Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Understanding Hinduism (Sanatan Dharma)

Hinduism is the western distortion of Sanatan Dharma, which is based on a geographical reality that is East of the Sindhu (Indus) river. Sanatan Dharma is 'eternal' and is more a way of life that believes in One goal, which can be reached through multiple paths. Every path is the correct path, depending on who is traversing it, based on his/ her birth, inclinations, choice, region, or any other reason. No approach is wrong to reach that one goal. Hinduism is less of a religion and more of a philosophy that helps one traverse the journey that leads to the merger of the 'Atma' (soul) with the 'Paramatma' (Super Soul, or God). Every journey is unique and every one is at liberty to choose their own prop(s) along the way, as abstraction is not very conducive for the journey, specially by the uninitiated. The prop could be any thing or being, depending on one's inclinations, and intellect, since God is omnipresent in every speck of this universe. Any form/ shape can represent the Almighty, as long as one knows that being omnipresent 'God is also in that, and more importantly that God is not ONLY that'.

I found this beautiful explanation about Hinduism on the internet and am reproducing the relevant portions of the same, as is, without comments.

The greatness of Hinduism cannot be compared with other religions. There is no basis for comparison. Hinduism has no beginning, therefore will certainly have no end. It was never created, and therefore it cannot be destroyed. It is a God-centric religion. The center of it is God. All of the other religions are prophet-centric. The center of those religions is a great saint or sage, a prophet, a messenger or messiah, some God-Realized person who has lived on earth and died. Perhaps he was born to create that particular sect, that particular religion, needed by the people of a certain part of the world at a certain time in history. The Hindus acknowledge this and recognize all of the world's religious leaders as great prophets, as great souls, as great incarnations, perhaps, of the Gods, or as great realized beings who have through their realization and inward practices incarnated themselves into, or transformed themselves into, eminent religious leaders and attracted devotees to them to give forth the precepts of life all over again and thus guide a tribe, or a nation or a race, into a better way of life. 

The Hindu mind can encompass this, appreciate it, for it is firmly settled in a God-centric religion. The center of Hinduism is the Absolute, the timeless, formless, spaceless God who manifests as Pure Consciousness and as the most perfect form conceivable, the Primal Soul. He radiates out from that form as a myriad of Gods and Goddesses who inhabit the temples and bless the people, inspire the scriptures, inspire the spiritual leaders and uplift humanity in general. It is a one God in many forms. 

There are nearly sixty five crores Hindus in the world today. Hinduism attends to the needs of each one. It is the only religion in the world today that has such breadth and depth. Hinduism contains the Deities and the sanctified temples, the esoteric knowledge of inner states of consciousness, yoga and the disciplines of meditation. It possesses a gentle compassion and a genuine tolerance and appreciation for other religions. It remains undogmatic and open to inquiry. It believes in a just world in which every soul is guided by karma to the ultimate goal of Self Realization, or moksha. It rests content in the knowledge of the divine origin of the soul, its passage through one life and another until maturity has been reached. It offers guidance to all who take refuge in it, from the nonbeliever to the most evolved rishi. It cherishes the largest storehouse of scripture and philosophy on the earth, and the oldest. It is endowed with a tradition of saints and sages, of realized men and women, unrivaled on the earth. It is the sum of these, and more, which makes us boldly declare that Hinduism is the greatest, even though not the largest, religion in the entire world. 

People in other religions may question the sanctity of idol worship and we can say it is only due to ignorance. God is all-pervading formless Being. 

The divinity of the all-pervading God is vibrant in every atom of creation. There is not a speck of space where He is not. Why do you then say that He is not the idols? 

The idol is a support for the neophyte. It is a prop of his spiritual childhood. A form or image is necessary for worship in the beginning. It is not possible for all to fix the mind on the Absolute or the Infinite. A concrete form is necessary for the vast majority for practicing concentration. 

Idols are not the idle fancies of sculptors, but shining channels through which the heart of the devotee flows towards God. Though the image is worshipped, the devotee feels the presence of the Lord in it and pours out his devotion unto it. The idol remains an idol, but the worship goes to the Lord. 

To a devotee, the image is a mass of Chaitanya or consciousness. He draws inspiration from the image. The image guides him. It talks to him. It assumes human form to help him in a variety of ways. Idol worship is not peculiar to Hinduism. The Christians worship the Cross. They have the image of the Cross in their mind. The Mohammedans keep the image of the Kaaba stone when they kneel and do prayers. The mental image also is a form of idol. The difference is not one in kind, but only one of degree. 

All worshippers, however intellectual they may be, generate a form in the mind and make the mind dwell on that image. Everyone is an idol worshipper. Pictures and drawings are only a form of idol. A gross mind needs a concrete symbol as a prop or Alambana; a subtle mind requires an abstract symbol. Even a Vedantin has the symbol OM for fixing the wandering mind. It is not only pictures or images in stone and wood that are idols. Dialectics and leaders also become idols. 

In conclusion what we can say is that we should be proud to be a Hindu. 

No comments: