Hinduism/Vedism is vast and accommodating the varied nature of people, still providing a framework for the lives to progress in spirituality. For one who has not taken up the study of Hinduism through established process, it may be confusing. Here is an attempt to provide a crisp overview of “what is Hinduism?”. Beyond this the seeker could decide to delve deep on specific subjects in Hinduism. God bless us through this sweet journey of exploration.
Concept of Hinduism
Hinduism being very vast with its philosophies and emitting the light that stood time tested, glares many times the eyes of one who seeks to find what is inside it. Often one gets confused with the availability of multiple answers to the same question and the presence of numerous ways that it suggests to one who seeks it for upliftment. Because of this glare one may see only the darkness and may tend to think Hinduism is a religion of rituals and old fashioned. But when one comes beyond this initial confusion and gets to taste its real essence, he/she would realize these qualities of Hinduism are in fact its assets.
Hinduism is an open-minded discipline. It is a discipline that does not use force on its follower. That is, it does not dictate the follower to act by one step by step recipe it gives, condemning all other recipes. In fact Hinduism is a discipline that allows many religions like shaivam, vaishnavam and many others to coexist sharing the dharma (discipline), permitting many philosophies – at times mutually exclusive – to be propounded. It is not a religion of mere postulations. It is a free but disciplined system, which has the concepts that could be proved by logic or by experience.
Religion of Hinduism
Hinduism is the place which suits both the adventurous intellectual who wants to explore the essence and the real truth and the simple person who would be happy to follow a simplified procedure set that would easily uplift him/her without having to break the head with philosophies. It also allows the in-between person who wants to just make sure that what he/she gets is good enough and at the same time not getting caught in the complex current. It is a roaring gigantic waterfall that runs into streams and sub-streams that joins and finally into the ocean. The brave courageous thinkers could go to the trunk of the magnificent waterfall to explore and share the feeling with others, while the ones who do not want to get bewildered by that route could quench their thirst from one of the nice streams flowing from there and all in-between could go up to the point to satisfy themselves that the streams are from the same trunk and reaching the same ocean.
The problem comes when the simple one gets scared of the roaring complexities of the Hinduism and the adventurous one sees only the narrow running stream. It is a problem of improper application but not a problem of the system itself.
Hinduism, when proper facade of it is chosen depending upon ones own requirements, is certain to bring the upliftment for one who follows – be it the one who wants to simply follow things, or be it the one who wants to go with things only after lengthy analysis or the one who wants to be balanced between the two.
Meaning of the word Hinduism
Hinduism, the word having its roots in Indus (the river), refers to the religion and philosophies that were prospering in the land around and beyond the river Indus. Hinduism originally was spread throughout the world (1), but at some later periods of time it has been practiced only in the Indian subcontinent. The discipline having no founder for itself and is in existence from the time undefined does not refer to itself as Hinduism. It was the people from outside who discovered this practice called it by this name Hinduism and now that has been generally referred to by this name only.
What was Hinduism originally called?
Originally the names that were used to refer to this discipline are vaidIka dharma (meaning discipline of vedas) and sanatana dharma(meaning eternal discipline). If the religions practiced in the subcontinent are referred to as Hinduism it would mean a broad umbrella, which includes the Jainism, Buddhism and various other religions that took birth in this land and then spread to the other parts. These religions share many of the common roots with the sanatana dharma. Hinduism being an open framework and these philosophies and customs are very closely associated with the main streams, it may not be wrong all together to call them so. However, as Hinduism is vaidika dharma – based on vedas, and since Jainism and Buddhism do not base their doctrines on vedas, in these sections generally Hinduism would mean the core Hindu discipline – based on vedas.
It is quite important to note the fact that it is a discipline and not a religion by the terms as defined for most other religions. As already said, it is actually, a framework where different religions and philosophies build on the core knowledge and grow.
How Hinduism compares with other religions
Before we start getting to the details of Hinduism, it would be quite useful to get registered with the fact that Hinduism is quite different from the normal religion definitions and hence asks for a complete paradigm shift in terms of what is being looked for in a religion. Unless this preparation is done one is very likely to be bewildered and overwhelmed by the gigantic versatility of Hindu concepts. Many people get confused when they try to compare Hinduism with the other religions say like Christianity or Islam. While most of other religions have “well defined” boundaries, the question they have is why Hinduism is not like that. For example there would be one named God, one holy book, one founder, one set of rules, which the adheres must follow, and Hinduism does not have these kind of definitions.
