Is ‘Hindu’ the right name? No
No. We don’t find the name ‘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’. So be it, we continue to use the term Hindu in our discussions interchangeably.
Is ‘Sanātan dharma’ the right expression? Yes
Yes. Our ancestors called their ethnic culture and religion as Sanātan Dharma [An eternal and universal way of life] and their land as Bharatvarsha. Sanātan culture is rooted in the Vedās [most valued and revered texts of Sanātan Dharma]. The vedas have and continue to be the fountain-head of this glorious civilisation.
Sanskrit word for culture is Sanskriti [culture]. This word is made up from root Sam [very well] and kritam [that which is done, action]. Interestingly, a related word is Sanskrit, the well refined, purified and perfect language.
Behavioural tendencies – Prakriti
For ages, we have believed that all humans, like all living beings, are born with innate and inborn behavioural traits. It is common observation children born in the same family often display different behaviour. We call it individual nature, personality, tendency, traits etc. Therefore, Shastra [scriptures] tells us that this tendency of behaviour and personality is individual. It is called Prakriti [Nature].
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.
There is another term in our texts – Vikriti [Perversion]. When the desires and actions assume excessive, obsessive and deplorable proportions it becomes Vikriti and therefore bad. 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, humanshave an innate faulty of reasoning, discretion, judgement and decision making, called Buddhi [intellect]. This intellect allows us to refine our lives by suppressing Vikritis and grooming good Prakritis. This process of refinement keeps going on.
Refinement of self and is the essence of Hindu Dharma
This scale of human refinement in a collective social order 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.
To Hindus, refinement of self, character and behaviour is the first step. Sanātan culture is based on upliftment of the individual – physically, spiritually and socially. To this objective it is supported by all elements of our evolved social structure. This is the cornerstone of Sanatan Dharma or the Hindu way of life and its Sanskriti [Culture].
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)