Hindu Culture has evolved over thousands of years. Culture is not civilization for Indians. The three Vedas (Rik, Yajus, Sam) were called Trayividya, the three-fold science. The experiences described therein were real in the most fundamental sense. Perhaps no people in history have been as truthful as the ancient Aryans; and what they have left on record has to be taken seriously and not as the superstitious delusions of an unscientific age. This innate truthfulness has been the most characteristic feature of Hindu culture through the ages. The Purusha was considered potentially divine, and the Supreme Person residing in the body was deemed the recipient of all Yajnas. The culture of the individual consisted in realizing the four-fold objective of this Purusha, i.e., Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha.
The present book has been designed to study the various facets of Hindu culture in this context. Grouped into 25 chapters, the study reflects the deeper insights of Hindu culture, the very core of it which has virtually sustained the glory of the nation for millions of years. Each one of the chapter incorporated in this book has been compiled from different writers of repute and duly edited for the convenience of the reader.
It is a great priviledge to write and reflect on Hindu culture virtually the wonderful Vedic culture being the culture of the ancient Aryans. The present book has been designed to study the various facets of Hindu culture, say Indian culture in this context. It was infact a persevering endeavour of the publisher himself that he made a selection of certain articles of erudition from those studies/sources which were published about a hundred years ago, and which were in public domain. The article titled 'The Bliss of Yogic Breathing' contributed by Shri J. L. Gupta 'Chaitanya' has been extracted from his book 'Tantra, Mantra, Yoga and Spiritual Bliss' and deserves due acknowledgement of the editor and publisher both having been incorporated in this work to enhance the value of the book. Moreover this book has been edited and published keeping in mind the importance of these articles for the readers today. The editor acknowledges the compilation and inclusion of these articles in this book with heartiest thanks to their writers and contributors. The editor also expresses deep sense of gratitude to those sources from where these articles have been taken.
As a whole the present book embodies those articles which reflect on the deeper insights of Hindu culture, the very core which has actually sustained the glory of the nation called Bharata for millions and millions of years. The entire work is divided into twenty-five chapters. Each one of the chapter incorporated in this book and culled out from different scholarly and academic sources occupies its specific importance. It need not say that these articles have been authored by outstanding writers of repute in their own way. Moreover the articles included in this book have been very thoroughly edited and revised deleting the unnecessary jargons that was considered inconsistent today. The articles have been duly edited keeping in mind the convenience of the readers. As a lot of additions and deletions have been made there bringing a thorough revision of the original article, the basic idea and the thought-contents have not at all been tampered with and each chapter of the book has been allowed to retain its independent value.
One thing that may strike to the mind of the reader is the idea of being open-heartedness to contain in this book the articles as on Buddhism and Jainism. There is no denying the fact that these schools of thought make an integral part of Indian culture.
It is hoped that the articles enshrined in this book will help a great deal in understanding the various facets of the ethos of Indian culture.
Last but not least, Mr. C.P. Gautam of M/s Bharatiya Kala Prakashan, Delhi, deserves congratulations for bringing out such a useful book on Indian culture with nice get-up.
Indian culture has evolved over thousands of years. Culture is not civilization for Indians as now goes the popular belief about culture making it synonymous with civilization. To many in the modern age all the activities of man appear to be nothing more than oblations offered on the altar of civilization and the State. The traditional culture of India, however, is in marked contrast to this. The three Vedas (Rik, Yajus, Sam) were called Trayividya, the three-fold science. The experiences described therein were real in the most fundamental sense. Perhaps no people in history have been as truthful as the ancient Aryans; and what they have left on record has to be taken seriously and not as the superstitious delusions of an unscientific age. This innate truthfulness has been the most characteristic feature of Indian culture through the ages. As is said in the Mahabharata: Truth alone prevails and not falsehood - Satyameva jayate nanritam. Through the ages the prayer has gone forth: From the unreal lead me on to the real, from darkness to light, from death to immortality – ‘asato ma sad gamaya tamaso mam jyotirgamaya mrityoh mam amritam gamaya'. The objectives of Vedic culture are tangible and full-blooded. They are neither quietistic nor ascetic. There is a healthy joy in life, and the spirit of adventure.
The present book has been designed to study the various facets of Indian culture, say Hindu culture in this context. Grouped into twenty-five chapters, the study reflects on the deeper insights of Hindu culture, the very core of it which has virtually sustained the glory of the nation called - Bharata for millions and millions of years. Each one of the chapter incorporated in this book has been culled out from different writers of repute and duly edited for the convenience of the reader.
