To get a basic understanding of what we call Vedic Sanatana Hindu Dharma, popularly called Hinduism, we need a basic change in thinking from the linear way of looking at everything in this Creation as we usually have been taught in the West, to a cyclical thinking. This way can bring about a much wiser, gentler outlook, as we will see.
Central concepts to know:
● Creation is cyclical
● Dharma must guide our living
● Karmas produce appropriate results
● Bhagavaan or God is infinite
● So is the "Creation" or more appropriately the "Manifest World"
● Prayer is very important
● Respect for this Creation leads to Harmony
● Human life is our chance to seek unity with our Creator
Creation is a continuous process. At all times there are both beginnings and ends. We are part of this process of creation and dissolution, in that way we too create, but human creation is somewhat different than God’s creation.
Dharma: This word is very important for our understanding but has no equivalent in English. A language develops according to the thoughts we hold in our minds. A word, its meaning and an object or concept are inseparably bound together. For example, the word SHIRT brings a form and some material to mind, and then we understand what a shirt is.
Dharma has many meanings, but for now we will take it to mean “the essence of something,” like the Dharma of fire is to be hot, or sugar to be sweet. Living can be harmonious only if we respect the Dharma and live without rubbing against it. So we cannot hope to feel no burn if we stick our hand into a fire! So too, when we hurt someone, we will get hurt, when we take someone else’s lands or money or life, eventually we will have the same pain come to us. So Dharma can be called righteousness too.
The law of Karma is simple; actions that we perform always produce appropriate results. These may themselves be limited by our previous actions to some extent. We seem to have no control on where or to whom we are born or what kind of a childhood we have. So much is given already. For example, born into a rich family or a poor family will shape our thinking accordingly. Hence, the destiny we experience is itself a result of our Karmas done in other times. Free will allows us to break out of given situations through our Karmas or actions. However, we must understand that we have our free will over our actions, but the results come from the Lord and are always appropriate to the action performed. The incentive to do good is that we write our own destiny, not God. These results can be immediate or delayed, in this life or another. Since the results are not within our control we may receive more than expected, same as expected, or less than expected. If we understand properly, we are able to take whatever comes with equanimity; with the least disturbance to our minds. The more we recognize the order that is the Almighty, the more calm and fearless we stay.
Please see that prayer is seen as a very powerful Karma or action as it is the true use of our Human free will. It has to bear fruit that is beneficial to us—Hindus are very sure about it. In fact, everything that is here is God’s manifestation and thus worthy of worship. So an important fact to understand is that Hindus are not polytheistic at all. This is a highly misrepresented part of the tradition. As the Lord is Infinite no part of Creation can exist outside God, so everything is worshipful. So it is not that Hindus worship cows, snakes or trees, rather they recognize the divinity in all forms. Also, when we say that I am worshiping the Goddess of Knowledge before going to school then what is meant is that I recognize that knowledge comes from God as does everything else, so I am invoking this power. This is similar to asking mother to provide food to satisfy our hunger as she in charge of the food at home. But we may invoke her help also for a multitude of other needs which she can also take care of. We invoke an aspect of the same thing in different ways.
There is need to understand that the Creation is not separate from the Creator just like the wave is not separate from the ocean. A wave can exist only within the body of water—however, the ocean exists independently. For the purpose of understanding, we can say that an individual is the wave and the Almighty is the ocean.
This type of thinking produces a very different mindset, one that leads to a certain wisdom. If everything is God, then, even what we see as unpleasant or destructive at the micro, individual level can be accepted with equanimity. It leads to respect for all things and all people! Which in turn leads to a harmonious living, ability to have a non-judgmental attitude, a mind that does not get easily disturbed. In tough situations no feeling of being alone, we tend not to constantly blame others for our situations.
Most of all it leads us to recognition that this Creation is an interconnected and interdependent entity backed by an all knowing, all powerful, conscious being that can be invoked via prayer and good actions/Karma. Each person’s actions impact everyone else.
Human life alone gives us a chance to know our true identity, which has its basis in the one true thing called God. All else has a dependent reality because nothing except God can exist on its own. Our relationship with God is like the wave in an ocean. The ocean exists with or without the waves, but the waves have no independent existence without the ocean. When the waves become enlightened they know they too are water and are liberated from the notions of limitedness. This is called Moksha or liberation, and can be achieved while living. Unlike promises of other religions, we need not die to attain a heaven or hell which even the religious leaders are not in a hurry to attain!
This is a quick explanation of the central concept of this vast and ancient tradition. The sacred literature of Sanatana dharma or Hindu dharma can fill up a football field because it does not restrict questions and analyses at various times in history. It is ever adapting, and one need not become a Hindu to benefit from this great Spiritual tradition. It does not proselytize or even force absolute rules on its adherents. In our ever changing and more diverse World of today this kind of thinking is needed to sustain humanity and protect us from self-annihilation.
Vedic Sanatana Hindu Dharma discusses every minute detail of the human Spirit and analyzes it. Hence it is a teaching tradition, not a preaching one. In its depth it is closer to Quantum physics than any other religion. It has no one Prophet or Avatara who started it, rather it is the vision of age old Rishis (seers) and Rishi-Kaas who spent lifetimes thinking about issues central to a Human life. From my personal experience of living in two great nations of our world, I know that understanding such as given by Hindu Dharma keeps one centered, no matter what happens. It is not opposed to materialism or anything else that is not harmful to us. All it asks is that we know the answers to the following ever-present human questions:
● Who am I?
● Why am I here?
● Where am I going?
● How will I go there?
For those who care to know it gives the methodology to teach, prescribes a lifestyle that helps us learn and allows immense opportunity to mature mentally. Anything born gets old and dies. Only in a human birth we can mature in a unique way. That ability is what makes us the higher species. We need not be religious but Spirituality is not a choice.
I hope this makes some sense to you all. I would love to answer your questions. The more you know, the more amazed you will be that such a tradition has been so maligned by human folly!