No.Â Â CHAPTERÂ Page In Printed Volume
1Â Â Personal Encounters with HinduismÂ 1
2Â Â Religious Loyalty and CommitmentÂ 103
3Â Â Gurudeva Speaks on Entering HinduismÂ 113
4Â Â Gurudeva Speaks on Ethical ConversionÂ 131
Does Hinduism Accept Newcomers?
6Â Â Beliefs of All the World's ReligionsÂ 169
7Â Â Six Steps of ConversionÂ 257
Â Â Real-Life Severance Letters and
Â Â Other Personal Documents
8Â Â Choosing a Hindu NameÂ 281Â
Â Â Sanskrit Birthstar Syllables
Â Â A Collection of Hindu Names
9Â Â Embracing Hindu CultureÂ 337
10Â Â Nine Questions About HinduismÂ 351
Â Conclusion--NirvahanamÂ 369
Â Glossary--Shabda KoshaÂ
Â Supplementary StudiesÂ
Â About the AuthorÂ
Â An Invitation to Monastic LifeÂ
Â Reviews and Comments
Second Edition, First Printing, 3,000 copies
Copyright 2000 by Himalayan Academy
How to Become a (Better) Hindu, A Guide for Seekers and Born Hindus is published by Himalayan Academy. First published as Saivite Names in 1989. All rights are reserved. This book may be used to share the Hindu Dharma with others on the spiritual path, but reproduced only with the publisher's prior written consent. Designed, typeset, edited and ported to the Web by the sannyasin swamis of the Saiva Siddhanta Yoga Order, 107 Kaholalele Road, Kapaa, Hawaii, 96746-9304, USA.
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Cover art: Chennai artist S. Rajam depicts some of the typical steps a soul takes in adopting Hinduism (clockwise from upper left): confronting previous religious leaders to inform them of this change; Lord Siva looks on; young aspirant studies the scriptures and philosophy of Sanatana Dharma; Western convert learns to wrap a sari as part of her cultural immersion; Chinese seeker worships Lord Ganesha; priests conduct the traditional homa rites for the final ceremony, the name-giving sacrament, namakarana samskara:
N THE SPRING OF 1990, A GROUP OF teenagers from the Hindu Temple of Greater Chicago, Lemont, sent a formal request to me for "official answers" to nine questions they had been commonly asked about their religious heritage by their American peers. These same questions had perplexed the Hindu youth themselves, and their parents, they confided, had no convincing answers. We took up the challenge and provided the following answers to the nine questions. We begin with advice on the attitudes to hold when responding.
First, ask yourself, "Who is asking the question?" Millions of Americans are sincerely interested in Hinduism and the many Asian religions. Therefore, when asked questions about Hinduism, do not take a defensive position, even if the questioner seems confrontational. Instead assume that the person really wants to learn. With this in mind, it is still important never to answer a question about religion too boldly or too immediately. This might lead to confrontation. Offer a prologue first and then come to the question, guiding the inquirer toward understanding. Your poise and deliberateness give the assurance that you know what you are talking about. It also gives you a moment to think and draw upon your intuitive knowing. Before going deeply into an answer, always ask the questioner what his religion is. Knowing who is asking, you can address his particular frame of mind and make your answer most relevant. Another important key: have confidence in yourself and your ability to give a meaningful and polite response. Even to say, "I am sorry. I still have much to learn about my religion and I don't yet know the answer to that," is a meaningful answer. Honesty is always appreciated. Never be afraid to admit what you don't know, for this lends credibility to what you do know.
Here are four prologues that can be used, according to the situation, before you begin to actually answer a question. 1) "I am really pleased that you are interested in my religion. You may not know that one out of every six people in the world is a Hindu." 2) "Many people have asked me about my spiritual tradition. I don't know everything, but I will try to answer your question." 3) "first, you should know that in Hinduism it is not only belief and intellectual understanding that is important. Hindus place the greatest value on experiencing each of these truths personally." 4) The fourth type of prologue is to repeat the question to see if the person has actually stated what he wants to know. So, repeat the question in your own words and ask if you have understand his query correctly. If it's a complicated question, you might begin by saying, "Philosophers have spent lifetimes discussing and pondering questions such as this, but I will do my best to explain in a simple way."
Have courage. Speak from your inner mind. Sanatana Dharma is an experiential path, not a dogma, so your experience in answering questions will help your own spiritual unfoldment. You will learn from your answers if you listen to your inner mind speak. This can be a lot of fun. The attentive teacher always learns more than the student.
After the prologue, address the question without hesitation. If the person is sincere, you can say, "Do you have any other questions?" If he wants to know more, then elaborate as best you can. Use easy, everyday examples. Share what enlightened souls and scriptures of Hinduism have said on the subject. Remember, we must not assume that everyone who asks about Hinduism is insincere or is challenging our faith. Many are just being friendly or making conversation to get to know you. So don't be on the defensive or take it all too seriously. Smile when you give your response. Be open. If the second or third question is on something you know nothing about, you can say, "I don't know. But if you are really interested, I will find out or mail you some literature or lend you one of my books." Smile and have confidence as you give these answers. Don't be shy. There is no question that can be put to you in your birth karmas that you cannot rise up to with a fine answer to fully satisfy the seeker. You may make lifelong friends in this way.
The nine answers below are organized with a one-line response, followed by a longer answer, then a more detailed explanation. You may be surprised to find how many people are content with the most simple and short answer, so start with that first. You may use the explanation as background information for yourself, or as a contingency response in case you end up in a deeper philosophical discussion. Memorize the answers and use them as needed. So now we begin with the questions your classmates and friends may have been asking you all the time.
Question One: Why does Hinduism have so many Gods?
A: While acknowledging many Gods, all Hindus believe in a one Supreme God who creates and sustains the universe.
Longer answer: Hindus believe in one God, one humanity and one world. We believe that there is one Supreme God who created the universe and who is worshiped as Light, Love and Consciousness. People with different languages and cultures have understood the one God in their own distinct way. This is why we are very tolerant of all religions, as each has its own pathway to the one God. One of the unique understandings in Hinduism is that God is not far away, living in a remote heaven, but is inside each and every soul, in the heart and consciousness, waiting to be discovered. This knowing that God is always with us gives us hope and courage. Knowing the One Great God in this intimate and experiential way is the goal of Hindu spirituality.
