Some Basic Questions On Hinduism

DC Nath SmallPresident of Patriots Forum, D.C. Nath was superannuated in January, 1995, as the Special Director, Intelligence Bureau, D.C. Nath (IPS-1960) was associated with the International Institute of Security and Safety Management (IISSM), headquartered in New Delhi, for over 14 years, first as the Executive President & CEO and then as the President & Director General, between February, 1997 and March, 2011. The author of a highly acclaimed book, Intelligence Imperatives for India, Mr. Nath earned high plaudits from all around for two of his very significant presentations on: “Revisiting the Future of India” (2005, London) and “Lessons from India for the War On Terrorism” (2007, USA). He is the only one in the field, combining the experiences of a police officer with specialization in intelligence and strategic analysis and an industrial security expert par excellence. More Bio on D. C. Nath…



April 27, 2015

Dear Friends,


Subject: Some Basic Questions On Hinduism


Though we are no where being scholars, we have from time to time ventured to treading in this field. We had in the recent past read an excellent write-up, more or less made-to-order, from a scholar in the US—courtesy American Hindu Association. She had been requested to list out 10 things she wished people to know about Hinduism. The relevant linkage is:


We propose taking out 5 out of these for your immediate attention These are:


· Hinduism’s Core Principle Is Pluralism.

· Caste-based Discrimination Is Not Intrinsic To Hinduism.

· Hindus Recognise And Worship The Feminine Divine.

· Hinduism Is A Global Religion.

· Hinduism And Sanatana Dharma Are Synonymous.


1. Hinduism’s core principle is pluralism.

Hindus acknowledge the potential existence of multiple, legitimate religious and spiritual paths, and the idea that the path best suited for one person may not be the same for another. The Rig Veda, one of Hinduism’s sacred texts, statesEkam sat vipraha bahudha vadanti, or “The Truth is one, the wise call It by many names.”

As a result of this pluralistic outlook, Hinduism has never sanctioned proselytization and asserts that it is harmful to society’s well being to insist one’s own path to God is the only true way. Hindus consider the whole world as one extended family, and Hindu prayers often end with the repetition ofshanti – or peace for all of existence.


2. Caste-based discrimination is not intrinsic to Hinduism.

Caste-based discrimination and “untouchability” are purely social evils not accepted or recognized anywhere in the Hindu scriptural tradition. The word “caste” is derived from the Portuguese “casta” — meaning lineage, breed, or race. As such, there is no exact equivalent for “caste” in Indian society, but what exists is the dual concept of varna and jāti.

Sacred texts describe varna not as four rigid, societal classes, but as a metaphysical framework detailing four distinctive qualities which are manifest, in varying degrees, in all individuals. Jāti refers to the occupation-based, social units with which people actually identified.

There are four varnas and countless jātis. In theory, the numerous jātis loosely belonged to one of the four varnas, but were not limited to the traditional profession of the varna in ancient India. Over time, however, varna and jati became conflated and birth-based.

The four varnas — and the most common professions belonging to each — were:


· teachers, scholars, physicians, judges, and priests (brahmanas)

· kings, soldiers, administrators, city planners (kshatriyas)

· businessmen, traders, bankers, agricultural, and dairy farmers (vaishyas)

· laborers, artisans, blacksmiths, and farmers (including wealthy landowners) (sudras)


A subsequent fifth category, now known as the “untouchables,” emerged more than 2,000 years after the Rig Veda (the first Veda) to categorize those jātis which, for various reasons, did not fit into the four-fold varna structure.

Many of these jātis performed tasks considered ritually impure, physically defiling, or involving violence, such as preparing and eating animal products. However, no sacred text or book of social law ever prescribes this fifth category. Rather, Hindu scripture emphasizes equality of all mankind.

Ajyesthaso akanishthaso ete sambhrataro vahaduhu saubhagaya

No one is superior, none inferior. All are brothers marching forward to prosperity.

The term “caste” in modern India is primarily understood to mean jāti rather than varna and is a feature across all religious communities. Discrimination on the basis of caste is also outlawed. Generally, neither varna nor jāti have bearing on one’s occupation in modern India, but may still influence lifestyle, certain socio-cultural practices, and marriage.


3. Hindus recognize and worship the feminine Divine.

Hinduism is the only major religion that worships God in female form. Hindus revere God’s energy, or Shakti, through its personification in a Goddess. Shakti is seen to be complementary and not in competition with divine masculine powers which manifest as God(s).

The Vedas are replete with hymns extolling the equality and complementary roles of men and women in the spiritual, social, and educational realms. Hinduism remains one of a few major religions in which women have occupied and continue to occupy some of the most respected positions in the spiritual leadership — including Sharda Devi, The Mother, Anandamayi, Amritanandmayi Devi or Ammachi, Shree Maa, Anandi Ma, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda and Ma Yoga Shakti.

Hindu society has, over the ages and in modern times, seen tremendous contributions made by women in nearly every aspect of life.


4. Hinduism is a global religion.

Though the majority of the world’s Hindus reside in India, there are substantial Hindu populations across the globe. Hindus form sizeable minorities in North America, the UK, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, Fiji, and Malaysia.

In the recent past, sizeable Hindu populations existed in Bhutan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, but those have diminished considerably due to human rights violations and lack of religious freedom.


5. Hinduism and Sanatana Dharma are synonymous.

The term Sanatana Dharma, loosely translated as “Eternal Law or Way,” is self-referential. The term “Hindu,” however, is a twelfth-century Persian abstraction referring to the Indic civilization they found espousing certain beliefs, practices, and a way of life on the banks of the Indus (therefore Hindu) river.

Over the centuries, the diverse followers of Sanatana Dharmahave adopted the references of Hindus and Hinduism. Other terms used to refer to Hinduism include Vedic, Sanskritic,Yogic, Indic, and Ancient Indian.


Friends, although many amongst you would be aware of all these, we felt it would help some to refresh memory. The choice of the writer Sheetal Shah is also interesting. We are also grateful to the American Hindu Association.



Your sevak,

D.C. Nath

(Former Spl. Director, IB)

(President, Patriots’ Forum)

Source: Patriot Forum

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