Hinduism is truly a pluralistic tradition. It is a world religion that reaches out to embrace other faiths with respect and honors the sincere beliefs of others without trying to convert them.
It is a religion but more so, a tradition – a way of righteous living.
No matter what path to spirituality, Hinduism teaches that we are all trying to get there like with a GPS – the shortest route may not be the quickest and may not be the most scenic! So the tolerance and mutual respect of other traditions is a very important message of Hinduism.
“Namaste” means “I honor the Divinity within you” and is a traditional greeting in Hinduism. In many ways, it is also the crux of Hinduism.
What is Hinduism?
Many-many traditions over 7,500 year period have come together and this complex is popularly called Hinduism. Its history may be uncertain but what is certain is that there is no one who speaks for all Hindus, for that matter for any Hindu, so it’s very open to improvisation. How one practices it, of course based on certain basic tenets, is their personal matter – nobody else’s.
In this sense, Hinduism is totally non-sectarian - how the conception of God plays out in one’s day-to-day life; it’s a way of life rather than a religion. To quote a well-known scholar of Hinduism, “no wonder Hinduism sees itself as universal, catholic with a little c, because it represents an entire range of spiritual possibilities and provides spiritual technologies by which one can practice any religion one chooses. It can accommodate spiritual seekers who see God as personal as most of us Hindus do, and also those who prefer an impersonal Absolute; it speaks to those who call themselves Hindus, and to those who do not. It even includes modes of practice for the gradual elevation of those who disbelieve in spiritual reality and who favor atheistic worldview.”
Hinduism is often described as a river – many traditions coming together and this complex we call Hinduism.
- Hinduism has no known founder. It sees its origin in the cosmic mind itself.
- It’s the world’s largest pluralistic tradition, recognizing One Truth but many paths to realize it.
- World’s oldest religion, over 7,500 years old.
- Sees its origin going back to the dawn of history.
- Perhaps also the youngest because it allows for its social compacts to evolve over time.
- Largest Non-organized Religion with over 1 Billion Hindus.
- 3rd largest religion after Christianity and Islam.
Discussion question: What is the impact of having no earthly founder?
Hinduism & India
Hinduism is fundamentally linked to the exotic soil of India.
India has all major religions but Hinduism is the largest.
Over a billion Hindus live in India – about 80% of India’s 1.25 billion people.
To fully understand Hinduism, one needs to look at the practices of Hindus.
Hinduism is NOT an Organized Religion
The individualistic practice in Hinduism doesn’t mean that Hindus do not look to spiritual teachers (gurus) for guidance on teaching. On the whole, it’s not an organized religion, rather a tradition – a way of life.
No one that speaks for all Hindus, for that matter any Hindu.
Each Hindu is free to practice faith as one chooses - totally individualistic, based on one’s conscience and certain basic tenets.
Discussion question: What are the advantages and disadvantages of Hinduism being non-organized?
Hindu View: We all want Happiness
Hinduism affirms that we all naturally seek fullness and wish to avoid sorrow and unhappiness.
In 1920, Parmahansa Yogananda came to the United States as India's delegate to an International Congress of Religious Liberals convening in Boston. That same year, he founded the Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) to disseminate worldwide his teachings on India's ancient practices and philosophy of Yoga and its tradition of meditation.
His book, The Autobiography of a Yogi, was the only book that Steve Jobs downloaded in his iPad2.
“So long we believe that our capacity is limited, we grow anxious and unhappy. We are lacking in faith. One who truly trusts in God has no right to be anxious about anything.” - Swami Parmahansa Yogananda