The meaning of the word Hindu
India has been a proud land of the Rishis for thousands of years. Rishis (the Sages) searched for truth in the deeper layers of the mind. When the mind is calm, without thoughts, then it is one with the pure Consciousness. It is one with God. When it has thoughts, it is separate from the Consciousness. The Rishis merged the mind with the pure Consciousness and they found the truth and revealed it as Vedas. The Hindus follow the Vedas. In this article, I would like to share with you the meaning of the word Hindu.
The word Hindu is not there in the ancients scriptures like the Upanishad, Brahma sutra or Baghavad Gita. Somehow, it came in to existence after the Puranic period. There are many meanings for the word Hindu.
1. Hinam dushyati iti hindu – the meaning for this sanskrit sentence is Hinam means to discard, dushyati means negatives, the entire meaning of the sentence is: a person who knows to discard or destroy the negatives is known as the Hindu. They may do some rituals or may chant mantras or by japa and meditation, somehow, by following the Vedic way they discard or destroy the negatives.
2. Hindu can be split as H: + Indu. H: is a beej akshara in Sanskrit and it means the Sun. Therefore H: represents the Surya vamsa. Indu means the moon and it represents the Chandra vamsa. That land which is ruled in the ancient times by the surya vamsa and the chandra vamsa is called the Hindu Rashtra, and the people who live there are called the Hindus.
3. Hindu can be split as Hi + Indu, Hi means the Himalayas and Indu means the Indu sarovar. Indu sarovar is the ancient name for the Indian ocean. That land from the Himalayas to Indian ocean (that is from Kashmir to kanyakumari) is known as the Hindu rashtra and the people who live there are Hindus, and the land where the Hindus live is called Hindusthan. The ancient name for Bay of Bengal is Ganga sarovar and the ancient name for the Arabian sea is Sindhu sarovar.
4. The people who were settled on the banks of the river Sindhu were called as Hindus. In the ancient times when the foreigners came to India for trade, especially the Persians, they found it difficult to pronounce the letter “SA” and so they mispronounced the word as Hindu.
These are some of the meanings for the word Hindu. The Hindus follow the Sanatana Vaidheka Dharma. Sanatana means eternal, Vaidheka means the Vedas and Dharma has a lot of meaning and but here the meaning taken is – the way of life. It can be simply said as Sanatana Dharma. Sanatana dharma is a way of life. Seeing it as a religion is like seeing the vast sky through a small window. The main objective of Sanatana dharma is freedom and universal acceptance. The Hindus follow the Sanatana dharma and attain liberation.
THE ANALOGY OF TWO BIRDS (DWA SUPARNA)
The analogy of two birds (dwa suparna) is very famous in Vedanta. In this article I would like to share with you the meaning and implication of this analogy.
The analogy of two birds comes in the Mundaka Upanishad as two verses – 3.1.1 and 3.1.2.
The analogy explains, on a tree with lots of branches and fruits, two birds are sitting on two different branches. The two birds are of the similar nature except their gunas. One bird is sitting on the higher branch and the other is sitting on the lower branch. The bird sitting on the lower branch is hopping from branch to branch and tasting the fruits of the tree. Some fruits taste good and some are bitter or sour. Some are very sour. Immediately the bird gets disappointed and it is taken aback. It sits quite for some time. At times it looks up at the bird sitting on the higher branch. Meanwhile, all the time, the bird sitting on the higher branch is just observing the bird on the lower branch, without moving from its place. The bird on the higher branch does not taste any fruit. The bird on the lower branch is attracted by the calmness, peacefulness and the luminance of the bird on the higher branch. It goes and sits near the bird on the higher branch for some time. After sometime by its inherent nature, it hops from branch to branch and tastes both good fruits and bitter fruits. Whenever it tastes a bitter fruit, it goes near the bird on the higher branch and sits there for some time and this drama continues. The lower bird by its acquaintance at times with the bird on the higher branch, the nature of the lower bird gets gradually transformed like the higher bird. After sometime, the nature of the lower bird gets completely transformed and it becomes same as the higher bird and gets absorbed in the higher bird. In fact, the lower bird realizes that, there is no lower bird itself and it is the imagination of the higher bird.
This analogy explains the mind of a spiritual seeker.
The implication of this analogy is, the bird on the higher branch is compared with the Atma. The bird on the lower branch is compared with the jiva. The Atma is always calm and it is the witness of the jiva. The jiva performs karma and it tastes the results of its karma. The jiva is the combination of the sthula sarira (gross body), sukshma sarira (subtle body), karana sarira (causal body) and citabasa. The sthula sarira is the combination of the five basic elements. The sukshma sarira is the combination of the seventeen components (the five pranas, five motor organs, five sense organs, mind and intellect). The karana sarira is that darkness we experience in deep sleep. It has the subtle form of all our karmic impression. The reflection of the Atma falls on the sukshma sarira and it is called the citabasa. From the sukshma sarira the consciousness is transferred to the gross body. The citabasa makes the body and mind active. Without the citabasa the body and mind are inert. The consciousness we experience in the body and mind is the citabasa. In deep sleep this consciousness disappears. However, when we wake up we are aware of our sleep. This is due to the pure consciousness, Atma.
The lower bird which is compared to the jiva is a karta (doer) and bhokta (experiencer). When the citabasa is attached with the motor organs then the jiva is a karta. When the citabasa is attached with the mind and sense organs the jiva is a bhokta. A jiva is a karta and bhokta and so desire arises in the mind. Whenever a jiva tastes the result of a negative karma, it is taken aback, becomes depressed and it does some spiritual practices to balance its mind. Again by the instinct of its karma it involves in doing fresh karma and tastes the fruits of the old karmas. This process goes on. By involving in spiritual practices, gradually its nature gets transformed and it becomes calm and peaceful. The jiva continuously involve in spiritual practices, after some time it realizes that, “I am that which I am trying to meditate on”. The jiva realizes that it is the Atma itself and the jiva is the mere reflection of the Atma. The jiva realizes that the world is not different from its Self. This is the ultimate realization. The jiva become Atma or Brahman.
This is the implication of the two birds (dwa suparna) analogy. It is a very important analogy in Vedanta. Vedanta is nothing but the shift in consciousness from the lower self to the higher self.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SRIMAD BHAGAVATA
Srimad Bhagavata is an important purana among the eighteen puranas in Hinduism. Srimad Bhagavata was written by Sage Vyasa. Apart from writing Srimad Bhagvata, Sage Vyasa had organized, separated and codified the Veda into four sections as Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva Veda. Since he has codified the Vedas he was known as Ved Vyasa. He taught the Rig Veda to his disciple Pyla Maharshi, Sama Veda to Jaimini Maharshi. Yajur Veda to Vysambayana Maharshi and Atharva Veda to Sumanthu Maharshi. All the four were the disciples of Sage Veda Vyasa. He has written totally eighteen puranas and ithihasa Mahabharata. He taught the puranas and ithihasa to his disciple Romaharsha Maharshi.
Even after doing so much, at the end of dwapara Yug, he felt an unrest and dissatisfaction in his mind. He searched for reasons but he could not find out. At that time he met Sage Narada. Sage Ved Vyasa and Narada were worried about the mentality of the people in Kali Yug. They discussed that the people of Kali Yug will be lazy, their life span will be short, and dharma will fade away in this Yug. They were concerned about the life in Kali Yug. Sage Ved Vyasa expressed about the unrest in his mind. After hearing Sage Vyasa, Sage Narada said, ‘You have codified the Veda, written many puranas, wrote Mahabharata, but you have not written about the chaitanya that is residing in all; that is Sri Vasudeva Krishna. You have not written about bhakti which is a very wonderful and powerful emotion; and hence write about bhakti towards Sri Vasudeva Krishna’.
Sage Ved Vyasa took the words of Sage Narada as an intuition and wrote Srimad Bhagava from the Vyasa guha on the banks of river Saraswati. After writing it he taught Srimad Bhagavata to his son Sri Suka Brahmarishi. All his disciples taught the vedas, puranas and ithihasa to their disciples and it passed on generation after generation through guru-sishya parampara.
Srimad Bhagavata is written in a very lucid form explaining the history of Baghavan Krishna; including in it were various facts and stories that happened during Sri Krishna’s life time. Srimad Bhagavata is the essence of all the Vedas and puranas and hence it is known as the fifth Veda. Vedas are suitable only for the people who are highly spiritually elevated, and puranas are suitable for the people who follow dharma. Srimad Bhagavata is suitable for the people from all walks of life including women and children.
Srimad Bhagavata is a nivritti purana where we can find the solution for many of our problems in life. In our life we are expected to follow two dharmas; they are the vyavahara dharma and para dharma. Vyavahara dharma are the duties we follow in our life using our gross body like, earning money, taking care of our family, accepting professional responsibilities etc. Paradharma is related to our mind. We all have skills and talents. We develop it according to our opportunities and situations. Sometimes our talent and skills are respected. Sometimes they are ignored or rejected and sometimes not given the due value. During such situations our mind goes into depression. Such depression may push us in to problems both in the family and in the profession. Spirituality is absolutely helpful in such situations. Reading Srimad Bhagavata helps to keep our mind in a balanced state. The hymns and Gitas in Srimad Bhagavata helps to keep our mind stable. We understand that even Baghavan Krishna has many problems in life and we perceive how he overcame it in his life time.