Explanation: Hinduism is both monotheistic and henotheistic. Hindus were never polytheistic, in the sense that there are many equal Gods. Henotheism better defines the Hindu view of a single Supreme God with many other divinities. We Hindus believe there is one all-pervasive God who energizes the entire universe. We can see Him in the life shining out of the eyes of humans and all creatures. This view of God as existing in and giving life to all things is called "panentheism." It is different from pantheism, which is the belief that God is the natural universe and nothing more. It is also different from strict theism which says God is only above the world, apart and transcendent. Panentheism is a beautiful concept. It says that God is both in the world and beyond it, both immanent and transcendent. That is the Hindu view. Hindus also believe in many devas or Gods who perform various functions, like executives in a large corporation. These should not be confused with God. There is one Supreme God only. What is sometimes confusing to non-Hindus is that Hindus of various sects may call the one God by many different names, according to their regional tradition. Truth for the Hindu has many names, but that does not make for many truths. Hinduism gives us the freedom to approach God in our own way, without demanding conformity to any dogma.
Advice: There is much confusion about this subject, not only among Hindus but among those on the outside looking in. Learn the right terms and the subtle differences in them, and you can explain the profound ways that Hindus look at Divinity. Others will be delighted with the richness of the ancient Indian concepts of God. You may wish to tell inquiring minds that some Hindus believe only in the formless Absolute Reality as God; others believe in God as personal Lord and Creator. This freedom makes the concept of God in Hinduism, the oldest living religion, the richest in all of Earth's existing faiths.
Question Two: Why do Hindus believe in reincarnation?
A: We Hindus believe the soul is immortal and reenters a fleshy body time and time again in order to resolve experiences and learn all the lessons that life in the material world has to offer.
Longer Answer: Carnate means "of flesh." And reincarnate means to "reenter the flesh." Yes, Hindus believe in reincarnation. To us, it explains the natural way the soul evolves from immaturity to spiritual illumination. I myself have had many lives before this one and expect to have more. finally, when I have it all worked out and all the lessons have been learned, I will attain enlightenment and moksha, liberation. This means I will still exist, but will no longer be pulled back to be born in a physical body. Even science is discovering reincarnation. There have been many cases of individuals remembering their past lives. These have been researched by scientists, psychiatrists and parapsychologists during the past decades and documented in very good books and videos.
Explanation: At death the soul leaves the physical body. But the soul does not die. It lives on in a subtle body called the astral body. The astral body exists in the nonphysical dimension called the astral plane. Here we continue to have experiences until we are reborn again in another physical body as a baby. Each reincarnating soul chooses a home and a family which can best fulfill its next step of maturation. After enlightenment we do not have to reexperience the baseness of Earthly existence, but continue to evolve in our inner bodies. Similarly, after we graduate from school we never have to go back to the fifth grade. We have gone beyond that level in understanding. Young children speak of vivid past-life memories, which fade as they grow older, as the veils of individuality shroud the soul's intuitive understanding. Great mystics speak of their past lives as well. Reincarnation is believed in by the Jains and the Sikhs, by the Indians of the Americas, and by the Buddhists, certain Jewish sects, the Pagans and the many indigenous faiths. Even Christianity originally taught reincarnation, but formally renounced it in the twelfth century. It is, in fact, one of the widest held articles of faith on planet Earth.
Question Three: What is karma?
A: Karma is the universal principle of cause and effect, action and reaction which governs all life.
Longer Answer: Karma is one of the natural laws of the mind, just as gravity is a law of matter. It simply means "cause and effect." What happens to us that is apparently unfortunate or unjust is not God punishing us. It is the result of our own past actions. The Vedas, Hinduism's revealed scripture, tell us if we sow goodness, we will reap goodness; if we sow evil, we will reap evil. The divine law is: whatever karma we are experiencing in our life is just what we need at the moment, and nothing can happen but that we have the strength to meet it. Even harsh karma, when faced in wisdom, can be the greatest catalyst for spiritual unfoldment.
Explanation: We cannot give anything away but that it comes back to us. A few years ago in Chennai an American devotee said to me, "Shall I give money to the beggar?" I said, "Give him ten rupees. You may need the fifty rupees when karma pays you back, just as he needs the ten rupees now." The karmic law pays higher interest than any bank when you give freely with no strings attached. Karma is basically energy. I throw energy out through thoughts, words and deeds, and it comes back to me, in time, through other people. We Hindus look at time as a circle, as things cycle around again. Professor Einstein came to the same conclusion. He saw time as a curved thing and space as well. This would eventually make a circle. Karma is a very just law. Karma, like gravity, treats everyone the same. Because we Hindus understand karma, we do not hate or resent people who do us harm. We understand they are giving back the effects of the causes we set in motion at an earlier time. At least we try not to hate them or hold hard feelings. The Hindu law of karma puts man at the center of responsibility for everything he does and everything that is done to him.
Karma is a word we hear quite often on television. "This is my karma," or "It must have been something I did in a past life to bring such good karma to me." In some schools of Hinduism karma is looked upon as something bad. A Hindu guest from Guyana, South America, visited us in Hawaii and mentioned that karma means "sin," and that this is what the Christians in his country are preaching that it means. Some non-Hindus also preach that karma means "fate," which we know is untrue. The idea of inexorable fate, or a preordained destiny over which one has no control, has nothing to do with Sanatana Dharma. Karma actually means "cause and effect."
The process of action and reaction on all levels -- physical, mental and spiritual -- is karma. Here is an example: I have a glass of water in front of me on a table. Because the table is not moving, the water is calm. Shake the table; the water ripples. This is action and reaction, the basic law of nature. Another example: I say kind words to you; you feel peaceful and happy. I say harsh words to you, and you become ruffled and upset. The kindness and the harshness will return to me, through others, at a later time. This is karma. It names the basic law of the motion of energy. An architect thinks creative, productive thoughts while drawing plans for a new building. But were he to think destructive, unproductive thoughts, he would soon not be able to accomplish any kind of positive task even if he desired to do so. This is karma, a natural law of the mind. We must also be very careful about our thoughts, because thought creates, and thoughts make karmas -- good, bad and mixed.
Question Four: Why do Hindus regard the cow as sacred?
A: The cow represents the giving nature of life to every Hindu. Honoring this gentle animal, who gives more than she takes, we honor all creatures.
Longer Answer: Hindus regard all living creatures as sacred -- mammals, fishes, birds and more. To the Hindu, the cow symbolizes all other creatures. The cow represents life and the sustenance of life. It also represents our soul, our obstinate intellect and unruly emotions. But the cow supersedes us because it is so giving, taking nothing but grass and grain. It gives and gives and gives, as does the liberated soul give and give and give. The cow is so vital to life, the virtual sustainer of life for humans. If you lived in a village and had only cows and no other domestic animals or agricultural pursuits, you and your family could survive with the butter, the cream, yogurt, ghee and milk. The cow is a complete ecology, a gentle creature and a symbol of abundance.
