Cosmos ,Sanatan Dharma.Ancient Hinduism science.
► Hinduism, A True Definition►
►Surprisingly, though Hinduism is a very ancient religion, the word “Hinduism”, which today defines it and distinguishes it from the rest of the religions, is of much later origin. In ancient India you had either a yogi, a bhakta, a tantric, a sanyasi, a sankhya vadin, a vedantin, a lokayata, a rishi, a muni, a pandit, a pragna, a yogini, a devi, a swami, a Saivite, a Vaishnavite, a siddha or Buddha, but no Hindu.
►The Persian connection►
►Interestingly the words “Hindu” and Hinduism are not Sanskrit words. No Hindu ever coined them. The Hindus were even unaware of such a terminology for a very long time. While the foreign scholars of Greece and Persia made an occasional glance out of curiosity towards the lands that existed beyond the Indus, the native Indians were busy in their own little world oblivious of the fact that they had very little in common with the outside world except perhaps in matters of commerce, governance and few other things.
►The earliest reference to the word “Hindu” can be found in the Avestha, the sacred book of the Zoroastrians. The word “Hindu ‘ush” was also found at least in two inscriptions of king Darius ( early sixth Century B.C.), whose empire said to have extended up to the borders of the river Sindhu.
The Greek “Indos”
►Subsequently the word was picked up by Herodotus and also by the Armenians. For several centuries the word was used to denote the people of the subcontinent, not people of a particular faith. From the eighth century A.D. onwards when the Muslims began to settle down in the Indus region they started using the word “Hindus” to distinguish the natives from the Muslims.
The word “Hindu” is a secular word
►Hindustan was the land that existed beyond the river Indus, and those that lived there were referred as Hindus. We can see clearly that the word Hindu was originally a secular word meant to define and distinguish people of the Indian subcontinent, rather than those practicing a particular religion.
►If we go by these ancient traditions, there is hardly any difference between a Hindu and an Indian. Both the words were corrupt forms of the original Sanskrit word “Sindhu” meaning river in general and the Indus river in particular. The Greeks referred to those living in the subcontinent as “Indos” while the Muslim scholars called them “Hindus”.
►There was however one particular difference. The Greek historians who called the subcontinent as “Indos” hardly knew much about the religious activity of the region, while the Muslim scholars had some knowledge of the native traditions though not in complete detail.
►But they chose to describe the natives as Hindus to contrast them with the Muslims. The Europeans who came to India from the sixteenth century onwards followed the same tradition and referred the natives as Hindus to distinguish them from the non-Muslims. More than tradition perhaps it was convenience which prompted them to use the word “Hindu” to describe the vast majority of the non-Muslim population of India.
The “Hindoos” of British Raj
►It is interesting to note that the Hindus never referred themselves as Hindus until modern times. The earliest reference to the word “Hindu” is said to be found in the Gaudiya Vaishnava texts of the 16th century A.D. It was only during the 18th and 19th centuries that Hindus started accepting the word to describe their religious faith which stood in stark contrast to Christianity and Islam. The British, who were till then referring the natives variously as natives, baniyans, heathens, gentoos, etc, now started referring all the non-Muslim natives as “Hindoos”.
►For the educated modern Hindu of that period the word was a very convenient way to establish his identity against the British as well as the native Muslims. For some time the word “Hinduism”, was used in a restricted sense, to designate the Vedic religion or Brahminism. But with the emergence of new reform movements, which played a very crucial role in restructuring and redefining the social and religious traditions of the country, the word came to encompass the entire religious tradition that originated from the Vedas and continued through centuries.
A Hindu knows in his heart who a Hindu is
►Today although there is a lot of confusion among many foreign scholars as to what constitutes Hinduism and what does not, there is no confusion among the native Indians as to who a Hindu is. A Hindu may not be able to define correctly who a Hindu is, but in his heart he knows clearly whom he is talking about. Without recourse to any religious texts or scholarly analysis, he can instantly recognize and accept a fellow Hindu.
►The Hindus may come from different regions, speak different languages, belong to different economic and social strata, may oppose each other politically, may not even like each other personally due to ideological or ethical or ethnic reasons, but they do not fail to experience the bond of a religious tradition that is common to them. They know clearly that the tradition that binds them together was before them and would remain forever after them.
►This in essence what Hinduism is. It is a living tradition which communicates through the hearts, minds and spirits of its millions of adherents. The word “Hindu” is very much secular in its origin and a typical Hindu is very much secular in his out look and attitude towards all religious faiths and living traditions.
►Today if some Hindus are becoming increasingly defensive towards their religion, which is an unfortunate development, as it is against the principles of their religious tradition, it is to be acknowledged more as a reaction against perceived threats and
external influences. Let us hope that it would be a temporary phenomenon.
►Be A Hindu Not Secular