What makes up and fosters Hinduism in spite of its disuniting sub-systems
An embellished idol in a flower-studded temple being worshipped with incense sticks, fire and high-pitched devotional songs- the scenario of a Hindu temple is quite incomprehensible by other religions especially in the West. But the Hindus revel in their consecration. Unlike the concepts of Christianity, Islam and other major religions, there are numerous deities and idol worshipping in Hinduism. It is well-known that Hindus divide themselves into a hierarchical system of castes and sub-castes. Still, there must be a vigour that keeps the diversified religion so stalwartly followed by more than one billion people. This essay aims to find an answer to the very issue through the following questions:
1. What is Hinduism?
2. What comprise the darkest side of Hinduism?
3. Why Hinduism still survives so poignantly?
This essay is not intended to demean any set of beliefs but solely arrive at a positive conclusion through the analysis of the following questions.
What is Hinduism?
The earliest evidence of Hinduism dates back to 5500 BC (Wikipedia, 2012). The three fundamental powers namely Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesha (Shiva) are believed to create, foster and conclude life respectively. Goddess Durga (Shakti), Lord Ganesh and numerous deities are also worshipped. As for soul, it is believed to be imperishable. As a living being deceases, the soul leaves its body and seeks another one until it attains the supreme salvation (Moksha or Nirvana). These elementary powers are believed to have taken myriads of incarnations, out of which Lord Rama and Lord Krishna are the most renowned.
In spite of countless deities, Hinduism believes in one Supreme Power. A Hindu is free to devote to a particular deity but can worship the others too (Dogra & Dogra, 2003); after all every deity is a part of the Supreme Power (Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesha or Shakti). The multitudes of beliefs, cultures, customs, festivals and lifestyle emanated from the very concept of One God in numerous forms, all being highly venerable. It teaches to respect the Nature, the mother and values like truth and righteousness. The basic objectives of life are Dharma (ethics), Artha which is livelihood, Kaam (sensual pleasures), Moksha which means salvation and Yoga which comprise paths to love, well-being and wisdom (The Philosophy of Hinduism, 2006 ). It nowhere prohibits a follower to bow in grace of Allah and pray to Jesus. Hinduism never teaches to disrespect the other religious beliefs.
What comprise the darkest side of Hinduism?
Since Vedic period, the Hindu society was divided on the basis of occupation- the Varna system (Wikipedia, 2012). Like every other religion, priests were above others in position. The scholars, priests and educated class comprised the Brahman Varna (group). The second Varna namely Kshatriya was of the warriors. The third one billed as Vaishya consisted of businessmen, artisans and technicians. The last one known as Shudra took into account the labourers and sweepers. If a man had four sons working as Priest, Soldier, Sculptor and Sweeper respectively, then all the four siblings were to be considered of different Varnas- none to be considered higher or lower in respect. Unfortunately, the Varna system was converted into a caste system which enabled the sons of a Brahman to be a Brahman irrespective of the occupation he chose. Also, the hierarchy was rendered a label of respect which placed Brahman on topmost position and Shudra on the lowest. The evident stratagem gave a benefit to the so called higher Varna. With time, the very system developed gruesomely giving birth to casteism and exploitation of the Shudra (Nadkarni, 2003). Also,
women who were regarded as forms of the Shakti (Goddess Durga) were later debased to a very pathetic status in society. Man was everything and women was created to serve him- the influential people moulded the rules of Hinduism to acquire maximum benefits; Hinduism was never meant to humiliate anyone illogically. The system ruined and manipulated chiefly by priests gradually expanded and flourished rendering the Hindu society (Wikipedia, 2012) with heinous rituals of Sati Pratha (burning a widow on dead husband’s pyre), child marriage, exploitation of lower caste and women. People listened to and blindly believed in what the so-called scholarly priests told. From feeding the priests on every occasion to believing in tantrums to bring good luck, superstition started to nurture strongly. There was a need to be inquisitive at that moment but very few voices rebelled. Everything evolved to be fair and restful for those in power. A series of conspired manipulations sullied the image of Hinduism. Several Hindus still believe ridiculously in superstition; they seek and pay priests to solve their miseries. Which rational mind would not date this back to how and why the corruption started in Vedic period? The religion was and is, therefore, highly criticised by Westerners.
Why Hinduism still survives so poignantly
It is true that several choose Hinduism for it renders Moksha i.e. freedom from the cycle of birth and death, a nirvana from the painful earthy life (Kishore, 2001). But more than that, it teaches to live with principles. These principles don’t outcast pleasure at all, but ask to make a balance between duties, pleasure and other values. Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the former vice President of India had quoted, “Hinduism is not just a faith. It is the union of reason and intuition that cannot be defined but is only to be experienced”. Out of the one billion Hindus globally, there are millions who must have experienced it. This statement is vague scientifically. Hinduism survives because in spite of its multiple deities, the God is still regarded to be one. It never binds a true and sensible devotee in meaningless rules preached
Every religion was born to motivate man to live wise and die with honor. Same is the case with Hinduism. What it seems and what it really is- the difference can be discovered with careful and unbiased analysis. Hinduism is not merely about pomp and superstitions. In one line, it inspires a being to believe in the Supreme power and his forms and living a life focused on actions, insight, justice, morals, tolerance and wisdom, abstaining from evils. It binds a huge mass into oneness with its blessings, principles and pleasures. So, it is surviving and shall continue to do so forever.
Dogra, R.C, Dogra, Urmila (2003). Let's know Hinduism: the oldest religion of infinite adaptability and diversity. Star Publications. p. 5
Kishore, B. R. (2001). Hinduism. Diamond Pocket Books (P) Ltd. pp. 152.
Nadkarni, M.V. (2003-11-08). "Is Caste System Intrinsic to Hinduism? Demolishing a Myth". Economic and Political Weekly.
Wikipedia: The free encyclopedia. (2012, Sep 27). FL: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Retrieved September 27, 2012 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Hinduism
Wikipedia: The free encyclopedia. (2012, Sep 27). FL: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Retrieved September 27, 2012 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinduism
The Philosophy of Hinduism: Four Objectives of Human Life. Pustak Mahal, 2006