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On Hinduism
- Venkat

The word 'Hinduism' itself is a misnomer. In the old days - I mean really old - perhaps more than 7000 years ago, this religion was called Sanatana Dharma - or the way of the Universe. The foreigners who came here, found Sanatana Dharma too difficult to pronounce. The easier way to call the natives was after the Indus Valley Civilization.

Indus itself is another corruption of the word Sindhu - the river - which flows from the Himalayas to the west - now in Pakistan. Explorers found this river easily on the land route from Europe and named the people (derogatorily called natives) as Hindus. Frankly, the Islamic and Christian fundamentalists did not understand how a religion could exist for thousands of years without going to war on the issue.

Of course, Hindu kings fought Hindu kings - but that was politics. But there was no jehad or crusade.
And in Hinduism - there is no concept of evil or Devil. Every being created by the preceptor Brahma is good and sometimes, out of circumstances beyond his or her control, adopt bad ways. But even the baddies pray to God - there are several of them to get unlimited powers. After attaining them, the ambitious beings who think that they can excel the gods. But in the end, they are defeated and lo! they are rid of their curses and become Gods again.

There is, however, a term for hell in Hindu mythology - Naraka. But even that region is governed by Dharma Raja - the king of righteousness who himself is a God. And any soul that has to suffer in hell, is there only for a temporary phase. The final destination is always heaven. If a soul has done enough good deeds on earth, rightaway, it goes to heaven - in layman's words for the Sanskrit term is Swarga or Paradise. Should sins outnumber the merits of a soul, the temporary destination, according to Puranas - or ancient texts, is Naraka. But the journey doesn't end there. According to the theory of Karma a human being is born as many times on this earth as is necessary to shed his or her bad Karma and finally attains Mukti - salvation.

This philosophy is enumerated clearly in the Bhagavad Gita - an intrinsic part of Mahabharata - the greatest epic written. The incarnation of Lord Vishnu - who is in charge of safeguarding the lives of all those on earth and above, - in human form - Lord Krishna - is quoted extensively by Sage Vyasa who wrote the epic.

The Mahabharata is rendered in lucid style in both English and Tamil by C. Rajagopalachari - an enlightened soul of the 20th century. The books are available in Giri Trading Agency in Chennai and Mumbai. The book is in paperback form - and has already had a print run of over a million copies and still is a bestseller. In these books the Bhagvadgita is explained in great detail in a language that can be easily comprehended by the common man. For those who want to delve deeper - try Bhagvadgita written by Swami Chidbhavananda or Chinmanayanda. Swami Vivekananda has also elaborately written on all the yogas described by Lord Krishna in Gita. All these are available in Giri Trading Agency.

For those who do not know the long and the short of it in Mahabharata -it is the before and after of an epic war between the Pandavas (or children who took Pandu's name though born out of the gods), and Kauravas - the evil ones try to usurp other's property by foul means. In the end there is a major war, which leaves millions dead, but Pandavas emerge victorious.

Coming back to the Bhagvadgita, just to give an idea of the manifestation of the Lord - I recall these words translated by me from the Hindi television version of the epic. Krishna says: Amongst stars I am the Sun, amongst planets I am earth, amongst Gods, I am Vishnu, amongst the mountains I am the Meru, amongst Pandavas, I am Arjuna (kindly remember, this is during a discourse being given to Arjuna himself) and amongst Kauravas - I am Duiryodhana. The last part - Duryodhana should be interesting for all those who should get enlightened about the non existence of the concept of evil. Duryodhana was the usurper and committed various sins. But he was the best amongst the evil doers. God says that he is present even in Duryodhana because, he is omni potent and omnipresent. And in the end of Mahabharata, when was Duryodhana was defeated and killed in war - he went straight to heaven - paradise, so the Mahabharata says.

This probably would have given you an idea about the secular nature of Hinduism.