The third set of religions is the Eastern Religions. These are the oldest and foundation of almost all religious and philosophical thoughts including arabic cults. They include a variety of names like Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism, Vedic Dharma, Sanatan Dharma etc. If Hindu be the term depicting region on eastern side of Indus river, then all these collectively come under the umbrella of Hinduism or Hindutva. There are a huge number of sub-sects and varieties in these broad terms mentioned above. For example, in Sikhs we have Namdharis, Nirankaris, Udasis etc. In Jainism we have Shwetambar, Digambars and various sub-sects. Same with other terms as well.

Despite this myriad diversity, which at times appear contradictory on surface, there are certain common binding traits in all these religions under the fold of Hinduism:

a. None of these religions were founded by visionaries as defined in previous section. The founders of these religions instead were supposed to be exalted souls who realized truth in their own way. Thus no follower is expected to blindly believe in anything but explore truth in their own honest ways.

b. All these religions believe in transmigration of soul and a continuity of life and death like day and night. Thus as per one’s deeds, soul goes through appropriate births in different species and situations.

c. All living beings are supposed to have same type of soul be it animal or human. All humans are supposed to have been in one of these species in past and also have probability to go into these species in future as well. That is why universal compassion for all living beings is a central theme of all these religions.

d. A ten-fold tenets of Dharma/ religion is common among almost all sects. Interestingly, the sam shloka from Manusmriti (2.215) appears in almost all leading religions. These ten tenets include:

Patience, Forgiving, Self-control, Non-Stealing, Purity, Control of sense and action organs, Intellect, Knowledge, Truth, Freedom from anger.  Further, all these religions put non-violence as supreme tenet of human beings.

e. All these religions believe that cause of life and death is the ignorance in souls. This ignorance is to be removed through constant practice of self-control and performing virtues. Blind belief is supposed to be anti-thesis of this purpose of ignorance eradication. Hence no human is expected to believe blindly in anything. Thus the guidelines of these religions are recommendatory in nature and not supposed to be recipe to reach any permanent Heaven or avoid Hell.

f. Human being is not expected to be able to understand complete truth in this life. Hence mutual discussions and debates are encouraged to collectively help each other move towards the truth. Thus, saints of various cults still maintain respect for each other while having differences in opinions.

g. A unique characteristic of these religions is the emphasis on meditation. Meditation is process of mind control and a variety of techniques for all levels of people are recommended by these religions. Self-realization being the focus of life, meditation is considered more important than forcing others to believe in a particular ideology through force. Interestingly, all these religions consider ‘Om’ ॐ as primary chant for achieving Supreme bliss.

h. A lot of malpractices did creep into Hindu society over ages, partially due to the own debilities and partially due to influence of Arabic cults. But nonetheless, since there is no binding blind truth for a Hindu, they have scope to rise above these new weaknesses without having fear of being apostate.

i. Each religion has its own religious book. Most of them consider Vedas to be supreme. Jains and Buddhists have their own texts. But no one claims that blind belief in any book is necessary. The only prerequisite is that one is desirous of knowing the truth and is putting efforts in that direction. Rest is supposed to happen automatically through forces of supreme.

j. Each of these religions believe in Theory of Karma. It has several variations. But in principle, our present situations are supposed to be result of our past deeds and our future situations would be result of our present deeds. After death, one takes birth in most optimal place as per his deeds of previous life. Thus good deeds and noble thoughts are supposed to be key recipe for blissful life. The religious books are attempts to explain further details of what good deeds are. These are to be understood rather than mugged up blindly.

Miscellaneous  Religions

Apart from these major religions, there are a minority of religions like Bahai, Zoroastrianism and new thoughts like Deism etc. Most of these are repackaging of the beliefs discussed earlier along with some of their own unique belief systems. The key point however is that none of them has ‘Only I am right’ approach and hence most of these are not part of any major controversies.

I would like to highlight the cult of gurus and babas and saints and peer-fakirs as a cult in themselves. They emerge from almost all major religions. They are founded by smart people who instead of being too prophetic, simply mould the tenets of a particular religion towards their own personalities. I would term them as pure businessmen who fool people. India is the biggest production house for such fake personality based cults. Many of these cults start with a person claiming to be adherent of a particular religion. Slowly with increased popularity, they open their own shop.

In themselves, these being small boutique shops do not cause grave global level controversies. But their sheer number, coupled with the number of people they collectively fool, lead to people remaining ever confused and hence succumbing to some of the larger controversies. I would term them as AIDS which in itself does not cause great damage, but makes you vulnerable to death, even when you catch a common cold.

Next : Proposed solution for Overcoming Religious Confusion

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