(continued from http://agniveer.com/why-i-am-proud-to-be-hindu-part-1/)
Reason 6: Hinduism – Research friendly, reform friendly
Hinduism has no book, no person, no history, no ideology to defend. It does not matter whether you worship through lighting of agarbatti, or conduct Hawan, or ring bells in temple, or recite name with eyes closed in isolation, or keep fasts, or enjoy sweets in festivals.
The core of Hinduism is defined in Yajurveda 1.5 (Idam Aham Anritaat Satyam Upaimi) – I strive to reject the non-true and accept the true in this present moment. So Hinduism is all about living in present and choosing what is best right now, irrespective of what may have appeared right in past. It is all about making that incremental progress every moment like in any research-based discipline.
Hinduism doesn’t demand you to defend what you have stood for in past. You must be able to defend what you are standing for right now. And if you cannot defend, then simply evolve.
Thus research and knowledge-enhancement is encouraged unlike many religions. In fact there are many verses which specifically state that unless one is on a constant path of seeking newer and latest knowledge, wisdom will ever remain elusive. Knowledge alone liberates.
I am not aware of any religion that specifically states that mathematics and astronomy must be mastered to have rightly-directed understanding of God, soul, spiritualism, after-life and related topics.
I am not aware of any religion that states that it does not matter what you believe in right now, even if that belief amounts to blatant blasphemy. What matters is that you are on a genuine pursuit of knowledge increment.
I am not aware of any religion that demands you to keep changing, keep evolving, keep improving, keep innovating to choose even better ways out. That demands you to kill the past and live in present to make a better future. That proactively encourages reforms in every aspect of living instead of clinging to archaic interpretations of some ‘divine’ message.
That is why even though many social evils got into Hindu society over its long history (longest in world), at the same time, reform movements also emerged in parallel to fight these evils. And that is why Hindu society has been so vocal in admitting that social evils like casteism, Sati, polygamy and dowry are indeed social evils. Thus the Hindu society proudly made laws to destroy these social evils, and considered these reforms as genuine Hinduism.
That is why saints like Kabir, Nanak and Dayanand Saraswati are held in such high esteem by Hindu society even though they critically challenged the prevailing social norms of their times.
That is why, Hinduism is not a religion in first place. It is simply an enlightened way of life.
So if you are a scientist, social reformer, researcher, inventor or discoverer, you are a Hindu. It does not matter what your theological or religious beliefs are.
A Newton is a Hindu, Einstein is a Hindu, APJ Abdul Kalam is a Hindu, Steve Jobs is a Hindu, every sensible person is a Hindu. More the sensibility, more the Hinduism within him.
Reason 7: Hinduism – Journey of personal discovery
The fundamental principle of Hinduism is that root of sorrow lies in ignorance (Avidya). And remedy is wisdom (Vidya). This wisdom cannot be externally imposed. It has to be discovered within by one’s own efforts. Through knowledge, action and contemplation. The external tools may be helpful in the process. But nonetheless, each of us has to undertake its own journey through its own initiative.
And since each of us is so different and so special, spoon-feeding and expecting to blindly adopt any unverified truth would be an insult to our being human.
Thus all Hindu texts are mere recommendations. And they clearly state that ultimate authority is one’s own self.
Yes, Vedas are considered Supreme in Hinduism. Some consider Gita to be their guide. Some admire Ramayan and Mahabharat. But none is a compulsion. The only compulsion is that you sincerely undertake a journey of personal discovery and allow others the freedom to take a similar journey.
Reason 8: Hinduism – synonym of practical tolerance
That takes us to the next reason why Hinduism is source of my pride. Hinduism is all about tolerance. Since each one of us has to individually take up the journey of personal discovery, and each one of us is a different being, Hinduism acknowledges that paths we choose are bound to be different. So far there is no threat or deceit involved, Hinduism encourages to respect diversity of beliefs and ways of living. A so-called non-Hindu is not supposed to live like a second class citizen in a Hindu Rashtra or Hindu nation.
That is why since time immemorial, Hindustan or Bharat or Aryavart or India has been the cradle that nurtured a variety of theologies. There are no separate rules for Hindu, Muslim or Christian in a Hindu code of conduct. This is in stark contrast with many religions that clearly state that only followers of their set of superstitions are the special ones.
It is shamefully surprising to know that even in 21st century there are such fanatic countries that debar people of other faith to build their places of worship, or visit their so-called Holy cities. In such intolerant societies, punishments for crime against women, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Muslims are different. The rights of people to hold positions of responsibility is dependent on their religion. This has been the way of the west for last 1000 years.
India, on contrary, owing to its Hindu foundation, has been an icon of tolerance. We have had several Muslim Presidents despite more than 80% population being Hindu. Current vice-president is a Muslim. Current chief of ruling party in India is Christian. Current Defence Minister of India is a Christian. The captain of Indian Cricket team for a long time has been a Muslim. The Chief of Army has been a Christian. Head of Intelligence Bureau is a Muslim. And these people have been adulated by Hindus irrespective of their religion. The Kumbh Mela 2013 – greatest religious event of Hindu majority of India – was led by a Muslim. The top Bollywood stars are Muslims.
I am not sure how many countries in world can showcase such a level of tolerance and respect for all faiths. The credit goes to the Hindu foundation of the nation. This makes Hindustan the most unique in entire world.
