I did some serious thinking and also got opinion of some friends before attempting to write this article. For a long time I have been intrigued by the fact that why we Hindus do not practice our religion religiously or are staunch believers (kattar).
Are Hindus, especially the modern ones withering away? Are they losing faith in their faith? Looks like; but why? I am seeking an answer to this question. I am not a religious scholar nor am I an authority on Spirituality. I am at best a techno manager and viewing this question in that context. I am a seeker and I am naïve therefore pardon some of my child like simple ideas and queries.
This is a common Man’s perspective and not of a learned scholar or Gyani Dhyani Pundit. I don’t claim to be literally perfect in terms of facts and figures about a subject as complex as Hindu Philosophy, and therefore want to put forth the ideas which are figuratively and allegorically correct .Idea is to convey an idea in simple words without any hair splitting. As long as the essence is understood, move on.
Old is Gold
We are proud to say that we are the oldest religion in the world which is most inclusive and in the same breath we say ‘Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life’. Yet on all official documents against the column for religion all Hindus write –Hindu.
Every religion teaches good things to its followers and these are teachings based on basic principles of life and nature. Hinduism is a little beyond this simple definition and many may argue there is no single definition for such a monolithic idea of life.
I don’t think there is any conflict here but the statement itself is a bit mystic, seemingly paradoxical, especially in today’s age where people want things in binary and crystal clear. Why must a common Hindu need someone highly qualified, a saint or a Pundit to understand basics of good living as a Hindu?
Multilateral, multifaceted and multifunctional approach
Hindus can choose to be polytheistic, pantheistic, henotheistic, monotheistic, monistic, agnostic, atheistic or humanist. In India which has maximum number of Hindus in the world, the term dharma is also interchangeably used with religion, which is broader than the Western term religion.
When you say Rajdharma it means duty of a ruler. Parmo Dharma means ultimate or supreme duty. Therefore Dharma implies being duty bound. Though we say Dharma is your choice but still tie it to as an obligation. Obligation to your assigned duty or even way you live. These are high and lofty ideas which may not hit the bulls eye with the generation gasping for breath as if on a treadmill constantly running on day today basis with little time at hand for household chores, time for family et al.
Looking at it another way in its entirety it is too big and too liberal. It is like looking into a kaleidoscope, or an open clear skies with billions of stars and some clouds, where things are constantly changing. It thrills but still does not preach in the literal sense.
It is too democratic in its very essence and that could be its strength. It is Omni interpretable or multi interpretable – all in a positive way for the good of every living being and therefore no one can ever be afraid of us.
Another way to look at it is that too liberal could be its weakness too. If you have no strict rules you have no binding. It is freedom of speech, action and life. Then what!
Art of communication is changing – Religion, philosophy or an Idea
The way people learn or absorb information is from head as well as heart but yet with compressed timing things have changed drastically. To make things faster E mail was invented. People were using mobiles to communicate verbally and SMS for messaging.
Today in a matter of one decade these are on the back burner. Whats app has replaced mail and a twitter an adjunct between SMS and whats app with limited number of characters which forces you to communicate your idea in a very crisp to the point way to millions. At the same time from KBPS we moved to MBPS to GBPS and now TBPS. The world we learnt a few centuries ago is round but the same world today is flat!
Propagating your ideas – Propaganda
Religion is for the masses. The term ‘propaganda’ first came into common use in Europe as a result of the missionary activities of the Catholic Church. Gregory XV the pope in1622created a congregation for the propagation of the faith! A college of propaganda was created to train priests for the missions.
It was an honorable word; it was much later that the word ‘propaganda’ acquired a pejorative connotation- more pronounced during the Nazi regime of Hitler.
It may not be appropriate to compare Religion with Governance but both affect and are supposed to affect our life and make it worth living. Many methods of governance came into being since human beings got organized as tribes, regions, nations and then nation state. There were several isms like communism, capitalism, socialism, liberalism, nationalism.
There were methods of governance like Democracy, Fascism, Dictatorship, Communist regime, Monarchy, authoritarian etc. Out of all the forms, democracy has been the most successful one– with all its flaws taken with a sack of salt. Still there is no perfect one size fits all method of governance.
Democracy works because there are rules of law along with freedom which are fairly applied according to a constitution. Constitution can be amended from time to time.
‘Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…’
Hinduism as an all-encompassing philosophy includes a diversity of ideas on spirituality and traditions, but has no ecclesiastical order (an established Institute), no unquestionable religious authorities, no governing body, no prophet nor any binding holy book. It is as awesome and accommodating as a World Wide Web!
