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date: 14 April 2021


A Dictionary of Hinduism

W. J. Johnson


A term applied by Western scholars to the forms in which some Hindu thinkers and reformers (such as Vivekānanda, Gāndhī, and Aurobindo Ghose), and institutional movements (such as the Brahmo Samāj) responded to the influence and challenges of Christianity and Western thought in a period stretching from the early 19th century until Independence (1947). The main ‘Neo-Hindu’ stance was derived from the redefinition of Hindu dharma as an essentially universal, ethical ‘religion’ (sādhāraṇa dharma), based on principles of non-violence (ahiṃsā) and compassion, as opposed to the traditional, particularistic or sva-dharmic stance of varṇāśrama dharma. This in turn led to the advocacy of various social reforms, especially in relation to the caste system.