If one were to ask ten Hindus about who was actually the Supreme God, one would not be surprised to hear ten different answers. As someone rightly exaggerated, “Hinduism has more gods and goddesses than there are Hindus”. One cannot help but be curious as to how Hindus co-exist with one another though having varied opinions. This very fact has popularized Hinduism as one of the most accommodating religions.
Suffering constant persecutions at the hands of foreign invaders, as well as foreign religions and their missionary intentions for ages together, Hinduism has had its ups and downs, yet has not only survived, but has stabilized as one of the major religions of the world, and continues to expand.
The multiple branches of Hinduism with their respective traditions have but one thing in common – all their opinions, beliefs, or faith can be traced back to the same source, i.e. the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas, and other Vedic literatures. Yet, what is amazing is the fact that one can search throughout the pages of all these scriptures and not find a single mention of the word ‘Hindu’. Rather, studying the Vedic literatures one will soon discover that ‘Hinduism’ is simply a sectarian misnomer denoting the various belief systems found within the Indian subcontinent. In fact, the term ‘Hindu’ is actually a term applied to the people living on the east of the Indus River by the Muslims that invaded from the west.The true religion of India is properly known as Sanatana-dharma.
In his introduction to Bhagavad-gita, As It Is, Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada writes as follows –
The Sanatana-dharma is the eternal function of the eternal living entities in relationship with the eternal Supreme Lord. Sanatana-dharma refers to the eternal occupation of the living entity. The word ‘Sanatana’ is explained as “that which has neither beginning nor end”. So when we speak of Sanatana-dharma it should be understood to have neither beginning nor end. The English word religion is a little different from Sanatana-dharma. Religion conveys the idea of faith, and faith may change. One may have faith in a particular process, and he may change this faith and adopt another, but Sanatana-dharma refers to that activity which cannot be changed. For instance, liquidity cannot be taken from water, nor can heat be taken from fire. Similarly, the eternal function of the eternal living entity cannot be taken from the living entity. Sanatana-dharma is eternally integrated with the living entity. That which has neither end nor beginning must not be sectarian, for it cannot be limited by any boundaries. Those belonging to some sectarian faith will wrongly consider that Sanatana-dharma is also sectarian, but if we go deeply into the matter and consider it in the light of modern science, it is possible for us to see that Sanatana-dharma is the business of all the people of the world – nay, of all the living entities of the universe.
Sanatana-dharma is described in the Vedas and its corollaries. The Vedic literature, which are considered to be ‘apaurusheya’ (without human origin) and eternal, were put in readable textual format by the literary incarnation of the Supreme Lord, Sri Vyasa in the form of the four Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas, and the Mahabharata. The last work of Sri Vyasa, Srimad Bhagavatam or the Bhagavata Purana, is considered to be the crown jewel of all the Vedic literatures.
sarva-vedanta-saram hi sri-bhagavatam isyate
tad-rasamrta-trptasya nanyatra syad ratih kvacit
Srimad Bhagavatam is declared to be the essence of all Vedanta philosophy. One who has felt satisfaction from its nectarean mellow will never be attracted to any other literature.” (Srimad Bhagavatam 12.13.15)
The Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is firmly founded on the transcendental teachings as expounded in the Srimad Bhagavatam. Srimad Bhagavatam glorifies in detail the transcendental activities of the Supreme Lord Krishna and his devotees and clearly pronounces Bhakti-yoga as the ultimate process to attain the zenith of theism. Chanting the holy name of Krishna is given special importance and is prescribed as the recommended process in the present age of Kali (the age of quarrel and hypocrisy) for advancement in spiritual life.