Srimad Bhagavata is devotional text embedded in philosophy. Hence Srimad Bhagavata is considered as an important text in Hinduism.
Advaita is a profound philosophy. It is the philosophy of knowledge and understanding. In the history of philosophies advaita emerged much later, probably after the naiyaka, vaisheshika and Sankya philosophies. Even though they were advaita gurus in ancient times, it was Sri Sankaracharya who made it available to the layman.
In advaita philosophy, understanding is more important than any spiritual practice. Advaita philosophy is a two step teaching and understanding. The first is the discrimination between the Atma and anatma. It is otherwise known as viveka. At present we assume ourselves to be a body with a conscious mind, and some are not even aware of the conscious mind. They simply assume themselves to be a body and that is why when the body dies they imagine that everything is lost. According to advaita philosophy, each individual is a conscious being.
Let us understand this with a traditional example. Few pots filled with water are kept in the garden. The quality and quantity of the water may differ. Sun light falls on all the pots. The reflection of the sunlight and the image of the sun may differ according to the quality of the water. If the water is pure then the reflection and image are good. The reflected sun is only an image and so it may not have the qualities of the original sun like the heat, brightness and radiation. Likewise, the body is compared with the different pots. The water is compared with the different minds and the sun is compared with the supreme consciousness. That one supreme consciousness is reflected on different minds. Only mind has the property to reflect the Consciousness. The reflected consciousness is called chitabasa. Every mind has a conscious ego “I” It joins with other thoughts and it becomes our personality. An individual or jiva is a combination of body, mind, and the reflected consciousness. This combination is anatma; Anatma is inert. It cannot perform its action without the pure supreme consciousness. Atma, which is the supreme consciousness is intelligent. Hence Atma is different from anatma. This is the first step of understanding.
The second step of understanding is, I am that supreme consciousness. I am that Atma which is all pervading. It is the ultimate understanding. Anatma is the reflection of the Atma. The mind has different impressions and all the impressions become alive because of the Atma; and advaita says Atma is Satya (existence) and anatma is only reflection (maya). Advaita philosophy never denies the universe; it only says that it is the appearance (mitya) and not the reality. The individuals are appearances or reflection and the reality is Atma. When the individuality is removed from all of them what remains is Atma. Brahma satya jagad mitya: it is the core of Advaita philosophy.
These are the two steps in understanding advaita philosophy.
Consciousness is an ancient topic. It is the topic of the Rishis. However, recently the world is interested in this topic, because the world wants to overcome miseries and worries and it is paving the path through Consciousness. Different philosophies have different ideas about Consciousness and different people have different ideas about Consciousness. In my view, from the ancient times only Advaita Vedanta has a clear view about Consciousness. Other philosophies search for Consciousness. One cannot search for Consciousness because it is our existence itself. Consciousness is not different from us. It is our existence itself and we cannot deny it. If we deny it then it means we are negating our own existence.
Different paths like bhakti yog, karma yog etc can erase the unwanted residues in our mind and make the mind pure so that it is easy for a person to realize Reality. If Consciousness is different from us like the body or brain then we can observe it; but Consciousness is our existence and we can only exist in it. Existing in that state we can observe different objects. Consciousness is the fundamental reality of this Universe. One cannot further reduce it or break it like matter.
Consciousness interacts with the world through the body and mind. Consciousness closely attaches with the body and mind and at that time it takes a form and it has emotions according to the impressions in the mind. Consciousness which is non dual, when it passes through different set of impressions it appears like different individuals. By practicing any yog if we separate the mind from the Consciousness, then we can realize our self as Consciousness. Now we imagine ourselves to be the body and mind complex. If we practice to distance the mind from us then we will realize our existence as pure, powerful and Universal Consciousness.
If I say Consciousness is our existence, then we impose different colours for the Consciousness; it is because we know ourselves as always existing in different states of emotions. Different states of emotions are the product of the mind. They are the result of our past karmas. The mind and the karmic impressions in it are inert. Mind becomes active only when it is closely attached with the Consciousness. If the Consciousness attaches with the mind, which is our current state, then we experience the whole world. If Consciousness separates from the mind then there will be no external or internal experiences except the experience of the existence itself. It is a state beyond description.
