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.
In this article I would like to mention about the gitas mentioned in different puranas.
1. Agastya gita – Agastya gita comes in the Varaha purana. Varaha purana is the conversation between Varaha murti (the avatar of Lord Mahavishnu) and Dharani (earth). To one of the questions by Dharani, Varahamurti as answer quotes the Agastya gita, which was originally said by Sage Agastya. This gita tells about the concept of moksha, the attainment of paramatma by the jivatma through devotion, renunciation and by the grace of God.
2. Avadhuda gita – Avadhuta means ever-free. Avadhuta gita means the song of the ever-free. Avadhuta gita is the experience of the Avadhuta Dattatreya. It is based on the non-dualistic philosophy. Avadhuta gita is an independent treatise on Advaita vedanta. It is also said as Vedanta sara.
3. Brahma gita – Brahma gita comes in the Brahma Purana. This gita praises Lord Shiva. After the death of Sati, Daksha goes to Lord Shiva and praises his glories and the Lord blesses him. These slokas are said as Brahma gita.
4. Devi gita – Devi gita comes in the Devi baghavata purana. It is one among the eighteen puranas, where Devi is said as Brahman. Devi gita tells about the supreme power of the divine mother. She is both compassionate and at the same time very ferocious too. Devi gita is the conversation between devi Parvati and her father Himavan, and she tells her father that she is the ultimate reality, Brahman. She explains about the evolution, existence and dissolution.
5. Ganesha gita – Ganesha gita is from the Ganesha purana. It has two sections. The first is the upasana kanda, a section on devotion to Lord Ganesha. The second section is the krida kanda, which tells about the divine leelas of Lord Ganesha. Ganesha gita comes in the krida kanda. It is the discourse of Lord Gajanana, an incarnation of Ganesha, to king Varenya. The discourse is based on liberation.
6. Guru gita – Guru gita comes in the skanda purana. It has 352 verses. It is a famous gita in Vedanta philosophy. It is a conversation between Lord Shiva and devi Parvati, where devi Parvati asks about the importance of guru, and the answer by Lord Shiva is the Guru gita.
7. Hanuman gita – Hanuman gita is the discourse of Lord Ram and devi Sita after their arrival back to Ayodhya, after defeating Ravana. Lord Ram and devi Sita reveal their identity to Hanuman. Lord Ram says that he is the all pervading, imperishable Brahman and devi Sita is the yoga maya existing in Brahman.
8. Ishwara gita – Ishwara gita comes in the uttara vibhaga of the kurma purana. It is the teaching of Lord Vishnu to Sage Narada. Ishwara gita explains Ishwara, the creator as omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient.
9. Rama gita – Rama gita comes in the uttara kanda of Adhyatma Ramayana, authored by Veda Vyasa. Rama gita is a dialogue between Lord Rama and his younger brother Lakshmana. To one of the questions by devi Parvati, her consort Lord Shiva as answer retells the Rama gita. The presenter of Rama gita is Lord Shiva.
There is another Rama gita in Jnana vasishta, Tattwa sarayana. It is the dialogue between Hanuman and Sri Ram on jnana, bhakti yoga and vairagya. It emphasizes the importance of knowledge and practice of good karmas. It is based on monistic philosophy.
10. Ramana gita – Ramana gita is not a traditional gita as taken from any puranas. Ramana gita is the teachings of Shri Ramana maharshi who lived in the 20th century in a place called Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu. One of his disciples, Shri Ganapathi muni, recorded the answers given by Shri Ramana maharshi to nearly 43 questions posted by his devotees on Self enquiry and he brought it out as Ramana gita.
11. Ribhu gita – Ribhu gita comes in the Shiva rahasya purana. It is an upapurana based on Lord Shiva and saivite worship. It has about 2000 versus. It is a dialogue between Sage Ribhu and his disciple Sage Nidagha.
12. Shiva gita – Shiva gita is taken from the padma purana. When Ravana took away devi Sita, Lord Rama in grief wandered in the forest. Sage Agastya consoled Sri Ram and advised him to worship Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva appeared before Lord Ram and taught him this gita. The guru of Shiva gita is Lord Shiva and the disciple is Lord Ram. Lord Shiva says in Shiva gita that the entire creation is the manifestation of the primordial being, himself.
13. Siddha gita – Siddha gita is from Yoga Vasishta. Some siddhas assembled near the palace of king Janaka and they were singing the praise of Brahman and Atma. Sage Vasistha quotes this gita to Sri Ram.
14. Surya gita – Surya gita is found in the Tattwa sarayana. It is the teaching of the eternal teacher Dakshinamurthi to Lord Brahma about Brahman and its manifestations.
15. Suta gita – Suta gita is from the skanda purana. It comprises of the teaching about Brahman and maya tattwa.
16. Vallabha gita – Vallabha gita is also said as shodasha granthas, a collection of sixteen stotras of Shri Vallabhacharya. Shri Vallabhacharya was one of the five main acharyas who propagated the Vaishnava Bhakti tradition of Hinduism and he is the founder of the pushti sect in Hinduism. It is based on the philosophy of shuddha advaitam (non-dualism), which means that Brahman alone is real. They do not accept the concept of maya. Pushti sect believes that the Universe is not an illusion, but the natural emanation from God. Jiva is a part of God (Krishna) and is identical with him. Their main deity is Lord Krishna and attaining him is liberation. As answers to his devotes questions, Shri Vallabhacharya wrote 16 granthas to help them in the path of devotion. These granthas were later known as Vallabha gita.
17. Vasishta gita – Vasishta gita is also knows as Yoga Vasishta. It is an important work in Vedanta philosophy. It is the advice given by Sage Vasishta to Lord Ram, when Sri Ram was in the dejected state of mind. It comes in the uttara bhaga of Valmiki Ramayana. It is also known as jnana Vasishta. It is a profound work in Vedanta with 32,000 versus. The discourse of Sage Vasishta is based on the Reality, non-duality, manifestation and liberation.
18. Vibheeshana gita – Vibeeshana gita comes in the yuddha kanda of Ramayana. It is a discourse between Lord Ram and Vibeeshana. Vibeeshana asked Sri Ram that how he was able to win over the mighty Ravana; Sri Ram said that dharma, faith and good values will win in the end. Sri Ram’s answer is said as Vibeeshana gita.
19. Vidya gita – Vidya gita comes in the Tripura Rahasya. It is in the form of a story as said by Lord Dattatreya to Lord Parasuram. Lord Dattatreya says that vidya, the highest wisdom is devi herself and she removes the fog of delusion and confers liberation through intelligence.
20. Yama gita – Yama gita was originally recited by Agni dev to Sage Vasishta. It appears in Vishnu Puran, Agni Puran and Narashimha Puran. It explains the nature of Self, the concept of Brahman and the ways to attain liberation.
21. Vyasa gita – Vyasa gita comes in the Brahma Puran. Brahma Puran was said by Lord Brahma to the Sages on mount Meru. The Sages requested Lord Brahma to tell about the yoga that will help them to be free of miseries and later help them to unite with Paramatma; as answer Sage Vyasa recited the Vyasa gita, which explains the philosophy of non-dualism and samkya philosophy.
These are the different gitas in Hinduism. In total there are more than 60 gitas in Hinduism other than the famous Baghavad gita. Hope the three articles (Different gitas in Hinduism Part 1, Part2, Part 3) may help the readers to trace the source and read the gitas to improve their knowledge on Brahman.