Thursday 6th March, 2008

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Message of Hindus

  • Hinduism refers to our way of life as Sanatan Dharma.
  • The Vedas are the source scrip-tures of Hindus.
  • Other people’s religions are however deliberately misrepresent-ed to gain converts.

Hinduism has come to mean the religious practices of the people who inhabit the land called India.

Legend has it that Alexandra’s army, in its attempt to conquer the Indian subcontinent, was stopped at the Indus River. Alexandra and his men described the inhabitants on the other side of the Indus as “Hindus.”

The belief is propagated that the Greeks pronounced the “I” as “H” and this led to us being called Hindus. But our religion stretches far back into antiquity and we refer to our way of life as Sanatan Dharma.

The Vedas are the source scriptures of Hindus and the supreme scared knowledge contained in the four collections provide the anchor upon which subsequent religious and spiritual experiences have been recorded. The first book is referred to as the Rig Veda and contains scared songs or hymns of praise.

The Sama Veda comprises a collection of melodies used by our pundits who chant at the sacrificial fire, while the Yajur Veda consists of sacrifice formulas. The Atherva Veda is the fourth collection based on many local traditions and legends.

Over a period of thousands of years, the experiences and spiritual diversities in Hinduism have led to the production of books that are described as post-Vedic scriptures. The popular Ramayan and Gita that record the experiences of Gods incarnate Lord Ram and Lord Krishna lead us right back to the religious messages of the Vedas.

Those churches that seek to convert the people of the world to their religion rely on a belief system based on a messenger, prophet or “the book.” The messages contained in these books remain untouchable despite the discovery of ancient manu-scripts that differ from “the word.” Other people’s religions and spiritual experiences, however, are deliberately misrepresented to gain converts.

Archaeologists’ use of modern technology continues in the Middle East but any scientific discovery that is different from the “word” or the “event” is ignored. Those who wish to convert the world refuse to acknowledge that spiritual truths were discovered by others long before the messenger, prophet or the book arrived.

In a quarterly magazine called The Hindu Renaissance, writer Ram Manohar examines the difference between a “belief system” and a “knowledge system”:

Organised systems of thought and humanity developed through the ages can be categorised as belief systems or knowledge systems.

A belief system advocates supernatural origins of knowledge. The concept of divine revelation is central to this system of thinking. Most of the major religions of the world exemplify this approach.

On the other hand, a knowledge system professes natural origins of knowledge and human agency as the key component in the process of knowledge acquisition.

Rational systems of thought that were nurtured in ancient India, Greece and such other parts of the world, and of course science, illustrate this approach.

In a belief system, the authority of a deified personality is the ultimate proof for the validity of knowledge. In very rigid belief systems, a single authority is worshipped as the ultimate source of knowledge.

In a knowledge system, however, observation and experience become the criterion for valid knowledge. What cannot be verified experientially does not constitute knowledge.

A cardinal feature of a belief system is the tendency to accept a teaching uncritically and without investigation. Everything is a matter of belief and nothing can be questioned.

A knowledge system accepts a proposition only after a thorough investigation. Any new suggestion is subjected to critical inquiry before being accepted as knowledge.

A belief system resists change and does not allow revision of previously accumulated knowledge. What has been said once is the final truth.

A knowledge system is typically open to revisions and accumulates knowledge on the go. Old theories are modified, elaborated or abandoned and new theories are introduced.

A belief system is not based on any well-defined or rigorous methodology to acquire and verify knowledge. It just transmits beliefs from one generation to the other.

In contrast, a knowledge system thrives on rigorous methodology. Transmission of knowledge itself is a process of verification, wherein the teaching is subjected to rigorous analysis and internalised before acceptance.

The message of the Hindus is being recognised by a new survey of religious affiliation by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life published in the New York Times. Writing about immigrants to the US, it found:

“Hindus are the best educated and among the richest religious groups.”

Prof Stephan Prothero observed:

“If the Hindu population is negligible, they (other Christian groups) won’t have to worry about it. But if it is wealthy, then they may have to pay attention.”

n Satnarayan Maharaj is the

secretary general of the

Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha

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