Hinduism – a way of life- in Souvenir of vibrant Kenya -2015

This article was published in a Souvenir distributed by Hindu Council of Kenya at the event of Vibrant Kenya in January 2015.

a92.Om Vishwa Bhavan Mandir

HINDUISM- A WAY OF LIFE

Sanathana Dharma

Hinduism known as Sanathana Dharma or Law Eternal is a way of life and has been in existence since the timeless beginning. The word Sanatana means ancient; it also means eternal or everlasting. Hence the word Sanatana is defined as that which is old and at the same time ever new. God is called the Sanatana Purusha, the Primeval Being, the One who has no beginning. It is ancient yet ever fresh, ever relevant transcending time and age. The people who had inhabited the land, which is called Bhaarat, Hindustan or India since thousands of years constituted a society, which is very ancient (Sanaatana). The way of life they had evolved came to be known as Sanatana Dharma. The religion has its roots in the Vedas which are believed to have originated along with the dawn of creation. Hence Hinduism is also referred to as Vaidika dharma or Vedic religion.

Vedas- the repository of highest wisdom

Vedas are the oldest authoritative scriptures of Hinduism. Vedic knowledge is based on divine assertions received by ancient seers in their metaphysical state.  They were in a state of communion with the divine when the highest knowledge was revealed to them as they undertook severe penance for thousands of years. This was passed on to their disciples in an oral tradition. Vedic knowledge was thus transmitted to generations of men by word of mouth. The written tradition began after Europeans discovered the grandeur of the mystic, mysterious East. Thus began a history of recording these sacred utterances. Yet what is available today sadly is a fraction of the original. Even this has not been explored to the fullest; such is the depth of the content contained in the Vedas.

Vedic Scriptures- Ancient yet Scientific

The Vedas deal with a variety of subjects from the mundane to the lofty. There is nothing that has been left uncovered for the Vedas deal with all subjects- astrology, astronomy, architecture, medicine, art, music, dance, martial arts, yoga, food, health, poetry, literature and the list goes on. There are hymns and mantras for every occasion and every ritual. The valuable knowledge disseminated by the Vedas is not for any particular region, religion, people, period or place. It is universal and transcends all barriers. That makes its relevance eternal.  They are authentic and fool proof as many scientific studies conducted on the theories propounded in these Scriptures show us.

The Structure of the Vedas

Veda was an undivided mass in the beginning. It was divided into four parts by Maharshi Veda Vyaasa to suit Kaliyuga-, in view of the short lifespan and depleted mental capacities of human beings. They are: Rig, Yajur, Saama and Atharva. He taught them one to each of his disciples Paila, Vaishampaayana, Jaimini and Sumanta and commanded them to propagate. They taught the sections entrusted to them to their disciples and thus Vedas are preserved by oral tradition, from teacher to pupil through generations. This system of propagation is called Guru Paramparaa. By this system not only the text of the Vedas, but also the intonation of various syllables of the hymns are passed on from generation to generation. The Rigveda consists of hymns in praise of the gods (lustrous beings like sun etc.) in the heavens and is the main book to Mantras. It begins with a Sookta to Agni (Fire) and concludes with a Sookta to the same deity. It contains 10 Mandalas or books with 1028 hymns or Sooktas. There is another division of Rigveda by which it is divided into 8 Ashtakas with 94 chapters (Adhyaayas) and 2009 Vargas. The total number of verses in Rigveda is 10,580.

The Yajur Veda is classified into Krishna (black) and Shukla (white) recensions. The Yajur Veda contains mainly sacrificial formulae in prose and verse to be chanted at the performance of a sacrifice. The Samhitaa of the Shukla Yajur Veda is also called ‘Vaajasaneyi Samhitaa’. ‘Vaajasani’ is one of the names of the Sun god. The last chapter of Shukla Yajurveda is the most important ‘Isa Upanishad’. The Saama Veda consists mostly of verses from Rig-Veda, set to music for singing during the sacrifice. It is a collection of Mantras meant for ‘Udgaata’ priest. There are 1549 Richas in Saamaveda and only 75 of them are independent of Rigveda.

