following seven core elements or pillars have been identified and expanded in this piece of writing. More details about these elements are also contained in previous parts of the series. These seven pillars are Satya, Brahman, Atman, Vedas, Karma and reincarnation, Dharma at various life stages (Ashrama System) and Moksha as end goal (Purushartha). Of these Satya is eternal and most valuable virtue, hence often synonymized with Brahman Himself. Atman is an integral part of the Supreme Consciousness that is detached and polluted under the influence of Samsara or Maya, which constantly strives for Moksha by attaining Brahman. Vedas represent true knowledge of the universe, while Ashrama System and Purushartha represent the structural and functional aspects, respectively, of the Sanatana Dharma and Culture.

1. Satya (Truth) is Eternal and Universal

Satya, in combination with Ahimsa, is a significant and unique basic attribute of Hinduism (Sanatana Dharma) since Vedic times. The two together encompass and influence many other divine virtues and attributes. For illustration, the person pursuing Satya will necessarily be utmost honest with a strong moral character carrying many other positive and virtuous attributes like integrity, truthfulness, politeness, forthrightness, sincerity, fairness and frankness. At the same time, he will be free from the vices like lying, or being deceitful and machiavellian. Similarly, Ahimsa essentially makes the person pious, kind and compassionate towards all creatures, and largely free from the vices like hate, anger, envy and violence. Satya is derived from the root “Sat”, which is associated with several meanings such as reality, absolute truth, unchangeable, and even Brahman (God). Being truthful is the essence of the Self that can be achieved by speaking truth and practicing truth in spirit, word and deed. Some Hindu texts define thirteen forms of Satya namely truthfulness, equal vision, self-control, absence of envious emulation, forgiveness, modesty, endurance, non-jealousy, charity, thoughtfulness, disinterested philanthropy, self-possession and compassionate harmlessness.

The Vedas are also often synonymized with the truth with Satya as a central theme in these oldest Hindu scriptures. In the Rigveda, the term 'Rta' has been has been used nearly for four hundred times implying the abstract themes like commandment, truth, order, regularity, and so on. Satya or Satyam is an old Sanskrit term which is also interpreted as “unchangeable; that which has no distortion; that which is beyond distinction of time, space and gender; and that which pervades the universe in all its constancy. Among several Upanishads too, the attributes of Satya have been discussed and glorified at length. For instance, in Brihadarankya Upanishad Satya is described as both the means of Brahman as well as Divine Truth (Brahman) itself. In the Chandogya Upanishad, Satya is illustrated through a legend of Satyakama Jabala, who later became an accomplished Vedic sage and an Upanishad is named after him. The motto “Satyamev Jayate” in the Emblem of the Republic of India has been derived from a hymn of the Mundaka Upanishad. Yet another Hindu Text, The Taittiriya Upanishad synonymizes Satya with God as follows:

Brahmviddyapnoti param;
Tadeshabhyayuktah;
Satyam gyanmannantam Brahma.

{One who knows Brahman, reaches the highest. Satya (truth) is Brahman, Jnana (knowledge) is Brahman, Ananta (infinite) is Brahman.} (Taittiriya Upanishad, 2.1.1)

In the post-Vedic period, many Hindu Puranas and Epics have glorified Satya through legends and illustrations highlighting its significance and distinction in human life. Satya is listed as one of the five principal yamas i.e. virtuous restraints in Patanjali’s Yogsutra, and at one place it is mentioned that when one is firmly established in speaking truth, the fruits of action become subservient to him. In Manu Smriti, an ancient and important socio-legal treaty, the glory of Satya is explained as under:

Satyam bruyat priyam bruyat na bruyat satyam apriyam,
Priyam ca nanrutam bruyat esha dharmah sanatanah.

(Speak the truth, speak pleasantly, do not speak the truth in an unpleasant manner; even if pleasant, do not speak untruth, this is the path of Sanatana Dharma i.e. eternal righteousness.) (Manusmriti, 4. 138)

Satya brings honesty, integrity, sincerity and consistency; the path to truthfulness is rather simple and straight to follow; a person’s thoughts must be in unison with his words, and the words in turn be in harmony with actions. This gives stability to the person’s mind and takes him closer to the reality of life and universe.

