This is an Article series consisting of 3 parts.
In this part 1, some solid and important facts about the relevance of Hinduism are discussed.
In the part 2, some frequently asked questions from religion/ spiritual point of view have been answered.
In the Part 3 , some FAQs from sociological point of view (issues related to inter-religious love affairs and marriages) are being answered.
At the outset, Hinduism is just not a religion; it is known as Sanatana Dharma — the eternal righteous way of living. The base of Sanatana Dharma (or Hinduism) is so widespread that it has place for accommodating innumerable ways of establishing a relationship with God and attaining oneness with Him as the ultimate goal of life. It is like a cone with a large circular base and as one rises up higher and higher in quest of spirituality, it ultimately leads one to a single point at the top.
Fact 1: Hinduism is so unique and so wide-based – there is really no need to look elsewhere for anything missing
With a clear acceptance of the universal fact that people have different tastes and temperaments as regards to any relationship, Hinduism offers so much of ‘variety of choice’ in the practice of religion, which is nothing but establishing are relationship with God. Be it with regard to choosing a specific God form for love and worship, method of worship, practice of austerities, school of philosophy to learn and follow, type of rituals to practice and so on, Hinduism offers so much variety. The idea is: you start with what is traditional to you, what is comfortable to you, what is digestible to you and what is tasteful to you. Then go deeper; understand better; widen your outlook; don’t get trapped into sheer compartmentalization; grow up; turn inwards rather than outwards; out-grow from your earlier presumptions and self-made boundaries. Know the ultimate truth; know that you are no different from the very ultimate truth that you have been in quest of all along!
In other words, a variety of religious and spiritual avenues are available within Hinduism itself for one to seek God for spiritual progress or worldly prosperity or for removal of hurdles, pains and sorrows in life by praying to God and seeking His divine grace. There is really no need to go in search of any other religion for that matter. If someone finds anything higher or better in any other religion, it is only because he has not really bothered to look deeper into his own religion with earnestness.
Vested interests from other religions , who believe God to be nameless and formless, may mock at Hindus for worshiping idols; for worshiping umpteen God forms — Gods in male, female and animal forms, Gods having thousands of names and so on. If misguided Hindus with very little inclination to know deeper about the significance of all these in Hinduism join the vested interests and start ridiculing our own religion, we can only feel sorry for them.
Fact 2: Hinduism does not woo people from other religions with an agenda to convert them to Hinduism
By virtue of being the Sanatana Dharma, Hinduism is not something meant for ‘sales promotion’ , ‘mass distribution’ or ‘mass consumption’. That’s why there are no religious movements in Hinduism to woo and convert people from other religions to Hinduism. No Hindu organization gets any funding to send missionaries to other countries for the sole purpose of converting people from other religions to Hinduism. Hindus don’t build schools and hospitals to show how loving and caring their religion is, with a hidden agenda of converting people to Hinduism.
Whatever mode of conversion to Hinduism offered nowadays through Arya Samaj is also NOT meant for wooing other religious people to convert to Hinduism, but only to offer an avenue (which was not available in the past in Hinduism) for the benefit of misguided people of Hindu origin, who had converted to other religions (for whatever reason) and want to return to Hinduism.
Fact 3: It is Hinduism that keeps producing so many Mahatmas and great spiritual masters from time to time to guide people in religion and spirituality
Unlike any other religion, only Hinduism has the unique advantage and proven track record of gifting to the world innumerable spiritual masters, great Mahatmas, great devotees, God realized (and self-realized) Gurus and great Avatars as if in a never ending stream, in this great land of India.
Why is it happening only in Hinduism and not significantly in other religions?
It is because of the following reasons:
1) As per Hinduism everything in creation is nothing but God — every one of us is potentially divine. Because of maya, this is not available for easy grasp for everyone. But it is the fact that those who earnestly seek to know this truth by experience get divine and guru’s guidance and they realize the truth and become one with God. In other words, Hindu religious experience of practical divinity is not restricted to a ‘Father in heaven and his One and Only Son’! It is not restricted to one single Messiah who is the only ordained one to know and reveal the truth and no one else. It is not restricted to a single holy book, a single or rigid school of philosophy or a single divine form or a God who cannot have name and form.
2) Because of the fact that Hinduism has such a wide base, there are umpteen streams available within the religion to travel through and reach the ocean. Whether one worships a God in the form a male, a female, an animal or in a mix of human and animal, Hinduism asserts that spiritual progress is possible by all means. If a Hindu believes in God without form, or he/she feels no emotional need for devotional worship too, there are streams available for such an earnest seeker to follow in Hinduism. Each of the paths has its own strong connection to the core of Hinduism and hence there are realized souls available from different streams of Hinduism. Thus such masters could declare to others by virtue of their personal experience that every path in Hinduism is valid.
Fact 4: Great Hindu Masters cut across religious barriers too and inspire people from all religions
Why do we hail these spiritual masters of Hinduism as ‘great’? Is it out of our mad infatuation to our religion or a sense of natural pride (rightly or wrongly) towards our own religious greatness?
No. We hail them as great because such saints who realized truth by following a particular segment of Hinduism, have indeed attained the peak and they could clearly see from that elevated state that every path in Hinduism does lead one to the single final goal only. Such a master then is able to impress, enthuse, inspire and guide earnest religious aspirants from several other schools of Hinduism as well! It does not stop there. Such great masters attract people and aspirants from other religions too!
Such a spiritual saints cease to be the ‘sole property’ of Hinduism. Their appeal and attraction becomes universal.
That’s how great spiritual masters like Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, his consort Sarada Devi, his disciple Swami Vivekananda, Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi, Papa Ramadas, Swami Sivananda (Divine Life Society), Shirdi Saibaba, Satya Saibaba, Shri Chandrasekara Saraswathi (‘Maha Swamigal’ of Kanchi Math), Anandamayi Ma, Mata Amritanandamayi and such other Mahatmas could attract innumerable Christian and other religious followers from nook and corners of the world and give the seekers guidance on spiritual progress.
Do these masters try to woo the eager beavers from other religions to get converted to Hinduism? Never. Do they ever preach that only through following Hinduism one can attain liberation? Never. On the contrary, they encourage people to go deeper into their own religions, grasp the truth behind their own religious teachings and try to live true to them.
Very learned pundits and erudite scholars of Philosophies come and prostrate before these Mahatmas (some of these mahatmas may not even have passed primary school level!) and seek clarification on scriptures that they have been learning for decades but could not grasp the true purport and they get convinced and enlightened by a simple explanation from these great souls! It is because what these mahatmas explain comes from the root of their own personal experience and not just from bookish knowledge.
Many Christians used to seek clarification on teachings and quotes off Bible from Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi. He used to explain them from the point of view of the essence of Hinduism based on his own personal experience.
If any of the followers from other religion who get greatly attracted to Hinduism, its teachings, its Gods and religious practices opt to change their names to typical Hindu names, start dressing like Hindus, start worshiping Hindu Gods, chant sthotras on Hindu Gods and sing bhajans, these masters don’t discourage them either. They know for sure that what matters for an individual is the peculiar taste that he finds appealing and attractive for following in his/her spiritual pursuit and that freedom is available, as it is available for any Hindu, to people from other religion too.
The point to note is that the great spiritual masters of Hinduism never say “Your religion is okay, but you will get liberation or salvation only if you get converted to Hinduism and worship Hindu Gods”. They would rather say, “The kingdom of God is within you, and it is up to look within yourself and attain it”.