Explanation: Who is the greatest giver on planet Earth today? Who do we see on every table in every country of the world -- breakfast, lunch and dinner? It is the cow. The golden arches and their rivals have made fortunes on the humble cow. When we were in Moscow in March, 1990, we learned that McDonald's had opened eleven of its cow-vending outlets there. The generous cow gives milk and cream, yogurt and cheese, butter and ice cream, ghee and buttermilk. It gives entirely of itself through sirloin, ribs, rump, porterhouse and beef stew. Its bones are the base for soup broths. It gives the world leather belts, leather seats, leather coats and shoes, beef jerky, cowboy hats -- you name it. The cow is the most prominent giving animal in the world today. The only cow-question for Hindus is, "Why don't more people respect and protect this remarkable creature?"
Question five: Are Hindus idol worshipers?
A: No, Hindus are not idle worshipers. They worship with great vigor and devotion!
Longer Answer: Seriously, Hindus are not idol worshipers in the sense implied. We Hindus invoke the presence of God, or the Gods, from the higher, unseen worlds, into stone images so that we can experience His divine presence, commune with Him and receive His blessings. But the stone or metal Deity images are not mere symbols of the Gods. They are the form through which their love, power and blessings flood forth into this world. We may liken this mystery to our ability to communicate with others through the telephone. We do not talk to the telephone; rather we use it as a means of communication with another person. Without the telephone, we could not converse across long distances; and without the sanctified icon in the temple we cannot easily commune with the Deity. Divinity can also be invoked and felt in a sacred fire, or in a tree, or in the enlightened person of a satguru. In our temples, God is invoked in the sanctum by highly trained priests. Through the practice of yoga, or meditation, we invoke God inside ourself. Yoga means to yoke oneself to God within. The image or icon of worship is a focus for our prayers and devotions. Another way to explain icon worship is to acknowledge that Hindus believe God is everywhere, in all things, whether stone, wood, creatures or people. So, it is not surprising that they feel comfortable worshiping the divine in His material manifestation. The Hindu can see God in stone and water, air and ether, and inside his own soul.
Explanation: Humorously speaking, Hindus are not idle worshipers. I have never seen a Hindu worship in a lazy or idle way. They worship with great vigor and devotion, with unstinting regularity and constancy. There's nothing idle about our ways of worship! (A little humor never hurts.) But, of course, the question is about "graven images." All religions have their symbols of holiness through which the sacred flows into the mundane. To name a few: the Christian cross, or statues of Mother Mary and Saint Theresa, the holy Kaaba in Mecca, the Sikh Adi Granth enshrined in the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the Arc and Torah of the Jews, the image of a meditating Buddha, the totems of indigenous and Pagan faiths, and the artifacts of the many holy men and women of all religions. Such icons, or graven images, are held in awe by the followers of the respective faiths. The tooth of the Buddha in Sri Lanka's town of Kandy is another loved and respected image. The question is, does this make all such religionists idol-worshipers? The answer is, yes and no. From our perspective, idol worship is an intelligent, mystical practice shared by all of the world's great faiths.
The human mind releases itself from suffering through the use of forms and symbols that awaken reverence, evoke sanctity and spiritual wisdom. Even a fundamentalist Christian who rejects all forms of idol worship, including those of the Catholic and Episcopal churches, would resent someone who showed disrespect for his Bible. This is because he considers it sacred. In Hinduism one of the ultimate attainments is when the seeker transcends the need of all form and symbol. This is the yogi's goal. In this way Hinduism is the least idol-oriented of all the religions of the world. There is no religion that is more aware of the transcendent, timeless, formless, causeless Truth. Nor is there any religion which uses more symbols to represent Truth in preparation for that realization.
Question Six: Are Hindus forbidden to eat meat?
A: Hindus teach vegetarianism as a way to live with minimum of hurt to other beings. But in today's world not all Hindus are vegetarian.
Longer Answer: Vegetarians are more numerous in the South of India than in the North. This is because of the North's cooler climactic conditions and past Islamic influence. Our religion does not lay down rigid "do's and don'ts." There are no commandments. Hinduism gives us the wisdom to make up our own mind on what we put in our body, for it is the only one we have -- in this life, at least. Priests and religious leaders are definitely vegetarian, so as to maintain a high level of purity and spiritual consciousness to fulfill their responsibilities, and to awaken the more refined areas of their nature. Soldiers and law-enforcement officers are generally not vegetarians, because they have to keep alive their aggressive forces in order to perform their work. To practice yoga and be successful in meditation, it is mandatory to be vegetarian. It is a matter of wisdom -- the application of knowledge at any given moment. Today, about twenty or thirty percent of all Hindus are vegetarians.
Explanation: This can be a very touchy subject. When you are asked this question, there are several ways that you can go, depending on who is asking and the background in which they were raised. But there is an overlying principle which gives the Hindu answer to this query. It is called ahimsa, refraining from injuring, physically, mentally or emotionally, anyone or any living creature. The Hindu who wishes to strictly follow the path of noninjury to all creatures naturally adopts a vegetarian diet. It's really a matter of conscience more than anything else.
When we eat meat, fish, fowl and eggs, we absorb the vibration of the instinctive creatures into our nerve system. This chemically alters our consciousness and amplifies our lower nature, which is prone to fear, anger, jealousy, confusion, resentment and the like. Many Hindu swamis advise followers to be well-established vegetarians prior to initiation into mantra, and then to remain vegetarian thereafter. But most do not insist upon vegetarianism for those not seeking initiation. Swamis have learned that families who are vegetarian have fewer problems than those who are not.
There are many scriptural citations that counsel not eating meat, such as in the Vedas, Tirukural and Manu Dharma Shastras. For guidance in this and all matters, Hindus also rely on their own guru, community elders, their own conscience and their knowledge of the benefits of abstaining from meat and enjoying a wholesome vegetarian diet. Of course, there are good Hindus who eat meat, and there are not-so-good Hindus who are vegetarians.
Today in America and Europe there are millions of people who are vegetarians simply because they want to live a long time and be healthy. Many feel a moral obligation to shun the mentality of violence to which meat-eating gives rise. There are some good books on vegetarianism, such as Diet for a New America by John Robbins. There is also a fine magazine dedicated to the subject, called Vegetarian Times.
Question Seven: Do Hindus have a Bible?
A: Our "Bible" is called the Veda. The Veda is comprised of four ancient and holy scriptures which all Hindus revere.
Longer Answer: Like the Taoist Tao te Ching, the Buddhist Dhammapada, the Sikh Adi Granth, the Jewish Torah, the Christian Bible and the Muslim Koran -- the Veda is the Hindu holy book. The Veda is the ultimate scriptural authority for Hindus. Its words and wisdom permeate Hindu thought, ritual and meditation. They open a rare window into ancient Indian society, proclaiming life's sacredness and the way to oneness with God.
