One of the most fascinating tales in the Mahabharata is the dialogue between Yudhishtira and Yama on the banks of the enchanted pool. This episode is popularly known as the ‘Yakshaprashna.’ The characters of the Mahabharata, so richly sketched by Vyasa, find relevance even today among readers. Never one to judge his characters or paint them with a single shade of color, Vyasa highlights the ridiculous and the sublime in the characters at various points in the epic.
Religious fundamentalism can be defined as strict adherence to certain fundamental theological doctrines as prescribed in the sacred text(s). Originally, fundamentalism applied to the Christian faith and it called for belief in the literal truth of the Bible.
There is much discussion, debate, and even controversy about yoga these days. But what is yoga? First of all, it is far more nuanced than the typical image of a young lady sitting cross-legged, eyes closed, deep in meditation with a benign smile on her face.
Yoga is a Sanskrit word that means ‘union.’ It simply means joining two things. For example, Rigveda Samhita 7.67.8 uses the word ‘yoga’ when it refers to the yoking of the horses to the chariot.
Hinduism is one of the major world religions with a following of over a billion people spread across all over the globe but largely concentrated in India. Some people don’t consider Hinduism a religion but rather a way of life or a sanatana dharma (loosely translated as ‘eternal system’). It doesn’t have a single founder nor does it have a standalone scripture; further, it has been constantly developing and evolving over six millennia.
If we leave out what was described above as 'survival values', there is the important distinction between empirical or secular and spiritual values. The latter, to express them in modern terminology, are threefold—truth, goodness and perfection; and of these, the last, which is the highest, may be designated as absolute value. A detailed consideration of these several values and of their interrelation is what will occupy us in the sequel. Meanwhile, we shall say a few words about the Indian conception of beauty, which is another of the higher values now commonly accepted.
The following essay (which will be published in five parts) is taken from the introduction to the book Indian Conception of Values by Prof. M Hiriyanna (Mysore: Kavyalaya Publications, 1975).
The Western tradition uses the word ‘philosophy’ (love of wisdom) to denote the study of the fundamental nature of reality. In the Indian tradition, we use the word ‘darshana’ (point of view) to denote the study of existence, meaning, consciousness, and the ultimate reality. It provides us the means to the same ultimate goal, called by different names – ananda (bliss); moksha (liberation); or oneness with brahman, the Supreme Being.