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Hinduism

What it meant to be a Hindu for me


Even before I opened my eyes for the first time in this world, I was a Hindu. I was a Hindu by default because I was born in a Hindu family. I was marked with this word. Although, I didn’t know what that word really meant, I used to write my religion as Hindu in all the school and college forms. I still do that.

In this essay, I am not going to argue about what Hindu really means. I will do that in the next Blog. In this Blog, I will rather tell my readers about what I have experienced and how I see Hinduism. I am not religious anymore. I wonder if I was ever so religious. I was born in a Brahmin Family in one of the most underdeveloped states in India. It is necessary to talk about my birthplace because it has a good significance here. An underdeveloped state means that most of my family members and almost all of the society were too much inculcated with the idea of religion. But, can we here make a comparison of extremely religious Muslim or Christian society with an extremely religious Hindu society? How did I find my way out of this trap of irrational religious beliefs? Simple! Because Hinduism generally does not enforces its beliefs on anyone.

My friends in west or Pakistan are unable to understand how a Hindu really lives or practices his faith. That is warranted because they compare Hinduism with their own prejudices and religion.

Muslims laugh on Hinduism thinking that Hindus worship a million gods in Idols and drink Cow piss (Yuck!). I never did that. Nor any of my family members ever did that too. We have a few cows in our farm-house but we only used them to get milk. Yes, we did have idols of Gods in our temple at home, but they were just 3 or 4 of different kinds. Nobody can build a temple of a million Gods.

This is Goddess Durga

Goddess Durga is worshiped as the principle God in our family and village. We do consider all other Hindu Gods like Brahma, Vishnu or Shiva. A Hindu can choose what God he wants to worship. We worshiped Durga and had idols of a few other Gods in our temple. How many times did we used to worship? Well! My father worships everyday but mostly it was unnecessary. Anyone could worship or just bow his head sometimes before the idol, anytime of the day or week or even month. There are no strict enforced laws for worshiping-Every Hindu is to himself.

Yesterday, a few boys came in my Room with a collection of audio jokes in their mobile. Some of these jokes were sexual and directed towards Hindu Gods. Everyone just laughed- Even my room-partner who is a staunch believer in Hinduism. Even he laughed when his God was brutally mocked in the joke. One important thing to say: Nobody was killed. I was so astonished to see that. How can a believing Hindu joke crudely on his Gods? But that is a relieving truth that I have lived from the last 25 years. Hindus do not just get angry and kill anyone for mocking their Gods. Just think about what would have happened to those boys if we were Muslims and their crude jokes were directed towards Muhammad. *Stoning*??

River Ganga is considered Holy in Hinduism. It is said that anyone who dies at its banks gets heaven as reward in afterlife. I have never considered Ganga as a Holy river. It is just like any other river. I used to say that before my other Hindu friends in my early youth. None of them ever replied back with an angry tone, saying that I was offending Hinduism. No! All the other Hindus would easily accept that it was my choice. Anyways, I love River Ganga as I would love River Nile; it has served for centuries as the cradle of civilization.

There is a concept of heaven and hell in Monotheistic religions. There is some concept like that in Hinduism too. But I don’t know any Hindus in my friend or family circle who really think or care about that. Though, they all believe in Hinduism but still they don’t have the knowledge of any Heaven or Hell. They just live their life easily, doing their everyday duties. I was never frightened with Hell. I have never done anything good only because of some reward of heaven. That’s just a way of life for ordinary Hindus. What most of the Hindus think is that when you die, your soul becomes a part of the greater soul (God) or based on your actions, you reincarnate.

All of my family members think that God is everywhere. He is the creator and sustainer of life. He answers prayers and he loves his creation. Many of the followers of like Christianity and Islam think that Hindus worship idols thinking that idols are God. But this is not true- Many Hindus only worship idols because they think that they are worshipping an infinite through the finite- that they are worshipping an unknowable thorough a knowable object.

All of the scholars of Hinduism agree that Hindu is not specifically a religious term. It is a nationalistic term which means people living to the east of river Indus. I call myself a Hindu because of that definition only. I was born in India, therefore I am a Hindu. Like in the same way, a person born in America is American.