According to Advaita Vedanta, this state can be experienced by intellectual understanding and contemplation, which in vedantic terms known as Shravana ( hearing), Manana (reasoning) and nidithyasana (deep contemplation).
Experiencing the mind is our false identity. However, it is absolutely needed for the transactional world. Existence, Pure Consciousness or Brahman is our true identity. Pure Consciousness has no emotions, feelings, karmas or any God. It does not see any difference in anything in this Universe. That is why in nirvana shatakam, Sri Adi Sankaracharya said, ‘I am not the buddhi or mind or ego or prana or body. I have no desires, nor need dharma, artha or even Moksha (liberation). I am not attached to sins or virtues. I need no mantra, guru or sastra. I do not have parents, I do not fear death because I am not born in a womb, I am eternal. I am eternal, all pervading, I do not need liberation because I am already liberated – Shivoham, shivoham, shivoham’.
Consciousness is our true identity. We are that pure universal existence bounded by a mind and body. We operate with a false identity with a form and name and we have decided our duties by doing different karmas. However in reality we are Brahman, Pure Consciousness. The teaching of Advaita Vedanta is to make one realize this true state.
In my last article, I wrote that the definition of God depends on the mind that defines it. The definition changes with the attainment of knowledge. The gunas (nature) and attributes coin the name for that divine form.
In this article, I would like to share with you the definition of God according to Advaita Vedanta. The primitive form of bhakti makes us to believe that God is a person in the heaven, who is the dispenser of our karmic results, and he will be pleased if we worship him and punish us if we disobey him. Well, this type of bhakti will help our mind to get purified; however, our knowledge of the divine principle must mature beyond this initial stage.
Advaita Vedanta is a very sophisticated philosophy. According to Advaita Vedanta the name given for that universal, infinite divine principle is Brahman. Let me take the support of the Taittriya Upanishad, second chapter (Brahmananda valli) first para to explain this concept. It says, “The knower of Brahman becomes Brahman itself. He who realizes Brahman attains the supreme”. In the same verse it says, “Satyam, jnanam, anantham Brahman”, meaning Brahman is existence, knowledge and bliss. Brahman means vast, infinite, unlimited. Here vast, infinite, unlimited are not used as adjectives. It is Brahman itself. Vastness means without any limit. Brahman has no limit that is why it is said as infinite and unlimited. In sanskrit it said as anantha.
First we will analyze that how Brahman is said as anantha. In the worldly life (samsara), any object is limited by three factors. It is limited by space (desa), time (kala), object (vastu). For example, take this computer in which I am typing this article. It is limited by space, time and object. This computer occupies a certain space; in that way it is limited by space. Whereas, Brahman is all pervading. It has no limits. There is no place without Brahman.
This computer has a manufacturing date and an expiring date. It works well only during that period of time. After that period, it automatically gets destroyed. It exists between creation and destruction. In that sense it is limited by time. Whereas, Brahman is eternal, omnipresent; it always exists. It existed before this creation and it will always exist. The universe emerged from Brahman, it is existing in Brahman, after dissolution only Brahman will exist.
This computer has a form and a name. No other object is known by this name; in that sense it is limited by object. Any object is known by itself and not by any other object. The name gives an identity for this form; whereas, Brahman pervades all forms. Nothing in this universe is apart from Brahman. Therefore, Brahman is not limited by object (vastu).
Therefore, Brahman is not limited by space, time and object and hence it is said as ananda, infinite and non-dual. There cannot be two infinites and hence Brahman is non -dual. Brahman is sarva vyapi (all pervading), nitya (eternal) and ananda (infinite).
Next, we will analyse that how Brahman is said as satyam (Reality). Brahamn is existence itself. Every object exists in the existence and no object exists apart from existence. If I deny this existence, then it implies that I do not exist. It is one continuous base of existence where there is no part or division. Therefore Brahman is satya; Reality itself.
Next, we will analyze that how Brahman is said as jnana (knowledge). Any object in this world is limited by space (desa), time (kala) and object (vastu), which means that the knowledge about that object, is also limited. Every object exists in Brahman. Without intelligence we cannot have knowledge about an object. That intelligence, which is pure consciousness, is Brahman itself. If we realize Brahman then all the objects are known. Therefore, knowledge is Brahman.
Brahman is pure consciousness, devoid of the mind. We come across this state many times in a day like the gap between two thoughts, when our mind goes to an exalted state or in deep misery etc, for a moment we come across this state; but it goes unnoticed.
Pure Consciousness is underlying in all the experiences in life. Only thing is we have to own this fact. Brahman is satyam, janana, ananda. It is existence itself. We are existing in that existence.