hinduism – its doctrine and peace

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hinduism – its doctrine and peace


G.M.Subhasree Iyer

Hinduism: Origin and Essence:

In these days of technical civilization, life is full of stress and strain. A state of indefiniteness and indecision prevails and is patent all through the turmoils of modern life. Only one thing that is evident in our activities is ‘speed’. But when we settle down for a moment to think calmly, what we need is Rest, which is true and quiet rest- ‘Shanthi’. This Shanthi is the message of Hinduism, the message of the Vedas, Upanishads and the message that was preached and practiced by many eminent men. It may be rather difficult to reconcile ourselves to this idea of peace in the bewildering conditions of the modern times. It may be difficult to conceive that this idea of peace is to help one towards God-realization. But in reality it’s not so. This can be illustrated with an example, suppose a navigator is voyaging on the seas, and in the midst of his voyage, he finds himself engulfed by a cyclone. The intelligent navigator steers to the centre of the cyclone and discovers Rest and safety there.  In the same way, the centre of our cyclonic life may be found in our spirit. This is the simple conception to start with! (Mm. Professor Kuppuswami Sastri Birth Centenary Commemoration Volume 1)

Of all the several faiths originating in India, Hinduism is generally acknowledged to be the oldest religion known to mankind. Hinduism is practiced primarily by its adherents over 700 million. The Hindu trinity of Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu form the triumvirate, who oversee the entire cosmos and its inhabitants. Hinduism is not strictly a religion and is primarily based on dharma, the code of life. Hinduism claims no founder and calls itself a revealed religion based on the eternal path or ancient wisdom (Patanjali Yoga Sutras –book I).

Hinduism is called the ‘Sanathana Dharma’ or ‘Perennial duty’ or ‘Eternal Universal Religion’.

Hinduism, which is the oldest of the world religions, had its origin in India, and is practiced by the majority of its people. The name originally has a geographical establishment. The Persians who invaded India through the north-western passes of the Himalayas, named the region watered by the Indus as Sindhu; and the word ‘Hindu’ is only a corrupt form of ‘Sindhu’. The faith of the people of the Indus-land is regarded as Hinduism. Eventually, the word Sindhu has a twofold basis of both Persian and Hinduism in it. Hinduism is thus a geographical term. It does not define the Hindu religion alone, but simply pinpoints the region from which western cultures have got in touch with it. Hinduism does not owe its origin to any historical personage. There is no date and founder to regard as the beginning or as to who began Hinduism.

Hindus lay their basis of everything on the Brahman, the eternal, beginning less, unmodified basis of all. Human life for a Hindu is based on four pillars of Hindu thought namely Karma (action), Janma (birth), Dharma (righteousness, right conduct) and Brahman (the unmodified basis of all). Karma causes Janma. Janma occurs for the purposes of pursuing Dharma. The pursuit of Dharma through Karma, eventually leads to the realization of Brahman. The main focus and attempt of Hinduism is to make an individual conscious about life, world, and God. If one becomes conscious about himself, he is aware of all the worldly pleasures which just exist for a short period of time, eventually leading to redemption in one’s life. It advocates the truth and the way of truth so that one can get peace and happiness. In fact, Hinduism can be called a way of life and living.

By examining the core teachings of Hinduism, Peace is considered as the greatest yearning of the Hindus. Ceremonies in Hinduism are entirely based on a number of mantras and in the end of each mantra, Hindus  pronounce ‘Om Santih, Shantih, Shantih (Peace, Peace, Peace) which is to say and mean, peace be to men, to the forces of nature and to the entire universe.

Various books in Hinduism preaches about internal peace (inner tranquility) and external peace (which is attained through meditation and other relaxation techniques)

Peace in Hinduism:

In Sanskrit, the word for violence is ‘Himsa’, which is causing injury or harm to others. The alphabet “a” placed before the word, negates it. Thus assuming, ‘Ahimsa’ is abstaining oneself from causing any type of harm to others, whether physical, emotional or mental. It is very surprising to know that ‘Nonviolence’ only speaks about the most extreme forms of wrongdoing, while ‘Ahimsa’ goes much deeper to prohibit the subtle abuse and the simple hurt. Thus, Ahimsa is referred to as wisdom and certainly not cowardice, and this ‘wisdom’ is referred to as the cumulative knowledge of the existing divine laws of reincarnation, karma, dharma, the all-pervasiveness and sacredness of things, blended together within the psyche or soul of the Hindu. (H.H. Gurudeva Sivaya Subramuniyaswami at the Institute for Peace at the University of Hawaii)

The roots of ahimsa (peace of nonviolence) are found in the Vedas, Agamas, Upanishads, Dharma Shastras, Tirumurai, Yoga Sutras and many other essential and sacred texts of Hinduism. The knowledge of these scriptures is developed from the concept of Nature and peace. The teachings of these scriptures are universal. That is why Hinduism is not bounded in any certain geographical, racial, national and ethnical boundary – it is universal!