Hinduism is a strange religion. It gives a lot of space to its believers to paint any picture of God that he/she likes. It is not prescriptive and even an Atheist can be a Hindu.

A person can be a Hindu, even if:

He worships daily or even rarely in a year.

He eats whatever he likes or doesn’t eat Non- Veg. ever.

He thinks Ganga is holy or not.

He is free to respect or revile any of the Hindu Gods. But he will still remain a Hindu. You can’t take that away from him. There is a lot of space given in this religion. Do what you want!  But with all that freedom, you are still bound under the chains of irrational beliefs.

What are the implications of becoming a religious hindu again? This article discusses some important issues in a light heart and funny manner.

 

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About Bobby-Allen

I am a business student, biotechnology graduate, free thinker and rationalist living in my own dream world, floating along with the speck of dirt that we call earth. I love reading books, traveling, movies, music and all the amazing things that this life has granted us. Though only a few among us appreciate their true value. I consider myself a seeker, for truth and salvation. I have looked for the truth in human emotions, feelings, dogma, superstitions and now I have only come closer to the perimeter of truth which just keeps on shifting further and further away. Hope one day I reach my goal, the post where I have tied my dreams.

Discussion

15 thoughts on “What it meant to be a Hindu for me

  1. I have more questions than comments:-

    1. Do feel or think that there is any tension between Hinduism and the modern world which is changing so fast? Will Hinduism survive as a watery and superstitious version of itself, or will the old gods begin to lose their influence over educated and internet friendly children? In fact, what is the relationship between the internet and religion in India? Is it seen as a threat by the extremists like Shiv Sena, or as a tool which they can profit from?

    2. What are your personal feelings and attitudes towards not so much the nationalistic concept, but the stories, myths, practices and rituals that make up Hinduism? Are you quite comfortable with them, or do they leave stiff and mortified?

    Posted by spleenandspicesahota | May 13, 2012, 7:38 pm
    • 1. ) I do not think that there is a tension between Hinduism and Modern world. India is fast developing. Hindu women in metropolitan cities are free to dress and live as they choose. Many Indians immigrate to western countries like USA and UK. There they remain bound to their religious roots but how many times have we heard about any tensions between migrant Hindu society and the modern society of like US where they live.

      2.) The secret behind Hinduism’s survival is that it is very flexible. Polytheism allows the believers to see unity in diversity. Before answering your second question, i should give you some brief points on how Hinduism became a religion. Until 300 years from now, different parts of India had their own rituals and set of Gods. To counter the growing influence and tyranny of Christianity and Islam in India, Many Saints from south India traveled the length and breath of this country and preached one religion. They united the people and brought all the diverse rituals and Gods of different parts into one Major religion – Hinduism. Slowly, as people from different parts of India traveled from one place to another, they picked different rituals and practices and absorbed them in their faith. So, Hinduism is always evolving. It was and is still, a watershed version of itself.

      3. ) Relationship between Internet and Religion. The effects can be many: Like people can leave Hinduism and become atheists. There are around 52 million active internet users in India. But that’s still very low. India is a billion plus populated nation. So, we can’t really tell if Internet will have any effect on Hinduism as a whole. My cousin works as senior programmer in Oracle and he is highly religious. That’s the case with many Hindus. The reason why a normal Hindu won’t search for things related to his religion or Atheism on internet because Hinduism does not puts any roadblocks on his way of life. He can live as he likes. So, why bother.

      Posted by Bobby-Allen | May 14, 2012, 3:25 pm
    • No, internet is not seen as a threat to Hinduism by Shiv Sena. Shiv Sena is basically a political Party. Its main center of power is in Mumbai which is the Industrial heartland of India. It is also one of the most cosmopolitan cities in India. Shiv Sena does has an effect on Hindu youths and it inculcates an idea of hatred against Muslims. But it has already lost a lot of political ground in Mumbai and soon we will only hear tales of Shiv Sena in old books.

