Overview of Hinduism and Religious Fundamentalism in India
Religion means to BIND. It is the systematic set of expressions which reflect the ultimate order, meaning, and possible transformation of existence for people. Dharma means to HOLD.
Statistically there are 700 million Hindus in the world which account for ~15% of the world’s population. That means one in every 8 persons on the earth is a Hindu. Mostly in India and Nepal. Hinduism is Sanāthana Dharma (meaning "the eternal law”). Sanathana means (Chira purathana and Nithya noothana) most ancient and most modern. Hinduism has no founder or single founding event, no prophets named, all people are prophets and or mystics. Anyone can call himself a Hindu. One can question the authority of any scripture or even the existence of the divine (GOD). Worship could be to sun, tree, river or air, at home, in bathroom, on the bed, during sex, in temple, in graveyard!!
Hinduism is not a religion, but is a way to live your daily life. An intricate web of religious, philosophical, social, economic, and artistic elements. No common creed. No single doctrine. No direct divine revelation. No rigid narrow moral code. It is based on the practice of Dharma, the code of life. Thus it is revolutionary in space and time. Critics are also given the Rishi (saint) status (Eg. Charvaka).
‘Hindu scriptures’ never have the word Hindu in it. Veda is the knowledge, the truth. NOT WRITTEN BY GOD, but knowledgeable RISHIS / Yogis / Sanyasis / Saints. Reading these teachings of seers provides the basis and path for spirituality. Despite being the oldest religion, the truth realized by the seers proves that the Truth and Path provided by Hinduism is beyond time. It talks for the humanity and the living being. They are broadly classified into sruthi (heard – the truth from Godly men), smruthi (remembered – law for the society, may be for the rulers) and nyaya (logic, for analysis of knowledgeable public). There are four Vedas, namely Rig, Sama, Yajur, and Atharva Veda. Each Veda consists of sections namely Samhita (containing the hymns) and Brahmana (significance of the hymns, BRUH means spread), Aranyakas (interpretations), and Vedanta (upanishhads, which are metaphysical dialogs. UPA means near and NISHAD means construct). The oldest Bharatheeya Literature is BRAHMANANGAL. These are based on VEDAS (Jnanam / Karmam / Upasana). VEDAS get referred in KANADA’s Vaiseshikam, GAUTHAMA’s Nyaayam, KAPILA’s Sanghyam, PATHANJALI’s Yoga, JAIMINI’s Poorva Meemamsa and BADARAYANA VYASA’s Uttara Meemamsa. Also are VEDANGANGAL (Siksha, Vyakaranam, Nikhandu, Jyothisastram, Chandas, Kalpam) and UPAVEDAS (Ayurveda, Ghandarvaveda, Dhanurveda, Ardhaveda). MANU’s Dharma (Rituas Path), BRAHASPADI’s Artha (Wealth), NANDIKESAN’s Kama (Need), BADARAYANAN’s Moksha (Salvation), JAIMINI’s Swarga (Heaven) and DHANWANTHARI’s Chikitsa (Treatment).
The messages are taken through guru parampara (chain of traditional gurus) like Sankara, Chinmaya, Arabindo, Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Yati, Narayana Guru, Maharishi Mahayogi, Saibaba, Mata Amruthanandamayi et. al. These are a few who popularized their understanding of sanathana dharma in their-own interpretations. What holds on to his inner law is which leads from ignorance to Truth.
Om bhurbhuva: sva: thath savithurvarENyam
bhargO dEvasya dhiimahi dhiyO yO na: prachOdayaath
(The whole world is enlightened by you, the sun; please enlighten my inner-self).
Most Hindus believe that the spirit or soul — the true "self" of every person, called the ātman — is eternal. According to the monistic/pantheistic theologies of Hinduism (such as Advaita Vedanta school), this Atman is ultimately indistinct from Brahman, the supreme spirit. Hence, these schools are called non-dualist. The goal of life, according to the Advaita School, is to realize that one's ātman is identical to Brahman, the supreme soul. The Upanishads state that whoever becomes fully aware of the ātman as the innermost core of one's own self realizes an identity with Brahman and thereby reaches moksha (liberation or freedom).
Most of the Rituals / Prayers are for physical / emotional / intellectual / social / spiritual development. Veda contains science, philosophy, psychology, social norms etc. Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Energy concept, Health, the science of war etc. is part of it.
