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सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः, सर्वे सन्तु निरामयाः ।
सर्वे भद्राणि पश्यन्तु, मा कश्चिद् दुख भागभवेत ॥
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥

Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah, Sarve Santu Niraamayaah ।
Sarve Bhadraani Pashyantu, Maa kaschit Duhkha Bhaag-bhavet ॥
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ॥

Meaning: Let every-one be happy, let every-one be free from all ailments, let every-one see goodness and kindness in every thing, Oh Mother! let no-one be unhappy or distressed. Om, Let there be Peace everywhere!

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Bharat : The Cradle of Dharma

Bharat (India), is the Spiritual Capital of the World, the Cradle of Dharma, which means ‘righteousness’ as a religion as well as a way of life. India is the birthplace of some of the world’s major Dharmas namely Sanātana Dharma (Hinduism), Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism, along with various Guru-isms. The universal approach and the non-sectarian philosophy of these religions have influenced its people and impacted large sections of the human beings.

The religions that originated in the Indian subcontinent are having similar philosophy and belief system. Prominent beliefs in Sanātana Dharma (Hinduism) and other religions that originated here and followed world over includes:

◙ Dharma (ethics/duties)
◙ Artha (prosperity/work)
◙ Karma (action, intent, and consequences)
◙ Ahimsa (non-violence)
◙ Saṃsara (cycle of death and rebirth)
◙ Yogas (various paths or practices to attain moksha)
◙ Moksha (liberation/freedom from the cycle of death and rebirth/salvation)

As per some scholars, the word ‘Hindu’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Sindhu’. Hindu is a geographical term for the people who live beyond the river Sindhu (also known as river Indus), that flows in the north-western part of the Indian subcontinent. Sindhu is a prominent river of the Indo-Gangetic Plain in the Indian subcontinent. Originating in the Tibetan Plateau in the vicinity of Lake Manasarovar, the river runs a course through the Ladakh region of India and then flows in a southerly direction to merge into the Arabian Sea. Some scholars regard Hinduism as a fusion of various Indian cultures and traditions, with diverse roots.

Hinduism, traditionally known as Sanātana Dharma, is often regarded as the oldest religion in the world, with roots tracing back to prehistoric times of over 5,000 years BCE. Hinduism as a Dharma (‘righteousness’ as a religion as well as a way of life), is widely practiced in the Indian subcontinent and parts of south-east Asia.

Hinduism is unique in not relying on any prophet or founder but is a culmination of several ancient beliefs. Traditionally, it is known as Sanātana Dharma, which stands as a symbolic truth to ‘eternal duty’. ‘Eternal duty’ is a pledge entitled to the whole of humanity, deities, gods, and all living forms. Hinduism stands as symbolism to universalism or a ‘way of humanism’. The sacred belief of Hinduism reigns in the minds of more than a billion followers, making it the third-largest religion in the world.

The core teaching of Hinduism or Sanātana Dharma is that human beings’ basic nature is much more than their physical representation on earth. Beyond mind and body, there lies a soul, deep within, evoking the senses or sparks of God. Born with an ‘eternal duty’ is every living being which they must fulfil, Sanātana Dharma is a mystic principle or understanding that is shared among all forms of creations of the Almighty.

The ‘eternal duties’ of Hinduism include practicing honesty, purity, mercy for others, the virtue of patience, forbearance and good-will, self-restraint, refraining from hurting others, kindness, and love among fellow humans. These duties are the necessities to bring in stable condition in the world and peace to control our minds.

Hindus rely upon the doctrine of Karma, or fate is deemed by one’s actions, thus purifying their soul and elevating the spirit to do better. The doctrines of samsara envelops around the cycle of birth, life, death, and reincarnation.

The general manifestation of God is ‘Brahman’ and the divinity within self is ‘Atman’. God is omnipotent and helps humanity in both ‘divine forms’ like Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu, etc., and in ‘human forms’ like Lord Krishna, Lord Rama, etc.

Numerous sacred writings or texts, associated with Hinduism, amplify the divinity and sanctity of the belief. The primary texts are known as the Vedas, written, and compiled in the Vedic era of 1500 BC. It contains divinity and revelations of the learned sages and ascetics in Sanskrit. The words are inscribed in the form of hymns, to be chanted in all spheres of life. Vedas are classified into four parts- Rig Veda, Samaveda, Yajurveda, and Atharvaveda. Other holy books like the Upanishads, Ramayana and Mahabharata, Puranas deal with the glory of Hinduism. The Bhagavad Gita is worshipped as one of the most sacred text or religious books among the Hindus.

All Hindu rituals begin with ‘purification’, neutralized by spreading the holy water of the Ganges. Vedic rituals are practiced like the worshipping of images or icons of Gods (also known as Pratima or Murti). Pujas are conducted to honour the deities and offerings are made for the fulfilment of desires and appeasing the gods. The food offered to the devotees is referred to as Prasada, which echoes the age-old practices of hospitality for honouring guests. The divine deities shower their holistic blessings upon all.

Jainism, traditionally known as Jain Dharma, is one of the oldest religions of the world, putting forth its values of peace and non-violence. Jainism traces its spiritual ideas and history through a succession of twenty-four leaders or tirthankaras, with the first being Lord Rishabhanatha. The twenty-third tirthankara, Lord Parshvanatha whom historians date to 8th or 7th century BCE, and the 24th tirthankara, Lord Mahavira is known to exist around 500 BCE. Jains believe that Jainism is an eternal dharma with the tirthankaras guiding every cycle of the Jain cosmology.

The word ‘Jainism’ traces its roots from the word ‘Jina’ which means ‘a spiritual conqueror’. Traditionally known as Jain Dharma, the spiritual beliefs and the basis of religion had its spiritualism spread in the hands of Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara. However, the first ascetic to denounce worldly pleasures and embrace the true nature of reality and soul was Lord Rishabhanatha. More than six million followers have devoted themselves to Jainism and are walking in the path of peace. Jainism is more of a moral code than a strict follow up of religion, emphasizing the development of self. Jains are split into two sects-the Digambaras (meaning ‘the sky-clad’) and the Svetambaras (meaning ‘the white-clad).

The beliefs of Jainism do not wholly extend to the ‘Monotheistic God’, or the Supreme, but on the substantiality of higher beings or devas, the mortal self. The belief lies that the world never ceases to an end, but a change of form occurs. Jains believe that life is infused in all living beings, so they abide themselves from killing or harming animals. The doctrine of karma defines all forms of life as the interaction of the soul with reality and the principle that designates the past and future generations of every being. Individuals have the choice to attain salvation, which is the systematic release from the samsara, or the cycle of rebirth and death. The path of salvation is embraced by following ‘the Five Vows’-ahimsa or non-violence, Satya or speaking truth, asteya or non-stealing, brahmacharya or chastity, and aparigraha or non-attachment.

Jains do not possess a definite holy text but they follow a canonical collection of holy scriptures, compiled in the form of Agamas. Though much of the holy scriptures are lost owing to natural disasters and foreign invasions, the surviving teachings of the ‘Jinas’ are compiled down which form the very basis of ritualistic and religious life. The development of self into a superior being is what the principles of Jainism cater to, renouncing worldly pleasures and treading on the path of self-emancipation.

Jains worship as a form of meditation, for granting themselves concentration, rather than appeasement of deities. The predominant ritual is Salekhana, which denotes that a human will not maintain any further obligations to life. Jains celebrate two principal festivals, marking the gaiety of the spirit-Diwali and Paryushan. Diwali symbolizes the enlightenment of Mahavira’s soul and Paryushan stands as a festival of forgiveness when Jains restrict their movement and learn to repent fast and meditate.

Buddhism, traditionally known as Baudh Dharma, is the fourth-largest religion, followed by over 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists. Buddhism encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and spiritual practices largely based on teachings attributed to the Lord Buddha, born as Siddhartha Gautama in the 5th or 4th century BCE. Baudh Dharma originated in ancient India as a Sramana tradition sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE, and widely practiced across Asia.

Buddhism is often regarded as a form of transformation, strengthening its faith upon non-theistic beliefs. More often Buddhism is embraced as a philosophy of life, rather than a moral code of religion. Buddhism has set claim to more than 520 million followers, making it the fourth-largest religion in the world. Buddhism is modern in its approach and is flexible to philosophies and interpretations. The great Mauryan monarch, Ashoka is perhaps one of the many reasons why Buddhism is so widespread in the Asian Subcontinent. After the bloodshed of Kalinga, Ashoka the Great sought solace and peace under the guidance of Buddhism and erected a number of relics, distributing the knowledge, beliefs and teachings. As expressed in the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths, the goal of Buddhism is to overcome suffering (duḥkha) caused by desire, attachment to a static self, and ignorance of the true nature of reality.

Buddhists do not exhibit their faith in a ‘Monotheistic God’, rather they believe in the pathway to Enlightenment. Buddha, ‘the Enlightened one’ is also considered as a mere human form, showing others his footsteps towards attaining Enlightenment. The process of Enlightenment is governed by morality, meditation, and wisdom. Buddhism, regarded as a path to spiritual tradition relies on the doctrine of Karma and reincarnation. The teachings of Buddha are worshipped as ‘dharma’, meaning the cosmic law. Buddha, being moved by the four great sights put forth the Four Noble Truths. It implied ‘dukkha’ or the world is full of suffering, ‘samudaya’ or the cause of suffering is desire, ‘nirodhu’ or there is an end to suffering, and ‘magga’ or one must walk upon the eight-fold path. The eight-fold path extends to the perpetuation of ‘right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration’. The moral conduct of behaviour is followed which prevents intake of drugs or alcohol, sexual misconduct, telling lies, the prohibition of killing of living beings, and prohibition of taking things that are not meant to be taken.

