“Hinduism is so elastic and subtle that the most profound methodist and crudest idolator are equally at home with it”
Some days ago, I went to a family function with my parents. As you know, these family functions are the perfect places which a person uses to showcase his half knowledge on any topic with full confidence. Fortunately, I got the opportunity to be part of one such discussion. I noticed that most of the people discussing belonged to two categories only. First are those who call themselves extreme followers of Hinduism and are in favor of following it without applying any logic or rationality. Second, are those who instantly link Hinduism with blind faith and superstition and don’t even try to find rationality in it. This created doubts in my mind. Is this religion so irrational or extremist? Or am I missing something? To my delight, a book called “Why am I Hindu” by Shashi Tharoor came to my rescue. What an amazing book it is. After reading this, many of my doubts got cleared. I am here to share with you some of my learnings in brief. Let’s talk about this.
To begin, Hinduism is one of the oldest religions in the world known to have its origin somewhere between 2300 BC to 1500 BC during the Indus Valley Civilization era. It is also the third largest religion in the world after Christianity and Islam in terms of no. of followers. Now, let’s discuss some misconceptions about this religion.
First of all, Hinduism is never about blind faith. If that would have been the case, then the greatest scripture of this religion “The Gita” would have never been in existence. In blind faith, questioning is not allowed. But Gita is all about questions asked by the devotee to his Lord. Here, Krishna never gets angry with Arjuna for questioning him but patiently answers all his questions. How ironic is that for those who say that their religion is beyond question? In Gita only, Krishna explains to Arjuna the “law of karma” and motivates him to do his “karma” selflessly without thinking about the results. It also considers inactivity as the biggest curse of life. This teaching helps us in every aspect of our life.
I have also come across people who love to tag this religion as anti-women. Most of the time, these are those people who just want a reason to justify the backwardness in society. I know some rituals make this religion look regressive but not everything is as bad as it is said. Have you ever been to the Kamhkhya Devi temple in Assam? Here, the goddess is worshipped in the form of her uterus which denotes women’s fertility. And this is not a single example. There is no other religion in the world that gives such immense respect to feminine energy in different forms, be it Laxmi, Durga, Or Saraswati. Now, you decide, if this religion is anti-women or just some people following it.
Hinduism is a religion of symbolism. Each story, character, and ritual has some thinking behind it. You all must have heard about the importance of “OM”. This is not without any reason. Do you know, when you chant Om, it not only relaxes you but also a vibration sound is felt through your vocal cord that clears and opens up the sinuses. Similarly, the third eye of Shiva indicates ” Ajman chakra”. This chakra in yoga is used to denote knowledge. You see, simple symbols are used to explain the deep meaning of life.
For those who call this religion rigid, Hinduism is not based on a single strictly organized ideology. It believes that there can be multiple paths to reach God. Hence, it easily accommodates different people of diverse cultures within it. For example, in west Bengal, there is a ritual of offering fish to a goddess during “Navratri”. Similarly, in north India, people follow strict vegetarianism during those days. This is how this religion respects diverse cultural practices.
This doesn’t mean that I am neglecting the issues associated with this religion. As I have said earlier, we should not blindly follow anything. No religion in the world is without any issues. But instead of defaming the whole religion, we should try to find the reason behind these issues. The major reason behind them is us only. Many of us are still stuck in age-old rituals which are no more relevant in the present time. They don’t want to talk about flexibility and change. But, Hinduism has always talked about change. Even the supreme god has to change himself according to time. This flexibility and acceptance are the essences of this religion and not the exclusivity and rigidity. So, it’s our choice of what we want to learn from this ancient religion as an individual.