Explanation: For untold centuries unto today, the Veda has remained the sustaining force and authoritative doctrine, guiding followers in ways of worship, duty and enlightenment. The Veda is the meditative and philosophical focus for millions of monks and a billion seekers. Its stanzas are chanted from memory by priests and laymen daily as liturgy in temple worship and domestic ritual. All Hindus wholeheartedly accept the Veda, yet each draws selectively, interprets freely and amplifies abundantly. Over time, this tolerant allegiance has woven the varied tapestry of Indian Hindu Dharma. Today, the Veda is published in Sanskrit, English, French, German and other languages. But it is the metaphysical and popular Upanishads, the fourth section of the Veda, which have been most amply and ably translated.
Question Eight: Why do many Hindus wear a dot near the middle of their forehead?
A: The dot worn on the forehead is a religious symbol. It is also a beauty mark.
Longer Answer: The dot worn on the forehead is a sign that one is a Hindu. It is called the bindi in the Hindi language, bindu in Sanskrit and pottu in Tamil. In olden days, all Hindu men and women wore these marks, and they both also wore earrings. Today it is the women who are most faithful in wearing the bindi. The dot has a mystical meaning. It represents the third eye of spiritual sight, which sees things the physical eyes cannot see. Hindus seek to awaken their inner sight through yoga. The forehead dot is a reminder to use and this spiritual vision to perceive and better understand life's inner workings, to see things not just physically, but with the "mind's eye" as well. There are many types of forehead marks, or tilaka, in addition to the simple dot. Each mark represents a particular sect or denomination of our vast religion. We have four major sects: Saivism, Vaishnavism, Shaktism and Smartism. Vaishnava Hindus, for example, wear a v-shaped tilaka made of clay. Elaborate tilakas are worn by Hindus mainly at religious events, though many wear the simple bindi, indicating they are Hindu, even in the general public. By these marks we know what a person believes, and therefore know how to begin conversations.
For Hindu women, the forehead dot is also a beauty mark, not unlike the black mark European and American women once wore on the cheek. The red bindi is generally a sign of marriage. A black bindi is often worn before marriage to ward off the evil eye. As an exotic fashion statement, the dot's color complements the color of a lady's sari. Ornate bindis are worn by actresses in popular American TV shows.
Explanation: Men and women of a particular faith wishing to identify themselves to one another often do so by wearing distinctive religious symbols. Often these are blessed in their temples, churches or synagogues. In some countries Muslim girls cover their face with a veil. Christians wear a cross on a necklace. Jewish boys wear small leather cases that hold scriptural passages, and the round cap called yalmuka.
Do not be ashamed to wear the bindi on your forehead in the United States, Canada, Europe or any country of the world. It will distinguish you from all other people as a very special person, a Hindu, a knower of eternal truths. You will never be mistaken as belonging to another nationality or religion. For both boys and girls, men and women, the dot can be small or large depending on the circumstance, but should always be there in appropriate circumstances. Naturally, we don't want to flaunt our religion in the face of others. We observe that Christian boys and girls take off or conceal their crosses in the corporate business world. Recently a Canadian TV documentary distinguished the bindi by calling it a "Cool Dot." Times are changing, and to proudly wear the symbols that distinguish and define us is totally cool.
Question Nine: Are the Gods of Hinduism really married?
A: To the more uneducated people who are not able to understand high philosophy, Hinduism is taught in story form. Those of the higher philosophy know that each God is complete within Himself, neither male nor female.
Longer Answer: Hinduism is taught on many different levels to many different people, and to the more uneducated people who are not able to understand the high philosophy, Hinduism is taught in story form. These stories, called Puranas, are the basis of dance, plays, storytelling around the fire in the homes to children as they are growing up to amplify how they should live. Because the temple is the center of every Hindu community, and everyone is focused on the temple and the Gods within the temple, the Gods are the major players in these stories. Hindus who understand the higher philosophy seek to find God on the inside while also worshiping God in the temples. Simple folk strive to be like a God, or like a Goddess. The stories illustrate how a family should live, how they should raise their children, and much, much more.
Explanation: Those who are privileged to the higher philosophies know that Gods are neither male nor female, which is the yoga of ida and pingala blending into sushumna within each individual. They know that Gods do not marry, that they are complete within themselves. This unity is depicted by Ardhanarishvara, Siva as half man and half woman and in the teaching that Siva and Shakti are one, that Shakti is Siva's energy. Hindus are very peaceful people, they believe in ahimsa, not hurting physically, mentally or emotionally, but in times of war, the stories become violent, stimulating young men to get out and fight, showing how the Gods killed the demons, and how battles were won. Before the printing press, there were few books and these were owned only by a few families. Hinduism was conveyed through stories and parables. Therefore, Hindus are a visual community, holding pictures in their mind on how they should behave in peacetime, how they should behave in wartime. Some modern swamis now urge devotees not to pay any attention to the Puranic stories, saying that they have no relationship with the world today -- that they are misleading and confusing. Instead, they encourage followers to deepen themselves with the higher philosophies of the Vedic Upanishads and the realizations of Hindu seers.
06-06-2007, 04:21 AM
(This post was last modified: 06-06-2007, 04:21 AM by acharya.)
N THE LATE SEVENTIES, WHEN THE HImalayan Academy began its research into religious loyalties, many questions arose. Some came from family devotees and others from the Saiva Swami SaMgam of Saiva Siddhanta Church. Their number and relevance grew, and I decided to dictate the answers myself. The monks recorded the following upadesha. It covers an array of subjects, all relating to Hinduism in the modern world, focusing on the importance of religious roots and clear lines of loyalty for success on the eternal path.
Devotee: How does one enter the Hindu religion?
Does Hinduism Accept Newcomers?
UR DISCUSSION OF BECOMING A HINDU naturally gives rise to the question of how Hinduism historically has looked at the matter. Here we answer that query and the related question: "What makes a person a Hindu?"
What Is Hinduism?
Hinduism is India's indigenous religious and cultural system, followed today by over one billion adherents, mostly in India but with large populations in many other countries. Also called Sanatana Dharma, "eternal religion," and Vaidika Dharma, "religion of the Vedas," Hinduism encompasses a broad spectrum of philosophies ranging from pluralistic theism to absolute monism. It is a family of myriad faiths with four primary denominations: Saivism, Vaishnavism, Shaktism and Smartism. These four hold such divergent beliefs that each is a complete and independent religion. Yet they share a vast heritage of culture and belief: karma, dharma, reincarnation, all-pervasive Divinity, temple worship, sacraments, manifold Deities, the many yogas, the guru-shishya tradition and a reliance on the Vedas as scriptural authority.
