Any religion which encourages or ensures every man to be his best self is a religion of man. This religion has to recognise the uniqueness of man and provide him opportunities to grow in every possible way?materially as well as spiritually.
Hinduism, evolved over the centuries, has accumulated a treasure of wisdom and vision of many sages and saints. Its insights into the nature of man and the Divine can embrace the past, the present and the future.
One of the great insight of Vedas and Upanishads and reiterated by the great sage and thinker, Shri Shankaracharya, in his Advaita philosophy is: Man is a spark of the Divine??Aham Brahmsami? (I am God or God'smanifestation). A drop of water and the ocean are essentially the same. It is a mystic reality and it is also a charter of religious democracy?equality, liberty and fraternity. Just as every voter has the potential to be the President of the Indian Republic, every human being has the capacity to be as perfect as God himself. Of course, it is a fact of life that not many have achieved or realised this potential. In modern times only a few like Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Swami Vivekananda or Shri Ramana Maharshi have done so. Man is more weak or ignorant than wicked. When he realises his strength or knowledge, he can find his true potential.
Another insight that ensures progress of mankind is the concept of dharma, which means ?that which sustains society?. There are no permanent and unchanging rules and regulations governing the society. They are always subject to change to serve the requirements of the society. That is why the Upanishads say: Tamaso ma jyotirgamaya (Let us go from darkness to light). The search of science for truth does not contradict Hindu religion or Hindu philosophy at all. That is why no Galileos have been imprisoned and no heretics have been burnt on the stake in India.
The third most important insight is the theory of karma and reincarnation. Dharma and karma are related and are based on law of life and the law of nature. In simple language, it means you reap what you sow. Some seeds grow into a plant in a few months and some take years to grow into a tree.
Theory of karma means man'sdestiny is his own hands. Every act goes to shape one'sfuture. There is a rule of law not merely in nature but also in the world of mind and morals. Karma means both action and consequences. Action whether in thought or deed leads to certain consequences, immediately or a little later. Nobody can escape consequences of any action. The right action leads to right consequences. Karma does not negate freedom. Karma means you take responsibility for your actions. Dr. S. Radhakrishnan has compared it to a game of cards. The cards that you get are based on your past game. You still have the freedom to play cards of your present game which of course will shape the future.
Over the centuries, some of the Hindu sages and thinkers formulated structures for a happy and prosperous life of the people and the society?varnashram dharma?four divisions of labour and four stages of life. The four divisions of labour of a society are: Brahman (priest/teacher); kshtriya (ruler/fighter); vaishya (farmer/trader), and sudra (labourer/worker). The four stages of life are: brahmacharya (student); grihastha (house-holder); vanaprastha (retired life in a forest for contemplation) and sannyasa (life of renunciation of all worldly ties and a life dedicated to salvation of the soul).
The Hindu scheme of life has a place for everything and everything in its proper place. The four-fold purushatras (purposes/fulfillments) are: dharma (duties that sustain man and society); artha (wealth/work); kama (desire/enjoyment) and moksha (liberation from worldly ties). In this scheme, man and the divine have been brought together.
As Lord Krishna explains in the Bhagavad Gita, Charturvarnam maya sahratam gunakarma vibhaghasha. These divisions of labour were created on the basis of guna (innate ability or talent) and karma (training). It was not intended to be hereditary. Man is born sudra by birth and becomes dvija (twice-born) by spiritual regeneration.
Like all human institutions, these formulations became rigid and lost their purpose or relevance especially the varna system (caste system) though these divisions of labour still exist in all societies.
Human spirit is free and it cannot be circumscribed by rules and regulations. This is well-propounded by saints and saint-poets who proclaimed by their lives that man is not bound by man-made restrictions. They brought Hindu religion back to the common man. The galaxy of saints and saint-poets in various parts of the country?Buddha and Mahavir in ancient times, Sant Jnaneshwar and Sant Tukaram in Maharashtra; Purandaradas and Kanakadas in Karnataka; Alwars in Tamil Nadu; Kabirdas and Tulsidas in Hindi region; Nanakdev in Punjab and Chitanya Mahaprabhu in Eastern India.
The task of Hindus of the 21st century is to separate the chaff from the grain and make it a true manava dharma (religion of man) of the present age.