Who is a Hindu?

Who is a Hindu?

Who is a Hindu?

Hindus are all those who believe, practice, or respect the spiritual and religious principles and practices having roots in Bharat. Thus Hindus includes Jains, Buddhas, Sikhs, and Dharmic people, worldwide, of many different sects within the Hindu ethos.

The word Hindu is a civilizational term expressed as Hindu culture or “Sanskriti.” And the word Dharma includes religious practices only as a subset. The Hindu Portal welcomes and respects people of non-Indian origin who consider themselves Hindus as defined above.
Bhagwa Dhwaj (Saffron Flag of the Hindus)
Bhagwa Dhwaj 

Bhagwa Dhwaj (Saffron Flag of the Hindus)

Bhagwa Dhwaj, one of the great Hindu symbols, signifies sacrifice, knowledge, purity, and service.
   The Bhagwa Dhwaj is the eternal symbol of Hindu culture and Dharma. It adorns every ashram, every temple, the army of Chatrapati Shivaji, Guru Gobind Singh, and the chariots of Sri Ram, Sri Krishna, and Arjuna. It stands for Dharma, wealth, advancement, glory, knowledge, and detachment. The combination of these six aspirations is “Bhagwa.”

The color of the flag is Saffron. It is the color of FIRE – its flames. The fire is a great purifier, the eternal witness of all Yagnas, of all the offerings. It inspires the greatest of all human values, sacrifice, the very essence of Hindu Dharma. The color reminds us of the orange hue around the rising Sun, which dispels darkness and radiates light all around. It beckons us to shake off our lethargy (Arise, Awake!), and get down to our duty. The Sun burns throughout the day, silently sacrificing itself, thereby, giving life to all creatures on this planet, without demanding anything in return. And as it sets, it teaches us to have no expectations, no regrets; just ceaselessly (Nitya and Akhand) render service to all creatures.

Its shape consists of two triangles: the upper being shorter than the lower one. The triangles represent the rising flames of the burning fire. The flames rise upwards only – those rising from the bottom being the longest. They teach us to “rise above and become better always.”

The shape of the Bhagwa has another significance: diversity, acceptance, harmony, and mutual respect. The small and the large portions remind us that duality, contrast, inequality, diversity are inevitable. For harmonious existence, there must be sharing, respect, and cooperation – the burden must always be on the big to support the small.

The Bhagwa has been the silent witness of our long history. In its folds resides the images, the memories, the tapas of our ancestors, our Rishis, our Mothers. It is our greatest Guru, our Guide, inspiring us forever to live a life full of sublime virtues based on sacrifice, dedication, purity, and service.

Hindu - Hinduism :

Hinduism is a diverse tradition and very different from other monolithic religions. In the monolithic sense, it is defined by The Four Pillars. Faith (sraddha) is individualistic whereas religion (dharma) is collective, and so Hindus are encouraged to explore their faith, which is why there are more Hindu scriptures and textual opinions on spirituality than of any other religion. There isn’t a single scriptural or spiritual authority to define matters of the faith for Hindus, unlike in some other religions with a central pontiff. There are several different denominations, the four largest being Vaishnava, Saiva, Shakta, and Smartha. Further, there are numberless schools of thought, or sampradayas, expressed in tens of thousands of guru lineages, or paramparas. Each is typically independent and self-contained in its authority. In a very real sense, this grand tradition can be defined and understood as ten thousand faiths gathered in harmony under a single umbrella called Hinduism, Sanatan Dharma. The tendency to overlook this diversity is the common first step to a faulty perception of this religion. Most spiritual traditions are simpler, more unified, and unambiguous. In the definitive sense a Hindu or Sanatan is any person who believes that abiding by the Law of Karma and Five Precepts, and practicing Karma, Bhakti, or Gyana yogas the soul can attain Moksha or spiritual progress. And a Hindu is one of the members of the Ārya Samudāy.

All too often, despite its antiquity, its profound systems of thought, the beauty of its art and architecture, and the grace of its people, Hinduism remains a mystery. Twisted stereotypes abound that would relegate this richly complex, sophisticated, and spiritually rewarding tradition to little more than crude caricatures of snake-charmers, cow-worshipers, and yogis lying on beds of nails.

Fortunately, there is an easier, more natural way to ­approach the vastness of Hinduism. From the countless living gurus, teachers, and pundits who offer clear guidance, most seekers choose a preceptor, study his teachings, embrace the sampradaya he propounds and adopts the precepts and disciplines of his tradition. That is how faith is followed in actual practice. Holy men and women, counted in the hundreds of thousands, are the ministers, the defenders of the faith, and the inspirers of the faithful.