See the mathematics law stating as infinity operated on infinity produces infinity in the hymn
Poornamada. Poornamidam, Poornal Poornamudachyathe
Poornasya Poornamadaya Poornameva Avasishyathe - Aum Santhi Santhi Santhi.
The salutation to sun is the definition of velocity (12.11 X 2202/0.14 Km/sec) in
yojanaanam sahasre dwe sathe dweja yojane ekena nimishardhena kramamaana namosthuthe
God (Krishna) didn’t give all the answers. Krishna directed Dharmaputhra to Bheeshma (Mahabharatha) to learn the best method of ruling the country. The answer given by Bheeshma was VISHNUSAHASRA NAMAM (Thousand names of Vishnu). On this Dharmaputhra asks Bheeshma, ‘who has to chant this?’ Answer was
vedanthako brahmanaha syath kshatriyo vijayeebhaveth
vaisyo dhana samrudhaha soodraha sughamavapnuyath
(If Brahmin chants, he gets knowledge; if Kshatriya chants he gets power, if Vaisya chants he gets money, if Sudra chants he gets happiness) [Brahmans: are the teachers, religious leaders, and scholars; Kshatriya: political leaders and warriors; Vaisya: are engaged in trades or farming and Sudra: are the lowest class and provide services to support the society].
Krishna in Gita teaches all knowledge and secrets and asks Arjuna to logically analyse and decide according to his will and wish
Ithithe jnaanamaakhyaatham guhyaath guhyatharam maya
Vimrusyaithadeseshena yadheschathi thada kuru
Veda talks for living together and sharing knowledge. Let all the people in the world be happy says
loka samastha sukhino bhavanthu
Let us share shelter, food, work, and learning; let us not have hatred through
sahana vavathu, sahanau bhunakthu sahaveeryam karava vahai
thejaswinaa vadheetha masthu maa vidwishaa vahai - Aum santhi saanthi saanthi.
NO IDOL worships recommended
agnirdevo dwijatheenam muneenam hruthidaivatham
prathima swalpabhudheenam sarvathra vidhithathmanam
Priest see sun as GOD, Saints see their GOD within, half-knowledgeable see Idol as GOD, The knowledgeable see GOD everywhere; says Lord Krishna himself to Arjuna in Uthara Gita.
Concept of Education is seen from stating the importance of vidya-dhaanam (teaching) in
annadhaanam param dhaanam, vidyadhaanam athath param
annena kshanikaa thrupti yavath jeevancha vidyaya
Meaning - Feeding is a good philanthropy activity. But educating is much higher. The food will get digested soon. The education will remain the whole life.
Deva pooja, devotion to God - is seen as serving and making others happy says in
Ene kena prakaareNa yasya kasyaapi dehinaha santhosham janayeth praajna thadaivam iswara poojanam
Logical Thinking was given priority. Give value to logic and don’t follow blindly even if Brahma says -
Ukthi-ukthamupaadeyam vachanam baalakaadapi anyathranamavathyaajya-mapyuktham brahmakaadapi
Bharatheeya Dharma talks about two activities viz. Ishta and Poortha. The poortha dharma is more of a social commitment. Ishta karma is the activity that one does for the self, salvation, piece, better life, prosperity, what so ever. They are said as
agnihothram thapa sathyam vedaanaam chaanupaalanam
aadithyam vaisyadhevam cha ishta ithyabhitheeyathe
Service comes under “poorth dharma” and it includes digging wells and ponds, feeding the poor, building temples for the spiritual well-being, and laying out gardens. Excavating wells and ponds has been mentioned first in
vaapee koopa thadakaani dhevathanayathanani cha
anna pradhanamudyannam poortha ithyabhitheeyathe
Ishta will take people to swarga and poortha can give moksha. Thus the social service is seen as higher.
ishtathelabhathe swargam poorthe mokshamavapuyeth
Moksha (Freedom or Salvation) from the cycle of birth and death is the ultimate goal of Hindu religious life. Moksha is the state of supreme bliss and there is no quest beyond it. Moksha is release from all attachments. It is a state in which the self remains ever in freedom and blessedness. The chief purpose of preaching is to teach us how this supreme state may be attained.
