Since 2014, ever since Shri Narendra Modi took over as the Prime Minister of India there has been a big hue and cry from the opposition parties of this country that Modi and BJP are going to rule this country with an agenda of Hindutva. And now after Yogi Adityanath was chosen as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh those voices against the impending danger of Hindutva ideology has picked up steam. The words Hindu, Hinduism and Hindutva are being used in this country as if they are synonyms of ISIS. The pseudo secular political parties like Congress, Left and most of the regional parties, only raise these concerns so that they can consolidate minority votes into their kitty. It’s just a plain and simple politics of minority appeasement. Without the basic knowledge about what a religion preaches and practices, the common man of this country is being turned against the idea of Hinduism.
Therefore, I thought that it is essential that ordinary citizens of this nation should understand what Hinduism actually stands for. They should know how liberal and advanced this religion is. With my limited knowledge of the concepts of this great religion or this way of life, I am going to present the basis ideas Hinduism stands for.
I am going to start with the most basic question. Who is a Hindu? The simplest answer would be a person who follows Hinduism is a Hindu. But this answer can be sufficient for a follower of Islam, Christianity or Sikhism because these religions are based on a set of rules and rituals and hence can be defined on the basis of following of them. However, when talking about a Hindu or Hinduism this answer does not suffice. This is because Hinduism is not bound by rules and rituals. Hinduism is more of a way of life than a religion. If you are able to unearth the deep rooted truths that lie in the teachings of Hinduisms, then there is no fear of any Hell and no desire for any Heaven left in us.
There are reasons that I refer to Hinduism as a way of life. And I would like to share some of the reasons that I have been able to decode. First of all, a Hindu unlike a Muslim or a Christian is not asked to follow one particular God and lead the life in a particular way. There is a lot of freedom. The thoughts, ideology, the rituals are not restricted. Freedom to choose one’s God is given to Hindus. A Hindu can worship anything or anyone; it can be a rock, an animal, a bird, a man, a woman, a tree or a mountain. The list is endless because there is no one definition of God in Hinduism. He can take any form. Even in a family there can be different ways to worship God and different Gods to be worshiped.
As a mater of fact you can chose not to worship any God and still be a Hindu. Hinduism is not confined to just worshiping the Gods and performing rituals. There are different paths provided in our religious teachings and books and one is free to follow any path. There are paths of Karma, Spirituality and Knowledge to choose from. And a person can walk on any one of these paths without performing any rituals and still be termed as a Hindu because all the paths lead to one ultimate goal; Moksha. Hence, we can say that there is no perfect Hindu, but every Hindu is a Perfect Hindu.
Secondly, unlike Abrahamic religions (Islam and Christianity,) where the ultimate goal is to reach, heaven by following the teachings of God, a Hindu’s ultimate goal is beyond Heaven and Hell and even God. The ultimate goal for a Hindu is “Liberation,” i.e. Liberation from this circle of life and death, the attainment of Nirvana/Moksha. Why I say that this goal is beyond God is because even God is a medium to attain this goal of Liberation. As per our holy books and scriptures, we take birth on this earth because there were some mistakes committed in our past lives and there are some lessons that we still need to learn which remained unfinished in the past lives.
Heaven and Hell are just pit stops in the long journey towards the goal of Nirwana. We reach heaven because of some good deeds; stay there till the effects of those deeds stay and than move on. Similarly for the bad deeds during our time on earth we suffer Hell for some time. The time in Heaven and Hell is not permanent. Our souls are again sent back to earth and we are given another chance to work towards attainment of Liberation, a state where there is no desire and no fear. This concept holds true for even the Gods sitting in Heaven as even their place in the heaven is not permanent. Our scriptures tell us there have been and there always will be other Indras, Suryas, Varunas and all other heavenly Gods. Hence, even they are striving to attain Moksha.
The above concept brings me to my third point, i.e. The Concept of Rebirth. Rebirth is a very important part of Hindu ideology because the belief in rebirth adds two very important qualities in the personality of a Hindu, Acceptance and Responsibility. Let me elaborate on that. In Abrahamic mythology the explanation for everything is God’s will i.e. whether a person is facing good times or bad times, it is because of God’s will for him. It is presumed that if one is facing bad times, it is because he has not followed the rules laid down by God. Hence, this fuels Guilt in a man as he would always blame himself if tides of times are flowing against him.
On the other side Greek mythology relies on the belief that there are few people who accumulate all the wealth and do not share with the masses. And then Heroes would rise and defeat the oppressors and bring justice and offer equal opportunities to all. This kind of belief fuels Rage as a person deprived of wealth is always angry at ones with wealth.
However, with the concept of Re-Birth embedded in Hinduism, there is no one to be blamed for our sufferings but us. The sufferings of present have their roots in our deeds (Karma) of the past lives and our karma of present would decide our next life. Hence, this leads to Acceptance for what we have done in the past and Responsibility towards our future.
What Hindus believe is that this cycle of rebirths would continue till the time we have learnt all the lessons that God intends us to learn and inculcate those lessons in our lives so that they become a part of us. That would lead us to be free from all the sufferings and fears. There would be no sense of suffering when one is alive and there would be no fear of death. Also, it would free our soul from all the desires, cravings and bonds with an understanding that everything and everyone in this world is temporary and will not be with us in our next life and we do not require them when we attain Liberation.
This concept of Re-Births leads us to the next point i.e. the association of Science with Hinduism. It was no accident that the concepts of Zero and Infinity arose from the Vedic Civilization. Hindus always knew these concepts in the form of “Anadi” (one that has no start) and “Anant” (One that has no end.) The Hindus believe in a circle of life and death where one has to keep taking births and keep dying until the ultimate goal of Moksha is attained and no one knows the starting point of this cycle and the end of it. This entire wheel is the manifestation of the God that we believe in. Because he is the personification of Anadi and Anant, no matter what form he takes.
Hence, my understanding of Hinduism or a Hindu teaches me that I am free to choose my God and worship him in the way I want to. It lays importance on the concept of Karma, which teaches us that it is our deeds that decide our fate and hence motivates us to work towards greater good of the society. It teaches me that there is a heaven above heaven and the ultimate goal is to attain Moksha/Liberation/Nirvana. My religion teaches me the importance of Acceptance and Responsibility through the concept of Re-Birth and also tells me that this circle has no starting point and no end till the time I have outgrown everything that binds me to this mortal world and reach a stage of enlightenment when only thing that matters is the Liberation. That is the time I would be free from this circle and would no longer be sent back to this world to suffer.
My knowledge about Hinduism is very limited but even with this limited understanding; I can say that it is not just a religion with rituals and worshiping idols. It is definitely a way of life which if understood and followed can satiate all desires and can take the mind to a place where self merges with God to become God.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NEWSD and NEWSD does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.