From the rich soil of Hinduism long ago sprang various other traditions. Among these were Jainism, Buddhism, Virasaivism and Sikhism, all of which rejected the Vedas and thus emerged as completely distinct religions, dissociated from Hinduism, while still sharing many philosophical insights and cultural values with their parent faith.
Not unlike all the other major religions of the world, Hinduism has no central headquarters. Nor do the Christians, Jews, Muslims or Buddhists. They all have many who represent and function as secretariates for their various denominations. Hinduism is no different in today's world. It has had many exemplars in the past and will in the future of its denominations and the teaching lineages within them, each headed by a pontiff.
Critics have pointed out that Hinduism is not an organized religion. In truth, they are correct. For 1,200 years Islamic and Christian rule in India, Hinduism's central citadel, eroded greatly upon its perpetuation. Yet it survived. In today's world it may be accused of being a poorly organized religion, but it's getting better daily, as a few minutes on the World Wide Web will prove (see our listing at the end of this book). Its temples and active organizations encircle the world. Whatever its faults, it has kept the fires of sadhana and renunciation, of unabashed spiritual life and yoga disciplines alive. No other faith has done that to the same extent. No other major ancient faith has survived the assaults and the insults of the Abrahamic faiths. Hinduism's nearly three million swamis, gurus and sadhus work tirelessly within, upon and among themselves and then, when ready, serve others, leading them from darkness into light, from death to immortality.
What Makes One a Hindu?
Those who follow the Hindu way of life are Hindus. In the Mahabharata the great King Yudhishthira was asked, "What makes a brahmin -- birth, learning or conduct?" He replied, "It is conduct that makes a brahmin." Similarly, the modern Hindu may well state that it is conduct, based upon deep, practical understanding of dharma, karma and reincarnation, that makes a Hindu. After all, he might muse, is not a true devotee whose heart is filled with faith in and love for his Ishta Devata and who lives the Hindu Dharma as much a Hindu as his agnostic neighbor, though the first was born in Indonesia or North America and the second in Andhra Pradesh?
Shri K. Navaratnam of Sri Lanka, a devotee for some forty years of Satguru Siva Yogaswami, in his Studies in Hinduism quotes from the book, Introduction to the Study of the Hindu Doctrines: "Hindus are those who adhere to the Hindu tradition, on the understanding that they are duly qualified to do so really effectively, and not simply in an exterior and illusory way; non-Hindus, on the contrary, are those who, for any reason whatsoever, do not participate in the tradition in question." Shri K. Navaratnam enumerates a set of basic beliefs held by Hindus:
1. A belief in the existence of God.
2. A belief in the existence of a soul separate from the body.
3. A belief in the existence of the finitizing principle known as avidya (lack of knowledge) or maya (limiting principle of matter).
4. A belief in the principle of matter -- prakriti or maya.
5. A belief in the theory of karma and reincarnation.
6. A belief in the indispensable guidance of a guru to guide the spiritual aspirant towards God Realization.
7. A belief in moksha, liberation, as the goal of human existence.
8. A belief in the indispensable necessity of temple worship in religious life.
9. A belief in graded forms of religious practices, both internal and external, until one realizes God.
10. A belief in ahimsa as the greatest dharma or virtue.
11. A belief in mental and physical purity as indispensable factors for spiritual progress.
Shri Shri Shri Jayendra Sarasvati, 69th Shankaracharya of the Kamakoti Peetham, Kanchipuram, India, defines in one of his writings the basic features of Hinduism as follows:
1. The concept of idol worship and the worship of God in his Nirguna as well as Saguna form.
2. The wearing of sacred marks on the forehead.
3. Belief in the theory of past and future births in accordance with the theory of karma.
4. Cremation of ordinary men and burial of great men.
The periodical Hindu Vishva (Jan./Feb., 1986) cites the following definitions: "He who has perfect faith in the law of karma, the law of reincarnation, avatara [divine incarnations], ancestor worship, varnashrama dharma [social duty], Vedas and existence of God; he who practices the instructions given in the Vedas with faith and earnestness; he who does snana [ritual bathing], sraddha [death memorial], pitri-tarpana [offerings to ancestors] and the paNcha mahayajNas [five great sacrifices: to rishis, ancestors, Gods, creatures and men], he who follows the varnashrama dharmas, he who worships the avataras and studies the Vedas is a Hindu.' "
The Vishva Hindu Parishad's official definition from its Memorandum of Association, Rules and Regulation (1966) states: "Hindu means a person believing in, following or respecting the eternal values of life, ethical and spiritual, which have sprung up in Bharatkhand [India] and includes any person calling himself a Hindu."
In all definitions, the three pivotal beliefs for Hindus are karma, reincarnation and the belief in all-pervasive Divinity -- forming as they do the crux of day-to-day religion, explaining our past existence, guiding our present life and determining our future union with God. It is apparent from the pervasiveness of these beliefs today that a large number of non-Hindus qualify as self-declared Hindus already, for many believe in karma, dharma and reincarnation, strive to see God everywhere, have some concept of maya, recognize someone as their guru, respect temple worship and believe in the evolution of the soul. Many of these beliefs are heretical to most other religions, especially Christianity and the Jewish faith. Those who do believe in karma, reincarnation and union with the Divine have, indeed, evolved beyond the boundaries of Western religion.
The Indian Supreme Court, in 1966, formalized a judicial definition of Hindu beliefs to legally distinguish Hindu denominations from other religions in India. This seven-point list was affirmed by the Court in 1995 in judging cases regarding religious identity:
1. Acceptance of the Vedas with reverence as the highest authority in religious and philosophic matters and acceptance with reverence of Vedas by Hindu thinkers and philosophers as the sole foundation of Hindu philosophy.
2. Spirit of tolerance and willingness to understand and appreciate the opponent's point of view based on the realization that truth is many sided.
3. Acceptance of great world rhythm by all six systems of Hindu philosophy: vast periods of creation, maintenance and dissolution follow each other in endless succession;
4. Acceptance by all systems of Hindu philosophy of the belief in rebirth and pre-existence.
5. Recognition of the fact that the means or ways to salvation are many.
6. Realization of the truth that numbers of Gods to be worshiped may be large, yet there being Hindus who do not believe in the worshiping of idols.
7. Unlike other religions, or religious creeds, Hindu religion's not being tied down to any definite set of philosophic concepts, as such.
A Summary of What Most Hindus Believe
Three decades ago we crafted a simple summary of Hindu beliefs and distributed it in hundreds of thousands of pamphlets around the world. On August, 1995, these nine belief were published by the Religious News Service in Washington, DC, for hundreds of American newspapers. On February 8, 1993, the Christianity Today magazine printed them side by side with their Christian counterparts so Christians could better comprehend Hindus (See p. 248-250).
