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Frequently Asked Questions
What is Hinduism?
Hinduism is a term given by people outside of India to indicate a cultural group of people who lived beyond river Indus (Sindhu) and followed Vedic teachings. Its real name is Sanatana Dharma, Eternal Principles to hold to Truth.
Explanation: The Rishis (pure hearted ancient seers of India) searched with one pointed devotion the Truth eternally present behind the multiplicity of this world and realized It in various ways. Such sincere searches were made by many Rishis over several millenniums.
Those revelations or discoveries were passed on to the following generations orally from Gurus or Acharyas (who practiced their teachings themselves) to Shishyas (disciples or earnest seeker after Truth) and later were recorded in a series of literatures are called Vedas, that is why it is called Shruti (lit. heard). Subsequent literatures such as Vedangas (6 limbs or auxiliary disciplines for appreciation of Vedas), Upa-Vedas, (subsidiary social knowledge system) Puranas (Mythology), Itihasa (idealistic history) etc. were created and spread by rote and repetitions by some Shrutidharas (meritorious people who could memorize the whole episode by hearing once, twice or a few times). Therefore these literatures are called Smritis (lit. from memory).
Vedic revelations are eternal in nature so these teachings and practices under an umbrella are commonly called - Sanatan dharma, Eternal Religion. The adherents and practitioners of Vedic teachings were called Hindus by Persians. It means the people who lived beyond river Sindhu. Persians replaced syllable 'S' by 'H' because of their difficulty in pronouncing syllable 'S' and later Greeks replaced 'H' by 'I' to make Sindhu as Indus due to their difficulty in pronouncing syllable 'H'. So Hinduism is a term given by people outside of India to denote a group of people who followed Vedic teachings.
Are Hindus Polytheistic, believer of many Gods with so many gods and goddesses?
No. They are monotheistic. But God has many aspects and expressions suited to the seeker - with name and form, without name and form, with qualities, without qualities, dualistic, qualified monistic, non-dual monistic
and infinitely numerous other ways.
It is like the Sun is one but it may have innumerable pictures with differences or like a Government may have many departments; all are government departments separately or jointly and also it is beyond all departments thus formless. According to them there is no need to wear the same coat by all and sundry.
What is Vedanta?
The word “Vedanta” is in fact combination of two words: “Veda” and “anta”; “Veda” means “knowledge” and “anta” means “the gist or end or wisdom”. The knowledge here is supernatural knowledge, the knowledge of theDivine and also our own Self. Vedanta, then, is about the Self-knowledge as well as the path to God.
Who is God?
According to Vedanta, God is Absolute Existence, Consciousness, and Bliss. The term for this impersonal, transcendent reality is Brahman. Vedanta also maintains that God can be personal as well, assuming human form as and when required. Most importantly, God dwells within our own hearts as the divine Consciousness or Self or Atman. The Atman is never born nor will it ever die. Neither stained by our failings nor affected by the fluctuations of the body or mind, the Atman is not subject to our grief or despair or disease or ignorance. Pure, perfect, free from limitations, the Atman, Vedanta declares, is one with Brahman. The greatest temple of God lies within the human heart.
Vedanta asserts that the goal of life is to realize and to manifest our own divinity. This divinity is our real nature, and the realization of it is our birthright. We are moving towards this goal as we grow with knowledge and life experiences. It is inevitable that we will eventually, either in this or in future lives, discover that the greatest truth of our existence is our own divine nature.
Vedanta further affirms that all religions teach the same basic truths about God, the world, and our relationship to one another. Thousands of years ago the Rig Veda declared: “Truth is one, sages call it by various names.” The world’s religions offer varying approaches to God, each one true and valid, each religion offering the world a unique and irreplaceable path to God-realization. The conflicting messages we find among religions are due more to doctrine and dogma than to the reality of spiritual experience. While dissimilarities exist in the external observances of the world religions, the internals bear remarkable similarities.
According to the Vedanta teachings there are four paths we can follow to achieve the goal of understanding our divine nature. These paths are known as the Four Yogas. We can choose a path based on our personality or inclination, or follow the practices of the paths in any combination.
Bhakti Yoga is the path of love and devotion. The devotee approaches God through a loving relationship. This path emphasizes practices such as prayer, chanting, and meditation on God as a loving presence in our lives.
Jnana Yoga is the path of knowledge. In this path the seeker uses reason and discernment to discover the divine nature within by casting off all that is false, or unreal. This practice shows us that the Supreme Reality resides within.
Karma Yoga is the path of selfless work. Those who follow this path do work as an offering to God and expect nothing personal in return. Karma Yoga teaches us to practice detachment and equanimity in our work, and to understand that the results of any actions are beyond our control.
Raja Yoga is the path of meditation. Meditation is an important practice in all of the paths as it allows us to experience higher states of consciousness where we achieve a deeper understanding of our divine nature. Sri Ramakrishna, a modern day saint and his student Swami Vivekananda, who brought Vedanta to the western world, emphasized the use of a mantra based meditation technique and symbolic images of the divine.
To learn more about Vedanta, please browse the Internet and watch our videos. We welcome you to visit any of our centers as well!