Most Buddhist traditions emphasize transcending the individual self through the attainment of Nirvana, or by following the path of Buddha, ending the cycle of death and rebirth. Two major extant branches of Buddhism are generally recognized by scholars, these are Theravada (“The School of the Elders”) and Mahayana (“The Great Vehicle”).

Buddhists adhere to a number of religious texts and scriptures. The Tripitaka is regarded as the holiest of all books. It consists of all the earliest teachings of the Buddhist writings. Sutras is another sacred book, consisting of more than 2000 sutras. Another religious text, ‘The book of the Dead’ highlights all the stages of death in detail. A life of dignity and respect, focussing on the self is a claim on the belief of Buddhism.

With purification and sanctity of spirit, Buddhists withhold several festivals, daunting on their joyous and pious mind. Buddha Purnima (also known as festival of ‘vesak’) marks the birth, enlightenment and death of Gautam Buddha. It is considered as the most auspicious day for the Buddhists. Vassa is celebrated every year during the rainy season, emphasizing the importance of study and meditation. Few Buddhist festivals have become specific to certain regions and countries like the Hana Matsuri, celebrated in most of East Asia commemorating the birth of the Lord Buddha as Prince Siddhartha Gautama. Losar Festival observed in the Indian states of Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim along with countries like China and Nepal, Losar festival marks the arrival of Tibetan New Year.

The rituals of Buddhism follow only three predominant elements-chanting, recitation, and offerings. The recitations of the holy scriptures are done in the Pali or Prakrit language. The chanting of the mantras is analogous to attaining salvation, while the offerings consist of flowers that appear as a representation of beauty and decay. Candles stand as the light to embellish Enlightenment and incense stimulates the olfactory senses to sanctity.

Sikhism, traditionally known as Sikh Dharma, is a religion that originated in the Indian subcontinent, around 15th century CE. Sikhism is considered as the fifth-largest organized religion of the world. The philosophy of Sikhism lies in the spiritual teachings of Guru Nanak, the first Guru (1469–1539), and of the nine Sikh Gurus who succeeded him. The tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh (1676-1708), named the Sikh scripture Guru Granth Sahib as his successor, bringing to a close the line of human Gurus and establishing the scripture as the eternal, religious spiritual guide for Sikhs.

The word Sikhism is derived from the word ‘Sikh’, meaning ‘learning’ of ‘students or disciples’ of the Guru. Sikhism is often regarded as a religion that is far ahead of its times, the belief of Sikhism is withheld by more than 20 million people, making it the fifth-largest religion of the world.

Sikhism preaches the devotion to the Supreme and remembrance to God in every moment of life. It also signifies the aspect of truthful living and equality to mankind. Sikhs denounce all superstitious beliefs that hinder the advancement of humanity. They rely on the existence of a ‘Monotheistic God’, who is neither denoted by any gender, nor by any definite form. Every human lies equally before the eyes of God. God is said to reside in every living human, no matter how evil or good the person is. This implies that every human is capable of doing good. The omnipotence of God is experienced by love and worship but humans, owing to their vanity fail to regard that. Sikhs rely upon their faith in the doctrine of Karma that defines the quality of life.

Every human is caught up in the cycle of birth, life, and death, and the systematic release from the cycle is the blissful union with God or Mukti, meaning liberation that can only be granted by the almighty God. The sole way to embrace union with God or ‘true liberation’ is to attain true knowledge and a superior form of inclination towards God. The pious life of the Sikhs is marked by performing three duties – ‘Naam Japna’ means to pray and meditate, ‘Kirat Karna’ means to work with honesty, and ‘Vand Chhakna’ means to share and give. Sikhism also prescribes that you must avoid the practices that make you self-centred and ruthless, these practices include lust, covetousness, greed, attachment to worldly affairs, anger, and pride.

A life of piousness and love to humanity is perpetuated by every Sikh. Every Sikh holds the Adi Granth or the Guru Granth Sahib as the holiest book in their lives. It holds a collection of nearly 6000 hymns and teachings of the Gurus. The first version was compiled in the hands of Guru Arjun in 1604 CE and in 1704 CE the last Guru, Guru Govind Singh compiled all the hymns of the predecessors. The majority of Sikh scriptures were originally written in Gurmukhī, a script standardised by Guru Angad, the second of the ten Sikh Gurus. The Sikh scripture opens with the Mul Mantar, fundamental prayer about IK Onkar (ੴ, ‘One God’).

Sikhs mark their gaiety of spirit and piousness by performing a holistic range of rituals. The religious practices begin right after the birth of a child, whose naming is celebrated with much glory. Amrit Sanskar or Sikh initiation is a very significant ritual in the life of every Sikh. Akhand Paath or the uninterrupted reading of the Guru Granth Sahib is performed at the advent of every important occasion like marriages, birth, or death ceremony. Baisakhi is celebrated every year, around the 13th of April, marking the founding of the Khalsa order. Respect and homage are paid off to the Sikh martyrs every year by rejuvenating the festival of Maghi. Physical wellness and military zeal are kept alive by festivals like Hola Mohalla.

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