NINE BELIEFS OF HINDUISM
1. Hindus believe in the divinity of the Vedas, the world's most ancient scripture, and venerate the Agamas as equally revealed. These primordial hymns are God's word and the bedrock of Sanatana Dharma, the eternal religion which has neither beginning nor end.
2. Hindus believe in a one, all-pervasive Supreme Being who is both immanent and transcendent, both Creator and Unmanifest Reality.
3. Hindus believe that the universe undergoes endless cycles of creation, preservation and dissolution.
4. Hindus believe in karma, the law of cause and effect by which each individual creates his own destiny by his thoughts, words and deeds.
5. Hindus believe that the soul reincarnates, evolving through many births until all karmas have been resolved, and moksha, spiritual knowledge and liberation from the cycle of rebirth, is attained. Not a single soul will be eternally deprived of this destiny.
6. Hindus believe that divine beings exist in unseen worlds and that temple worship, rituals and sacraments as well as personal devotionals create a communion with these devas and Gods.
7. Hindus believe that a spiritually awakened master, or satguru, is essential to know the Transcendent Absolute, as are personal discipline, good conduct, purification, pilgrimage, self-inquiry and meditation.
8. Hindus believe that all life is sacred, to be loved and revered, and therefore practice ahimsa, "noninjury."
9. Hindus believe that no particular religion teaches the only way to salvation above all others, but that all genuine religious paths are facets of God's Pure Love and Light, deserving tolerance and understanding.
FIVE OBLIGATIONS OF ALL HINDUS
1.WORSHIP, UPASANA: Young Hindus are taught daily worship in the family shrine room -- rituals, disciplines, chants, yogas and religious study. They learn to be secure through devotion in home and temple, wearing traditional dress, bringing forth love of the Divine and preparing the mind for serene meditation.
2. HOLY DAYS, UTSAVA: Young Hindus are taught to participate in Hindu festivals and holy days in the home and temple. They learn to be happy through sweet communion with God at such auspicious celebrations. Utsava includes fasting and attending the temple on Monday or Friday and other holy days.
3. VIRTUOUS LIVING, DHARMA: Young Hindus are taught to live a life of duty and good conduct. They learn to be selfless by thinking of others first, being respectful of parents, elders and swamis, following divine law, especially ahimsa, mental, emotional and physical noninjury to all beings. Thus they resolve karmas.
4. PILGRIMAGE, TIRTHAYATRA: Young Hindus are taught the value of pilgrimage and are taken at least once a year for darshana of holy persons, temples and places, near or far. They learn to be detached by setting aside worldly affairs and making God, Gods and gurus life's singular focus during these journeys.
5. RITES OF PASSAGE, SAMSKARA: Young Hindus are taught to observe the many sacraments which mark and sanctify their passages through life. They learn to be traditional by celebrating the rites of birth, name-giving, head-shaving, first feeding, ear-piercing, first learning, coming of age, marriage and death.
Hinduism Has Always Accepted Adoptives and Converts
It is sometimes claimed that one must be born in a Hindu family to be a Hindu, that one cannot adopt it or convert from another faith. This is simply not true. The acceptance of outsiders into the Hindu fold has occurred for thousands of years. Groups as diverse as local aborigines and the invading Greeks of Alexander the Great have been brought in. Entering Hinduism has traditionally required little more than accepting and living the beliefs and codes of Hindus. This remains the basic factor in the process, although there are and always have been formal ceremonies recognizing entrance into the religion -- particularly the namakarana samskara, or naming rite in the case of adoptives and converts, and the vratyastoma, vow-taking rite, in the case of those returning to one sect or another of the Hindu religion.
The most compelling testimony to Hinduism's acceptance of non-Hindus into its fold is history. Possibly the most often quoted exposition of the subject appears in the Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda (Vol. 5, p. 233), in an interview called "On the bounds of Hinduism," which first appeared in the Prabuddha Bharata in April, 1899: "Having been directed by the Editor, writes our representative, to interview Swami Vivekananda on the question of converts to Hinduism, I found an opportunity one evening on the roof of a Ganges houseboat. It was after nightfall, and we had stopped at the embankment of the Ramakrishna Math, and there the swami came down to speak with me. Time and place were alike delightful. Overhead the stars, and around, the rolling Ganga; and on one side stood the dimly lighted building, with its background of palms and lofty shade-trees. 'I want to see you, Swami,' I began, 'on this matter of receiving back into Hinduism those who have been perverted from it. Is it your opinion that they should be received?'
'Certainly,' said the swami, 'they can and ought to be taken.' He sat gravely for a moment, thinking, and then resumed. 'The vast majority of Hindu perverts to Islam and Christianity are perverts by the sword, or the descendants of these. It would be obviously unfair to subject these to disabilities of any kind. As to the case of born aliens, did you say? Why, born aliens have been converted in the past by crowds, and the process is still going on.'
'In my own opinion, this statement not only applies to aboriginal tribes, to outlying nations, and to almost all our conquerors before the Mohammedan conquest, but also to all those castes who find a special origin in the Puranas. I hold that they have been aliens thus adopted.'
'Ceremonies of expiation are no doubt suitable in the case of willing converts, returning to their Mother-Church, as it were; but on those who were alienated by conquest -- as in Kashmir and Nepal -- or on strangers wishing to join us, no penance should be imposed.'
'But of what caste would these people be, Swamiji?' I ventured to ask. 'They must have some, or they can never be assimilated into the great body of Hindus. Where shall we look for their rightful place?'
'Returning converts,' said the swami quietly, 'will gain their own castes, of course. And new people will make theirs. You will remember,' he added, 'that this has already been done in the case of Vaishnavism. Converts from different castes and aliens were all able to combine under that flag and form a caste by themselves -- and a very respectable one, too. From Ramanuja down to Chaitanya of Bengal, all great Vaishnava teachers have done the same.'
'Then as to names,' I enquired, 'I suppose aliens and perverts who have adopted non-Hindu names should be named newly. Would you give them caste names, or what?' 'Certainly,' said the swami thoughtfully, 'there is a great deal in a name!' and on this question he would say no more."
Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, eminent philosopher and former president of India, confirmed Swami Vivekananda's views in his well-known book, The Hindu View of Life (p. 28-29): "In a sense, Hinduism may be regarded as the first example in the world of a missionary religion. Only its missionary spirit is different from that associated with the proselytizing creeds. It did not regard it as its mission to convert humanity to any one opinion. For what counts is conduct and not belief. Worshipers of different Gods and followers of different rites were taken into the Hindu fold. The ancient practice of vratyastoma, described fully in the Tandya Brahmana, shows that not only individuals but whole tribes were absorbed into Hinduism. Many modern sects accept outsiders. Devala Smriti lays down rules for the simple purification of people forcibly converted to other faiths, or of womenfolk defiled and confined for years, and even of people who, for worldly advantage, embrace other faiths."