2. Vedas Represent True Wisdom and Knowledge

Vedas are the oldest Hindu scriptures and treasure troves of the spiritual and material knowledge encompassing virtually all aspects of human life. Veda is essentially a Sanskrit word from the root “vid”, which means ‘to know’; thus it conveys a meaning of "knowledge" or "wisdom". Being the most ancient text in Sanskrit, there is no single known author of Vedas; instead, it is believed that they were revealed through divine inspiration to ancient rishis who passed it orally for generations until they were finally codified on the ‘palm leaves’. However, the mythological position is that Lord Brahma was the creator of the Vedas, by orally conveying it to the contemporary rishis. They have stood the test of time and age of Hindu Sanatana culture and religion; not only the religious authorities but even scholars and reformers have taken recourse to and relied upon the knowledge and wisdom contained in four Vedas to get educated and educate others in different time spans. In fact, nearly all the Hindu socio-religious and cultural rite and rituals including birth, marriage and death are largely based on Vedic doctrines for ages.

As for their vintage, it is difficult to agree on a precise timeframe because the traditional Hindu chronology put their legacy around ten thousand years while the Western sources and many later Indian historians try to restrict their vintage to less than four thousand years. However, the Vedas are not only the oldest holy texts but also considered the most authoritative and infallible of all the texts. They are essentially a collection of teachings in the form of hymns, ritualistic songs and poems, including some prose text. Their vintage and origin may be debatable due to various constraints but the ingrained knowledge and wisdom is invaluable and beyond doubt. Terms like Brahman or Ishwar for the God and Yoga were first used in Vedas and later on much analyzed, interpreted and explained in Upanishads and other Hindu treaties. The four Vedas are briefly defined as under:

  • Rig Veda is the oldest, most important and basic Veda. It contains hymns and mantras dedicated to nature gods like Indra, Agni, Varuna, Vayu, etc. for the universal happiness, health and prosperity, including the most famous and pious Gayatri mantra.
     
  • Sama Veda is largely a collection of musical hymns and mantras many of which derived from Rig Veda that forms the basis for the devotional chanting (bhajan-kirtan) among Sanatani Hindus.
     
  • Yajur Veda is largely a collection of hymns and mantras forming the instructional handbook for the ceremonies, sacrificial acts and worship of the deities.
     
  • Atharva Veda is a large collection of hymns on a wide range of social issues including marriage and cremation as also magical rites and methods to dispel demons and diseases.

Each Veda is divided into four popular sections: The Samhitas comprising of hymns and mantras for chanting; the Brahmanas with the detailed commentaries on hymns and mantras; the Arankayas which are also called forest books with details of rituals and ceremonies; and the Upanishads are detailed discussion on meditation, philosophy and spiritual knowledge. Traditionally, the religion and science are found so often in conflict with each other but Swami Dayanand was the first Indian scholar in the modern era who welcomed the sciences and tried to establish that the Vedas too have scientific temper and base. Particularly through his work Rigvedadibhashya-bhumika, he endeavoured to establish that Vedas were the source of true knowledge without inherent contradictions. He even identified and put forth different Veda hymns bearing the credible knowledge of the science of Astronomy, Medicine, Telegraphy etc. Vedas are indeed the jewels of wisdom and knowledge of the ancient Hindu culture and religion with a universal appeal and application.

3. Brahman is Universal Truth and Reality

Those who tend to criticize Hinduism for the sake of monotheism citing it a polytheistic religion, do not know how the Sanatana Dharma visualized Brahman as the supreme authority since Vedic age. In Hindu Vedas and Upanishads, Brahman represents one God and is what we also know as the Supreme Consciousness, Supreme Soul, Universal Consciousness or Supreme Self. In common terms, He is popularly addressed as Bhagwan, Ishvara, Parameshvara or Sachchidananda, and so on. In Hindu scriptures, Brahman is described as absolute, eternal, indescribable, inexhaustible, incorporeal, omniscient, omnipresent, original, both transcendent and immanent, infinite existence, and the ultimate entity Who is without a beginning and end, Who is hidden in all and Who is the cause, source, material and effect of all creation known, unknown and yet to happen in the universe. He is both creator and created, known and unknown, with form and formless, and hidden in all. Brahman could be perceived only through self-realization and those who realize Him are said to have attained Moksha (salvation).