The book starts with reflection on the foundations of Hindu culture in the first chapter. The traditional culture of India has been essentially individualistic. The embodied personality of man called Purusha was the nucleas round which all other considerations ranged themselves. This Purusha has been the subject of culture, not the citizen in the political sense. The Purusha was considered potentially divine, and the Supreme Person or Purushottama residing in the body was deemed the recipient of all Yajnas or sacrifices. The culture of the individual consisted in realizing the goal or the four-fold objective of this Purusha, i.e., Purushartha- chatushtaya - Dharma or social and moral obligation, Artha or desire for wealth and domination, Kama or craving for the enjoyment of the senses, Moksha or his deep seated hankering for ultimate freedom from all bonds. All these four are often brought together under Dharma, a most comprehensive term in which all the strands of Indian culture have been woven together. Dharma is not merely a social and ethical norm or standard, but is something intimate and personal: hence the doctrine of Svadharma or congenial Dharma as propounded in the Bhagavad Gita. The grand means for the realization of Purushartha was called Yajna or sacrifice. The basic idea underlying Yajna is given in the Gita: "From food come forth beings: from rain food is produced: from Yajna arises rain and Yajna is born of Karma. Know Karma to have arisen from the Veda, and Veda from the Imperishable. Therefore the all-pervading Veda is ever centred in Yajna." Satya, truth or god, as revealed in Veda, is said to be the very backbone and support of the Hindu's physical as well as psychological existence. In the Veda another concept coupled with Satya is Rita or the moral or natural order. The means for the attainment of Rita is Yajna.
Chapter two focuses on the religion and language of the Vedas. The gods of the Vedas were the forces and elements of nature herself - sky, sun, earth, fire, light, wind, water, etc. Sanskrit word deva, which later was to mean divine, originally meant only bright. In the earliest Vedic religion, sacrifice or Yajna was the main Karma. The most important of the Vedic gods was Agni, fire. The most popular figure in the pantheon was Indra, the wielder of thunder and storm. Varuna was the custodian and executor of an eternal law called Rita. Rita also became the law of right, the cosmic and moral rhythm which every man must follow if he would not go astray and be destroyed.
. Chapter three unfolds the secret of the Puranas which were composed in 4,00,000 couplets by Veda Vyasa over a period of a thousand years (500 B.C. to 500 A.D.). Here he expounds the exact truth about the creation of the world, its periodical evolution and dissolution, the genealogy of the gods, and history of the heroic age.
Chapter four deals with the philosophy of the Upanishads being the very quintessence of the Vedic thought itself. It is said that there is no study as beneficial ana elevating as that of the Upanishads. There are the esoteric doctrines confided by the mastere to his disciple. These Upanishads are one hundred and eight being the discourses composed by various saints and sages between 800 and 500 B.C. They represent not a consistent system of philosophy, but the opinions and lessons of many men, in whom philosophy and religion were still fused in the attempt to understand the simple and essential reality underlying the superficial multiplicity of things. The theme of Upanishads is all the mystery of this unintelligible world - whence are we born where do we live, and whither we go?
Chapter five is a valuable piece of writing on the miraculous benefits of Pranayama which makes one understand the worth of Yogic breathing and the kind of spiritual benefits acquired by doing Pranayama. This article has been extracted from the learned author's book titled 'Tantra, Mantra, Yoga and Spiritual Bliss' and it has been duly edited to fit the present book.
Chapter six dwells on the Vedic concept of Shakti. Shakti is implied for power. Power or force is conceived as the active principle in the universe, and is personified as a goddess. God is worshipped as the Great Mother, because m this aspect God is active and produces, nourishes and maintains. A Sukta of Rigveda addressed to Vak was later designated the Devi Sukta describes all the characteristics of Shakti.
Chapter seven throws light on the Hindu divinities like Brahrna, Vishnu, Shiva, Krishna, Kali and others. Combined with Brahma and Shiva in a triad - of dominant deities was Vishnu who incarnated to help mankind. His greatest incarnation was Krishna who had accomplished many marvels of heroism and romance, healed the deaf and the blind, lepers, championed the poor, and researched and raised life from the remains of the dead. What is significant about the multiplicity of Hindu gods and goddesses is that they should not be understood as they are and should not be implied that there are so many Hindu gods and goddesses. The Vedas are very clear about that and it is clearly given there that there is only One God. There is a popular saying of the Vedas - God is one but the wise call many - ekam sad vipra bahudha vadanti.
