The younger and dominant religions of the world are faiths. They have holy books that tell them somethings and that their preachers interpret and the faithful unquestioningly accept and follow. It is “blasphemy” to be an “unbeliever”.
Hinduism is not “a faith”. It is not even, as some might say, “a collection of faiths”.
It is a journey of self-discovery or questioning. Even our Bhagavad Gita is in the form of a dialogue, questioning and answering. It is clear who is the student and who is the guru. But the student is welcome to state his opinions and ask his questions.
At the end of the dialogue, a convinced student accepts the ideas of the guru. He may acquire a faith in the ideas of that Guru. Else a dissatisfied student legs off in search of another guru who can convince him/her, answer questions and solve the problems posed. He may have lost faith in his first Guru.
There are swayam acharyas who teach themselves and others who need their help. There are families who inherit their gurus. s’ankarAcArya is the guru I have “inherited”.
The upanishads and Bhagavad Gita (as well as the arthasastras, dharma sastras, astronomical siddhantas and samhitas), first state the positions of the previous thinkers. (eg the phrase “some say by vidya and some say by avidya” – in the is’A upaniSad – yajurveda). Then they go on to give the views of the present speaker and their justifications.
If you “accept” (mata) the ideas of some speaker, he/she becomes your guru. If you only “partially accept” their ideas.. it is not correct to call them your guru. At a time you can have only one Guru.
If you “accept” the divinity of some being, they become your dEva or God. I accept the divinity of Hanuman, he is God to me. You accept the divinity of muruga, he is God to you!
Hindus can accept the divinity of as many beings as they like. I can accept Brahma, Siva, Vinayaka, Vishnu, Rama, Krishna, my parents, teachers, my children, the Sun and the Moon and the stars, the as’wattha tree, the little sparrow and my pencil as divine. The more divinity I see around me, in the food I eat, in my own heart and body, in the eyes of young animals.. in the clouds.. the better I am.
For Hindus zero is also a number. “As many beings as I like” can be zero beings. I can refuse to accept that any beings are divine. I can be what westerners call “an atheist”. For eg Charvaka. I can still be a respected Maharshi. I would still be a Hindu. My contributions would be valid and my views would be quoted not suppressed.
Hinduism lets you follow your own personal path to the discovery of the Truth, the Sat. You can meditate, study the scriptures, do penance, chant God’s name.. go to temples ..or follow a guru!
Some Hindus do have faith. In karma, in tayattus, in dEvas, in mantras, in Gurus, in divinity, in science, in medical science, in puranas, in grandmothers, in their neighbours, friends, relatives.. and so on. They have faith that some or all of these things will save them from trouble and benefit them in good times.
Some believe that a “higher being” or “higher consciousness” .. or good deeds like charity.. will benefit them.
This last vestige of freedom of thought and tolerance that exists in religious and spiritual matters is called Hinduism.
Some people call it sanAtana dharma.
You can all it satya s’Odhana – the search for truth, or you can call it yOga or something even different.
Hinduism lets you find your own way to the Truth, under the guidance of someone that you choose.
If someone insists that you hold his religious views that is very unHindu of them.
Authorship and Copyright Notice : All Rights Reserved : Satya Sarada Kandula.