Brahman finds a reference in several hymns in the Vedas. He is referred to at several places in different layers of the Vedic literature, such as Samhitas, Brahmanas and Aranyaka, but is extensively discussed in the Upanishads embedded in the Vedas. According to Rigveda, Ishwar is omnipresent managing the entire universe, and He alone provides for our sustenance and bliss, victory and eternal cause, and all souls should look at Him in same manner as children look up to their Father. He alone is creator that enlightens the world and all souls should seek bliss by seeking knowledge and acting there upon. (Rig Veda 10.48.1 & 5). Yajur Veda says that there is one and only one creator and maintainer of the world, Who sustains the earth, sky and other heavenly bodies. He is bliss Himself and He alone deserves to be worshipped by all. (Yajur Veda 13.4 and 32.11). Many Upanishads have described various attributes of Brahman stating that those who are able to realize Him, are able to attain Moksha. According to the Taittariya Upanishad, Brahman is "satyam jnanam anantam brahma" (Brahman is of the nature of truth, knowledge and infinity). Among the oldest Upanishads, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad and the Chandogya Upanishad too describe the metaphysical concepts of the nature and connection of the Atman (indidual soul) and Brahman in detail.

The Bhagavad Gita explicitly acknowledges the existence of Brahman and Atman as eternal and real entities. The concept of the incarnation of the individual souls, their delusion and bondage to the cycle of birth and death under the influence of the gunas or qualities and desire-ridden actions are explained at length including the ways for the salvation in different verses. Shree Krishna explains the nature of the Brahman in the following two verses of Bhagavad Gita:

Sri-bhagavan uvaca:
Aksaram brahma paramam svabhavo’dhyatmam ucyate,
Bhuta-bhavodbhava-karo visargah karma-samjnitah.

(Sri-Bhagavan said: The indestructible, transcendental living entity is called Brahman, and his eternal nature is called adhyatma, the self. Action pertaining to the development of the material bodies of the living entities is called karma.) (BG: Chapter 8, Verse 3)

Kavim puranamanusasitara manoraniyamasamanusmareedyah,
Sarvasya dhataramacintyarupa madityavarnam tamasah parastat.
 

(God is Omniscient, the most ancient and ageless being, the Ruler of all, subtler than the subtlest, the Support of all, and the possessor of an inconceivable divine form; He is brighter than the sun, and beyond all darkness of ignorance.) (BG: Chapter 8, Verse 9)

Aforesaid references are only few illustrations while many other scriptures and text too refer to only one God described as Brahman and known with many other names with attributes as mentioned at length in the first paragraph of this section. Many Hindu Puranas, Epics and other texts talk about the manifested gods and their idol worship; these gods too are various manifestations of Brahman only. This aspect has been explained by the writer and saint Tulsidas in a simple manner in the “Ram Charit Manas” (Ramayana): Jaki rahi bhavna jaisi, prabhu murat tin dekhi vaisi (The way a devotee feels, he visualizes God same way).

 

4. Atman (Individual Self, Soul)

Atman, also known as the Individual Self or soul, is another subtle reality, which is without any name, gender, race, nationality or such other attributes, and which passes through the karmic cycle in repeated births and deaths in the material world (Samsara or Maya) till it attains Moksha. The term Atman too finds a reference in many hymns of Rig Veda referred to as the true self of an individual that also represents the truth of life. Some Principal Upanishads talk about the Brahmavidya and Atmavidya; the former is knowledge of the Brahman and the latter about the Atman, respectively. According to scriptures, Atman is subtle, eternal, un-changing and everlasting; it can nether be created nor destroyed, and it perpetually seeks union with Brahman. Various philosophical traditions in Hinduism too interpret and define it variously, but broadly under two distinct classifications of Advaita (monism) and Dvaita (dualism). According to Advaita tradition, the nature and attributes of Brahman and Atman are one and same while Dvaita tradition considers both as distinct entities.

