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.
“Who am I?”
This question has haunted thinkers and philosophers from the earliest times. It is the question that drove the sixteen-year-old Venkataraman to eventually become Ramana Maharishi. It is the question that pops up every now and then, only to remain unanswered. Once it is answered, the question never recurs, for one would have transcended all questions by answering that one.
So, who are we?
The Geeta exposition is essentially contained between the words 'अशोच्यान्' (BG 2.11) and 'मा शुच:' (BG 18.66). The central message is quite simply ‘grieve not’; for what really is, is of the nature of pure joy ("नासतो विद्यते भावो नाभावो विद्यते सत:"). How not to grieve is what Krishna seeks to explain.
Bhaja Govindam is a popular poem attributed to the scholar-saint Adi Shankara, one of the foremost advocates of the Advaita Vedanta School of philosophy. A short work, of 31 verses, it urges us to pray to Govinda (‘the herder of cows,’ another name for Krishna).