Atharva Veda presents three types of sacrifices – ‘Shaantikam’ for peace, ‘Paushtikam’ for strength and ‘Aabhichaarikam’ to cause injury to enemies. Atharvaveda is also called Atharvaangirasa Veda. i.e. the fire priests Atharvan and Angiraa, both the words meaning tracing of magic formulas and magic spells. Atharvan is sacred and auspicious magic pertaining to peace, health, wealth, affection and protection in family whereas Angirasa means hostile magic relating to curse to enemies, exorcism of evil spirits and ghosts etc. Atharvaveda consists of 20 Kaandas, which contain 739 hymns and approximately 6000 verses in prose and also in poetry. After the passage of a long time, when understanding Vedas became difficult, Vedaangas came into being to explain the true meaning of Vedas.

There are six Vedaangas- 1. Shikshaa 2. Kalpa  3. Vyaakarana  4. Nirukta  5. Chhandas and  6. Jyotisha.

  1. Shikshaa: This is the science of proper articulation and pronunciation. The prime one among Shiksha books is the famous Panineeya Shikshaa.
  2. Kalpa means the science, which stipulates the rituals and justifies the small differences of sacrifices in all branches of the Vedas.
  3. Vyaakarana is grammar. It is the most important of the six Vedaangas. It clarifies the construction of words and syntax in complications of Vedic language. The author of Vyaakarana (Ashtaadhyayee) is Paanini belonging to the Third century BC.
  4. Nirukta deals with etymology of difficult Vedic words. Yaaska is said to be the trustworthy author of this science.
  5. The science of versification is known as Chandas Shaastra (Prosody). This was done by Pingala Naagaacharya. There are seven Vedic metres. They are Gaayatri, Ushnik, Anushtubh, Brihatee, Pankti, Jagatee, Trishtubh and Jyotisha. (Astronomy). This deals with the calculation of the movements of various planets, occurrence of eclipses, intercalary months etc. This is considered to be the eye of the Vedas among the Vedaangas because Vedic austerities are to be performed exactly at the prescribed points of time. Aachaarya Lagadha wrote Vedaanga Jyotisha, which consists of seven chapters.

The later portions of the Vedas are known as Vedanta. This is known as Jnana Kanda or repository of knowledge while the earlier portion was karma kanda or catechism of rituals. The Jnana Kanda portion consists of Aranyakas and Upanishads. The most important of the Upanishads are Isa, Kena, Katha, Prasna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Aitreya, Taittriya, Chandogya and Brihadaranyaka- a total of ten in all.

The Upanishads, Brahma Sutras and the Bhagawad Gita form the Prasthana Thraya, the primary three scriptures of Hinduism while our epics, Ramayana and Mahabharatha, Puranas , agamas, darsanas all expound the glory and character of Hinduism in different ways.

The colorful and complex world of Indian mythology is another delightful aspect of Hinduism and has been explored by many authors, traditional and contemporary.

The Isavasya Upanishad, one of the primary scriptures of Hinduism says Isavasyam idam sarvam that is this whole world is pervaded by god. The Rig Veda extols –Ekam sat viprah bahudah vadanti that is, Truth is one, the wise call it by many names.