In Bhagvad Gita Chapter 2, Verse 17 to 22, the nature and action of the imperishable soul has been delineated and emphasized in a beautiful and mesmerizing way. The following verses explain the nature and attributes of the soul.

Na jayate mriyate va kadachin nayam bhutva bhavita va na bhuyah,
Ajo nityah shashvato ’yam purano na hanyate hanyamane sharire.

(The soul is neither born, nor does it ever die; nor having once existed, does it ever cease to be. The soul is without birth, eternal, immortal, and ageless. It is not destroyed when the body is destroyed.) (BG: Chapter 2, Verse 20)

Nainam chhindanti shastrani nainam dahati pavakah,
Na chainam kledayantyapo na shoshayati marutah.
Achchhedyo ’yam adahyo ’yam akledyo ’shoshya eva cha,
Nityah sarva-gatah sthanur achalo ’yam sanatanah.

(Weapons cannot shred the soul, nor can fire burn it. Water cannot wet it, nor can the wind dry it. The soul is unbreakable and incombustible; it can neither be dampened nor dried. It is everlasting, in all places, unalterable, immutable, and primordial.) (BG: Chapter 2, Verses 23, 24)

According to Hindu scriptures, the body and soul are gross and subtle elements of a living being. The body is transient and perishable, while the soul is eternal and indestructible. The soul wears the body like a cloth and discards it at the time of death. In the material world, the desire-ridden actions, which are induced by the triple gunas, namely Sattva, Rajas and Tamas, are responsible for the bondage of the soul, which can be overcome only through Moksha.

5. The Doctrine of Karma and Reincarnation

Hinduism strongly believes in Karma and its impact on the fate of Atman or soul in the cycle of birth, death and rebirth (samsara). Karma literally means action, work or deed but at spiritual level it refers to the principle of cause and effect where intent and actions of an individual (cause) determine the future of that individual (effect). Karma is also closely linked with the concept of rebirth as also the nature and quality of future life by leaving its imprints on the soul. According to Hindu philosophy, death is not the end of life; it is merely the end of the gross body and the soul transmigrates to seek attachment to a new body and new life to carry on its onward journey. Where and what life it gets, is the cumulative result of the past life’s accumulated positive and negative deeds through Karma (cause and effect). This journey of the soul continues through the cycle of death and rebirth in different life forms until it is purified to attain unity with Brahman (God). This is explained in many Hindu texts but the one in Hindu scripture the Srimad Bhagvad Gita, the most authenticated text with universal appeal and acceptance, is considered as the true synthesis and gist of all texts.

According to the Bhagavad Gita, a dying person's soul seeks a new body that determines his (or her) next life:

Vasamsi jirnani yatha vihaya Navani grhnati naro 'parani,
Tatha sarirani vihaya jirnany Anyani samyati navani dehi.

(As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.) (BG: Chapter 2, Verse 22)

Persons who do not attend Karma based Moksha remain part of the cycle of the death-rebirth. The interruption in the cycle may come as their temporary abode in heaven or hell for some time depending upon their deeds in the previous life i.e. good or bad Karma. After the merit of their good Karma or the demerit of their bad Karma is exhausted, they have to leave heaven or hell, as the case may be, to be born again into the Earth plane. This cycle of the birth, death and rebirth shall be repeated till attainment of Moksha of the soul. In the whole cycle, Karma holds the key through the cause and effect phenomenon of the life on earth. Through the law of Karma, the deeds actively create past, present and future experiences, thus making one responsible for one's own life, and consequent joy and pain. The result or 'fruit of actions’ is called karma-phala.

