Hinduism is the oldest of the living religions. There is a general agreement among scholars that early Hinduism can be traced to a few thousand years before Abrahamic religions.
Strictly speaking Hinduism doesn't fall into the classical pattern of other major religions. It doesn't have a single prophet, or a single holy book or a single holy place. It is a loose and dynamic conglomerate of various beliefs and practices with a common bond that connects over a billion people from the Indian sub-continent. Hindus believe in the Trinity of Godhead. The three aspects of:
- Creation (Brahma)
- Sustenance (Vishnu) and
- Lysis (Siva).
Adi Shakti or Primal Energy is worshipped as the ultimate source of energy. Hindus believe that Vishnu appears in various forms from time to time to restore world order.
According to Hindu scriptures the human body is just a temporary garment worn by the soul during the current birth and we continue the cycle of birth and death till the soul rejoins the supreme god. A human being is but a spark from the supreme fire (god) and our life is but a continuous journey back to the godhead. Our life is restless as it is really an unnatural confused state. We experience supreme bliss only on rejoining the original source from which we came.
Too much attachment to wealth and prosperity will lead us to bondage and keeps us in the pathetic cycles of life and death.
Self realization or Mukti frees us from this bondage and takes us back to Godhead and we merge in the supreme god.
God and man are really one and the same and it is the ignorance of our true nature that is the cause of all suffering.
We can leave all our burdens to God and be free from misery right in this birth. We create burden and misery to ourselves by believing that we are the doers, while truly nothing in this world happens without God's will.
We lead our lives like an innocent person who while travelling in a train went on carrying the heavy load on his head. When the travelling ticket examiner asked him why he was carrying the luggage on his head, the innocent person replied that he was trying to help the train, by carrying the load on his head.
All our life is spent in looking for ways to get happiness.
As children we find happiness in sweets only to realize later that sweets really destroy our teeth. The source of happiness keeps changing from time to time and we don't realize that the real happiness lies in giving up desire.
The sooner we give up chasing this mirage of happiness and listen to the inner conscience that we gain freedom of the spirit and reach immortality or mukti.
Hinduism is thus a way of life and is a continually evolving spiritual thought.
According to Advaita (nondualism) philosophy, man and god are one and the same. There is nothing in the world apart from God. Even Maya or illusion is an aspect of the God.
Realization should be the ultimate goal. According to [www.ramana-maharshi.org Ramana Maharshi] the latest among the great seers of Hinduism all human beings are realized souls and what we have to realize is that we are already realized souls. He used to treat all animals and birds as his own companions and in his prescence even animals led a very orderly life.
Hindu saints accept the preachings of all prophets with great reverence and quote freely from Bible and Koran.
Hinduism has never forced conversions of other religions into its fold. People generally adapt Hinduism as a way of their life. All human beings are essentially Hindus as all of us come from the same God and are on the same journey back to Godhead. If we win the grace of God by leading a dharmic life, God will lead us to a teacher or Guru who will take us on a short and smooth journey back to god. A child which wins mother's grace will be picked up by the mother and taken care off.
Strengths and weaknesses of Hinduism
Strengths of Hinduism
The strength of Hinduism lies in its openness to all thoughts and beliefs.
The source of thought in Hinduism is the inner conscience of our self and the continuous line of Gurus or holy men who appear from time to time to revitalize the religion.
Weaknesses of Hinduism
The greatest thoughts of advaita (non-dualism), have not translated into equal treatment of all hindus. Casteism, untouchability and forbidding of women from performing supreme religious rites have fractured the hindu society into groups of weaklings. The result had been an invasion of India by other religious groups and mass conversions of the exploited classes. Misinterpretation of Karma (providence), led to inaction and acceptance of misery in fellow human beings. This made hindus tolerant to the machinations of invaders.
Future of Hinduism
Hinduism is an eternal fountain giving solace to seekers of faith.
Its strength is not just in the numbers of those born into Hindu families.
Its strength lies in its adaptability, flexibility and continuous evolution.
Underneath the flexibility lies the neverending spring of humanism and freedom that lifts a Hindu out of gloom.
Mahatma Gandhi used to sing this song at his morning prayers
Raghupathi Raghava rajaram patita pavana sitaram Eswara allah tere naam Sabko sanmati de bhagavan.
Oh lord Rama, Your names are Eswar and Allah. Give good thoughts to all of us.
Gandhi followed the preachings of Jesus in letter and spirit. He:
- Used to instruct his followers to be ready to receive body blows but never to lose spirit.
- Instructed them to receive death smilingly, but never to succumb to fear.
- Lead the freedom movement with the weapons of truth, love and non-violence exactly in the same lines as one of the ancient kings of India Emperor Ashoka.
Ashoka (3rd century BC) won a great war in the south of India and accessed large chunks of territory.
The victory parade took him to the war zone where he saw thousands of injured and killed soldiers. He immediately disbanded the army and became a saint King, and subsequently converted to Buddhism.
This is the true Hindu spirit which considers all human beings as one and the same.