Sanatana Dharma a religion or science

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

Definition of Religion

A religion is a set of common beliefs and practices generally held by a group of people, often codified as prayer, ritual, and religious law. Religion also encompasses ancestral or cultural traditions, writings, history, and mythology, as well as personal faith and mystic experience. The term "religion" refers to both the personal practices related to communal faith and to group rituals and communication stemming from shared conviction. The dictionary defines religion as "a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith" [1]

Definition of Science

Science (from the Latin scientia, 'knowledge'), in the broadest sense, refers to any systematic knowledge or practice [2]. In a more restricted sense, science refers to a system of acquiring knowledge based on the scientific method, as well as to the organized body of knowledge gained through such research [3] [4]. Sanatana Dharma uses the term Pramana to identify the means of gathering knowledge.

Definition of Scientific Method

Scientific method is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. It is based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning, [5] the collection of data through observation and experimentation, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses [6].

Pramana

Any knowledge of even the existence of an object takes place in our minds. The mind becomes conscious of the various 'objects' by the various 'faculties' available to it. The very fact the mind has various faculties at its disposal shows that knowledge of different objects call for taking resort of different means. It is extremely important that we take resort to the right means, otherwise even the existence of that object will not be evident to us. These 'means of knowledge' are called Pramanas.

Hindu scriptures have enumerated six Pramanas. The pramana to be used is decided by the situation and the nature of object concerned. These six means of knowledge are

Is Hinduism / Hindu Dharma a Religion or a Science?

Based on the above definitions of religion and science, Hindu Dharma can be considered both a religion and a science. The Hindu 'religion' can be seen everywhere in temples around the world where people pray and perform rituals. It can be seen at all Hindu ceremonies and festivals. On the other hand, when a closer examination is made into the scriptures of Hindu Dharma, a scientific practice is explained in which the method of acquiring knowledge of both the mundane and that of the Supreme is explained. It is not the 'scientific method' as such, but it does resemble it.

Scriptures don't ask aspirants to create a hypothesis and than test it before making it into a theory, but they do ask that aspirants practice what they read and question using their intellect until they too realize the higher truths that are described in scripture. This is an experiential method in which each aspirant can realize the truth and is also something that is repeatable-thousands of self-realized saints have followed these teachings to achieve self-realization and have over the years taught and guided billions of Hindus for millennia.

They also define how knowledge can be obtained by enumerating the six pranamas. Having known these 'pramanas', when a qualified 'pramata' (knower) resorts to these and turns his focus to 'prameya' (object of knowledge) then 'prama' or valid knowledge is instantaneously brought about. The knowledge brought about by any valid means of knowledge is alone valid knowledge, it does not and can not depend on verification by other means, because the other means have no access to that. The right knowledge does have some definite indications, and thus validity of a means is confirmed by the perception of those indications in the pramata. So instead of wasting one's time trying to see a form by our nose we should rather open our eyes and fulfill our aspiration. This alone is the objective of understanding the various means and methods of knowledge at our disposal [7].

The scriptures do not refer to Hindu Dharma as Hinduism or even Hindu Dharma but as Sanatana Dharma or the eternal truth. Sanatana means eternal and Dharma has many meanings including truth and way of life.

Hindu Dharma is a way of living according to the one's understanding of the principles of Vedas and Upanishads. Veda is revealed knowledge. Just as the knowledge of gravity was revealed to Newton, similarly in India, many Rishis or Seers were awakened to certain transcendental Eternal Truths. These Rishis realized that their real nature was not concerned with or linked with 'body or mind', nor was it dependent on sense perceptions, but was in fact identical with the Universal Consciousness. These truths have been verified by many rishis over the course of time.

References

  1. "Definition of Religion"
  2. "Definition of Science"
  3. "science" defined by various dictionaries at "reference.com"
  4. Popper, Karl [1959] (2002). The Logic of Scientific Discovery, 2nd English edition, New York, NY: Routledge Classics, 3. ISBN 0-415-27844-9. OCLC 59377149., p. 3
  5. Isaac Newton (1687, 1713, 1726). "[4] Rules for the study of natural philosophy", Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, Third edition. The General Scholium containing the 4 rules follows Book 3, The System of the World. Reprinted on pages 794-796 of I. Bernard Cohen and Anne Whitman's 1999 translation, University of California Press ISBN 0-520-08817-4, 974 pages.
  6. "Definition of Scientific Method"
  7. "Six Pramanas" by Swami Atmananda