What is Hinduism? Is it a religion? Is it a culture? Is it a way of Life? or Something else? What it is, really? This question baffles not only non-Hindus, but even Hindus too, and they find it difficult to articulate.
While many Hindus might not be able to articulate ‘what is Hinduism’, but, the meaning of it is well understood by them. This is very evident from the various spiritual, cultural paths they seems to encourage. For example, I can be Hindu, even if:
- I am an Atheist and believe in no God.
- I am an Advaitic and believe everything is Maya (illusion), and work towards finding that one element within and everywhere..
- I can follow Bhakti Marg (worship), and believe in a Deity of my choice, be it in any form, human, animal, celestial bodies, mountains, nature or anything that I want.
- I can even ‘not choose’ a deity and believe that God is everywhere and everything and worship that.
- I can believe on “Do good to world, as doing good is good”, and live the life on that principle.
- I can choose to go to temple everyday OR not-go-at-all.
- I can even be a monk, give-up all the worldly desires, and go to Himalayas and meditate.
- Not only that, I can mix and match all the above and create my own flavor.
- Most importantly, all these are considered equal. Nothing make one better than other.
Additionally, I can be Hindu, even if:
- I eat meat, don’t eat meat or go Vegan
- I can wear any types of clothes, I want.
- Watch movies and Enjoy Music, or not.
- Charity is encouraged, but I can choose to do or not to do.
- Alcohol is discouraged, but I can choose to do or not to do.
- Consuming beef is discouraged, but I can choose to do or not to do.
I can celebrate Christmas, got to Ajmer Sherif and donate a Chaddar or go to a Masjid, Gurudwara or church and offer sincere prayers. None of this will make me any lesser Hindu.
Finally, most importantly,
- There is no concept of Blasphemy in Hinduism. One can ask sincere questions about any aspect of Hinduism, state their opinions, without having to commit a blasphemy.
- There is no concept of non-believer, and also there is no conversion into Hinduism. With the concepts like Vasudaiv-Kutumbakam (World is family), every one is included, and in-theory a Hindu.
One may ask, Why is that? Unlike other religions, Why is Hinduism so flexible, adaptive and open? Maybe, the answer lies with the main goal Hinduism wants to achieve.
Main goal of Hinduism is to help people achieve eternal happiness and calmness; not in Heaven, not after death, but right here. In order to do this, it needs to provide mechanisms which meets individual needs. We are seven billion people with seven billion ways, so it’s only logical for Hinduism to be open, adaptive, flexible, so that it can meet everyone’s needs.
Hinduism does not believe in one-size-fit-all philosophy, Hinduism accepts that, everyone of us is different, with different needs and levels of curiosity. Some of us believe in God, think worshiping God is a way to live life. There are others who think “doing good to this world” or “helping poor and needy” is a way to live life.
There are also people who want to reason things out, and find the real truth, and many of these people may not even believe in God. Additionally, the people who want to worship God, find and feel comfort in different forms of God. Some people like father figure as god, some like mother as god, some like a animal as god, some like child as god, some like trees as god, some like celestial bodies/planets as god, some like living people as god, some see all-pervading invisible entity as god and so on.
Hinduism respects and accept all these individual inclinations, and provide various paths to reach self realization. And most importantly, treats these various paths ‘equal’. It doesn’t matter what path you take, important is make spiritual progress and try to connect with that “you” inside you.
Path/Religion are “just the means” to reach destination, not a destination in itself. Path suggested by Islam about worshipping a formless, omnipotent god, or worshipping father-figure-god like Christianity are also a valid paths in Hinduism.
In short, Hinduism is a religion, which like a mother, stays flexible/adaptive/supportive to everyones’s needs so that, each of us can make spiritual progress, and work towards connecting real us inside us, and that way we can achieve eternal happiness and calm.
In this Blog, we will go through various aspects of Hinduism, and how Hinduism works to achieve its goal and description of various predefined paths/margs. Please follow the panel on the right side, to read through it.
This blog is work-in-progress, we are still writing up about various aspects, so please follow or check back periodically, as we will be adding new pages. Also, leave a comment, if you are looking for any specific area.