Godhead in Hinduism

Hindus believe in one Supreme Godhead called Brahman who is impersonal without form, shape or attributes, who is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. He transcends time and space and he can be worshipped as the Supreme consciousness or Paramatma, as Light or Love. When God is viewed as a Personal Being he is called variously as Iswara or Bhagawan. He manifests as an image or Murti, idol or icon, which is viewed as a personification of Divinity. God is invoked through mantras, rituals, chants, Pujas, bhajans, songs etc, in short anything that lets a devotee tune in to thoughts of divinity and helps him focus his mind. He is worshipped out of love not fear. This is the most unique aspect of Hinduism. His glory cannot be fathomed though we get glimpses through the outpourings of His saints and devotees. Thus a personal god helps a worshipper to easily comprehend and connect with the otherwise inscrutable, incomprehensible Supreme. These forms are many and a devotee is free to choose his favorite deity or Ishta Devata. In short there is a whole range of Divine Operating System in this universe and thus we see many gods in the Hindu Pantheon. The Trinity comprising of Brahma representing Creation, Vishnu for Preservation and Shiva for Dissolution, the Feminine or Shakti aspect represented by Mother Goddesses like Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati and the various Devatas like Ganesha, Subramanya along with many more comprise the Hindu galaxy of Gods.

And then there is the highest philosophy propagated in Hinduism I am God- Aham Brahmasmi. For we are no different from the supreme consciousness and when true realization dawns we break free of the fetters and realize that we are that Supreme godhead ourselves. So it is important to understand that Hinduism cannot be typecast as a particular belief system- like monism, theism, monotheism, polytheism, pantheism etc. Perhaps that is the reason why the Vedas found it easy to describe god in a unique negative way neti neti- not this not this for he is this and much more. So like the anecdotal seven blind men who described the mighty elephant, we can aspire to describe the infinite primordial without any success. Hinduism is the only religion that is so diverse in its theoretical premise that finds practical expression in myriad ways so as to suit the times and the ages. It is a live, vibrant religion that provides space for plurality of belief and expression.

http://www.indianscriptures.com

www.indianscriptures.com is one of such websites which has explored the knowledge of scriptures and presented them in easy to understand format for the readers. The site is promoted by Shrivedant Foundation, a non-profit foundation is dedicated to spreading the message of Vedic Literature. It was founded by Smt. Vaishali Shah in 2001. www.indianscriptures.com is a unique one stop portal where material relating to our religion is available to all seekers. The information is genuine, authenticated and contributed by learned scholars, renowned gurus, earnest writers and established institutions. The site is a treasure-house of knowledge to all who visit it. Many Indian Scriptures in digitized format are uploaded on the portal. It is the first website to have all Indian Scriptures like Vedas, Puranas, Upanishads, Itihasas, Upapuranas, Brahmangranth and many other original texts in digital form from various schools of thought. The site is informative and there are about 38000 pages filled with enriching, unique content in their original form. There are more than 300 original Scriptures in Sanskrit, Hindi and English about Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism. Readers can also download original scriptures for free.

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Introduction of Kenya Vegetarian Club

I established The Kenya Vegetarian Club to support the cause of vegetarianism and hope to increase the number of vegetarians in Kenya. Our club endeavors to

  • Promote human health
  • Protect animal rights
  • Preserve environment
  • Develop compassion

World over there is a great interest in vegetarianism today. People from all walks of life would like to switch over to a vegetarian diet if they are convinced of its merits. Some are confident about their food habits and make the switch easily. Others need support, guidance and perhaps a gentle nudge. Also there is considerable confusion in the array of products that are available on the shelves of the supermarkets. Many shoppers find it difficult to tell which food and drinks are produced using animal products. The food industry often uses products that may not be suitable for vegetarians. Health professionals are not very clear about the merits of vegetarian diet as they receive little or no training in vegetarian nutrition. Parents are confused whether a wholly vegetarian diet would provide the required nutrition for their kids.

The Kenya Vegetarian Club aims to fill in this space and supports, guides and promotes vegetarianism by arranging various programs and events that help members to understand and appreciate the importance of vegetarian diet. The club also creates awareness about vegetarianism in Africa as the world is moving towards saving the environment and food production and consumption is the first step towards it. The Club intends to help local farmers to grow more vegetables thereby helping them to earn more. Shrivedant Foundation is a non-profit body which hopes to create many such movements which would help locals to switch over to a better and healthy living.