Every major religion has one Holy book. For example, Christianity has Bible, Islam Quran and Sikhism has Guru Granth sahib.
In contrast Hinduism also referred to as Sanatan Dharam (An Eternal way) is an ancient religion (at least 5000 years old) with diverse traditions resulting in huge collection of knowledge spread over several scriptures. We have three big epics like Mahabharat, Ramayan and Bhagvad Geeta. Then we have Purans, Veds, Upnishads, Shastr, Strotas,Tantras and Smritis. (This is not an exhaustive list). A religion tends to merge with culture, rituals and tradition with porous boundaries and is a well-accepted fact.
Therefore one can say that Hinduism doesn’t have one single book which a Hindu believer can follow. Though Bhagvad Geeta has become a de facto holy book but may not be covering Hinduism in entirety. Certainly other works are important too.
For Christians Bible is a Holy Manual. That is why people call any wholesome all-encompassing guide for a topic or concept as a Bible. You say ‘This book on Information Systems is like a bible or a book authored by XYZ author is a Bible for Marketing’. This implies that there is nothing more to it; one book is all that you need. If it is the Bible for marketing then that is the ultimate and final authority on marketing. That is how it is perceived.
There are certain expressions derived out of faith, religion, belief or whatever we may like to call it as, which are self-explanatory. For instance we say “I go for a morning walk religiously” or “I read this magazine religiously”. The word religion itself implies regimentation, regularity and a sense of responsibility and above all a sense of commitment. In democracy you are free to drive on the road, but you need to still follow the traffic rules.
Clubbing the two together and deriving a logical inference I would assume that a religion needs to be presented in a well-defined boundary through one book carrying all major tenets of that religions philosophy as an essence and also needs to be practiced religiously with certain regularity.
In contrast Hinduism is a democratic religion where you have hundreds of deities to choose from.
Brahma,Shiva,Vishnu,Shakti,Ganesha,Shiva Durga, Laxmi and then there are other forms like avatars , Ram and Krishna also called Bhagwan Ram and Bhagwan Krishan. Then you also have Hanuman and Kali and there are separate temples for them too. You can worship a snake, a river, the sun, a tree or a plant (Tulsi). Is this too liberal? That is one question that needs to be answered.
Where reason fails faith begins
Why people believe in god why they have faith in a faith? For a normal human being life is an enigma. You don’t know where you have come from and when and where you will go after death. Therefore you don’t have any control either on your birth or your death. In addition, you have little or almost no control on your life too. That is why it is often said ‘Karam Kaar Phaal Ki Ashaa maat kar’ which roughly translates into ‘Do your job but don’t crave for the result’; this implies that leave it to God. You plan something and something totally different happens. Amitabh Bachchan says that his father used to say ‘Jo maan Ka wo achcha, aur jo Maan ka Nahi wo aur bhi achcha’ Which means if you get what you want it is good but if you don’t get what you want then it is even better. Again this implies that God has something better in store for you.
Our God doesn’t tell us go kill who don’t believe in me or go convert everyone in believing in me- even if you have to bribe the other guy. Our God is so liberal- and how can anyone be afraid of him or his followers? This is ridiculous.
Birth of our universe is still the biggest mystery. Hindus call universe as Srishti. Great scientists like Narlikar, Einstein and Stephen hawking and hundreds more tried to determine the age of the universe. Let me briefly explain the Big Bang theory which is the most accepted hypothesis in this regard.
In short, the Big Bang hypothesis states that all of the existing and past matter in the universe came into existence at the same time, around 13.8 billion years ago. At that time, all mater existed in the form of a very small, compact ball with infinite density and very intense heat, which is now called the ‘Singularity’. Suddenly, the Singularity began expanding rapidly, and the universe as we know began to be formed.
Then what was before the Big Bang? Most scientists, including Hawking, have no idea of time or the nature of existence before the Big Bang. They take the origin of the universe 13.8 billion years ago as the starting point of time.
Before this, God’s hand prevailed is what the scientists say. If you have no control on your birth, your death, your life is controlled by destiny and you don’t know when the universe was created and when will it end, then there is something much more powerful than you and you need to submit it to that power. That is when faith begins.
How Einstein looked at God
‘The more I study science, the more I believe in God’
The basic Premise of our belief in the almighty is our inability to predict or control our lives and control what is happening around us.
Many thinkers and philosophers have argued against and for the existence of God. Different religions defined the Supreme Being in their own ways, so that people are lead on to a path of Spirituality to connect to the almighty. Different religions gave different names to the god-making god more perceivable, more imaginable, and more acceptable to a common man. This gave the idea of Personal faith and Personal God. We are asked to pray and acknowledge that power. Without seeing or understanding God, we pray. Prayer and our faith have a Placebo effect on our wellbeing. Prayer becomes a great support system, especially during difficult times.