Chapter eight discusses about Lord Mahavira, the great hero, and the Jaina creed, the atheistic polytheism of the Jains, the .doctrine of asceticism, the ways of salvation, and the later history of Jains. Mahavira renounced the worldly life and became an ascetic after the death of his parents by austere self-mortification. After 13 years of self-purification and understanding by self-denial, he was hailed by a group of disciples as a Jina (conqueror), one of the great teachers whom fate had ordained to appear at regular intervals to enlighten the people of India.
Chapter nine brings into light the legend of Buddha to make us aware about the background of Buddhism, how Lord Buddha took birth in a miraculous manner, his youth and the sorrows he experienced turning his life into the life of an ascetic and finally getting the enlightenment and preached Nirvana.
Chapter ten sheds light on two greatest epics of India the Mahabharata and the Ramayana which Asia has ever produced. The Mahabharata is a marvelous work of Indian history composed in poetic form by sage Veda Vyasa presenting the most fearful battle between Panda vas and Kauravas signifying the battle between truth and evil as evident in human life where it is the truth that ultimately triumphs. Embedded in the narrative of the great battle is the loftiest philosophical poem in the world's literature - the Bhagavad-Gita, or the Song Divine. The second of Indian epics is the most famous and best beloved of all Hindu books, and lends itself more readily than the Mahabharata to a Occidental understanding. Tradition attributes the poem to Valmiki. The story goes around Rama the hero of the epic and Sita the heroine of it.
Chapter eleven presents a comprehensive unfoldment of the six systems of Indian philosophy - the Nyaya, the Vaisheshika, the Sankhya, the Yoga, the Purva-Mimansa, and the Vedanta system. All systems of Indian philosophy are ranged in two categories - the believers (astika) and the non-believers (nastika). Besides the Buddhist, the Jains and the Charvakas were called atheistic systems, not because they denied the existence of God, but because they questioned the authority of the Vedas. All the six systems of Indian philosophy occupy important place in India's thinking principle. Though they differ from each other and criticize each other, they share nevertheless so many things in common and we can understand them as products of one and the same soil though cultivated by different Acharyas. All of the six systems of thought promise to teach the nature of Atman, and its relation to God. They all undertake to supply the means of knowing the nature of that Supreme Being, and through that knowledge to pave the way to liberation and Supreme happiness. They all share the conviction that there is suffering in the world and that has to be removed.
Chapter twelve discloses the secrets of Trika philosophy or Kashmir Shaivism. The prominent feature of Kashmir Shaivism was the worship of Shiva-Shakti in the androgynous form of Ardhanari-Nateshvara which is said to be the aboriginal faith of the whole of India. This religion of India was mainly based on the traditions of antiquity signified by the words like Agama and Purana which was more familiarly termed Tantrik. It was in the Tantras that Hinduism and Buddhism found a common ground where they got reconciled to each other. Kashmir Shaivism, often referred to as the Pratyabhijna or Spanda, is the system designated by its own followers as the Trika which points the various triads of catergories described there. Like all Indian Darshanas the Trika is a scheme of categories or Tattvas. Like the Advaita Vedanta, the Trika adopts the ground-work of the twenty-four Samkhya Tattvas of which the essence is the dichotomy of Purusha and Prakriti.
Chapter thirteen is again devoted to the unfoldment of the secret of Tantras. Tantra derives its origin from the root tan - meaning to draw out, to spread. The significance is clearly brought out in word like tanu, Sharira or body, in which the spirit has spread out or revealed itself. Tantra stands for ritual in general in which the spirit of religion has most commonly spread. This article seems to be based on the works of Sir John Woodroffe, one of the most outstanding scholars of Tantra in this era.
Chapter fourteen briefly focuses on the essence of Hindu philosophy which has been tremendously attacked by the people of the West.
Chapter fifteen dwells on the highly serious subject of philosophy With reference to its impact on the human life. There is no doubt that the influence of scientific progress on philosophic thinking has been very great. Thinkers like Copernicus and Darwin, to name a few, brought big change in the outlook of thinkers all over the world.
Chapter sixteen present a vibrant description of the Sanskrit language. It is said that the spirit of Indian culture clothed itself in an appropriate form, and that form was the Sanskrit language.
