Is ‘Hindu’ the right name?
Our ancestors called their ethnic culture and religion [Vedic Dharma] and their land Bharatvarsha. Vedic culture is rooted in the Vedās [most valued and revered texts. The Vedas have and continue to be the fountain-head of this glorious civilization. Due to its most ancient lineage, Vedic Dharma is also called Sanātan Dharma [an eternal and universal way of life].
We don’t find the word ‘Hindu’ in our ancient scriptures. Word ‘Hindu’ came into common usage from Persians and Arab invaders, who called the land east of the great river ‘Sind’ [Indus] as Hind and its inhabitants as ‘Hindu’. We continue to use the term Hindu in our discussions as long as we understand what it stands for.
Is ‘Vedic dharma’ the right expression?
Yes. Vedic Dharma or Sanātan Dharma.
Sanskrit word for culture is Sanskriti [culture]. This word is made up of Good [Sam] and an act [kritam] [that which is done, action]. Interestingly, a related word is Sanskrit, the refined, purified, and perfect language.
Culture is influenced by collective behavioural of its population
Humans, like all living beings, are born with inborn behavioural traits. There are positive and negative traits. The domination of good traits over bad traits will result in a ‘good culture. The Vedic way emphasises the cultivation of positive traits through teaching and behavioural role models. The scale of human refinement in a society is called Sanskriti [Culture]. This refinement manifests as language, literature and arts, music and creative arts, a just legal and moral code, a loving collaboration with mother nature and so on.
Tendencies are called Prakriti
It is common observation children born in the same family often display different behaviour. We call it individual nature, personality, tendency, traits etc. Therefore, Scriptures [Shastra] tell us that this tendency of behaviour and personality is individual. It is called Nature [Prakriti].
Take an example Eagles fly high. Yet up there from the heights, their eyes are scanning the ground for small animals, filth and garbage. It shows that we may have achieved high social status and riches but our behavioural tendencies can be petty and gross. Yet, there are poorest of the poor who will uphold values of honesty, sharing and caring. This is Prakriti.
Negative behavioural Tendencies
There is another term in our texts – Perversion [Vikriti]. When the desires and actions assume excessive and obsessive proportions it becomes Vikriti and therefore deplorable. It leads to bad behavior. Examples – greed, gluttony, oversleeping, smoking, obsession, substance abuse and so on.
Victory of good over bad tendencies
In order to nurture healthy Prakritis and suppress obsessive and destructive Vikritis, humans deploy another innate faculty of reasoning, discretion, judgement and decision making, called Intellect [Buddhi]. Our intellect allows us to refine our lives by suppressing Vikritis and nurturing good Prakritis. This process of refinement keeps going on.
Refinement of self and is the essence of Vedic Dharma
To Hindus, refinement of self, character and behaviour is the first step. Vedic culture is based on the upliftment of the individual – physically, spiritually and socially. This objective is supported by all elements of our evolved social order. This is the cornerstone of Sanatan Dharma and Sanātan Sanskriti.
Such is the strength of this ‘Dharma’ that made this ancient civilisation the longest surviving and continuous socio-cultural and religious tradition in the world. Such is the glory and elevated status of Sanātan Dharma.
And it continues to thrive.
(Note – Prakriti and Vikriti are concepts introduced in ‘Samkhya’ Philosophy of Mahaṛishi Kapil)