From the book ‘Fundamental Facts For Every Hindu’ compiled by Swami Dayananda Saraswathy (Suraj Sahay) from the sayings and writings of H.H. Jagadguru Swami Sathyananda Saraswathy.
Hinduism is a living religion.Modern historians call it the oldest surviving religion in the world. Its scriptures say that it has neither any beginning nor end. Its original name is Sanaathana Dharma or The Eternal Law. There is no exact English word that equals the term Dharma. Its meaning extends from the moral code of human beings to the instinctive and compulsory nature of animals to the forces that maintain the sun and moon in their orbits. It is derived from the root word ‘Dhri’, meaning ‘that which holds’. So Dharma is ‘that which holds things in order’. The opposite is Adharma, or ‘that which leads to chaos’. So we see that the very name of our religion is a term that covers the phenomenon of time (Eternal) and every scientific law that exists in nature (that which holds the Cosmos and the individual in order). This is far superior to names like Christianity, Islam, Communism, etc. that are centered on a personality, place or fixed concept.
The word ‘Hindu’ was first used by Arabian invaders when they wanted to describe and convert the people who lived near the Sindhu river in modern day Pakistan (but olden day India). In this sense the term ‘Hindu’ has no meaning to us. However, seeing the popularity of the word, many genuine Hindu authorities absorbed the word Hindu and gave it a meaning that truly reflected the spirit of the Sanaathana Dharma. These are:
- “Himsayaa Dooyate Yashcha Sadaacharana Tatparah
Veda Go Pratimaa Sevee Sa Hindumukhashabdabhaak.”
(Vriddha Hareeta Smriti)
Meaning: A Hindu is one who shuns violence and earnestly pursues good conduct. He serves the Vedas, the cow (represents Knowledge) and the image of the Lord.
2. “Himaalayam Samaarabhya Yaavadindu Sarovaram
Tam Devanirmitam Desham Hindusthaana Prachakshate.”
Meaning: That divine land, made by the gods, extending from the Himalayas upto the Indian Ocean, is called Hindusthan.
3. “Pitrubhoo Punyabhooshchaiva Sa Hindumukhashabdabhaak.”
Meaning: A Hindu is one who considers and respects this land as his Fatherland and a Holy land.
4. “Hinasti Dushtaan Iti Hindu.”
Meaning: A Hindu is one who annihilates the demonic forces. These forces are not outside but the instincts within which bind the life to matter. Yet, if these forces reflect themselves as evil elements in society, they should also be strongly put down. This is called Dharma Yuddha or Dharma Samara.
It is only in the above given sense that we now accept the term Hindu in the place of the original name – Sanaathana Dharma.