The objective of Hinduism
In this article I attempt to first explain the purpose or objective of the Hindu dharma and then proceed to explain the different paths adopted to achieve this objective.
A path by definition leads to a destination. So what is the destination of Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma?
The objective of the Hindus is exempliefied in the Sanskrit Compound Word “Sat – Chit – Ananda”. Sat is that never changes, Truth, Absolute Being. Chit is consciousness, to experience, understand, comprehend, know. Ananda is bliss. Sat means “that which really is”; Chit means “to understand, comprehend, know”; Ananda means “Bliss”
Thus the objective of the Hindus is to Experience the Bliss that arises on knowing the Truth.
The methodology adopted by Vedas resemble the methods employed by the scientists today. Let us say a Scientist wants to find out how earthquakes happen. He first develops a theoretical model, then collects evident to substantiate the model. This is like a Theorem and its proof (in Geometry).
The Hindus also adopt a similar approach. There are different models developed by different Sages (to answer the above question) and different ways to prove their theory.
The theory that a Sage propounds is called a Dharshana (Perspective) and the proof is called Pramana. The Vedas have codified six different methods that are acceptable as Proof. They are:
- Perception or Pratyaksha
- Comparison or Upamana
- Intuition or Anupalabdhi
- Inference or Anumana
- Postulation or Arthapatti
- Testimony or Sabda
Each sage who propounds a Dharshana (theory) can chose from the all or some of the above six Pramana to prove their theory.
The beauty of the Hindu religion lies in the fact that any person can propose a theory (to answer the above question) and if they can prove using one or a combination of any of the six methods of proof, the theory become acceptable.
This openness of the Hindu religion is the greatest strength of this wonderful religion. The openness of the Hindu religion does not end here. Just like a Christian has a Bible and a muslim the Koran; the Hindus accept the Vedas as the word of God.
The Hindu religion is so open that Sanatana Dharma allows its practitioners to propose a theory that does not accept the supremacy and authority of the Vedas.
Based on whether a Dharshana (theory) accept the supremacy and authority of the Vedas, there are two broad classifications:
- The Astikas: Those who accept the supremacy and authority of the vedas
- The Nastikas: Those who do not accept the supremacy and authority of the vedas
Isn’t this a logical and beautiful system? There is an objective (Objective Sat-Chit-Ananda). There are different ways to reach this objective (Dharshana) and there are accepted methods to prove that the path will lead to the objective (Pramana). Isn’t this similar to any scientific discipline today?
It is evident from the above that the Hindus were seekers of the truth.
The entire article can be summarized as follows:
- Objective: Experience the Truth
- Dharshana (Philosophy or Theory): Develop a theory to understand and experience this Truth
- Pramana (Prove the answer is correct): Establish that the proposed theory is correct by using one or more methods of proof.
In the next article, I will discuss the different Dharshanas (both Astika and Nastika) and explain the approach they adopt.