The concept of reincarnation has roots in the Vedic period as some early references are found in Vedas too about the samsara (the cycle of birth, death and rebirth). In the Principle Upanishads, the concept of reincarnation is far more explicitly explained. The Hindu scriptures’ concept of reincarnation is strengthened with the fact that "Nothing is destroyed but only recycled again in the universe." Accordingly, after the death of the gross body, the subtle element of the being is left which is independent of the person's physical identity, and in the afterlife this element seeks yet another physical body for more living experiences. The concept of reincarnation is best explained in the Bhagavad Gita by Shree Krishna as under.

Shariram yad avapnoti yach chapy utkramatishvarah,
Grihitvaitani sanyati vayur gandhan ivashayat.

(As the air carries fragrance from place to place, so does the embodied soul carry the mind and senses with it, when it leaves an old body and enters a new one.) (BG: Chapter 15, Verse 8)

The karma based reincarnation is a major concept in Hinduism which differentiates it with the Abrahamic religions of the world which have the belief in the concept of resurrection. It is always in interplay with Karma which may lead to another birth or salvation depending upon the balance sheet of good and bad accumulated from the previous lives. Like a person discards the old and worn out clothes and adopts new clothes, the same way the soul adopts new body on termination of the old body. From the birth follows death and the death paves way for the birth. This could also be explained well with the allegory of the perennial flowering plant. In the spring, new scales and buds start growing that blossom into the full grown leaves and flowers in the summer, start wilting and change colours in the autumn, and worn out and fall in winter. Then the same cycle is onset and repeated in the next spring. In the same way, a soul enters new body and passes through infancy, youth, mature and old age that terminates into death, starting the process again through transmigration and rebirth.

6. Ashrama System

The Atharva Veda is considered to be the original scripture comprehensively explaining the procedures for everyday human life which is further elaborated in the texts such as Ashrama Upanishad, the Vaikhanasa Dharmasutra and Dharmashashtras (law books). An ideal life span of the human being has been visualized as hundred years which is further divided into four sequential stages under the Ashrama System: These are Brahmacharya – the order of students; Grihastha – the order of householders; Vanaprashtha – the order of ascetics in woods or household; and Sanyasa – the order of hermits in the woods. According to ancient scriptures, those who live all the four orders dutifully and truthfully following the rules of social law, are entitled to achieve Moksha. While the literal meaning of the Ashrama is a shelter, hut or hermitage for the living of the ascetics but in the Vedic and ancient Hindu traditions, Ashrama conveyed the meaning of a stage of life of the human being. In practice, it was possible that some people might end up with life without one or more later stages, or some may skip second and third stages to directly enter into the fourth Sanyasa stage.

The Brahmacharya, first stage of life, lasts till about the age of twenty-five, of which first two years are earmarked to Saisava when any moral codes are not applied. As per the ancient Hindu custom, it usually started with the Upanayana (initiation) ceremony of the child. In physical terms, the Brahmacharya denoted a student in pursuit of specialized education and vocational training from an earmarked teacher or teachers in an institution (Gurukul). Usually this learning was related to his Varna i.e. being a Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaisya or Sudra based occupation and he was expected to practice celibacy and self-restraint during the course of his education. The life of a Brahmacharins used to be on a uniform pattern irrespective of their parents’ status or background as per the contemporary laws aimed at inculcating highest virtues of life. During this period, pupils were expected to live a very austere and disciplined life as part of their learning process, which was rigorously followed in cases of the first three Vernas. They were expected to adhere to laid down norms by the teacher and, in essence, the Brahmacharya represented the bachelor student life focused on education, virtues and practice of celibacy.

The Grihastha stage began with a ritual bath with the home return of the student after successful completion of his education and vocational training. His parents and elders would arrange his matrimony as per prevailing practice in the society but both the arranged and love marriages with the consent of parents were permissible. Now, he would undertake the responsibilities of a householder in performing the obligatory duties of a Grihastha. In Vedic and ancient times, the Grihastha was considered as the best stage being the most energetic, fulfilling and pleasurable at both material and spiritual levels as he was expected to support people in the other three Ashramas too. In order to effectively discharge his duties as a householder, he would earn and accumulate money and other assets by engaging himself in occupations commensurate with his Varna but while doing so he was expected to conduct honestly and virtuously. Every Grihastha was expected to perform five sacrifices namely brahmayajna, devayajna, pitruyajna, bhutayajna and manushyayajna explained in part IV of this series. While performing aforesaid spiritual duties, every Grihastha was expected to properly look after his wife, children and other dependents. As for the Grihastha Ashrama is considered, by and large it has remained largely unchanged and compliant even in the contemporary times in every typical Hindu household.

