Hindu & Hinduism
The word “Hindu” is clearly derived from Sindhu, the old, as well as the present, Indian name for the Indus.
From this Sindhu came the words Hindu and Hindustan, as well as Indus and India.
People should use the word Hindu in the widest sense of Indian culture. The word ‘Hindu’ does not occur at all in our ancient literature.
Hindu – First Reference
The first reference to it in an Indian book is in a Tantrik work of the eighth century CE, where ‘Hindu’ means people and not the followers of a particular religion.
Later the peoples of western and central Asia for India, or rather for the people living on the other side of the Indus river used it for a thousand years or more.
The famous Chinese pilgrim I-tsing, who came to India in the seventh century CE, called India ‘Hindu’ (Hsin-tu).
Soon people refer India to most suitable name for India as Noble Land (Aryadesha). The use of the word ‘Hindu’ in connection with a particular religion is of very late occurrence.
Hinduism – Key Concepts & Interpretation
People used the old inclusive term for religion “Arya dharma” in India. Dharma really means something more than religion.
It is from a root word which means to hold together, it is the inmost constitution of a thing, the law of its inner being.
It is an ethical concept which includes the moral code, righteousness, and the whole range of man’s duties and responsibilities.
Arya dharma would include all the faiths (Vedic and non-Vedic) that originated in India.
Buddhists and Jains as well as those who accepted the Vedas used the word Arya Dharma. Buddha always called his way to salvation the ‘Aryan Path’.
Soon all those philosophies, moral teachings, rituals and practices derive from the Vedas signify the expression Vedic dharma used in ancient times.
Thus all those who acknowledged the general authority of the Vedas belong to the Vedic dharma.
Later Sanatana dharma, meaning the ancient religion, applied to any of the ancient Indian faiths (including Buddhism and Jainism).
However some orthodox sections among the Hindus who claim to follow the ancient faith use this expression.
Hinduism – True Meaning
Hinduism, as a faith, is vague, amorphous, many-sided, all things to all men. It is hardly possible to define it, or indeed to say definitely whether it is a religion or not, in the usual sense of the word.
In its present form, and even in the past, its essential spirit seems to be to live and let live.
Mahatma Gandhi said “If I were asked to define the Hindu creed, I should simply say: Search after truth through nonviolent means. A man may not believe in God and still call himself a Hindu. Hindu-ism is a relentless pursuit after truth. Hinduism is the religion of truth. Truth is God. Denial of God we have known. Denial of truth we have not known.”