Four Basic Principles

The 4 pillars of Hinduism. Hinduism can be called Chaturtattva-mati or the ‘’Fourfold creed.’’ A young family shares in morning puja, as father performs the traditional rite of worship, honoring and invoking the blessings of Lord Ganesh.

One way to gain a simple (though admittedly simplistic) overview is to understand the four essential beliefs shared by the vast majority of Hindus:
  1. The doctrine of Moksha (salvation),
  2. Law of Karma (what salvation is based on),
  3. Five Precepts (how to stay in accord with the law), and
  4. Three Yogas (support of the precepts.)
It could be said that living by these four principles (tattvas) or pillars is what makes a person a Hindu.

Moksha :

Reincarnation: Reincarnation, punarjanma, is the natural process of birth, death, and rebirth. At death, we drop off the physical body and continue evolving in the inner worlds in our subtle bodies until we again enter into birth. Through the ages, reincarnation has been the great consoling element within Hinduism, eliminating the fear of death. We are not the body in which we live but the immortal soul which inhabits many bodies in its evolutionary journey through samsara. After death, we continue to exist in unseen worlds, enjoying or suffering the harvest of earthly deeds until it comes time for yet another physical birth. The actions set in motion in previous lives form the tendencies and conditions of the present life and the next. Reincarnation ceases when karma is resolved, God is realized and moksha, liberation, is attained. The Vedas state, “After death, the soul goes to the next world, bearing in mind the subtle impressions of its deeds, and after reaping their harvest returns again to this world of action. Thus, he who has desires continues subject to rebirth”.

All-Pervasive Divinity: As a family of faiths, Hinduism upholds a wide array of perspectives on the Divine, yet all worship the one, all-pervasive Supreme Being hailed in the Upanishads. As Absolute Reality, God is unmanifest, unchanging, and transcendent, the Self God, timeless, formless, and spaceless. As Pure Consciousness, God is the manifest primal substance, pure love, and light flowing through all forms, existing everywhere in time and space as infinite intelligence and power. As Primal Soul, God is our personal Lord, the source of all three worlds, our Father-Mother God who protects, nurtures, and guides us. We beseech God’s grace in our lives while also knowing that He/She is the essence of our soul, the life of our life. Each denomination also venerates its own pantheon of Divinities, Mahadevas, or “great angels,” known as Gods, who were created by the Supreme Lord and who serve and adore Him. The Vedas proclaim, “He is the God of forms infinite in whose glory all things are—smaller than the smallest atom, and yet the Creator of all, ever living in the mystery of His creation. In the vision of this God of love, there is everlasting peace. He is the Lord of all who, hidden in the heart of things, watches over the world of time”.

Karma

Karma literally means “deed” or “act” and more broad­ly names the universal principle of cause and effect, action and reaction which governs all life. Karma is a natural law of the mind, just as gravity is a law of matter. Karma is not fate, for man acts with free will, creating his own destiny. The Vedas tell us if we sow goodness, we will reap goodness; if we sow evil, we will reap evil. Karma refers to the totality of our actions and their concomitant reactions in this and previous lives, all of which determine our future. It is the interplay between our experience and how we respond to it that makes karma devastating or helpfully invigorating. The conquest of karma lies in intelligent action and dispassionate reaction. Not all karmas rebound immediately. Some accumulate and return unexpectedly in this or other births. The Vedas explain, “According as one acts, so does he become. One becomes virtuous by virtuous action, bad by bad action”.

Dharma :

When God created the universe, He endowed it with the order, with the laws to govern creation. Dharma is God’s di­vine law prevailing on every level of existence, from the sustaining cosmic order to religious and moral laws which bind us in harmony with that order. In relation to the soul, dharma is the mode of conduct most conducive to spiritual advancement, the right, and righteous path. It is piety and ethi­­cal practice, duty, and ob­ligation. When we follow dharma, we are in conformity with the Truth that inheres and instructs the universe, and we naturally abide in closeness to God. Adharma is in opposition to divine law. Dharma is to the individual what its normal development is to seed—the orderly fulfillment of an inherent nature and destiny. The Tirukural reminds us, “Dharma yields Heaven’s honor and Earth’s wealth. What is there then that is more fruitful for a man? There is nothing more rewarding than dharma, nor anything more ruinous than its neglect.” [4]

By Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami and Himanshu Bhatt (full-width)
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