The Vanaprastha is the third stage of life after fully enjoying the temporal Grihastha life. This is the time when one is expected to transfer responsibilities and possessions to the wife and children to live a more austere and celibate life. The person and wife, if she so desired, was expected to live in a hermitage, eat food prescribed for the ascetics and continue to make five sacrifices as prescribed at the Grihastha stage. He would take regular bathe, wear ordinary garments and keep hair in braids and unclipped. He would continue to offer alms as per his ability and honour guests and visitors to the best extent possible hitherto fore while remaining friendly, warm and compassionate towards all living beings. He was also expected to regularly recite holy texts from Vedas and Upanishads and keep himself fit both physically and mentally so as to sustain gradual self-imposed austerities in life. In a way, the Vanaprashtha was a transitional stage where a Grihastha was expected to gradually renounce wealth, social security, pleasure and sexual pursuits and be ready to become a total ascetic (sanyasi) renouncing the world in the pursuit of spiritual liberation (Moksha).

The Sanyasa is the last and ultimate stage of life when the person was expected to renounce all worldly possessions and live like an ascetic or mendicant (vagabond). He was not required to do even sacrificial fire and five routine sacrifices. The ideal length of the human life being hundred years but the fact that an overwhelming majority do not reach this age, hence it was difficult to define the exact watershed in terms of the age between the Vanaprastha and Sanyasa and the person was advised to transform from a wood dweller into a full-fledged ascetic gradually by increasing austerities and harsher conditions of life. The characteristic features of the Sanyasi were that the person would be completely detached from all worldly possessions and rituals, become a vagabond mostly subsisting self on alms, taking only meagre food suffice to sustain life, in a total restrain of his sense he would mostly sit or stand in solitude, devoid of all negative attributes and attachment, he would try to contemplate upon spirituality and salvation by attempting to realize the subtle nature of the Supreme Soul (Brahman) and its universal presence. During the centuries of subjugation by the Islamic invaders and European colonizers, the Sanatana way of life, languages, culture and traditions in Bharatvarsha were badly hampered and undergone changes which are reflected as deviations in Hindu society of the current age.

7. Purushartha - End Goal of Moksha

Purusartha is a composite Sanskrit term which literally means the ‘purpose of human being’ or the ‘Object of human pursuit’ among Hindus. It relates to four main objects or goals of the human existence: They are Dharma i.e., righteousness or moral values; Artha i.e., prosperity or economic well being; Kama i.e., pleasure, love or inherent psychological values; and Moksha i.e., salvation or spiritual values. While all the four objects of human life are considered important but where there is conflict of interests, Dharma is given precedence over Artha and Kama; Moksha doesn’t come in way being the ultimate goal of the human existence. Hinduism permits pursuit of Artha and Kama to every Grihastha under the constraints of Dharma during the life but also mandates renunciation of both i.e. wealth and pleasure as prelude on the path of attaining Moksah. The Purushartha also defines values according to which human action and behaviour is performed and measured. In essence, the concept of Purushartha is to create a synergy between the temporal life and spiritual life, and it finds its true expression and implementation through the Ashrama System.

Dharma implies the righteous duty and encompasses social laws, duties, rights, virtues, conduct and correct way of living as necessary for a stable society taking into account all temporal, moral and religious aspects of human being. According to some Hindu texts, Dharma is an obligatory and pious duty of every individual mandated by the Vedas with the prescribed rules according to the Varna that every individual belongs to. In fact, there is no corresponding English or Latin term that can truly explain or encompass the complete gamut of Dharma. In a wider perspective, Dharma is the binding force that regulates and upholds the entire creation. At material level, it defines human roles and responsibilities, social and moral order, purpose and goals of life including the rewards and punishments commensurate with our actions. At spiritual level, it encompasses all that an individual is expected to do in harmony with divine injunctions and his own sense of morality and justice.

