Why Be A Hindu?
The advantages of the Vedic Path – Part I
Excerpts from book written by Mr. Stephen Knapp (Sri Nandanandana Dasa) and reproduced with the Author’s permission as a short guide to promote and preserve the genuine purpose, values and understanding of Hinduism, the Vedic spiritual process. Points of Consideration
1. WHAT DOES HINDUISM STAND FOR?
Hinduism is, basically, the modern name for the Vedic way of life, especially the spiritual path usually associated with India. Previously, those who followed the Vedic system were also called Aryans. It is often considered that the Vedic Aryans were a race of people. However, Aryan actually means a standard of living, an ideal. It was the Sanskrit speaking people of thousands of years ago that gave the word ‘arya’ to signify a gentleman, an ideal person, someone on ‘he path of purity. It was a term meant for those who were on the cutting edge of social evolution. Another way of interpreting the word ‘aryan’is that ‘ar’also means white or clear. ‘Ya’ refers to God. Thus, aryan means those who have, or are developing, a clear path or a clear consciousness toward God.
In this way, we can understand that Aryanism, Vedic culture, or modern Hinduism, is a way of life. It is not a race of people or merely a sectarian creed or religion. It belongs to no particular country or race. It is a path that upholds a code of conduct which values peace and happiness and justice for all. Thus, it is a path open for all who want to be trained to be happy with simple living and high thinking, while engaged in proper conduct, a moral life. and selfless service to humanity and God. Therefore, anyone who wants to trained to be happy with simple living and high thinking, while engaged in proper conduct, a moral life, and selfless service to humanity and God. Therefore, anyone who wants to live in such a manner may be called an Aryan, a member or follower of the Vedic culture, no matter from which race or country a person may come.
So what does it mean to follow this Vedic Aryan path? It generally means to learn the ways of a spiritually progressed person. This includes understanding one’s spiritual identity, knowing that he or she is not the temporary body but is spirit soul, that there is karma or reactions for one’s activities, and rebirth in another life after death in which one reaps the reward or punishment for his or her own good or evil thoughts, words, and deeds. By having a solid understanding of such spiritual knowledge, there is automatically a respect for all others regardless of race, sex, position, or species. This brings a moral and peaceful social behavior in everybody towards everyone. By having respect for everyone’s spiritual identity, this also brings an innate happiness in us all. We can understand that we are only visiting this planet for a short time, and that we are all in this together. In other words, my contribution to your well-being, especially spiritual well-being, will be an automatic contribution to my own existence. In this way, society at large is in a state of constant improvement. Thus, together we all work toward attaining a clean mind and a pure heart. That is the goal of the Vedic Aryan way of life, and all those who seriously follow it.
Therefore, the Sanskrit word Aryan means a way of life that aims at the elevation everyone in society to a higher level of consciousness, as we find in the broadest foundation within Hinduism. It means to assist ourselves through a disciplined and godly life to understand the purpose of our existence as well as to become a spiritually realized person. It means to recognize the divinity in each of us. It means to perceive the divine energy that permeates the creation, knowing that we and all others are but manifestations of the Divine, the same Supreme Creator, Father of all. It also means that we help every other individual soul understand this, because by helping others we help ourselves. That itself is a natural state of being when we can perceive God as the Supersoul, Paramatma, within everyone. All of this is encouraged by, and increases, a natural faith in an all-pervading Supreme Being. Such faith and focus on the Supreme can elevate us to return to our real spiritual home after death, that one infinite and eternal existence, which is one of the most important goals of the Vedic lifestyle. Once we are relieved of the body, or the bodily concept of life, then there is no longer any question as to what and who we really are. Offering this opportunity to society for reaching that level of understanding is one of the most important purposes of the Vedic path. This is the essence of what Hinduism stands for. Now let’s consider the following points as to the advantages of the Vedic path.
2. HINDUISM IS THE OLDEST LIVING CULTURE IN THE WORLD
Look around. Do you find any other culture that has lasted as long as the Hindu or Vedic culture? Do you see any other culture that after no less than 5,000 years, if not much longer, is still thriving and dynamic, practicing many of the same traditions as it did from thousands of years ago? Sure, you have other old cultures, like the Egyptian, the Inca, Maya, Aztec, all of which go back about 5,000 years, but none of these are still living cultures. They are all gone, leaving us but remnants and artifacts to figure out what really was their culture. For the Vedic civilization, it is not something that we really need to decipher from old remnants. The traditions and practices that you presently see have been going on for many thousands of years. Its history is well documented in the Puranas, much of which even historians have not researched as well as they should. Through such study it is obvious that the Vedic society has a prehistoric origin. While most of the “living” cultures that we find today, and the most popular religions, are a modern creation in the sense that they have only come about within the past 1400, 2000, and 2500 years with the advent of the Muslim, Christian, or Buddhist religions. However, the Vedic culture goes back much farther. Many scholars have noted the antiquity of the Vedic civilization. For example, in his Discourse on Sanskrit and Its Literature, given at the College of France, Professor Bournouf states, “We will study India with its philosophy and its myths, its literature, its laws and its language. Nay it is more than India, it is a page of the origin of the world that we will attempt to decipher.”
In this same line of thinking, Mr. Thornton, in his book History of British India, observed, The Hindus are indisputably entitled to rank among the most ancient of existing nations, as well as among those most early and most rapidly civilized… ere yet the Pyramids looked down upon the Valley of the Nile… when Greece and Italy these cradles of modem civilization, housed only the tenants of the wilderness, India was the seat of wealth and grandeur.”
The well-known German philosopher Augustus Schlegel in his book, Wisdom of the Ancient Indians, noted in regard to the divine origin of Vedic civilization, “It cannot be denied that the early Indians possessed a knowledge of the God. All their writings are replete with sentiments and expressions, noble, clear, severely grand, as deeply conceived in any human language in which men have spoken of their God…”
Max Mueller further remarked in his India-What It Can Teach Us (Page 21), “Historical records (of the Hindus) extend in some respects so far beyond all records and have been preserved to us in such perfect and legible documents, that we can learn from them lessons which we can learn nowhere else and supply missing links.”
On the antiquity of the Vedic society, we can respect the number of philosophies, outlooks on life, and developments in understanding our purpose in this world that has been imbibed and dealt with during the course of its existence. Through all of this, it has formed a commentary and code on all aspects of life and its value, the likes of which can hardly be found in any other culture today. Thus, with age comes wisdom. And the nature and depth of the Vedic wisdom can hardly be compared with anything else that is presently available. Anyone who has taken a serious look at it will agree. It is universally applicable to all.
3. HINDUISM PROMOTES SEEING GOD IN ALL LIVING BEINGS
Without a doubt, the Vedic scripture provides descriptions and narrations meant to help one increase his or her awareness of God in all beings. Anyone who studies the essential Vedic texts will soon see a difference in his or her recognition of how God is within everyone, accompanying the jivatma (individual soul) aF the paramatma (Supersoul). You will never find anywhere else the information on the Supersoul as we find in the Vedic texts. This information helps us see the Divinity within all living beings and how everyone is a part of the Supreme in spiritual quality. Such an awareness and perception will naturally increase our respect and concern for ad living creatures. We will realize that all life is sacred. We will more clearly understand how our love for God will be exhibited by how much we care and cooperate with others.
(This is first in the series of excerpts for free circulation amongst devotees for spreading awareness on Sanathana Dharma and understanding of Hinduism. We acknowledge the generosity of the Author in granting written permission from Detroit, free of cost without any consideration for this noble cause.)