      The stories and myths of Hinduism are interesting as Iliad is interesting. But people following weird rituals can be dangerous to many people. I can enumerate such rituals which are ghastly and dangerous. But there are other rituals which brings communities together, motivate people to donate for good and bring a sense of Unity in society. None of the rituals that i have seen in my life have left me stiff and mortified. Some of them were plain boring but then nobody has ever forced me to be a part of them. Many of the festivals in Hinduism like Holi and Diwali are real fun.

      I will add a comprehensive answers to your questions in the next part of this blog. Your thoughts on my replies???

      Posted by Bobby-Allen | May 14, 2012, 3:41 pm
      • I’m impressed with the length, detail and work you’ve put into the response. I’m also impressed with the serene sense of comfort you have with Hinduism and I have to admit I envy you slightly. Are you right that Hinduism may out live both Christianity and Islam which are more rigid and unbending.
        I am glad about the general sense of ease hinduim offers you, but do you ever notice any problems which you feel it generates? If you put Hinduism on trial (for a brief moment) is it found innocent of charges that can be levelled against it, or can be found guilty of any excesses that cause social problems? Maybe it comes off with a glowing endorsement.
        I am also trying to write about money at the moment and would love to hear about what you have to say about Hinduism and money. What attitudes does Hinduism have towards money, wealth and the pursuit of material success? Do you notice any differences between Hinduism and other religions in this respect?

        Posted by spleenandspicesahota | May 14, 2012, 8:34 pm
        • Hinduism is different in different parts of India. Two adjacent villages can have two different set of unique rituals. Yet, you won’t find any conflict between those villages. Sure, there are many dangerous trends in Hinduism. Just look at the caste system. It has created vast rifts in the Hindu society. I have always been against animal sacrifice. Even today, Animal sacrifice (buffaloes) is done in Kamakhya temple. Such acts of cruelty against animals is a ghastly act in our modern society. Where barbarism at lower levels is allowed, Barbarism in higher levels will slowly seep through. Thanks to the Animals rights movement and governments that Animal sacrifice is dying out as a necessary ritual in Chandi (Durga) temples.

          If Hinduism is put on trial, it won’t be found innocent. But, it has gone through a sea of changes. Raja RamMohan could stop an ongoing widow burning (Sati) by standing in between the pyre and the mob. The several changes that Hinduism has gone through tells us that it is flexible and accommodating in nature.

          Yesterday, Dalits were devoid of human rights, not because of Vedas but because of the sheer influence that Manusmriti wielded among the higher castes. Today, you can burn a copy of Manusmriti and the only noise you will hear against it would be the burning sounds of paper. (To be clear, I am against burning of any books).

          About Money and its relation with Hinduism, I am planning to write a blog article. Hope I can answer some questions there.

          Posted by Bobby-Allen | May 15, 2012, 3:16 pm
          • Yes, I would appreciate any information here, because, as any check on Amazon will reveal, there is actually very very little on Religions and money, even though people like Max Weber so so much time in talking about Protestants and capitalism (which I don’t really take too seriously).

            You could be right that Hinduism could actually out last all the other of the word’s big religions, because it is more flexible and fluid. I was just reading an article about falling rates in belief and practice among black americans – I don’t think Christianity and Islam can survive education, learning and questions (which is why Islam, and Christianity for almost 2000 years wouldn’t tolerate free speech and enquiry).

            I look forward to your next blog and look forward to sending you my next page!

            Pele.

            Posted by spleenandspicesahota | May 15, 2012, 3:44 pm
            • Thanks Pele. Just take religion as a product, different religious denominations as brands, believers as customers, Mullahs and Pundits as sellers, churches as business houses and shops, Pope and Ayatollahs as CEO, Mohammad and Jesus as business founders- then look where the money is flowing. I will write as soon as I get some time on this topic. Till then, you can share your views.

              Posted by Bobby-Allen | May 16, 2012, 2:31 pm
            • Thanks for the reply, and I look forward to hearing about your work on money and wealth. I have a question for you though that is unrelated to money: does hinduism have any sort of concept of ‘blasphemy’, my online shabdkosh tells me that ‘isvar-ninda’ is a translation, but I want to know what cultural, role and power this phrase has – in Islamic countries a person can be killed for blasphemy, and it’s actually still illegal in most European countries too ….