In a recent article, writer Shreeram Tyambak Godbole of Bombay observes, "Hinduism . . . has been assimilating into itself all those who have been willing, without offending anybody. Whoever from other religions adopted even outwardly the customs and manners of the Hindus could, in course of time, hope to get his progeny easily assimilated in the Hindu society. This process has been going on for the last two or two and a half millenniums. The beginnings of this process can be seen in the sixty-fifth chapter of Mahabharata, Shantiparva, where Indra is described to have ordered Mandhatru to give all access to all foreigners, like the Yavanas, into the Vedic religion."
He gives a historical example, "[The] Bactrian Greeks had soon to run down to India as refugees, driven headlong by U-echis, when they were all admitted to the Hindu fold. The same fate the U-echis, the Sakas, the Kushans and the Huns had to face. The Kushan emperor, Kadphasis II, took to Siva worship so devoutly that on his coins he inscribed the image of the Lord Siva and had himself mentioned as the devotee of Siva. Huvishka and Vasudeva and their descendants also inscribed Lord Siva and his Nandi on their coins....While the Abhirs became Vaishnavas, the Scythians and U-echis became Saivas....Huns again became Saivas. The Hun King Mihirkula had inscribed on his silver coins 'Jayatu Vrshadhvajah' and 'Jayatu Vrshah' along with Siva's Trishula and his Nandi and his umbrella....All the Bactrian Greeks, the U-echis, the Sakas, the Kushans, and the Huns are now so well assimilated into the Hindu society that their separate identity cannot at all be traced."
Our friend and compatriate in promoting Sanatana Dharma, Sri Ram Swarup (1920-1998), had this to say about the power of those who have converted to or adopted the Hindu faith. "Hitherto, Hindus knew only two categories: Hindus born in India and Hindu emigrants who went overseas during the last few centuries, often under very adverse conditions. But now we have also a new, fast-growing third category of those who adopt Hinduism by free choice. This is an important category, and traditional Hinduism should become aware of them. Their contribution to Hinduism is notable. Hindu thought is changing the intellectual-religious contour of Europe and America and attracting their best minds. In this thought, they also find the principle of their own self-discovery and recovery. The new religion of these countries is now really the 'New Age,' which is greatly worrying the Christian establishment. The Pope sees 'Eastern influences' in this new development. Pat Robertson, an influential American evangelist, finds that 'the New Age and Hinduism -- it is the same thing.' He complains, 'We are importing Hinduism into America.' "
Must One Be Born in India to Be a Hindu?
At this time certain deeply ingrained misconceptions must also be erased, such as the mistaken notion -- postulated primarily by brahmin pandits and a few of the ShaMkaracharyas and parroted by Western academics -- that one must be born in India to be a Hindu. Of course, the Hindus of Nepal and Sri Lanka, the Hindus born in Bali and Malaysia, the Mauritian-born and Bangladesh-born Hindus would find such a concept very strange indeed, and few in the world would question their Hinduness. But the issue is often raised in America and Europe. Italian-born Swami Yoganandagiri bravely tackled this issue in his nation, as reported in our international magazine, HINDUISM TODAY.
Swami explained, "We have to overcome a misunderstanding asserted by Italian scholars that one has to be born in India to be a Hindu. Our sanga also hopes to spread the authentic Hindu culture among Italians who take yoga as just a sweet gymnastic."
His invitation to HINDUISM TODAY outlined plans for a June, 1997, international conference in Milan on the controversial subject of conversion to Hinduism, among other subjects. The problem is serious in Italy, for Hinduism is not officially recognized by the government. An individual's conversion and name change cannot be legalized. Tax-deductible status is not granted to Hindu organizations. HINDUISM TODAY accepted the invitation and sent representatives Acharya Ceyonswami and Sannyasin Skandanathaswami to the conference.
It was in 1985 that Swami Yoganandagiri established the Gitananda Ashram in Savona, perched in the hills a few miles from the Mediterranean Ligurian Sea above Corsica. He became a yogi in his teens and was trained in India by the late Swami Gitananda of Pondicherry, among others. He learned Sanskrit, absorbed the South Indian Agamic tradition, received sacraments making him a Hindu and was ultimately initiated as a renunciate monk.
Malaysian-born Skandanathaswami reported later, "I couldn't believe my eyes when we reached Savona. Swami Yoganandagiri and a small band of dedicated Italian Hindus have established full, traditional Hinduism at his ashrama. Stepping into his Shri Chakra temple was like being in India. Other swamis teach yoga but often remain at a distance from Hinduism. But Yoganandagiri boldly declares his Hindu heritage, and that in Italy!"
The conference was the first organized by Swami's newly created Unione Induista Italiana (Italian Hindu Union), as an attempt to unify under a Hindu banner those Italians already immersed in Indian culture. The three days included workshops on Indian dance, yoga, ayurveda and astrology, all presented by leading Hindus.
But a pivotal debate was taking place at meetings that pitted Italian professors of religion against Hindu swamis and delegates on the issue of converting to Hinduism. Chief adversary Professor Mario Piantelli opined that conversion to Hinduism is impossible for those not born in India. He was unanimously countered by all the Hindu delegates, who cited Indian Supreme Court decisions and statements by Swami Vivekananda and Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, former president of India (See p. 160).
That might have been the end of the issue, but the day after the conference ended, a national Italian daily, L'Unita of Rome, published Piantelli's opinions in a major article. Swami Yoganandagiri flew to Rome to issue a rebuttal, and the debate entered the national forum.
Swami Yoganandagiri wrote in his rebuttal: "Contrary to Professor Piantelli's statements, the Italian Hindu Union comprises people who not only love India, but have received a religious formation in India with all sacraments and who identify themselves deeply and seriously with the Hindu faith. The statement that Hinduism is a neologism referring only to those born in India is a wrong interpretation. The word Hindu has evolved. Today in modern India Hindus are those following the principles of Sanatana Dharma. Its main characteristic is its universality. There are no decrees or scriptures which say only those born in India can be Hindu. What about the children of the Hindus born in America, Africa, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Mauritius and Europe? They call themselves Hindu just like we Italian Hindus. So how can it be an exclusive religion only for those born in India? On the contrary, the Supreme Indian Court in 1966 codified the definition of Hinduism and in 1995 confirmed that: 'Hindus are those who accept the Vedas (sacred text) as the highest religious and philosophical authority and are tolerant and accept that truth can have many facets, who believe in cosmic cycles, rebirth and pre-existence and recognize that many paths lead to salvation.' Italian Hindus, among which there are also Indian citizens living in Italy, already exist and are recognized by Indian Hindus and Buddhists. Many governments have legally recognized Hinduism."