Doctrine of Hinduism
This is the most important and valuable specialty of Hinduism that it has not closed itself inside any contours, but is the realistic representation of the limitlessness of knowledge and experience. It is absolutely open minded. This is the religion that calls let the good things come from all the directions of the world (aa no bhadrah kratavo yantu vishvatah – Rig veda). Thus this religion nurtured the good concepts with a neutral mindset. Hinduism is a dharma (discipline) than a religion. Various religions stand over this dharma. In general this is not the religion of just postulations.
Very naturally this religion does not force even the acceptance of God to the followers. The Hindus are not threatened that they would be punished for not praying/believing the God, whereas the major scriptures advice the followers to hold to the God in order to get liberated from the rough road of pleasures and pains! Even those things undergo a very healthy debate. Nothing is unquestionable. The Hindu scriptures instead of defining the way, in which the Hindus should live, in a better way, act as supporting material for the individual to decide the course of life and stand by that.
Does it mean that there is no discipline and guidance? Certainly it provides various “ready to use” paths for the simple people, but this is not a forced one for others. It would be astonishing to note that in the same platform of Hinduism both the ritualistic orthodox traditions and something like nyaya vada, which questions and criticizes blind faith etc stay, harmoniously with meaningful discussions among them. The reason is the openness of this religion.
Significance of Hinduism
Hinduism is the oldest and active among all the religions that have very big number of followers. There is no definite date of birth for this religion and even in future whether it could be clearly found is not quite possible, given the fact that this discipline is found in existence even in the earliest analyzed period of the modern history. In this very big period this matured religion has contributed a lot to the humanity and developments. It is worth to stress the scientific approach and openness towards things, the proof of which lie through all its scriptures very rich in knowledge covering a large panorama, be it astronomy, mathematics, alchemy, health and personal growth and what not! The inventions and discoveries by the Hindu sages who also formulated the number system are in numerous which one finds scattered all throughout the scriptures. But it is quite shocking that the later generations, which were in politically disturbed state forgot/ ignored/ lost many of these marvels.
A unique characteristic of Hindu set of religions (includes Buddism, Jainism etc) is that its philosophers start the analysis from a more concrete and most logical question of “who am I” than to start with the postulations on an abstract God at the start. When you invent something, you probably need to have define the abstract result first and work towards that. But when it is a discovery, it should be following the known information one gets to know the unknown things beyond and finally comes the great discovery. Hinduism does not invent God but it discovers. It neither stops at the human boundary confused and failing to go forward, but gets to the divine aspects supported by facts. This makes their findings more logical and realistic and even the super human descriptions experienceable if not explainable.
These and many more specialties of Hinduism make it a harmonious and worth religion, which is suitable for any time in present or future, for any land or creed.
Who is the founder of Hindu religion?
Normally a philosopher/ prophet comes up with a system revolutionary or at least that did not exist before for that set o followers. Accepting the new system disciples and other people start following the religious system and for the new religion that person is the founder.
In case of Hinduism
- The system existed from time unmemorable.
- Hindu scriptures talk about things that happened at periods of time, whose specified count is much much higher than the period well known to history scholars of current time. (yuga, manvantara, kalpa etc.)
- Even the scientific excavations show the existence of well-developed worship, at very early periods. (For example excavations in ancient towns of Harappa and Mohenjo daro reveal the ancient worship of pashupati, shiva linga – the Hindu God Shiva.)
- There were, of course, very many philosophers who came up with new systems. However given the wide spectrum of Hinduism, its accommodative-ness towards new ideas and philosophies all the new changes made it a healthy religion that does not get stagnant.
- People used their discretion to find the suitable paths through the wisdom of one or more philosophers and there was a real diverse system.
So, there is No Single (Human) Founder for Hinduism and it existed from time unexplored, as a religion.
For that purusha the celestial’s are the (first) worshipers.