A verse from Patanjali Yoga Sutras:

“By cultivating attitudes of friendliness towards the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous and disregard towards the wicked, the mind stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.” (Patanjali Yoga Sutras – Book I verse33).

A view based on suffering and pain is seen in Tirukural:

Two thousand years ago South India’s weaver saint Tiruvalluvar said it so simply, “All suffering recoils on the wrongdoer himself. Therefore, those who desire not to suffer refrain from causing others pain.” This verse tells that the Hindu is eventually convinced by the belief that violence committed by an individual will return to him/her by a cosmic process that is accurate and definite (unerring).

The Vedic Seers prayed for ‘Peace on the Earth, peace on the sky and also peace in

Heavens emphasizing that there is gravitational relation among the different objects of this universe and in turn are interdependent. They wished peace for all the creatures, region, country, earth and to the whole universe. A person enriched with the universal qualities contributes to the welfare of one’s society leading to world peace. In fact, virtues of individuals are the foundation of world peace.

Mainly Upanishads are concerned with the truth of the world. It focuses in the ultimate unity of all realities. It is more concerned with harmony and peace. Man cannot be at peace without conquering the divisions and diversity in the society.

Shanthi mantras are the prayers of peace, in Hindu mythology, also called ‘Peace Mantras,’ which are a part of Upanishads. These Mantras end with the words ‘Shanthi’ (peace). The reason behind this is to cool the surroundings and remove the obstacles in the three realms namely, Physical or Adhi Bhautika, Devine or Adhi Daivika and Internal or Adhyaatmika.  Belief exists that all obstacles are removed and these three realms are pacified!! The chanting of ‘Om Shanthi’ is, thus a practice prescribed in Hinduism like the numerous rituals that are pointers to peace which is the very nature of oneself.

A Shanthi Mantra from the Taittiriya, Katha, Shvetashvatara Upanishads:

“Saha navata, sahanau bunaktu, Saha navavatu saha nau bhunaktu
Saha viryam karavavahai tejasvi nava teeda mastu, mavid visamahe, om shanthi, shanthi, shanthihi”

Let all of us enjoy together; May all of us work together and let our study become radiant. Let there be no hatred between us. Peace, Peace, Peace!

The Vedas are the main sources of Hinduism. Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda and Atharvaveda, all teach peace and universal brotherhood. Truth is the basic element of peace. Vedas converse peace not only for the human society, but for the whole universe. “Let there be peace in Heaven; let there be peace in the atmosphere; May peace fill the four quarters; May the waters and medical herbs bring peace; May planets give peace to all beings; May enlightened persons disseminate peace to all beings; May the Vedas spread peace everywhere; May all the objects give us peace everywhere; And may that peace come to us and remain with us forever.” (Yajur Veda 36/37)

Vedas emphasize in the global brotherhood. “In whatever direction I turn my eyes; I look upon every one as my friend”. Personal attachment, selfish interest and ambition only cause sorrow and suffering. When one is for all, and all are for one, there can be nothing but peace. (Atharvana Veda pg. 23/24)

Rig Veda, considered the earliest of the four Vedas, contains some of the earliest writings of peace, which guides the Hindu towards a path leading to integral peace and pacification of the three realms (physical, Devine and internal). “Come together, talk together; let our minds be in harmony. Common be our prayer, common be our end, common be our purpose, common be our deliberations, common be our desire, united be our desires, united be our hearts, united be our intentions. Perfect be our union among us. (Rig Veda 10 – 191:2)”

Gita is the culmination point of the Vedas and Upanishads. It is known as the conclusion of human knowledge. Gita focuses on self-realization.“When one realizes the truth, there will be no war & conflict in human world.”(Gita 3. 55-58)

A Present Study:

Although national surveys concerning Peace (both internal and external) have been conducted with random samples of college students and with individuals of different countries in general {Rudolph J. Rummel & Maoz & Abdolali (1989)}, no such studies have been conducted with notions of peace based on religion and changing lifestyles. To date, only seven published reports have focused specifically on the attitudes of individuals on peace, contribution of Vedas, role of democracy; one study conducted with Hindus residing in India to study their notions on peace and their contribution owards a peaceful world (Anoop Mishra – April 25, 2009); one study with individuals from five countries titled Attitudes toward peace, war and violence in five countries{Angela Biaggio;  Luciana De Souza, published in Rosa Martini Journal of Peace Education, 1740-021X, Volume 1, Issue 2, 2004, Pages 179 – 189}, one study with individuals of a democratic country to find the correlation between democracy and peacefulness {Bremer (1992) and Maoz & Russett (1993)}; one study on what form of democracy leads to democratic peace, although neither methodological disputes nor doubtful cases are entirely resolved (Kinsella 2005); one study with the Australian citizens on peace with the aid of a peace questionnaire {Claire Runciman and Brian Martin (1983), published in Bogong (Journal of the Canberra and South-East Region Environment Centre), Vol. 4, No. 1, March-April 1983, pp. 7, 12-14.}; one was a paper published titled ‘Message of the Vedas’ and its contribution towards peace (J.G.Arora, former Comissioner of Income tax department);  last was a paper where they found peace as absence of wars between democratic states with two “marginal exceptions”, but denied that this pattern had statistical significance. {Melvin Small and J. David Singer (1976: 50—69), published in Jerusalem Journal of International Relations}


The purpose of the present study is to determine whether there exists a difference in the notions of peace among men and women of the age groups namely, 18-25years and 45-60years of the Hindu religion through the process of unstructured interview. The research consisted of 100 men and 100 women from each age group, total of 200 individuals, adopting the method of convenient sampling from India (cities namely Hyderabad, Chennai and Bangalore). The participants are divided into two groups (half the participants in each group) depending on their occupation based on jobs they are in, namely white collar jobs and blue collar jobs. The unstructured interview consisted of 10 items and one hypothetical situation which was developed, accordingly. The experimenter informed the participants that their participation was voluntary and they could withdraw from the study at any time and that they could leave out any demographic information that they did not want to disclose, but were asked definitely to disclose their age, gender, occupation, for the purpose of the study.

Results and Discussion:

The results of the present study on the notions of peace depending on the changing lifestyles of individuals as a function of occupation and advancements in life shows a varied difference in the two age groups namely, 18-25years and 45-60years (chosen for the study)

In regards to the individuals of the white collar jobs, it was shown that the subjects of the age group 45-60years laid more emphasis on Religion as a path to attain peace and religious teachings as a symbol for tranquility and gave more importance to peaceful environment as a cause for internal peace, which has to be safeguarded. They affirmed that internal peace can be attained only when the external environment is peaceful and that a particular occupation certainly plays a role in attaining internal peace.

In contrast, the individuals of the age group 18-25years laid more stress on Religion but didn’t seem to connect it, neither to internal peace nor to external peace. They even claimed that peace of mind can be attained irrespective of the external situations and occupation a person is in. Further, women seemed to incline slightly towards religious teachings contribution towards peace, so far. In contrast, men accepted Religious teachings in its prime importance but tended to believe more on the aspect of broadening one’s vision and moving on in this world, even if it seems unethical!

in the case of individuals of the blue collar jobs, they laid more emphasis on religious teachings and its contribution towards peace as whole. Women seemed to be more affirmed to this point and believed that following a particular religion lead to definite peace. Men likewise, assured that peace is linked with religion and its teachings and believed that peace of mind can be attained only by external situations!

Cause of war:

The Vedas, the Upanishads and the Gita have a very different notion on the cause of wars and violence, disturbing the peaceful existence of living. Tracing back in to the history, we can see that many eminent and divine men have also preached about peace and given the essential cause of violence. The cause of war and violence is desire, hatred and delusion. To end wars and conflicts, man has to remove these kinds of evils from his mind. There are other social factors of the war such as social injustice, corruption, violence, crime, conflict, economic condition, competition etc. The selfish desire for pleasure gives rise to crimes, exploitation, corruption and conflict as well as wars using nuclear weapons.

