In my previous article, I had quoted from other sources about the etymology of the word “Hindu” and “Hinduism”.  It is evident that the culture, tradition and life style of the people who lived on the eastern side of the river Sindhu was called “Hindus” mostly by external civilizations.  The geographical land mass of the Indian Subcontinent was called the Bharatha meaning “that which loves or is attached to light (wisdom)”.

In this article I attempt to first explain 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 Sanatanis is exempliefied in the Sanskrit Compound Word “Sat – Chit – Ananda”. Sat is that never changes, Truth, Absolute Being. Chit is consciousness. Ananda is bliss. Sat means “that which really is”; Chit means “to understand, comprehend, know”; Ananda means “Bliss”

Thus the objective of the Sanatanis is to Experience the Bliss that arises when 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 Sanatanis 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:

  1. Perception or Pratyaksha
  2. Comparison or Upamana
  3. Intuition or Anupalabdhi
  4. Inference or Anumana
  5. Postulation or Arthapatti
  6. Testimony or Sabda

Each sage who propounds a Dharshana (theory) can chose from 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 Sanatanis accept the Vedas as the word of God.  I think only 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 classification:

  1. The Astikas: Those who accept the supremacy and authority of the vedas
  2. 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 Sanatanis were seekers of the truth.  The entire article can be summarized as follows:

  1. Objective: Experience the Truth
  2. Dharshana (Philosophy or Theory): Develop a theory to understand and experience this Truth
  3. 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.