(Its a different matter that this tolerance sometimes is misused to politicize it into minority appeasement. This is becoming an increasingly serious trend in India in last few decades causing a lot of communal disharmony. The moment a special favor is given on basis of caste or religion, that amounts to appeasement and Hinduism is strongly against it. Respect all and respect self without discrimination – this is the mantra of Hinduism.)
Reason 9: Essence over Symbols, Rituals and Words
When one thinks of religion, the first thing that comes in mind is a specific set of rituals and practices specific to the followers of that religion. For example, Muslims have a specific language for Namaz and Azaan, or would keep beard in specific manner, or would have a specific variety of cap and clothing and so on. A Christian would wear a cross around his neck, or get baptized in a particular format. In case of Hinduism as well, there are several rituals. In fact there are many more rituals, symbols and words in Hinduism than any other religion. That is what gives India its vibrant colors, its rich cultural heritage and makes it the most lively and diverse country in the world.
But there is a big difference. In Hinduism, no symbol, ritual or word is static in time or place. These change with time and place. So a Tamil, Bengali, Punjabi, Gujarati or Bihari Hindu would have different prayers, different religious symbols, different ways of worship. In some other religion this may amount to blasphemy and call for strict punishments. But in Hinduism this is not merely accepted but encouraged. Because they would all point to same essence of seeing Supreme within all and all within Supreme. Since He has infinite qualities, the ways to explore, celebrate or remember Him must also be infinite.
This is what makes India so dynamic. This is what brings unity in diversity. This is exactly the reason why India is so culturally rich. Our rituals, symbols and prayers change from place to place and time to time and yet we direct them to One. This is what makes Hinduism so fresh, so evolving, so purposeful, so practical.
In fact the name Hindu itself is time-bound. The word does not exist in Vedas, Ramayan, Mahabharat, Upanishads or any other scripture. It is a word of recent origin. However, the essence is same – to adopt the roots of enlightened living. Since Hinduism is the oldest and natural religion of every human being, there was never a reason to have a special word for the religion. Manushya Dharma or Maanav Dharma (Humanity) is the more accurate term for Hinduism. Or Arya (noble person) is a good term. For ages these terms sufficed followers of natural human religion. It was only after people started following a specific book or God or prophet that they found the need to discover new terms to identity their cults. And then the culture of giving names to religions erupted. So Hindu became a term to differentiate from anyone who considers disbelief in a particular book as a sin.
But irrespective of that, and regardless of whether we call ourselves Hindu or Arya or Humans or Rational Humans, we still focus on essence over symbols. Love of mother is same regardless of whether you call Amma, or Mummy, or Maa. There is no sin in choosing a different name for mother or mother religion or mother philosophy. Fools fight over symbols. Hindus love for essence.
Reason 10: Nothing beats the Vedas – the foundation of Hinduism
I have read in depth all major religious and philosophical texts of the world. They all contain great wisdom. Be it Bible or Quran or Purans – they all extol to see the Supreme as supreme goal and live a life of accountability. Hats off to writers of these books.
But nothing beats Vedas in terms of variety and depth of wisdom. The roughly 20,000 mantras of Vedas cover everything that a human would ever require – sociology, science, mind control, health, technology, education, management, purpose of life, methods of analysis, finance, economics etc. There are no stories or history unlike other books. There are no claims of miracles. Nor there is any threat for accepting whatever is written.
And yes, earth is round in Vedas. Sun does not move around earth in Vedas. There are no angels and Satans in Vedas. There is no Adam & Eve eating some fruit in Vedas. God does not send prophets in Vedas. God is not a human like creature sitting on a throne in Vedas. There is no city called Heaven or Hell in Vedic map of universe. There is no test that is being conducted on us. There is no destiny that has already been hardcoded for us.
On contrary, Vedas extol to discover the truths through research & analysis. They urge us to change our destiny through thoughts and actions. They demand us to be rational and scientific.
And yet, Vedas do not say that one who believes in unscientific superstitions of Heaven, Hell, Judgement Day, Angels, Satans, Adam, Eve, Miracles etc should be ridiculed or punished in any manner. Instead they appeal for unity of all irrespective of personal or theological beliefs. Intent matters, not beliefs.
I admit this may be a personal reason that you do not concur with because you could never get a chance to study Vedas properly. But after my years of research in Vedas as well as all other major texts of world, I am yet to find a book that surpasses Vedas in its completeness, scientific spirit and life-changing power. The foundation of Hinduism is more solid, more strong, more reliable, more powerful than anything else I know. And if I also add along with Vedas the other Hindu gems – Gita, Upanishads & Darshans – then nothing comes at par for an evolved mind.
(Please visit this link to get Vedas in Hindi in proper book format)
So I have no option but to be proud to be Hindu. My pride lies in my conduct of life as per virtues of patience, tolerance, self-control and scientific temper. My pride lies in loving entire humanity. My pride lies in defending against any form of injustice. My pride lies in promoting scientific way of living to extent possible, and yet be loving of those who disagree with me. My pride lies in living up to the standards of an enlightened Hindu. My pride lies in my honest humility.
Yes, I am proud to be Hindu. And I do wish that entire humanity embraces its root and become proud to be Hindu.