Focus on the individual:
Unlike other religions, the origins of Hinduism are not limited to one event or one prophet or a group of prophets. It has evolved over time and continues to do so today. This is why Hinduism is seen more as a way of life than as a religion. In accordance with this philosophy, Hinduism focuses first and foremost on the individual. It enables each individual to find their own path to the ultimate goal of being one with the divine. Following one’s âdharmaâ, which leads to spiritual advancement, is considered to be acting in the service of humanity and therefore of God. Each individual has their own “dharma” since what is right for one is not necessarily right for the other.
Hinduism believes that when people become better human beings, society automatically does so. If all individuals sincerely play their roles according to their “dharma” and fulfill their sacred duties, society, and in a larger context, humanity, will prosper to make the world a better place to live.
Absence of slavery:
Hinduism has never practiced or believed in the concept of slavery that some other religions have practiced for centuries. If the Hindus went to foreign lands, it was mainly for trade and commerce in a fair and cooperative environment for mutual benefit. In the process, it was natural for parts of Indian culture to spread to the lands they visited. Indonesia is a perfect example, where Indian culture and Hinduism continue to flourish in harmony with Islam, the majority religion in the country.
Interestingly, even the migrant Indian labor that was taken to remote places like Mauritius, Fiji and the Caribbean Islands by the British, went on a contract basis and not as a slave. In short, slavery was something that was never part of Hinduism or its culture. In wars, a Hindu winner always treated the loser with respect and dignity. Women were never taken to the conquerors’ harems or enslaved. They never followed the âscorched earthâ policy after a victory.
Aversion to invasions / wars:
Unlike Christianity and Islam, India’s Hindu rulers never invaded other nations. Buddhism, a religion born out of Hinduism, has reached many parts of the world and has become a dominant religion in many countries, including China. Its spread was devoid of any bloodshed or invasions. The credit for its propagation goes to the travelers who came to India from these lands and brought back the teachings of Lord Buddha. In this process, Hinduism also shared its immense bank of knowledge on medicine, governance, art and culture. The peaceful nature of Hinduism can never be questioned and history has witnessed it. However, Hinduism is not against battles that are fought for the victory of good over evil or the truth over lies or self-defense. Such battles are concerned as part of his dharma. While Ahimsa advocates non-violence, dharma allows the use of force in just battles as part of his moral duty to himself and to society.
Hinduism believes that there is ultimately only one Supreme God. As individuals we can choose different paths and teachings, but ultimately all lead to the same truth. The choice of which God to worship or how to worship is left to the individual. The main goal in life is to connect with the Supreme God through one’s inner consciousness. Hinduism considers the whole universe as one big family – Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. From this stems the will to coexist with others. All of this reflects Hinduism’s inherent tolerance for other religions and its willingness to coexist peacefully.
Freedom of thought and religion:
Hinduism has always defended the right to religious freedom universally. Hinduism does not believe in conversions. He also advocates that religions that believe in converting others within the framework of religious freedom, should also give the right to renounce one’s religion – something no other religion talks about. The maturity of Hinduism is reflected in the fact that it does not assert that the path to emancipation is through Hinduism alone. It can also be achieved by other religions.
There is absolute freedom in Hinduism on such matters as the nature of God, forms of worship, rituals and the course to be taken in life. While in some parts of India Lord Krishna is seen to be righteous, in others his incarnation is jet black. Yet there remains Lord Krishna for all. Prayers, rituals and offerings before the same deity differ in content and practice in different parts of the country. Yet this deity also belongs to all Hindus.
Hinduism does not try to control the minds of its followers. He actually encourages them to reason through freedom of thought, feeling and individual beliefs. There is not one fixed doctrine, one document, or one way of life that all must accept. Hinduism encourages reflection, inquiry and inquiry. It is to the credit of this great religion that despite all this variance and this freedom, there still remains a global uniformity in belief, vision of life and vision of the world. In Hinduism, religion and philosophy go hand in hand.
Respect for nature:
Hinduism is unique in its quest for harmony with nature. There are many writings on ecology from ancient times that support this claim. Hinduism believes that the earth is sacred and calls it the Divine Mother. Mountains, rivers, trees, plants, fruits, and flowers are all revered in various ways. Rivers are considered a means of purification because of their eternal flow which continually cleanses. The rising or setting of the sun or the evolution of a full moon are all linked to special prayers. Many Hindu rituals work in accordance with the forces of nature to harness higher energy for the betterment of mankind and the world in general. If some sites related to sages, gods or goddesses are sacred to Hindus, so are many natural places that have no connection with them.
Hinduism believes in the divine nature of the universe and that humans, animals, plants and everything else in nature are only a part of it. The concept of non-violence (Ahimsa) also derives from this Hindu philosophy of not harming any living being. Indian texts like the Mahabharata, Ramayana, Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Puranas and Smriti, all contain messages for preserving the environment and maintaining ecological balance. Animals like the elephant, horse, cow, bull, wild boar, tiger, and lion are considered sacred and are given exalted status. In many cases, they are worshiped with many Hindu deities. It just shows the respect and connection that Hinduism encourages with nature.
The stature and respect for women:
No religion yet comes close with regard to the respect and stature of women in Hinduism. He is unique in his recognition and worship of God in a female form. Parvati, wife of the almighty Lord Shiva, is also known as the goddess Shakti – mother of the universe and is credited with incredible powers. So, a woman is never considered the weaker sex in Hinduism because she believes in gender equality.
The mother, and by default the wife, is worshiped in Hindu culture and religion. The three most important facets of human life – knowledge, power and wealth – are represented by the goddesses Saraswathi, Durga and Lakshmi. Any reference to Lord Shiva is incomplete without referring to Parvati in the same breath. In accordance with this thought, it is always Sita -Ram and Radhe – Krishna. Any inferior status to the equality of women in Hindu society is not because of Hinduism, but because of certain social practices which have not lived up to the ideal of gender equality. preached in Hinduism.
With such unique inherent strengths in Hinduism that no other religion can ever boast about, why should anyone hesitate to be proud of our religion. Is it because of centuries of subjugation under the Mughals and the British that we have become accustomed to suppressing the greatness of our religion? Why do educated Hindus think Western ideas and ideals are superior to ours? Or have we in independent India been conditioned to believe that secularism is for the majority to do everything possible to appease minorities in order to maintain peace and quiet at all costs?
There is no reason why Hinduism finds itself in a dilemma today. Many factors have contributed to his current state of bewilderment and uncertainty. It is time for the nation to tackle this serious problem.
To be continued in Part 3 (Creating the Hindu Apologetic Mindset)
The opinions expressed above are those of the author.
END OF ARTICLE
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