Artha relates to material and economic pursuits of the human life considered necessary to sustain own and family’s temporal needs. It’s a powerful term that covers the whole gamut of tangible assets that can be earned and possessed in terms of money and material, made use of it to bring enjoyment in daily life for sustenance of self, upkeep of the household, maintenance of the family and discharge of religious and pious duties as prescribed in scriptures. In essence, Hinduism recognizes the importance of material wealth for every Grihastha for achieving overall well-being and satisfaction in life. On the other hand, Kama represents all that is required by the person for the enjoyment and satisfaction of the senses through various means including sexual activities. Hence Kama could be taken as the basic instinct of the man to participate in the sexual activity as also in a broader sense all motivations and pleasurable acts which are socially required by a man for sensual pleasure and happiness. In fact, Artha and Kama in a balanced combination with Dharma show the true path of temporal bliss and spiritual salvation in Hinduism.

Moksha or liberation is the ultimate goal of the life and last component of Purushartha. According to Hindu scriptures, in attaining Moksha the person gets rid of the Karma driven vicious cycle of recurring births and deaths. Many Scholars treat the first three Purushartha as just means to achieve Moksha as the end goal of all human souls. While Dharma leads the human on the path of righteousness, Artha and Kama fulfill the temporal needs of life and enrich it with meaningful learning. Consequently, if the three are pursued in right perspective through the different stages of life, it facilitates the pursuit of Moksha to attain the world of Brahman – the Supreme Soul. The pursuit of Moksha can be undertaken at any stage of life although, in practice, the majority of men start pursuing it after fully enjoying the life as a householder. In the pursuit of Moksha, the person needs to inculcates the virtues of sattva, and overcome desires through self-control, detachment and surrender to God. According to different Indian schools of philosophy, Moksha is possible while still living (Jivan-mukti) or after the death (Krama-mukti) and it releases the soul from all kinds of worldly sufferings and bondage. The knowledge of the true Self and its relationship to Brahman is central theme of the liberation.

Concluding Part

Many scholars and Indologists have often regarded the Hinduism (Sanatana Dharma) as a natural way of life in Bharatvarsha (India) rather than an organized religion of the modern age. Even the highest judiciary of the land had examined this aspect and upheld similar views initially in 1995, and reiterated it again in 2016, against certain petitions filed by interested groups. According to the Supreme Court judgment, the 'Hinduism' or 'Hindutva' should not be understood and construed narrowly, confined only to the strict Hindu religious practices unrelated to the culture and ethos of the people of India depicting the way of life of the Indian people. In fact, the terms like religion or mazhab (derived from Persian) have no exact corresponding meaning or synonym in Hinduism, although Dharma is loosely translated for these terms. In fact, the true meaning of Dharma as core component of Purushartha in Hinduism is “righteous duty”.

On the contrary, the religion and god specified in the two Abrahamic faiths carry a specific meaning and interpretation, following which many Islamic invaders with fanatic religious sentiments as also the European colonizers with missionary zeal have used religion even for killing and destroying civilizations in the past for centuries. In contrast, Hindu kings and warriors have no such history of invading or harassing other civilizations and nationalies. In fact, Hinduism has constantly endorsed and strived to spread the concepts like Ekam Sat Vipra Bahudha Vadanti (That which exists is one God, sages call it by different names), Sarva Dharmah Sambhav (All religions lead to same destination), Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (The whole world is one family) and Sarve Bhavantu Sukhina (May everyone be happy) since Vedic age. Perhaps these virtues made it an easy target of perpetrators but served as its major strength too for its survival through all ages while all other major civilizations of the world perished against the onslaught of the two Abrahamic religions during the last two millennia.
   
Continued to Part LXVII 
 

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19-Sep-2021
More by :  Dr. Jaipal Singh
 
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