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What it meant to be a Hindu for me

Posted by Admin on May 26, 2012

http://cosmicstories.wordpress.com/2012/05/13/what-it-meant-to-be-a-hindu-for-me/

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.

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A brief history of Hinduism

Posted by Admin on May 26, 2012

http://cosmicstories.wordpress.com/2012/05/17/a-brief-history-of-hinduism/

A brief history of Hinduism

May 17, 2012 by

|| Like mothers to their calves, like milch kine with their milk, so, Sindhu, unto thee the roaring rivers run.
Thou leadest as a warrior king thine army’s wings what time thou comest in the van of these swift streams. || [Rig Veda]

The word Hindu is derived from word Sindhu which means Indus in English. The religion of the people at eastern side of Indus was called Hinduism by Arabs and British.

When we didn’t have any answers to the questions of the universe, our ancestors used to invoke a super-natural entity to answer those curiosities. That Supernatural power is God. Religion is a set of cultures and beliefs which tells human-beings about how to live their life morally and connect their human self with a metaphysical self of God. Naturally, every tribe, culture, nation, race must have had their own set of supernatural beliefs. In India, different groups of people believed in different kind of Gods and performed different rituals to please them.

The oldest civilization in India established itself around the river Indus.  It was called the Indus Valley Civilization. This is considered one of the oldest civilizations in human history (est. 3300 BCE). Seals have been found during excavations which show that the Indus valley people revered a deity which almost looked like Lord Shiva. Also, seals of Swastika and remnants of fire altars have been found in the excavations of Kalibangan.

The Indus valley civilization declined around 1500 BCE. It was the time when Vedic Rituals and culture took over. We call this period as the Vedic periods because it was when the earliest Vedas were formed. Rig-Veda is the oldest Veda. Though it is very hard to determine the precise age and location where early hymns of Rig-Veda were formed but it can be argued that Vedas are thousands of years old. Rig-Veda talks about Soma as God; also Soma is an intoxicating plant that is currently found in western Pakistan. The other two initial Veda were Sama-Veda and Yajur-Veda. The last Veda to be compiled was Atharva-Veda during 1000 BC. It is a collection of hymns and chants for healing diseases. One point to mention here is that all the Vedas were propagated orally. That is, Teachers in different schools of thoughts in Vedic societies used to preach the Vedas orally. The students would cram those verses by heart and teach their own students. It was not until 300 BCE that Vedas were codified into written language. Think about the vast periods in which Vedas were just propagated orally? Anyone can easily deduce by logic that Vedas must have been corrupted and changed by some of the teachers in between. Fire-sacrifices, called yajñawere performed during this period, and Vedic mantras chanted but no temples or idols are

Seals of the Indus Valley Civilization. also showing Swastikas. British Museum. Personal photograph, 2005.

known.

Around 500 BCE, there were many schools of thoughts all over India. They taught similar or different concepts of the world. Many new texts were written during that time. Puranas are the texts which tell the stories about Gods, Philosophy, Universe, Morality and other things. Gods fight against the demons in these texts and humans get a reason to endure their earthly pains and hope for a good world by praying and believing in an afterlife through Puranas. According to Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Śrīmad Bhāgavatam ; Puranas are the texts through which an ordinary individual can learn about the Vedas.

                                                       nārāyaṇaḿ namaskṛtya

                                                            naraḿ caiva narottamam

devīḿ sarasvatīḿ vyāsaḿ

tato jayam udīrayet”

[All men are not equal. There are men who are conducted by the mode of goodness, others who are under the mode of passion and others who are under the mode of ignorance. The Purāṇas are so divided that any class of men can take advantage of them and gradually regain their lost position and get out of the hard struggle for existence.]

Epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata were compiled during 500 BCE. They were also propagated through oral traditions.

Goddess Durga riding a Tiger.

Until now, my readers must have understood that several texts and cultures had come out in different parts of India during this period. Different groups in India worshipped different Gods; it was based on the school of thought with which they were influenced. Let us take the example of Goddess Durga. She is mostly worshipped in the Himalayan ranges of Uttrakhand (Indian state) or Bengal (The state that was once a dense jungle of Mahogany trees and Tigers). The major occupation of people of these places must have been to collect woods and other things from dense forests. They must have been afraid from Tigers and Lions living in those jungles. As we know, people start worshiping those things that they fear off. Is it a surprise that Goddess Durga rides a tiger? She is an embodiment of the fear that those tribal people felt, she is s goddess borne out of the fear of those people.

Buddhism and Jainism are offshoots of the early Vedic religions. These were the schools which did not believe in the superiority of Vedas. They taught their own philosophies of reaching a higher goal through breathing exercises, worldly acts and meditations.

Islam entered India during 7th century CE.  It was the period when many Indians converted to Islam through force and subjugation. The Indian philosophies about God we got highly influenced by the thoughts of Islam. Numerous Muslim rulers or their army generals such as Aurangzeb and Malik Kafur destroyed Hindu temples and persecuted non-Muslims; however some, such as Akbar, were more tolerant. It was during this period when Bhakti movement in India got prominence. There were many Indians in south that used to worship only one God. They were either Shaivites (Followers of Shiva) or Vaishnavites (Followers of Vishnu). They started preaching about one religion in India and they brought all the different rituals and cultures in India under one umbrella body of Hinduism. During the 14th–17th centuries, a great Bhakti movement swept through central and northern India, initiated by a loosely associated group of teachers or saints. Ravidas, Srimanta Sankardeva, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Vallabhacharya, Surdas, Meera Bai, Kabir, Tulsidas, Namdev, Dnyaneshwar, Tukaram and other mystics spearheaded the Bhakti movement in the North. They taught that people could cast aside the heavy burdens of ritual and caste, and the subtle complexities of philosophy, and simply express their overwhelming love for God. This period was also characterized by a spate of devotional literature in vernacular prose and poetry in the ethnic languages of the various Indian states or provinces. The word Hindu was borrowed into European languages from the Arabic term al-Hind, referring to the land of the people who live across the River Indus, itself from the Persian term Hindū, which refers to all Indians. By the 13th century, Hindustān emerged as a popular alternative name of India, meaning the “land of Hindus“. This was the time when Hinduism was really born. Before that it was just a collection of different faiths and cultures that were followed in different parts of India.

Hinduism can be called as a collective term for all the different traditions that were followed at the eastern side of river Indus. The Britishers who ruled India called Hinduism as a religion that was followed all over India. As per the above definition, Hinduism cannot be characterized as a religion like the western religions of Islam and Christianity. Some academics suggest that Hinduism can be seen as a category with “fuzzy edges”, rather than as a well-defined and rigid entity.

Hinduism does not have a common or single founder. It has evolved since the ages. Hinduism is flexible and accommodates any views that come to its vicinity. Therefore, there is no particular time at which we can say that Hinduism was born. Nobody can say about which book is the central book of Hinduism. Nobody can define who a Hindu is? Because of its weak and fuzzy boundaries, Hinduism is both a monotheistic as well as a Polytheistic religion. That depends on the followers. A follower can easily choose what he wants to believe into. There are numerous Hindus who believe in one God like Vishnu and Shiva and plus there are a million others who believe in millions of Gods.

Just remember that, if a person is from India and is not a Christian, Jew or Muslim, than most probably he is a Hindu. Even if his beliefs do not match with his neighboring Hindu – Hinduism allows for that variety. There is no common founder of Hinduism. It has evolved as things evolve with time and finally, it has found a name for itself.

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