Einstein looked at this almighty, supreme power in a different way. In a way he defined his own God and was nearer to God than most of us. He believed in the Supreme power because he was humbled by the structure, the expanse and the unlimited energy he could perceive in the universe- in our very existence. He was humbled because he having analyzed matter, time, space and motion scientifically realized how insignificantly small he was in front of God or the almighty, which kept track of every event, every bit of matter and every life that existed in the vast universe and was our creator and keeper in the strictest sense.
While the Gurus and Spiritual leaders understood and interpreted God through mythology and Philosophy, Einstein interpreted God through science.
He looked at God very scientifically and in terms of our existence. He did not believe in “Personal God” and as far as religion is concerned he was religious because he was in the awe of god’s creation, the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as science could reveal. He would look up to god for the harmony that exists in the universe.
‘A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty – it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man’
Einstein realized and made others realize through his writings and talks that as a human being we are just a part of this massive universe. We have only an illusion that we are a separate entity, but in actuality we are a part of one big whole, what we call as universe. He becomes philosophical in his thought and interpretation of relation between god and an individual by describing it as an optical or visual delusion of consciousness. Almost a year before his death he said that humans must break away from this delusion and this bondage from what they feel is self and people close to them as their own little universe. This according to him becomes like a prison of self and selfishness. “We must free ourselves from this bondage and widen our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and whole of nature and its beauty and obtain liberation from self” he said.
If one examines the above thoughts, one would feel that these are the words of a saint, words of a monk, words of Lord Buddha or Sri Krishna. Many saints would preach the same thing without really understanding the enormity of it scientifically. But Einstein could feel it and also understand the power of nature scientifically. In the technical sense of it Einstein was an atheist and didn’t believe in god, yet he felt and perceived the power of Almighty. In fact all saints and Prophets were humbled by the almighty, in a Philosophical way. Most preach fear of God, Einstein preached awe of God. Preacher would say ‘Bhagwan se daar” Einstein would say ‘Bhagwan ko dekh aur Nihar’
SWOT analysis of Hindu Dharma
Strength: The oldest religion of the world which has withstood the onslaught of other religions and test of time.
Weakness: Very vast, very liberal, spread over huge number of scriptures and hence difficult to interpret for a common man. You need a guru or a priest to understand it- even a fraction of it. This can be a deterrent for people to practice it rigorously. Therefore most Hindus get into devotional obligation after they have finished their responsibility- almost retired. For a modern day Hindu youth it appears too complicated and you can’t make every living Hindu a monk or a saint.
Opportunity: It is time to condense the entire philosophy of Hinduism into one book and that could be our Bible. This needs to be simplified with certain guidelines to be followed strictly like a ritual – religiously. Can we oversimplify it in terms of commandments? Can we have one religion one book?
‘If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t know
it yourself ’
Threat: If this is not done quickly with a sense of urgency and collectively, we may have more non practicing Hindus for the name sake and things may become bad to worse with more and more religious poaching ,which has already begun. Others are even using it against such accommodating believers and creating a term ‘Hinduphobia’! Are you kidding me?
One religion one book
I have tried to establish a need to distill the entire wisdom into one monolithic book. I assume and imagine that all the wisdom enshrined in thousands of pages spread across different volumes is complimentary to each other and there are no disagreements or contradictions and that would make the task easier.
If we cursorily examine the Global religious Gyan we could look at the following.
As a ball park figure- Bible is of around 1200 pages, a Quran approximately 604 pages a Guru Granth sahib 1430 pages.
Hinduism in contrast spreads across as a massive rock of Gibraltar.
Bhagvad gita with 700 verses spread across 924 pages approximately. Ramayan 24,000 verses and Mahabharat 200,000 yes two hundred thousand verses. I am not counting the other major scriptures, some mention earlier in this article.
It is time to take stalk of things. Let us not pretend that all is well and we are still living in a world which believes in equality and fairness. All the Hindu philosophers need to come together and have a marathon session of ‘Atma chintan’ – self introspection and come to a consensus. If we are such a democratic religion let us look at our religion’s constitution also democratically. We need to present our philosophy in a much more practicable and easily palatable and digestible form. I feel to re invigorate we need to re-engineer our ideas. We need to tell the world in simpler terms what we believe in.
With such mellow faith and belief, attaching a word Phobia (an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something) could be the biggest sin any God’s definition.
I rest my case