Chapter seventeen brings out the characteristics of the Hindu drama and the Shakuntalam. Drama in India is a old as the Vedas. Ever since Sir William Jones translated it and Goethe praised it, the most famous of Hindu dramas has been the Shakuntalam of Kalidasa.
Chapter eighteen throws light on the classical and the vernacular literature and the poets like Chandi Das, Tulsi Das, Kabir, Surdasa, etc. To the naturally poetic soul of the Hindu, every thing worth-writing about had a poetic content and invited a poetic form. Prose is largely a recent phenomenon in Indian literature.
Chapter ninteen deals briefly with the Indian rivers which have been playing a larger role in building the Hindu culture.
Chapter twenty introduces with the medieval Sufi saints and the sainst of Bhakti period. Khwaja Muinuddin or Baba Fariduddin Who realized the highest truth after spiritual exercises, was the first preceptor of Sufism in India. Priests or Kakas of the Imamshahi sect are something like the Husaini members of the Shahdulla sect who invoke the authority of the Atharvaveda and of the Nishkalanka the great apostle of Hindu-Mohamdedan synthesis, Among the radical religious reformers of Medieval India, Ramananda stands foremost. He is the veritable redeemer of this age. Ramananda was a follower of Ramanuja and fifth in succession from the master. Urged by true Bhakti, he travelled widely all over India. He did not care to maintain the orthodox standard of conduct. Ravi-das maintained his family by repairing shoes, but even after the spiritual illumination by Ramananda's grace he did not give up his profession. The most important among the disciples of Ramananda was Kabir whose superior spiritual achievements came to have a sovereign influence on the people of the Indian medieval times.
Chapter twenty is about the Indian music, dance and the philosophy. The Hindu musician is like the Hindu philosopher; he starts with the finite and 'sends his soul into the infinite', he embroiders upon his theme until, through an undulating stream of rhythm and recurrence, even through a hypnotizing monotony of notes, he has created a kind of musical Yoga, a forgetfulness of will ... the soul is lifted into an almost mystic union with something ... some primordial and pervasive reality that smiles upon all striving wills, all change and death.
Chapter twenty-one presents a glimpse of life in Indian villages. India is essentially a country of villages. Village life in India years back was a totally different life. Life in villages used to be dominated by the upper castes. When the life there was full of lots of religious and spiritual celebrations presenting a vibrant look, it was also hampered by blind beliefs and superstitious practices.
Chapter twenty-two is about the saintly lives in India which includes the Brahma-Samaj, Mohammedanism, Ramakrishna Paramahansa and Swami Vivekananda. The reform organization known as Brahma-Samaj was known as the society of believers in Brahman founded by Rammohun Roy. Mohammedanism failed to win India to Islam. The Hindu has found little comfort in any alien faith. The figures that have most inspired his religious consciousness in the 19th century were those that rooted their doctrine in the ancient creeds of the people.
Chapter twenty-three presents a brief idea of the interpretation of Vedas as done by Maharshi Dayananda Saraswati. Although many commentaries and interpretations by different scholars on Vedas were available in the time of Maharshi Dayananda, but they failed to emphasise the sublimity of thoughts found in them. Swamiji knew that Sayana and his predecessors, in their interpretation of the Vedas, deviated from the rules laid down by Yaska. He could write a full commentary on the Yajurveda and upto the 2nd hymn of sixty-first Sukta of the 7th book of the Rigveda only due to his premature demise. Swami Dayananda wrote his Vedabhasya keeping certain basic principles in mind. He has employed the scientific method of interpretation, based on the Nirukta school, throughout his Vedic exegesis.
Chapter twenty-four unfolds the science and art of the family of geniuses like Ravindranath Tagore - his poetry, his politics and his school. The Tagores are one of the great families of history. Davendranath was one of the organizers and later the head of the Brahma-Samaj. His son Rabindranath was brought up in an atmosphere of comfort and refinement, in which music, poetry and high discourse were the very air that he breathed. He has sung lyrics to the end, and all the world except the critics have heard him gladly. India was a little surprised when her poet received the Nobel Prize (1913). As a reformer, he has had the courage to denounce the most basic of India's institutions - the caste system.
Chapter twenty-five is an attempt by its writer to put a question-mark on Indian philosophy. Mr V. Swaminathan Iyer wrote in one his article questioning the validity of Indian philosophy in context of the philosophy in the West. This article is an attempt to test the consistency of the material furnished by the learned writer and to see how far the charge is tenable. The form of article is indeed very unusual containing a number of quotations from European and Americans.
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