              Any information would be welcome!

              Pele.

              Posted by spleenandspicesahota | May 17, 2012, 11:21 am
    • Hinduism is a way of life. It neither transgresses anything or anyone. As it is the oldest it is called the Sanatana Dharma. All human beings who are pure at heat and soul are Hindus or the religion they wish to accept. Hinduism does not differentiate between castr, creed, colour or ethnicity but when others propagate the ignorant behaviours of people who call them as Hindus as the fallacies of the religion. We can cite examples of Clergies and other who are so called propogators of other religion caught in indecent and illegal acts. That has got nothing to do with a religion. Harmony, peace, love, compassion and serving the needy and poor is the basic of most of the religions.

      Posted by harikrishnamurthy | May 24, 2012, 11:56 am
      • I cannot accept this naive and unbalanced view of religion – that religion’s only do good things, and the bad things can be blamed on someone or something else. You sound like somone insanely in love who cannot bear to hear of your mehboob slandered. Why, in this imperfect should, should religion be the one perfect thing? This sounds strange no?

        I don’t think the horrors of caste can be separated from Hinduism, neither do I think Islam speaks only the words of love, given that a person can be killed for saying and paiting certain things; I don’t believe religions are about ‘love’ – if they were, you would be able to go to Kashmir and tell the Muslims to stop being Muslim in the name of love, Hindus to stop being Hindu (in the name of love); Jews stop being Jewish (in the name of religion); Catholics in Ireland stop being Catholic
        (in the name of peace and brotherliness; Protestant stop being protestants (in the noble name of peace and stability), etc, etc, etc, …..

        In fact, if you look at the way many religions are designed (which means taking a stop back and looking at all religions globally and not just marvelling at your own religion), it’s pretty clear that they have to be designed to survive against other religions and so HAVE to portray themselves as better than other religions.

        Religion, the biggest problem with religion is that it is increasingly looking bankrupt at teaching knowledge, morals and values for the future. I’m sorry, but your idea that the people of the past were utterly enlightened and perfect in knowledge is not borne out by experience and history, and would suggest that religions, like all man made structures, contain mistakes.

        Posted by Pele Sahota | May 24, 2012, 3:07 pm
  2. Reblogged this on bluedyedflower and commented:
    I loved this read….

    Posted by Blue-Dyed-Flower | May 14, 2012, 6:39 am
  3. even an atheist can be a hindu. no compulsion in religion.

    Posted by ajit | May 20, 2012, 4:03 pm
  4. Its little funny to see that how strongly you are opposing a religion! There could be beliefs in any religion that may not appeal to others of a community of people. I don’t disagree with your views because they are plainly your views. But you shouldn’t also judge a religion or the holiness of thoughts of its followers by incidents that you’ve written 🙂

    Posted by TheFreeSpiritedSoul | August 11, 2012, 8:26 pm
    • You say I ‘should’t’ do this and that’, but can you tell me why? And your point is quite important – at first a person “shouldn’t” criticise religion; but eventually it becomes ‘a person cannot criticise religion’; this then naturally evolves into ‘a person can be killed for criticising religion’. Look at history. Blasphemy is a distinctly religious crime, and anyone claiming that ‘religion is about love’ has to explain the peculiar crime of blashpemy which is a hate crime against people who disagree.
      You also have to explain why the 3 most politically dangerous places on earth involve religion and ideology: Israel/Palestine; Kashmir; and North/South Korea. America’s relationship to Iran has now also become blindly ‘religious’ and it’s not a relationship based on love. All these places involve powers with nuclear weapons so we’re talking about something serious here.
      Can you offer me a scientific distinction between ‘real’ religion (you know, the good stuff that you like) and fake religion? I suspect both are part of one whole that is real, and the good things people do they can do without religion and it’s outdated beliefs.
      Finally, have you ever thought about religion as something far more complex that what you are suggesting? What about the relationship between religion and fear; religion and politics; religion and cults; religion and freedom, one religion in relation to other religions, religion and women, religion and minorities?
      bye for now.

      Posted by Pele Sahota | August 12, 2012, 7:18 am

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