Intro: “A resurgent Hinduism will be at the forefront of scientific and economic development but not at the cost of the greater well-being of society or of the planet.” -David Frawley
|Hinduism: A Critical Introduction to Its Cardinal Principles in Comparative Light, Dr. Suresh Dhayagude, Bharatiya Vichar Sadhana Pune Prakashan, Pp 328, Rs 300.00|
In this book of his, the author Dr Suresh Dhayagude says that the Hinduism, adopted by almost 1.2 billion people in the world, is one of the oldest of all the living and practiced religions of the world. He continues that at the same time, it is perhaps the most misunderstood, most misrepresented and most maligned religion despite being open, free and liberal, respecting every other faith and accommodating every kind of belief. It is no wonder that Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru remarked in his autobiography, “It has been remarked that Hinduism is hardly a religion in the usual sense of the word. And yet what an amazing tenacity it has got, what a tremendous power of survival! One may even be a professing atheist, as the old philosopher Charaka was, and yet no one dare say he has ceased to be a Hindu!”
Hinduism is essentially a philosophic religion with a philosophical attitude to life and its problems. It is non-proselytising and does not subscribe to an aggressive Church or a central dogma; it cannot bear comparison with other world religions like Judaism, Christianity or Islam; it is extremely flexible with its rituals and practices giving its follower maximum freedom within a broad framework; its roots lie in the Vedas which have no beginning (anadi) and have not come through any human agency (apauruseya). Here one is tempted to quote from the Vedas which say: “There are different Vedas and there is a variety of smritis (canons); there is not just one sage whose word is final. The essence of dharma is laid deep in the unfathomable caverns; the path of righteousness is the one that is followed by the great.”
Author Dhayagude adds, “Hinduism is inherently pluralist; therefore it finds no difficulty in accommodating diverse views, practices and philosophies.” Hinduism begins where the enquiry of science in its present state ends. This constitutes the rationale behind the theory of karma which is the fundamental principle of Hindu dharma. The theory of reincarnation of the soul or punarjanma (reincarnation) is a corollary of the theory of karma.
A pertinent topic of discussion in the book is the comparative study of the concept of divinity. “Every religion in the world believes in a God, of whose existence the faithful becomes aware through some material object which is manifest to the eye. It may be an idol in a temple or a Cross in a church or a crescent and a star, or an empty space in a mosque.” He goes on to explain how great men, who claimed to have seen or realised God, were born in a tribe or a community in which they spread their religious teachings, as seen in the early history of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. These tribes or communities were in constant conflict, which is “clearly reflected in the mutual relations of these religions. Owing to this historical background, these religions have become mutually exclusive, preventing any meaningful dialogue between them.” As a result, every religion seems bent to exterminate the other; but Hinduism is different as “it has assimilated innumerable tribes and their deities in its grand system, that is, adoption of beliefs and ways of worship as prescribed by countless cults, sects and creeds along with their diverse deities,” adds Dhayagude. He continues, “Offering namaz is a mandatory practice, a ritual for the Muslim and it necessarily mentions Allah as one and only God and Mohammed as his Prophet. Baptism and Eucharist faiths have the same procedure among all Christian sects and creeds and it is associated with Jesus Christ as God, who is son and messenger and following Him as the redeemer.” As against this, in Hinduism there is no common ritual and code of conduct binding on all, emphasis being on sincerity and intensity of faith and not on “external ritual or code of conduct”.
Manju Gupta (The reviewer is former Editor of the NBT)