The openness and plurality of Hinduism make it an ideal religion for all times and especially in this age of reason and cosmopolitan societies.
Sunil Rajguru is a Bengaluru-based journalist. He has worked for the Hindustan Times newspaper and website, CyberMedia, the Centre for Science & Environment and IT market research firm IDC India. He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/
Hinduism is the world’s oldest surviving major religion. It has stood the test of time for thousands of years and still continues to grow, flourish and evolve. Here are eight reasons why it rocks in the modern age and will continue to do so in the centuries to come…
1. Hinduism has never used force to convert
The first empires originating from Egypt and surrounding areas believed they were guided by their gods and had the right to conquer neighbouring kingdoms and even kill. This philosophy was taken forward by the Greeks and Romans. Religious conversion played a key role in the expansions of the Christian and Islamic empires. This was never with the case of Hinduism. There are many tales of cosmic battles and then there’s the Mahabharata. However they are stories with a philosophy and message behind them. Not something meant for propagating Hinduism.While that’s how other religions spread, Hinduism quietly chugged along rock steady at one place. Now that the age of empires and colonialism is over, Hinduism is finding greater and greater appeal in an era where the individual is the focus. People don’t want to be told anything today and want to discover things for themselves. Hinduism fits the bill perfectly. Unlike many other religions, Hinduism will become more and more relevant as we go forward.
2. Hinduism is open to multiple interpretations and multiple paths
One God. A single set of principles. Just one way to interpret them. Many religions prescribe such a rigid formula. It worked in the past when most of the people in the world were happy not thinking too much and accepting rigid truths. It comforted them.
Not anymore. Today mankind is becoming more and more complex. A greater number of competing ideas are getting into the mainstream. One rigid idea simply doesn’t do in the new millennium.
This is another aspect of Hinduism which has a global appeal. And it is one of the reasons why India is one of the most heterogeneous countries in the world with a paradoxically homogeneous character.
Only India could come up with something along the lines of…
Ishwar Allah tero naam,
Sabko sanmati de Bhagwaan.
There is no one way of life in Hinduism. Hindu faith tells you that no matter which particular path you take, it will lead to the same goal, as long as the intent is right. The onus is on you. It really depends on what you are comfortable with.
3. Hinduism is open source
We first had the wisdom of the Vedas. Then came the Vedanta period (end of the Vedas) and people relied on the Upanishads. Finally the Ramayan and Mahabharat became the most popular books of Hinduism. They had their own philosophies which steadily took forward the narrative as the centuries went by.
Animal slaughter existed in ancient Vedic times, but we adopted peaceful temple worship and vegetarianism, further endorsed by Buddhism and Jainism. Hinduism is not a static religion but the most dynamic religion in the world. After the success of the open course software movement, a lot of people realized that Hinduism too was open course.
Whether it’s software or religion: The future is open source.
4. Hinduism is a huge believer in woman power
Gods and goddesses rule India in equal measure. If Ganesh Puja is the life of Mumbai, Kali Puja is the highlight of Kolkata. The river Ganga symbolizes the goddess and Vaishno Devi is a top pilgrimage centre in North India. Shakti is woman empowerment. Shakti is the power of the feminine divine which can be tapped by both men and women.
Says the Shaktisangama Tantra...
Woman is the creator of the universe,
The universe is her form,
Woman is the foundation of the world,
She is the true form of the body.
Very few traditions in the world talk of the feminine in such a fashion. In Hinduism, at the divine and cosmic level, there is nothing to distinguish the masculine and the feminine.
5. Hinduism doesn’t define a Hindu
There is no definition of a Hindu. There is no real ceremony to get into Hinduism. There is no procedure to get out of it. The recent ghar wapsi that is being carried out is a modern and political concept which is in fact a minority event. Anyone and everyone can embrace Hinduism. It’s as simple as that. The most powerful concepts in the world are free to walk into.
6. Hinduism embraces atheism too
Only Hinduism could have the concept of the Nastik or unbeliever or atheist. Of course that’s too a straight forward definition and the reality of a Nastik is much more complex. Nastik like many other terms in Hinduism has undergone a sea change down the ages. Carvaka was an ancient system of Nastik “materialism” and at that time, there were many schools of philosophy related to that concept.
7. Hinduism still has 1 billion+ adherents
Despite Hindus not forcefully converting or propagating the religion all over the world and other religions trying hard to convert Hindus, Hinduism is still flourishing and growing. There are one billion Hindus in India alone. Nepal has 81% Hindus. There are sizable Hindu populations in Mauritius, Fiji, Guyana, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the West Indies. Hindus are doing extremely well in Americas too. They are a very small population there, but they’re one of the most successful communities in North America.
8. Hinduism is more spiritual than corporeal
There was a time when religion had all the answers. How the universe was created. Why the world was the way it was. Why Nature went forward in a certain manner. But now people are much more sceptical, to say the least. Religion survives in the twenty first century purely due to its spiritual side. Yoga itself is a huge discipline little understood by most. Hatha Yoga has been around for thousands of years. It was developed in the twentieth century and today has millions of adherents all over the world. But the deeper Raja Yoga (union with the Supreme itself) could prove to be much more powerful in the years to come.Peace of mind is what is sought in the modern world today. The concept of “Shanti” has been around in Hinduism since the ancient world. Hinduism is a very deep philosophy: It has many levels. You can keep peeling layers one by one much like an onion. The philosophy is vast and you can spend a lifetime just scratching at the surface of each and every concept.
The religion of the new age…
All this means that while some religions may find themselves becoming more and more irrelevant in the Internet Age, it will definitely not be the case with Hinduism. This dynamic and evolving religion will always remain contemporary and offer something for the modern individual to live his or her life.
We will change it. It, in turn, will change us. This feedback loop has been going on for thousands of years and that’s the way it will be in the new millennium.