Hinduism is NOT a Religion: My Perspective.

The title is quite provoking and the repercussions could be strong, therefore, I am adding this disclaimer to avoid and avert any controversy of any sort. I hereby claim that all the thoughts, ideas and expressions below are personal and not intended to influence or disregard anyone else’s thoughts or belief system. These expressions are not liable to be sighted, reproduced or to be considered as facts, and used in any form for any discomfort of any person. Also, I am not liable to be held responsible for any of the debate that follows, in this space, hereafter.

History is one subject which has amazed me always. You get to know so much about your forefathers, your culture, your heritage, but its significance lies beneath a much deeper and profound knowledge of yourself and your reason of existence. I am no Mahatma or Sage nor a Scholar Historian or Anthropologist. Whatever questions or thoughts that arise in my quintessential intellect are all my simple and non-perplexed observations of daily life.

Also, thanks to my History Teacher(whose name I would refrain from mentioning) in Standard IXth who taught us the concept of free and rational thinking…and made us question the obvious. Since then, I have been pondering over the idea of Hinduism being a religion. There are several facts which I have learned and gathered, and at the same time contemplated over plenty of my own observations, which together have made ME conclude that … ‘Hinduism’ CANNOT be considered as a Religion, IF we go by the definition of religion and the common trends observed in all other religions…world over. ‘Hinduism’ has a much wider implication and a much wider outlook. And it is better if we call ‘Hinduism’ – A Way or Art of Living.

The explanation of this can transform into a book, or a research paper at the least, with never ending arguments and counter-arguments. I will try to explain MY arguments in support of my statement in a brief, and may be take the discussion further in a short series.

Lets proceed and first see what do the Dictionaries have to say about Religion.

  • Action or conduct indicating a belief in, reverence for, and desire to please a divine ruling power; the exercise or practice of rites or observances implying this.
  • A particular system of faith and worship.
  • Recognition on the part of man of some higher unseen power as having control of his destiny, and as being entitled to obedience, reverence, and worship; the general mental and moral attitude resulting from this belief, with reference to its effect upon the individual or the community; personal or general acceptance of this feeling as a standard of spiritual and practical life.
  • Devotion to some principle; a strict fidelity or faithfulness; conscientiousness; pious affection or attachment.

Sadly though, I do not find any of these definitions befitting to describe ‘Hinduism’ as a whole. In fact, it is very difficult to define ‘Hinduism’ at all. That is why, I guess, there is no text or scripture in our own History which even makes a remote attempt to do so. Nowhere in Shrimad Bhagvad Geeta (the so called Holy Book of ‘Hinduism’)has it been defined or even the term ‘Hinduism’ used. Nowhere in any of the Four Veds(and NOT Vedas), or the Purans and Upnishads, has it been used. It will be quite interesting to note here that the origin of the word ‘Hindu’ is from the mispronunciation of the word Sindhu(name of the river alongside which the first civilization settled), by the Aryans due to their incapability to pronounce the sound ‘Sa’(and NOT Saa). Even to this day, this phenomenon can be observed in one of the native languages of that region-Punjabi (like pronouncing ‘paise’ as ‘paihe’…right??). Soon, Sindhu became Hindu, and also the people living on its banks were also to be known by the same name.

This, probably everyone knows. Also, I am sure everyone would have noticed, that ALL other religions of the world have some common trends and practices which is not observed in ‘Hinduism’. We do not have a preacher, who can be attributed with commencement of the religion. Unlike Jesus Christ, Prophet Mohammed, Guru Nanak Dev, Confucius, Gautam Buddha, Zoroaster or Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and many more, there is NO ONE who can be singled out as the originator of ‘Hinduism’. ‘Hinduism’ has developed and evolved over centuries and millenniums, with each era raking in its own inputs to the ‘Art’.

Similarly, we do not have a single book, text or scripture which lays out all the rules and regulations that need to be followed for being a Hindu. And again on the other hand we have The Holy Bible, The Holy Quran, Guru Granth Sahib, Zend-Avesta, Torah and many more. To clear out one basic fact here, Shrimad Bhagvad Geeta contrary to as it is taught in General Knowledge books, is used only to take the oath while testifying your statement in the Indian Courts of Law, and cannot be claimed to describe ‘Hinduism’ or the Only Holy Book of ‘Hinduism’. We have our rites and rituals spread over, described and explained in Veds(the oldest manuscripts of the world), Puarans, Upnishads and other scriptures.

The fact that we consider to have around 35 Crores of Gods and Goddesses, has again a very broad perspective. The number (35 Crore) is a mere aggregation, as I feel, our ancestors could have made about the final population of the world and considered each and every individual to have an ansh or part of Gods. We have the liberty to worship God in any and many forms. There is no limitation there too.

