A-E-I-O-U-Y of H-I-N-D-U-I-S-M

Whenever I'm asked to speak about Hinduism to a Western audience, who is typically unfamiliar with our tradition, I like to use a simple acronym to highlight the core values of sanatana dharma, the eternal truth. But before that, I usually mention these four important points about our tradition:

  • Hinduism represents over 5,000 years of continuous development in the Indian sub-continent.
  • Hindu time-scale spans trillions of years and is cyclical. It was always there; it is eternal.
  • There is no single founder. Directly taught by God to some seekers (e.g. The Bhagavad-Gita) and revealed indirectly to several other seekers (e.g. rishis of the Vedas).
  • The foundational works (primary scriptures) are Vedas, Upanishads, Brahma Sutra and Bhagavad-Gita. Later works (secondary scriptures) are numerous; they include Ramayana, Mahabharata, Puranas, Dharma Sutras, etc.

The essential principles of Hinduism can be summarized as A-E-I-O-U-Y of H-I-N-D-U-I-S-M:

Ano bhadrah kratavo yantu vishvatah (Rig Veda)
Let noble thoughts come to us from everywhere.

Ekam sat, viprah bahudha vadanti (Rig Veda)
God is one; the wise speak of it in numerous ways.
[Note: In the context of the mantra where this line appears, 'sat' represents 'God' or 'deity.' The entire verse says, "They call that divine being Indra, Mitra, Varuna, Agni, and the winged Garutman. God is one but the wise speak of it in numerous ways, be it Agni, Yama, or Matarishva."]

Isha avasyam idagam sarvam yat kincha jagatyam jagat tena tyaktena bhunjita ma gridhah kasyasviddhanam (Isha Upanishad)
God permeates everything in this ever-changing universe. Enjoy your share with detachment. Don’t be greedy after someone else’s share.
[Note: For example, we just enjoy looking at the Grand Canyon or the Himalayas, without thinking that we should own it! This is enjoying life with detachment. Let's say we're at Hopi point in Grand Canyon to see the sunset. Many like us are also there. Some of them may have a better spot than us. We just enjoy the sunset from whichever spot we have. We shouldn’t stand there envying others, or plotting to knock them down to grab that spot! This is enjoying our share without greed or envy.]

Om iti brahma, om itidagam sarvam (Taittiriya Upanishad)
Om is God, om is everything
[Note: Om is the wOMb of everything! Om represents our birth (spring), growth (summer), letting go (autumn/fall), and immortality (the silence of winter).]

Uddaret atmana atmanam atmanam avasadayet atma eva hi atmano bandhuh atma eva ripuh atmana (Bhagavad-Gita)
Elevate yourself by your own effort, never put your self down, (because) you are your best friend (and) you are your worst enemy.
[Note: We see parallels to this in the words of Mark Twain: "A man can with-stand a lot as long as he can stand himself." Self-help is the best help. Be your friend first! The worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself!]

Yopam ayatanam veda ayatanavan bhavati (Krishna Yajur Veda)
One who realizes the sustaining power of God, he indeed is in good hands
[Note: Compare this to the Christian belief of "If you believe that Jesus died for your sins, you will be saved."]


H for Harmony: Hinduism respects all religions and thus aspires for mutual tolerance and respect. (This does not mean that all religions are same, a common misconception among many Hindus). It does not encourage hate (intolerant of intolerance!) or actively seek converts. It emphasizes conduct more than creed. It has the capacity to assimilate all faiths and philosophies.

I for Incarnation (avatara): God descends to earth in any form and under any sky as may be needed to uphold dharma (righteousness, sustainability). There is no space, time, form, or limitations to an avatara.

N for Non-violence (ahimsa). Hinduism recognizes that life supports life. One should avoid causing unnecessary injury (in thoughts, words, or deeds) to oneself or other fellow beings including all life forms. Some Hindu sects stress vegetarianism, but on the whole it is not a prerequisite to be a Hindu. Attitude of gratitude (to the Almighty) with which we take food is more important!

D for Dharma (righteousness, sustainability). Always support what is right. This is a necessity. Dharma is the basis of harmonious life. If we don't support dharma, it is like chopping branches of the tree (of life) we are taking shade under.

U for Unity of Existence. Everything and all beings are interconnected and are essentially the manifestation or extension of the one Supreme Being. The world is one big family.

I for Inherent Value. God is omnipresent and omnipotent. Both the manifest and the un-manifest are a projection of God. They are supported, directed, and controlled by God as well. The God can be worshiped in any form or without a form. Just as the flag is a symbol of a nation, a murti (image, statue, idol, picture) for the Hindu is symbolic of the God. A Hindu worships the God enshrined in the murti.

S for Supreme Reality (Brahman, another name for God; not to be confused with Brahma or Brahmin/Brahmana). Supreme Reality is both formless and with form, impersonal and personal, transcendent and immanent. The Supreme Reality is known by many names.

M for Moksha and Mantra. Dharma (sustainability principles), Artha (materials and means), Kama (pleasures), and Moksha (liberation from cycles of birth and death, harmonious union with brahman) are the goals of life. Secondary objectives (artha and kama) are sandwiched between the primary objectives (dharma and moksha). Adherence to svadharma, one’s own inherent talents (attitudes and aptitudes), in achieving these goals is suggested. Moksha is the ultimate goal of Hindu life. There are numerous paths and innumerable opportunities. It can happen by one way or the other and in one life or the other. The various paths for moksha include: karma yoga (selfless good deeds), jnana yoga (knowledge of God), bhakti yoga (faith or devotion), prapatti or sharanagati yoga (total surrender), raja yoga (control of body, mind, and intellect), mantra yoga (union with God through repetition of a mantra), etc. Mantra is a sacred word or a verse used for prayer. The most sacred mantra of Hinduism is om (a-u-m).

A prayer from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad to conclude:
sarve bhavantu sukhinah
May all be happy
sarve santu niramayah
May all be healthy
sarve bhadrani pashyantu
May everyone prosper
ma kashchit duhkha bhag bhavet
May none suffer
om shantih shantih shantihi
Om! Peace, peace, peace!
[Peace in all our three realms: surroundings, body, and mind.]

Edited by Hari Ravikumar.



Dr. Koti Sreekrishna is a senior scientist in the Global Biotechnology division at the Procter & Gamble Company. His interests include philosophy, inter-religious dialogue, and studying the Hindu scriptures. He has previously co-authored three books and several articles on the Bhagavad-Gita. He currently serves as the Religious Counselor in the Hindu Society of Greater Cincinnati (HSGC).

Prekshaa Publications

The Mahābhārata is the greatest epic in the world both in magnitude and profundity. A veritable cultural compendium of Bhārata-varṣa, it is a product of the creative genius of Maharṣi Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana Vyāsa. The epic captures the experiential wisdom of our civilization and all subsequent literary, artistic, and philosophical creations are indebted to it. To read the Mahābhārata is to...

Shiva Rama Krishna

சிவன். ராமன். கிருஷ்ணன்.
இந்திய பாரம்பரியத்தின் முப்பெரும் கதாநாயகர்கள்.
உயர் இந்தியாவில் தலைமுறைகள் பல கடந்தும் கடவுளர்களாக போற்றப்பட்டு வழிகாட்டிகளாக விளங்குபவர்கள்.
மனித ஒற்றுமை நூற்றாண்டுகால பரிணாம வளர்ச்சியின் பரிமாணம்.
தனிநபர்களாகவும், குடும்ப உறுப்பினர்களாகவும், சமுதாய பிரஜைகளாகவும் நாம் அனைவரும் பரிமளிக்கிறோம்.
சிவன் தனிமனித அடையாளமாக அமைகிறான்....

ऋतुभिः सह कवयः सदैव सम्बद्धाः। विशिष्य संस्कृतकवयः। यथा हि ऋतवः प्रतिसंवत्सरं प्रतिनवतामावहन्ति मानवेषु तथैव ऋतुवर्णनान्यपि काव्यरसिकेषु कामपि विच्छित्तिमातन्वते। ऋतुकल्याणं हि सत्यमिदमेव हृदि कृत्वा प्रवृत्तम्। नगरजीवनस्य यान्त्रिकतां मान्त्रिकतां च ध्वनदिदं चम्पूकाव्यं गद्यपद्यमिश्रितमिति सुव्यक्तमेव। ऐदम्पूर्वतया प्रायः पुरीपरिसरप्रसृतानाम् ऋतूनां विलासोऽत्र प्रपञ्चितः। बेङ्गलूरुनामके...

The Art and Science of Avadhānam in Sanskrit is a definitive work on Sāhityāvadhānam, a form of Indian classical art based on multitasking, lateral thinking, and extempore versification. Dotted throughout with tasteful examples, it expounds in great detail on the theory and practice of this unique performing art. It is as much a handbook of performance as it is an anthology of well-turned...

This anthology is a revised edition of the author's 1978 classic. This series of essays, containing his original research in various fields, throws light on the socio-cultural landscape of Tamil Nadu spanning several centuries. These compelling episodes will appeal to scholars and laymen alike.
“When superstitious mediaevalists mislead the country about its judicial past, we have to...

The cultural history of a nation, unlike the customary mainstream history, has a larger time-frame and encompasses the timeless ethos of a society undergirding the course of events and vicissitudes. A major key to the understanding of a society’s unique character is an appreciation of the far-reaching contributions by outstanding personalities of certain periods – especially in the realms of...

Prekṣaṇīyam is an anthology of essays on Indian classical dance and theatre authored by multifaceted scholar and creative genius, Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh. As a master of śāstra, a performing artiste (of the ancient art of Avadhānam), and a cultured rasika, he brings a unique, holistic perspective...


इदं किञ्चिद्यामलं काव्यं द्वयोः खण्डकाव्ययोः सङ्कलनरूपम्। रामानुरागानलं हि सीतापरित्यागाल्लक्ष्मणवियोगाच्च श्रीरामेणानुभूतं हृदयसङ्क्षोभं वर्णयति । वात्सल्यगोपालकं तु कदाचिद्भानूपरागसमये घटितं यशोदाश्रीकृष्णयोर्मेलनं वर्णयति । इदम्प्रथमतया संस्कृतसाहित्ये सम्पूर्णं काव्यं...


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इयं रचना दशसु रूपकेष्वन्यतमस्य भाणस्य निदर्शनतामुपैति। एकाङ्करूपकेऽस्मिन् शेखरकनामा चित्रोद्यमलेखकः केनापि हेतुना वियोगम् अनुभवतोश्चित्रलेखामिलिन्दकयोः समागमं सिसाधयिषुः कथामाकाशभाषणरूपेण निर्वहति।


अस्मिन् स्तोत्रकाव्ये भगवन्तं शिवं कविरभिष्टौति। वसन्ततिलकयोपनिबद्धस्य काव्यस्यास्य कविकृतम् उल्लाघनाभिधं व्याख्यानं च वर्तते।

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the third volume, some character sketches of great literary savants responsible for Kannada renaissance during the first half of the twentieth century. These remarkable...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the second volume, episodes from the lives of remarkable exponents of classical music and dance, traditional storytellers, thespians, and connoisseurs; as well as his...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the first volume, episodes from the lives of great writers, poets, literary aficionados, exemplars of public life, literary scholars, noble-hearted common folk, advocates...

Evolution of Mahabharata and Other Writings on the Epic is the English translation of S R Ramaswamy's 1972 Kannada classic 'Mahabharatada Belavanige' along with seven of his essays on the great epic. It tells the riveting...

Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...


ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...


“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...