KVC publishes a quarterly newsletter which offers tidbits of information on vegetarianism, interesting recipes, vegan celebrity profiles and other important information of the events happening in Kenya. Those interested in receiving a copy of the newsletter can register by mailing to kvc@shrivedant.com.
You may also find us on Facebook and Twitter to follow the activities of the club.

The Club promotes tree planting to help save the beautiful forests of Kenya. We need to join together and preserve our wildlife and other national resources for the future of our citizens. Kenya is a country of vegetation and rich with tons of variety of vegetables and fruits. Let’s all pledge to remain vegetarian and help to promote the same across the world.

 

Speaking Globally – Elizabeth Urech

speakingglob1

This wonderful book is a great communication guide for travelers, executives, leaders and public speakers – in fact, anyone who travels overseas frequently. Apart from explaining the nuances of communicating in an unfamiliar country, it also includes several pointers on handling unexpected situations and addressing foreign audiences.

More time and less stress – Martin Scott

This book taught me to employ my time far more effectively. As I read it, I realized how we constantly forget how limited our time on this planet is and how we pretend that we are the masters of our own time. The truth is quite the opposite. There are two sections in the book that help you sum up your whole life and realize what you want to do with it. It also describes some common time-wasting activities we all could do away with in order to get the best out of our lives.

Vipassana

Journey within

Spirituality is our only hope of finding peace in today’s hectic life. It helps one get into a mental and emotional state of balance. I never had to learn the importance of spirituality from anyone around me. I was born with this realisation. Though it is a very personal matter, I’d still like to share my experiences here, because I want people to know that spirituality has the answer to all of life’s questions. It teaches you to live with yourself and gives you immense pleasure out of doing NOTHING. Spirituality helps you attain whatever you want in life, it improves your communication and relationships, helps you grow as an individual and makes you so powerful that your enemies will never find a chink in your armour.

I was lucky to get a taste of spirituality very early in life. I used to have long conversations about life and spirituality with my teachers during my school days. These conversations influenced me to take a deep interest in various scriptures and the Vedas and Puranas. I also began to understand the importance of connecting with one’s own soul.

Vipassana

I heard about ‘Vipassana’ from a friend during early days of my professional life. This word comes from Pali, the language of the Buddha, and it means ‘SEE IT AS IT IS’, i.e. without any alteration or denial of the truth. Vipassana is a 6000-year old practice of achieving inner liberation that was revived by the Buddha about 2500 years ago. Sadly, it disappeared from India about 500 years after he attained nirvana. However, Vipassana remained preserved in Burma in its purest form of ‘guru-shishya parampara’.  It was brought to India again by Mr. S. N. Goenka.

When I went for my fist Vipassana camp, I remember being completely clueless. The code of conduct for participants strictly forbids killing, stealing, sexual activity, lying, intoxicants, bodily decorations and even high beds! Even the diet is strictly controlled. The aim is to wash away all the pain and stress accumulated inside the body and mind. I remember crying frequently for the first 3-4 days.

But in this cathartic process, all my .previous aversions, agitation, cravings, negativity, anger, fear, and all kinds of disturbing thoughts were slowly getting eliminated After purification of the mind, we were told to observe each and every feeling inside the body. My mind was constantly wandering and I realised then how difficult it is for us to just focus on the moment and not measure ourselves by various yardsticks. I realised that we were not born to eat, sleep, adhere to silly societal laws or live for pleasure. We can actually create a world of our own in our minds and hearts. Believe me, that camp changed my life spiritually and emotionally. An unexpected outcome of the camp was that I was able to start using certain perfumes that I was allergic to earlier.

I strongly recommend this camp to people suffering from migraines and headaches, psychosomatic problems or any kind of allergies. You may want to visit www.dhamma.org for more details.

Spiritual Educator, An Author, Researcher, Social Worker, Traveler, Avid Reader, Philanthropist

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