Building up on the same, we even have the liberty to place these gods inside our houses, construct temples and perform Poojas sans any priest. Also, one does not have to take frequent visits to the temple in order to be a part of the community. Indeed there is no community to speak of, unlike the Catholics and the Protestants, Or the Shia and Shunni. We do not have bands within ‘Hinduism’, at least based on the nature and mode of our Prayers, and unlike Christianity, the priest is not the shepherd of his flock. The Hindu priest acts as the go between, connecting a man to his faith. He merely chants the required mantras (Sanskrit connotations to the forces of Nature that are ultimately what Gods are in Hinduism). They do not guide the Hindus to the path of righteousness. We also do not have any central religious organization.

A very important part of Hinduism is manifestations, which of course, is the case in almost every religion. The interesting thing about ‘Hinduism’ is that the manifestations are part of the routine, while a Christian may go to Church every Sunday, a Muslim may say the Namaz five times daily, a Hindu’s faith will manifest itself into his daily chores. He will feed the birds before eating (birds are considered ancestors’ souls, come for peace of their mind), worships the cow as Mother, worships the snake, worships the banyan tree, rivers, lakes, ponds, the seas, the mountains…you name it. So a visit to the temple is not really required. His Gods are flesh and blood creatures, they lived, fought, married, ate, cried and even procreated like him…which is why ‘Hinduism’ is the only religion, perhaps, where parents are also revered, children touch their feet and take blessing from them, at every stage, in some areas, even after wearing a new dress. His whole attitude is of perpetual obeisance, every force of nature around him is a God in one form or the other.

This also brings me back to my central idea; which made me contemplate so much and list out a few aberrations from the concept of Religion(and also, perhaps in the middle, I got deviated a lot from the central idea) …and which is … a very humble message to all the followers of ‘Hinduism’, that please do not follow the words of mindless, selfish, morons of politicos… in the name of Religion. They do not even know what is a religion and what is ‘Hinduism’ …and  so there is absolutely no need to obey and believe what they have to say about the Dharm. You have been following a very liberal ‘Art of Living’…Keep following that…and…Please… DO NOT STOP THINKING. Think, at least once, before believing in those politicos words…as to what ‘Hinduism’ is all about…and whether you yourself believe in it or not! Please do not discriminate between men…we have never been taught that…‘Hinduism’ your Dharm has never professed that. In fact…it has always talked of ‘Vasudev Kutumbakam’! Try and understand!

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Free Will! Bigger Plan! Heck!

I have been introspecting. Yes…laugh as much as you wish to, but, it’s a fact that I was revising my life’s chapters for the past few days. Yes…Me, a slapdash, irresponsible junkie was trying to scrutinize my life and was looking for plausible enlightenment which I may have missed during the course of the journey. Now, please don’t start thinking of me as a Lunatic after this, I am happy with the consideration that I am not. But, I encountered a serious question during this tedious process which is making me reconsider my consideration.

We all have heard and know so much about a delusive concept – ‘Free Will’. Whenever a talk of God and his greatness consumes the grey cells of intellectuals, they mention Free Will as great weapon for all of us. Free Will, presumably is something even God cannot oppose. It is one concept which has brought revolutions all over the world. Free Will gives us the right of choice…the ability to pick an option, as and when we have these. This, if thought over, tells us that we are the masters of our lives. All the turns we take, choices we make, doors we open or keep shut…are all… our own actions…Free Will. Now, let’s park this aside for a moment.

There also exists another, much more delusive and perplexing a concept – ‘ The Bigger Plan of God ’. I do not claim, hereby, to have understood this plan…but, ever since we all learnt to recognize faces we have been exposed to idols and depictions of God, and it has been reiterated that he is there to take care and has a Big Plan for us. Something goes wrong and unwilling, we say, pretty carelessly, ‘God has bigger and better plans for us’. Considering such a plan does exist, and not doubting his meticulous abilities of planning and execution, everything that is happening is happening according to his will, his given choices and his premeditation. We aren’t the actors, but mere puppets, at his mercy, in his ‘Bigger Plan’…It’s something, quite emphatically described in almost all conversations of God we come across, by God himself…be it any religious text(and not mentioning Titles).

So now, how can both the explanations be true? One of them has some fallacy hidden in it, which we or rather I am not able to see. It brings about a huge question mark…Do we really have a Free Will?… OR… Does God’s ‘Bigger Plan’ exist? Aren’t we just fooling ourselves in either of the case? Is God’s ‘Bigger Plan’ a mere scapegoat for us? OR Is Our ‘Free Will’ just a juxtaposition of chimera God is giving us? All the happenings are prewritten and we are just delivering dialogues which were fed to us in subconscious? But, then why did all this suffering and pain come into picture? Are we humans too skeptic to have believed that everything is Rosy and good, and hence not real? Does He really want everything to go according to His script? Won’t he enjoy a little bit of twist and turn? Has he given us the ‘Free Will’ to bring about those twirls? It still does make us Puppets? Doesn’t it?

Damn! This is again becoming so confusing and I am falling short of answers, for the innumerous questions arising. Help me. Please!