There is a belief that the Hindus have a right to use force for self-defense. “May your weapons be strong to drive away the attacks; May your arms be powerful enough to check the foes; Let your army be glorious; not the evil doer. (Rig Veda)

Vedas, apart from talking of universal peace and global brotherhood, also speaks for the control of mind or self-control for the peace. Vedas talk that Cause of the war and conflicts are passions caused by the sense organs. “These lovely organs, longing for the proximity of the soul, in their search for essence, strengthen knowledge. Thy create asceticism, the killer of desires. The soul forces reside in it, under its brilliant control.” (Sama Veda)

In this context even Gita has its contribution, “When you abandon every desire that arises within you and when you become content with things as they are, then you experience inner peace.”

When Sankaracharya of Kanchi was asked, “What is the real meaning of non – ahimsa (peace) in today’s world?” (during the tension building up period in Ayodhya for commencing work on construction of Rama Temple on March 15,2002.) He replied, “We need both Pacifism and ‘just’ war for the good of the land.” And the existing  paradox- the moral good sometimes requires Peace and sometimes war as the means to achieve it. (Voices across boundaries; Vol. 1; No. 1)

However, answering the question on “Does Hinduism teach peace?” and “How does one answer the question against this backdrop?”

We can answer through the preachings inscribed in Hinduism that it teaches both peace and war, based on the situation. Once Swami Vivekananda was asked, “Should one retaliate when attacked?” He replied, “If you’re a householder, YES; if you’re a renunciant, NO.” In other words, the answer depends on who you are, if you are the man of the world, you should respond like the man of the world and if you’re a monk, you should respond like a monk!!! (Rajeev Srinivasan “Sri Jayendra Saraswati, India Abroad, March 8, 2002, p.20)

On the similar lines, when we refer to the modern times, the strongest and the proponent of Ahimsa was the Indian Leader, Mahatama Gandhi, who blend Ahimsa with the highest duties of mankind. He said, “Ahimsa or Non-violence, comes from the strength and the strength is from the God, not man. Ahimsa always comes from within.”


Peace is the perception of truth. Peace is the philosophy of human life. Though human beings run here and there in search of peace, in reality, the source of peace is within oneself. The present world order lacks the real knowledge of peace.  In fact, the source of war is rooted in human mind. Passion is the cause of war. When there is desire, anger and ignorance in human mind, there is war in human world. There are problems and conflicts in human society, and of course, there are the ways to get peace. Every religion of the world shows the way to peace and almost all talk about the realization of the truth.

Hinduism is the religion which shows the way to peace. It advocates the understanding of the existence of life by an individual in this universe as the truth of life. And this process is called ‘Self-realization’. Self-realization is the path of peace. Yoga, meditation, worshiping and other ways shown by the religions will be fruitful to cleanse the mind and get peace.

Human life has not been given to us to be lived as if we were simply a biological creature, but as a human being, who has the capacity to control the movement of the mind. We are differentiated from the animal world in this way. The purpose of our being is born to realize our true nature as well as the origin of Nature. Religions hold the real concept of peace. So there is a need of Unity of all the religions of the world and religious awareness of peace in human mind, which has to be worked on by the individual and organizations working for peace. However, for taking this responsibility all the religious institutions should throw away their political vision and political motives. On other hand, the peace organizations and peace scholars, peace leaders should make their effort for making people aware of the true meaning of peace and its conception in religion. Our first priority should be to lay emphasis to people on the true sense of peace. They need to be taught that peace is not what we experience i.e. calmness after social conflict or quarrelsome, the state of rest taken after severe and unhealthy fight among ourselves. Dark silence after war is not peace, either. To overcome envy, enmity, and hypocrisy and start living in harmony with everlasting kindness, love and equality accompanied by great sympathy can be the foundation of peace.


Mm. Professor Kuppuswami Sastri (1997). Birth Centenary Commemoration; Vol 1

Patanjali yoga sutras, book 1 ; Patanjali yoga sutras, verse 33

Atharva Veda 12, 1, 23, 24

Yajurveda 36-40

Rig Veda 191:2

The Bhagavad Gita 3.55 – 58

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Pondicherry, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1981 page 440 ; The Upanishads – Shanthi Mantras

Voices across boundaries; Vol. 1; No. 1

Rajeev Srinivasan “Sri Jayendra Saraswati, India Abroad, March 8, 2002, p.20

Tiruvalluvar (2nd century). The Thirukural.

g.m.subhasree iyer

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