Who Is a Hindu?

The question, “Who is a Hindu?” is much harder to answer than the question “What is Hinduism?”

Historians, teachers, scholars, and gurus have disagreed about Hinduism for centuries and continue to disagree. Hindus themselves agree even less about who they are and what they believe. The reason is that Hinduism, which clear and simple, is a universal faith. Hinduism has powerful tenets, but they are open to interpretation and evolving scientific truth.

Respect for individual thought runs deep. Alternatives abound. Hinduism is easy to understand for Hindus, but complex or varied explanations create confusion in the minds of those who have not absorbed or been absorbed by Hinduism. Numerous and divergent ideas, images, and theories confuse strangers to Hinduism while Hindus themselves find giving answers to outsiders difficult because they never considered the questions.

To believers or followers of Hinduism, their religion is a premise, a starting point, rather than a conclusion or ending point. Hinduism can be views as a springboard and make leaps of faith. This is why describing a Hindu as a believer in Hinduism is accurate, but at the same time incomplete and redundant.

It must be true that no Hindu believes everything that has been preached in the name of Hinduism. The majority of Hindus have not even read Bhagavad Gita or the Gita in its entirety, which is a pity as this short quintessential scripture that contains the distilled essence of Hinduism is one of the greatest writings ever written.

Yet Hindus remain staunch and sophisticated in their affiliation. Their mindset is composed of philosophy, spirituality, and ethics, all colored by ritual, mythology, and tradition.

Knowledge

In Chapter 7 of the Gita, Lord Krishna speaks of knowing God. It is hard to put the meaning of knowing God or knowing anything for that matter into words. But without a doubt, there are some things we know or at least we feel like we know.

I wonder what the difference is between thinking or feeling we know and actually knowing. I suppose the distinction only makes a difference when we speak of matters which others take seriously. To opine or feel or believe that we love someone is no different from loving someone. However, when it comes to science, or politics or faith, knowledge that does not conform to what others have confirmed or what our society may lead to dangerous action.

To know is not the same as to understand or to believe. Understanding and belief often lead to knowledge, but they are not knowledge itself.

Read more from The Gita at http://irinaspage.com/philosophy/the-gita-sacred/

Divided 

People of the world have been united and divided for as long as we can remember. City states warred for territory. Religious loyalists sought to impose their beliefs through both kindness and viciousness. Social groups fought to promote their values and to protect their status. Immigrants and emigrants crossed mountains, oceans ,and deserts going to seek fortunes or to escape from natural and man made disasters.

Thus, we organized ourselves into groups that collided with other groups. We identified with those who resemble or reflect ourselves and rejected those who differed in appearance, or belief, or custom. We forged alliances and fought enemies with different peoples at different times. Such behavior seems inherent to our humanity.

Many of us continue to force our beliefs, methodologies, and customs on others, believing them to be more truthful or superior. Of course we cannot impose our appearance on others except by blending our races over time. Our attitudes about racial mixing, though, are fraught with prejudice, attraction and other factors that are not totally clear even to ourselves.

Still, some of us resist and “otherizing” people who differ from ourselves. We try to appreciate at least some differences.

Today we are most focused on a political divide which encompasses all the other divides: racial, economic, social and cultural. We are most divided in our notion of unity. How should we govern ourselves and be governed? How should we behave publicly? Should we be polite or honest? What does civility mandate?

What is our responsibility to our fellow man, to our world and to future generations? Can we do or be me better? Can we achieve a more peaceful world? How much of our behavior is determined by our history and our destiny?

What do your think?

For some historical and philosophical insight consider the story of the great Mahabharata War which pitted families and friends against one another. See an analysis on pages 80-86 in On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar.

The God in Whom Atheists Disbelieve

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Often I wonder about the God or gods in whom atheists disbelieve.

Do they disbelieve in truth, in nothingness, in energy or in the unknowable?

Do they disbelieve in nature?

Some of us think God has certain forms, powers or manifestations. Some of us are tentative in our belief or agnostic while others are unwilling even to consider questions associated with the notion of God. Yet others blame God for all the atrocities we humans have committed in His or Her name.

I deeply respect all belief and no belief, but I wonder what disbelievers think when they go beyond denial.

Is the World Getting Better or Worse?

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Through the ages many of us have believed our world is becoming more humanized because of our technical achievements. We believed that our efforts to make the world a better place paid off.

Yet horrors march onward showing us that millennia of progress have not made us any kinder. The world is no better and suffering has not diminished.

In short, nothing has changed.

Still, life is not a zero sum game. If we make anything better even in the short run or for a single individual, we brighten the world and uplift ourselves.

 

Religion, Belief and Skepticism

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Asserting our religion, belief or skepticism to ourselves and to others will ground us.

We should not understate ourselves or remain quiet when our tradition, belief or skepticism is disparaged, or ignored or misrepresented. Open mindedness is not passivity. We should voice our convictions.

At the same time, appreciating the belief of others will enhance our own faith in our own view of truth. Open mindedness is the opposite of arrogance.