Sanatan Dharam or Vedic Dharam is most ancient system and in existence since time immemorial, therefore called as Sanatan Dharam (the eternal faith). It is believed that Vedas are knowledge directly provided by God to ancient rishis. The commentaries on it are propounded by a large number rishis (Scientist) during over 5000 years. Hence, Hindu religion is not signified by one holy book and one prophet as in case of other religions world over but collection of knowledge gathered over thousands of years.
Essence of Hindu Religion
Hinduism consists of an extensive collection of ancient religious teachings on eternal truth based on Shruti (heard) and Smriti (memory). Shruti generally, include Vedas and Upnishads. Smriti include Upvedas, Purans, Vedangas (chanting of scriptures, grammar etc.), Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagwat Gita, Dharma Shastra (dharma of daily life, festivals, charity and pilgrimages and responsibilities of four ashrams), Darshana Shastra (six philosophical texts), Agama Shastra (practical aspects of devotion and worship) and Bhakti texts (of various poets & bhaktas).
Veda Vyasji in 3000 BC simplified and divided original one veda which are eternal into four viz. Rigveda, Samveda, Yajurveda and Atharvaveda. Vedas have five Up-vedas. Vedas deals into Karma kanda or rituals, Upasana Kanda or Worshipping and Jnana Kanda or knowledge. The Up-Vedas are the texts on the auxiliary themes of the Vedas. Archery, defence, war, politics and spiritual science (Dhanurveda), associated with the Rigveda. Architecture (Sthapatyaveda), associated with the Yajurveda. Music and sacred dance (Gāndharvaveda), associated with the Samaveda. Medicine (Āyurveda) & Social, Economic & Political (Arthveda), associated with the Atharvaveda.
Upnishads contain the essence or knowledge portion of vedas. About 251 Upnishads are found in texts but only 108 are available.
Purans are 18 and composed of four lakh shloks (Brahma, Padma, Vishnu, Shiva, Brahmand, Narad, Markaandeya, Agni, Bhavishyottara, Brahmavaivart, Ling, Varah, Skand, Vaman, Kurma, Matsya, Garud, Bhavatavatam).
Sanatan Dharam has six systems of philosophy, which is called Shad Darshan. The six darshans are - Nyaya, Vaisheshik, Samkhya, Yog, Purva Mimansa and Uttar Mimansa or Vedanta, originated by sages - Aksapada, Kanada, Patanjali, Kapila, Jaimini and Veda Vyas respectively. They generally deal with four topics:
The elements of Vedanta are as follows:
1. Shankar’s Advait Vedant (788 – 820 AD) – non dualism – believes that this world is an illusion (maya); only Brahman (Parabrahman) is ultimate reality and jiva is not different from Brahman.
2. Ramanujacharya’s Vishishtadvait (1017 – 1137 AD) (wrote Shri Bhashya) – qualified monoism. His doctrine mentions 3 eternal realities i.e jiva (chit), jagat (maya) and Ishwar (parbrahman). Parbrahman is independent and yet controller of both chit and achit. He believed in Ashvarya Pradhan bhakti. Sri Vishnu, Sri Narayan, Sri Vasudeva, Sri Krishna are all considered as Parabrahman. Parbrahman has five forms: Para, Vyuh, Antaryami, Vibhav and Archa. Laxmi Narayan is divine couple. At the time of death only gross body is shed. Vaikunth’s muktas arrive to take jiva. Sanchit karma is removed only at the time of death, till then both sanchit & Parabdha karma remain.
3. Nimbarkacharya’s Dvaita-advait philosophy (1028 – 1125AD) (wrote Vedanta Parijat) – means dualistic no-dualism. He believed in three eternal realities – Brahman (Ishwar – Kridhna & Radha), Jiva (chit) and Jagat (Achit). According to Nimbark, there are five sadhanas – Karma (nishkam bhav), Jnan (knowledge of brahman & self), Upasna (meditating on Brahman – as antaryami - of sentment, of non-sentiment & as different from sentiment & non-sentiment) Prapatti (total self-surrender to parmatama) and Guruprasatti self-surrender to the spiritual preceptor).
4. Madhvacharaya’s Dvait Darshan (1294 – 1317 AD) (wrote Purnapragya Bhashya) - Advait regarded only Brahman as truth and the external world of matter as mithya-unreal. Dvait upheld the difference between Brahman and individual jiva and matter. The latter two are completely different between themselves and individual jivas also differ from one another fundamentally. Madav’s davit regard brahman as supreme reality and advocates its adoration. His school of bhakti identify with Vishnu and upasana of Narayan with Laxmi.He accepts both jivan mukti and videha mukti. When the jiva observes vows of Dharma, develops staunch faith, offers param bhakti as dos and accepts Parmatma’s sharanagati to please him, the parmatma graces the jiva with aparoksh jnan – direct vision.
5. Vallabhacharaya’s Shuddha davit (1479 – 1532) (wrote Anu Bhashya) – He upheld that Atmas & matter (maya) are real manifestations of Parmatama (Brahman) and not unreal. They are his parts.
All the Vedantists agree on three points. They believe in God, in the Vedas as revealed, and in cycles. The belief about cycles is as follows: