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.

Vedic Worlds: Naraka

The seven lower worlds described in the Vedas are located in Naraka, the netherworld belonging to demons and souls that have become distanced from goodness and God.

Naraka is the plane of lower consciousness. Its regions are temporary hells of the mind and the universe. They are places where souls may wander for many ages or for just moments. Ancient scriptures accepted the relativity of time and space.

Thus, according to Vedic literature the duration of any soul’s existence in any world depends upon whether the time experienced by a particular soul expands or contracts and upon the time scales that are in play when souls migrate from world to world.

Hinduism believes that the destination of our soul depends upon our nature at the time of our death. Our nature is made up of different combinations of three attributes or qualities called gunas in Sanskrit.

These are sattva which is purity and truth, rajas which is desire driven activity, and tamas which is ignorance and inertia. Our actions and aspirations during our life create the sum of the attributes that make up our aura at death and determine what happens to our soul. Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita describes the essence of the Hindu understanding of reincarnation in just a few short lines:

If when we die,
we are mostly Sattva,
our spirit gets born again in the world of the wise and the pure.
If we are mostly Rajas,
our spirit gets born again on earth.
If we are mostly Tamas,
our spirit gets born in the body of a dumb, ignorant being.

For more on Vedic Worlds, read On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar.

The Gita on True Happiness



According to the Bhagavad Gita, the purpose of reaching God is to attain true happiness. Here is what Lord Krishna says:

Those who truly love Me know

I am God of the whole world.

They know I am the friend of all

They who really love Me

Know everlasting peacefulness

And everlasting happiness.

The Gita, Chapter 5

These words are quintessential in their simplicity and universality. At the same time philosophers could write and many have written volumes on how to interpret them.

In Chapter five, Lord Krishna discusses the best path to salvation. Arjun wants to know whether the pursuit of knowledge and renunciation are better than the performance of good actions. The answers in this chapter are as simple or complex as one wishes to make them.

On the one hand, the clear answer is that good action is the better path because it is easier. On the other hand, this reply differs from passages in Chapter 4 where we were told that knowledge is the best path to salvation as knowledge is the boat that crosses over the ocean of sin.

Some of us wonder about these contradictions. Scholars explain that the chosen paths depend on the choosers. More specifically the choice depends on the nature of the soul of the seekers of God or happiness or peace. Yet not all of us are perplexed by inconsistencies. We just know that the paths converge.

See The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture, by Irina Gajjar


Which Came First, The Chicken or The Egg?


We human beings have always wondered about whether the chicken preceded the egg or vice versa. More seriously we wonder about what came before the big bang. But some scientists think the universe did not come from anything but merely appeared where it had not been apparent before.

If this is the case, than the whole universe is an illusion [Maya] rather than a reality as stated in Chapter 7, (verses 12 and 13) of the Bhagavad Gita. This fits with God’s description of Himself as the only reality.

But we cannot confuse the universe or even God, who would be the Truth that exists transcending the appearance and disappearance of the universe with occurrences within the universe of dimensions. Those occurrences are manifestations of karma.