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.

What Is Goodness?

We are told by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita that goodness is many things. It includes bravery, purity, contemplation of the soul, worship of God, study of holy texts, strength, straightforwardness, truthfulness, peacefulness, kindness, gentleness, the absence of anger, detachment, repentance for transgressions, forgiveness, humility, truthfulness and vigor.

This is a comprehensive set of qualities. Though most of us would agree that these qualities do represent the better side of humans, some might of us, particularly those of us who are not inclined toward orthodoxy, may question whether the worship of God and the study of holy texts equate with traits like kindness.

I wonder why God, who is all powerful, all knowing, and present everywhere seems to have a great need to promote Himself and to persuade us to believe in Him [or Her?] Can’t we just take the force that is God for granted and move on from there?

See Chapter 16 of The Gita, a New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture.

Did God Create the World?

A number of major world religions subscribe to the notion that God, such as God is understood, created the world or worlds or universe and all existence. Hindu scripture specifically tells us so. In fact, in the Gita, God Himself reminds more than once.

In Chapter 9, Lord Krishna tells us that the whole world was His idea, and was born from Him. It explains that a great wheel makes it turn round and round and that it appears and disappears repeatedly because He wants it to.

In Chapter 10 He explains:

Everything comes from Me.

Truth, wisdom, forgiveness, self control,

happiness, unhappiness, bravery, fear,

peacefulness, fame and shame

all come from God.

The Gita, Chapter 10, Verses 4, 5


At the same time the very God who takes credit for creation, declares His creation to be an illusion. It is “Maya” or make believe or magic and He tells us that only fools believe that the world is real. In His own words:

The wise who understand God pass beyond

the world.

They cross over Maya and reach Me.

The Gita, Chapter 7, Verses 14

Now why would God or the sages who gave to life to the ideas embodied in the Gita create a world that is illusory only for humankind to acknowledge this truth? Why would a power like God want to create worlds that come and go?

It seems to me that the reason does not fit within human logic. It is just that this is how it is.

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




Today curiosity is viewed as something good and important. Years ago this was not so much the case. Young people who asked too many questions were not appreciated. Questions interrupted lectures and they embarrassed speakers by potentially revealing ignorance or foolishness or by touching upon prejudicial or personal or prurient matters. In past decades information was not readily available.

Children were told “Curiosity killed the cat,” and it was only under their breath that they muttered “Satisfaction brought it back.”  After all a cat is believed to have nine lives.

It is a good thing that curiosity is now recognized as something to be fostered in our youth and in everyone for that matter. I guess the best way to do this is to raise questions rather than to begin with conclusions and then expect those conclusions to be accepted and learned.

At the same time, we do not have to tell everything to everyone at any age. And we should let others make discoveries on their own or find answers or suggestions often available at the touch of a screen.

Visit amazon.com Irina Gajjar’s Page to learn about her work and her views on a variety of matters.

A Skeptic’s Critique of On Hinduism  

on hinduism

In his introduction to On Hinduism, Ravi Heugle writes, “The establishment of a unified blueprint of life by science will exile the soul and the assumption of the existence of the soul will prove itself to be invalid. Thereafter, the soul will solely serve as a potent synonym for human identity.”

The merit of this opinion depends on how we define “soul.” In Sanskrit, the language of Hindu scripture, the word closest to “soul” is “atman” which means spirit, individual soul and the self or Self. The Self with a capital S implies identification with the divine spirit though ancient schools of Hindu Philosophy hold divergent views about unity between human spirit and a greater divine spirit.

Regardless, mainstream Hinduism considers our soul as our individuality, the part of us that in transmigration embodies the effects of our karma which preceded our birth and will succeed our death.

The real question is whether there is any eternity for individuals. Perhaps our ancestors and heirs represent the totality of our karma and thereby our souls. If that is all, it should be more than enough.

See On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar, “A Skeptic’s Perspective.

God Speaks about Himself as Spirit


In Chapter 8 of the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna speaks about Himself as spirit. He explains that He is everlasting, the origin of all things, the ruler of all, wisdom and more. He explains that as Brahma, He is beyond our understanding, but not beyond our reach.

God further explains His connection with relative Time and contrasts His permanence with the impermanence of our world. Thus, God says that by worshipping Him we all can go beyond birth and death.

See Chapter 8 of The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture by Irina Gajjar.

Body and Mind


While both Hindu and Western philosophies understand that people are a combination of body and soul or spirit, Hinduism views the mind as part of the body. The Bhagavad Gita explains that the body and mind are the “field,” or that which is to be known whereas the spirit is the “knower of the field.” The term field means the place where activity occurs.

Thus our bodies and minds consist of matter and processes whereas our spirit is causation.

Lord Krishna tells us that the body is made up of the five subtle elements, ether, air, fire water and earth plus our senses and our emotions and thoughts. The spirit gives rise to our emotions, thoughts and behaviors.

Life comes about when the body and the spirit are joined.

See Chapter 13 of The Gita, a New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture by Irina Gajjar

God as a Composer


In a novel about the life of a Jewish family, I offer a child’s view of God as the Creator of the music to which the world dances. The child considers life to be the composition shaped by both the dancers and the dance. Together, the dancers and the dance are simultaneously unique and universal.

The dance of life takes place in the world which the child sees as a great net. Life occurs within and upon the net. Every step is triggered by and triggers other steps just like brainwaves are triggered by and trigger other waves. In this way every bit of the net and the entire net is both a stimulus and a response.

Yet the net exists only to dance to the music God makes.

See chapter 18 of The Pokhraj by Irina Gajjar to explore this and other ideas.

The Mind Is Jumpy


the mind

In Chapter Six of the Gita, Arjun complains to Lord Krishna that the mind is jumpy and as hard to control as the wind. Lord Krishna agrees. He points out, however, that the task of controlling our minds is achievable, little by little, if we practice steadily.

More importantly, God explains that success is not essential. If we pursue self-control, God will bestow his endless love upon us (whether or not we even believe in Him).

In essence, controlling and directing our minds is tantamount to worship and pulls us toward spirituality or God. Along the way good karma will bring us good lives and our spirits will remember even what we forget.

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


The Gita on Body and Mind



According to traditional Hindu philosophy, the mind is part of the body.

Our bodies consist of ether, air, fire, water and earth which are the five subtle elements and of the mind. The mind in turn incorporates the five senses (touching, hearing, seeing, smelling and tasting). It also embraces understanding and emotions like wanting, hating, happiness, unhappiness and courage

Thus the body and mind are allocated to the material world as distinct from the world of spirit or soul or eternity.

See Irina Gajjar’s The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture, 13: 5, 6, The Body and The Spirit