TODAY’S HINDUS IN INDIA owe much to Sankaracharya(~800 AD). Sankara reinstalled Hinduism after the degeneration due to the other religion started its activity in India. He revived Temples, Rituals, and Prayers etc. But his teachings are not prescriptions to follow any specific instructions. He gave interpretations and left for the people to decide. Later part of his writing he says that he had three wrong-dings viz., providing shape to god, describing god through prayers, installing the sacred places in
roopam roopa vivarjithasya bhavatho dhyaanena yath kalpitham
sthuthya nirvachaneeyathaakhilaguro doorikrutha yanmaya
vyaapthithwam cha niraakrutham bhagavatho yath theertha yathraa dina
kshandhavyam jagadeesa thadwikalathaam doshathrayam math krutham
HINDUS ARE NOT FUNDAMENTALISTS can be further seen from the Quote from Vivekananda’s ADDRESSES AT THE PARLIAMENT OF RELIGIONS, Chicago, September 11, 1893: “… We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth. .”
Hindus never invaded any land. Never captured or ruled any other nations. Never converted anyone. Provided land, food, shelter for other religions, and people from any land and tolerated all their mis-deeds.
athidhi devo bhava.
Modern Independent India remained and is a Secular Tolerant nation, with Hindu assets being under government and other religion given minority status, funding, reservations and concessions. If the majority of the Hindus were fundamentalists, this would never have been possible. India remains as the cradle of all the other religions.
Largest democracy in the world today religion playing big role in politics. (“I can say without the slightest hesitation . . . that those who say that religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion means.” Quote from Mahatma Gandhi). But in India we have / had president / Prime minister / Top Ministers from Sikh, Muslim, Christian. This is possible because maximum of the Hindus are not fundamentalists.
Approximately 81% of Indians are Hindus. Majority of Hindus (over 95%) do not know what Hinduism is. Efforts are not much in teaching this, not have a uniform thinking on this. The religion gave the freedom to be part of it with out any demand from the individual and no discipline. Many believe that the Idle, God, temple, pooja and being part of festivals is Hindu dharma.
A few who thinks Hindu religion is like any other religion with multiple gods. They are blind and close to fundamentalists. They shift their stand in confusion and for personal material benefits; gets converted to other religion accepting the tempting offers. Many of them continue to attend temples and Hindu festivals.
Other religion in India is Muslim (~13%) and Christian (more than ~3 %). Others include Sikh, Buddhists, Jain, and Parsis etc.
Thomas landed at Musiris (Cranganore / Kodungallur) in Kerala in 52 A.D. He made his first converts of Jews and Hindus in Cranganore, Palayur and Quilon among other places. At Palayur, he organized the new coverts and appointed priests from among the leading families. Alongside he organised the erection of the first church in India at Palayur, now in Trichur district. He is also credited with establishing six other churches in India. Today 60 % of Christians in India are from south India.
Malik Ibn Dinar and 20 others who were the followers of Prophet Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, first landed in Kodungallur in Kerala when they came to India. Islam received royal patronage in some states here, and later spread to other parts of India. He was gifted a defunct Jain temple by the local ruler, where he established the first mosque in the Indian subcontinent. The exact date of its establishment is not known but is believed to be in 629. Islam sweeps through central India from the 8th -10th centuries AD.
Kerala has around ~57% Hindus, around ~24% Muslims and ~19% Christians. Muslim population in Kerala is increasing faster (~2%) and Christian Population is growing (~1%). (Christians are reduced in percentage (no in number) against ~24 %, from 1950. Church is now asking their brigades to work hard, including the measures against birth control).
Culturally Muslims and Christians are mixed and adapted the native Indian practices. Examples can be seen from the similarity in dance forms Kaikottikali (Traditional Hindu) in the Margam Kali (Christian) and Oppana (Muslim). Churches have oil lamps and drum beats (Traditional Hindu system). The bible in India (Kerala) is called Veda-pusthakam. Many Muslims are learning the Hindu texts and temple arts. There are temples in Kerala with rituals that need the participation of Muslim and or Christian. Cross religious marriages are common. Most of the celebrations are participated across religion.
Indians are not religious. Else in India, seeds of other religion would not have grown. This basic character will show that other religions also can’t make much influence in India. Countable few politically / externally motivated people are trying to create troubles in the society in the name of religious fundamental group. They are insignificant and will not last long. India will remain in Santayana Dharma.
Dr T P Sasikumar, INDIA
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