Swami had many allies. Dr. R. Gopalakrishnan, the Director of Radhakrishnan Institute for Advanced Study in Philosophy, University of Madras said, "As an Indian and as a Hindu, I find there is no truth in this statement that those who are born in India alone are eligible to become Hindus." Dr. Atulchandra S. Thombare from Pune, India, noted, "A man can change his nationality, and even his sex, why not his religion?" Indian Ambassador to Italy, Mr. Fabian, a Catholic, said, "Faith is a matter of the heart and personal choice. If someone practices Hinduism and is accepted by Hindus, then he is one."
Swami is allying himself with the Buddhists, who are also pressing for official recognition in Italy. They are, according to Swami, two years ahead of the Hindus in the decade-long process of changing the complex Italian laws relating to conversion.
The Ceremony of Welcoming Back
The vratyastoma ceremony ("vow pronouncement"), dating back to the Tandya Brahmana of the Rig Veda, is performed for Hindus returning to India from abroad and for those who have embraced other faiths. One finds a wide range of converts in India, from communities such as the Syrian Malabar Christians, who adopted Christianity shortly after that religion's founding, to the Muslim converts of a thousand years ago, to Indians converted in the last few generations. Especially in the case of many recent converts, the conversion is often superficial, and the return to Hinduism is a simple matter of ceremonial recognition. In other cases, complete reeducation is required.
There are many organizations in India active in reconversion, some motivated by fears of non-Hindu dominance in regions once all Hindu. The Masurashrama in Mumbai specializes in reconversions through the shuddhi shraddha, purification ceremony, bringing dozens of converts back into the Sanatana Dharma each month. Masurashrama founder, Dharma Bhaskar Masurkar Maharaj, set a strong precedent in 1928 when he organized the purification rite for 1,150 devotees in Goa who had previously converted to Christianity. About the same time, Swami Agamanandaji of the Ramakrishna Mission in Kerala reconverted hundreds to Hinduism, as did Narayana Guru. More recently, two South Indian ashramas -- Madurai Aadheenam and Kundrakuddi Aadheenam -- have brought thousands of Indians back into Hinduism in mass conversion rites. Since the early 1960s, the Vishva Hindu Parishad has reportedly reconverted a half-million individuals through shuddhi ceremonies all over India. The VHP activities are extremely distressing to Christian missionaries who, according to an analysis published in HINDUISM TODAY (Feb. 1989), spent an average of $6,000 to win over each convert.
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin--><b>Meeting a German Hindu </b>
<i>While Hinduism puts no brake on its followers, semitic religions demand complete surrender to their scriptures</i>
On my visit to Har ki Pauri at Haridwar, on April 19, I happened to meet Hermann von Mecklenburg. He had also come to participate in the aarti, including floating a lamp on the Ganga river. His name immediately took my mind to Field Marshal von Mecklenburg, the colourful legend of pre-World War I German Army. Mr Mecklenburg confirmed that he was the Field Marshal's great great grandnephew. He lives in Munich since his ancestral Prussian Duchy had become a part of East Germany.
In the course of the conversation that followed, I pointed out to Hermann that only Hindus were meant to come to Har ki Pauri whose anglicised name was the esplanade of the Ganges. Under the United Provinces Municipal Act II, 1916, passed by the British rulers, except for officers on duty, non-Hindus are not permitted on the esplanade, island shaped platform, Har ki Pauri area and Khushavart Ghat. Only the followers of sanatan dharma were allowed to congregate on the Pauri and any lectures, discourses et al could be made only with the permission of the chairman of the board supervising the esplanade.
<b>To which the German's reply was that he was spiritually a Hindu. Although he was born a Christian, this faith did not assuage his longing for the divine. Mr Mecklenburg's complaint was that Christianity demanded excessive faith. The faithful had to blindly believe that Jesus was the son of god. That god or the father created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. The Trinity of Father, Son and the Holy Ghost comprised the divinity.</b>
Islam posed the same problem according to the Hindu from Germany. Accept that there is no god other than Allah the Merciful and the doctrine thereafter is inexorable. Blind faith is the fountainhead of the philosophy.
The other question of the semitic faith is the belief that god made men equal and society renders them unequal. Hence the enormous Christian effort at charity whether through the Society of Jesus or any other.
Nevertheless, everyone knows that people are not and cannot be equal. On the other hand, the Hindu explanation presumes that men will remain unequal (due to their different karmas) until they attain salvation or release from the cycle of rebirth, called mukti. The belief in karma leading to bhagya (fate) or deed causing destiny cannot put a limit on how much of good karmas a person should perform. Therefore, there can be no ceiling on his destiny. This is the fundamental difference between Christianity and Hinduism. The former is a prescription given by god and inspired by faith. The latter is an explanation based on observing the phenomena and filling in the missing gaps with imagination by rishis in the distant past.
The two sets of faith can be classified by logic, which is a branch of European philosophy. Christianity can be compared with deductive logic where reasoning begins with a presumption about god and proceeds faultlessly thereafter. On the other hand, Hinduism is inductive logic which begins with experience and works upwards to a conclusion. For example, say Peter has seen only red roses while Paul has grown up seeing roses being only white. Similarly, Michael could be familiar with only pink roses and Mathew only yellow ones. If these gentlemen were Hindu and they happened to meet, after a debate they would conclude that roses could be of several colours. Whereas a semitic edict might be that all roses are red and the rest are weeds - whether gentile, heathen or kafir.
For the Hindu there are directions and alternatives, but neither premise nor prescriptions. Each has to find his or her own way. There is a limited social recommendation and certainly no political content in Hinduism. The faith has, therefore, produced no ideology and no central bond.
The Prussian aristocrat saw other faults in the Hindu ethos. There just was no collective consciousness. No matter what others do unto the Hindu community, there is seldom any retaliation. Look at the number of desecrated temples that are still standing, being looked after by the Archeological Survey and yet used for Muslim prayers. It is recognised that Varanasi is the Jerusalem of the Hindus. Yet, the obnoxious Gyan Vapi Masjid overshadows the Kashi Vishwanath Mandir.
<b>Even Prof Arnold Toynbee was provoked in 1960, while delivering the Maulana Azad memorial lecture, to say that the two tall minarets on the ghats of Varanasi were an ocular demonstration of Muslim arrogance in the holiest of holy Hindu places. This was so even decades after the Partition.Â </b>