Hindu Dharma allows Bhartiyas to spend most of their time in pursuit of the sacred, Not to convert others, but to realise the eternal truth within their own deeper awareness
“No soul is born into any religion. All Souls are born into the Dharma, not into religions that are man made (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri)”
Hinduism (Sanatana Dharma) is the oldest religion in the world with a literature larger than any other faith. It has a glorious heritage of the most continuous, comprehensive and cumulative knowledge system in the world that relies on an eternal tradition of truth. It is the largest of non-Abrahamic religions. Hinduism is not simply a religion, but a complete spiritual culture.
Hindu Dharma is an art and science that encompasses all the ways of knowledge and leading all the individuals to self-realisation along with understanding universal consciousness. This quest ends not with theological dogmas and assentations but with the realisation of divinity deep within one’s self. Hindu tradition is the most transformative spiritual association that one can make, acknowledging its great teachings and connection with the cosmic mind that is perhaps the jewel in world civilisation. Hindu Dharma is a practical way of inner knowing, not a theoretical system or ideology that can be embraced on a conceptual or emotional level alone. It aims at providing us with appropriate tools to discover the higher truth within ourselves, rather than telling us what that truth is supposed to be.
Hinduism is not limited to any single messiah, prophet, scripture, or church. It is like a great mother and other religions are like her children. Like a mother, she doesn’t like to criticise her children but prefers to nourish and support them. With a little teaching can define the main principle and beliefs of Christianity, Islam or Judaism. Spiritual teaching in India is based on Dharma that refers to universal principle, not a matter of faith but of knowledge. So different religions of the world can’t simply be called as Dharma, because they are mostly based on faith or beliefs and not allow the believers to ask questions about it. Hindu Dharma emphasises natural law, meditation and Yoga practices leading to enlightenment of self-realisation. It is based upon universal principles like the law of Karma, which are true in all places and all times.
Conversion Agenda of Abrahamic Religions
The organised or institutionalised religion like Christianity or Islam, have created social control mechanism rather than offering a real spiritual path. Discerning individuals have looked beyond it to mystical and Yogic teaching.
In the Western world, religion is usually associated with a formula of belief in something unseen, miraculous, perhaps even irrational. For the Western mind, religion is often placed apart from the world of nature, something supernatural or miraculous. Religion thus becomes a matter of faith, even if that faith contradicts our actual experience. Their belief is associated with one God, one primary representative of him, and one book of revelation. Such religions try to convert the entire world to their beliefs, which they view as the salvation for all humanity. As belief is not knowledge but emotional assertion, belief often ends up on the battlefield, not to determine which belief is true but which will dominate the world. Beliefs remove us from the spiritual experience, which inherently takes us beyond beliefs. Regarding one belief alone as true is contrary to the boundary of life. Theological morality divides humanity into the believers and the non-believers, the people of God and those against God, heretical. These religious traditions that reject the use of image only make themselves incapable of representing the full spiritual aspiration of humanity.
There are several unanswered questions like: Why should God have only one son? Why should there be a final prophet when there were previous prophets? Why should there be only one final Bible? A single book or a single statement can’t be declared as exclusive truth. The Western religious thinkers generally identify universality in religion with monotheism: the idea that there is only one God, only one religious book. History revealed that how monotheism has been allied with invasion, colonialism and genocide, which may be the unfortunate end results of a rigid, one-sided and ultimately violent view of the divine. The Western culture is primarily materialistic and commercial.
Threat to Hinduism
Hinduism is often criticised as not being a universal religion because it does not proselytise or aggressively seek converts like Christianity and Islam often do. People are working like salesmanship which is always working for conversion. In Hindu view, attempts at religious conversion are implicit forms of violence, that are harming the feelings of others. Because it is an attempt to impose an external belief or code upon a person.
In the name of secular education, India’s great Gurus were delegitimised in the newly institutionalised educational system. Similarly, Ashrams (traditional schools), which had been successfully transmitting traditional knowledge from one generation to another, were either ignored or marginalised. This led to a complete disconnect of the saints from the mainstream academic scholarship. As a result, the original practitioners and inheritors of Hinduism, who could provide an insider’s perspective, were completely replaced in mainstream academics in the name of modernity, objectivity and rationality.
India’s educational system that was primarily Hindu-oriented in nature was suppressed and closed down by the British, which replaced it with the colonial education system. These British views were introduced into the educational system of India as authoritative. India’s great Gurus were ignored or looked down upon, though a few Westerners bravely became their disciplines over time. After Independence, the Hindu Dharma again was deprived in the name of Marxism, Communist, Modernism, Post-modernism or other such Leftist ideology. It continues to be depicted as a culture of darkness and oppression. Even today by the legacies of the British system and that of the Catholic Churches, which couldn’t be called sensitive to Hinduism. Portrayals of Hinduism remain coloured by the views of the old missionaries and colonial administrations who were trying to rule and convert India, and were certainly not appreciative of its spiritual culture. Western Christian fundamentalism is funding multibillion dollars for doing conversion business in India. History says, for the first time, Indians allowed Christian refugees into the country as early as the fourth century AD, giving them a land to practise their religion without any persecution.
Genocide Against Hindus by Islamic Rulers
Even much before the British era, Hindu education system was slowly destroyed by the Western and Islamic invaders, including Arabs, Turks, and Afghans from the eight century onwards. India was under Islamic rule for a longer period and they always tried to replace or diminish the older culture of India from our education system. The Islamic ruler promotes conversion and takes away the wealth of the Hindus. They destroyed thousands of temples and schools, including the massacre of Hindu yogis, monks and priests. Even they built mosques upon Hindu temples, of which Babri masjid was the burning example. The conversion was more aggressive during the time of Aurangzeb resulted in one of the worst genocides in human history. They looted and destroyed the great Indian temples throughout the country.
For Hindu Dharma, a temple is not only a place of worship, but a symbol of our culture, art, and our identity. Islamic rulers in India were largely intolerant of Hindu Dharma, taxed Hindus heavily and prevented them from building or renovating the temples. A Hindu temple includes life and people, and sacred place of collective spiritual aspiration. It is not a monument to a uniform belief, but an expression of life in all of its richness and abundance.
From ages to ages, Hindus were suppressed, humiliated and targeted for conversion often at the threat of cruelty and death. Hindus were prevented from practising their religion in public and forceful attempts were made to convert them. There were several countries where Hindus were predominant, but now it’s very difficult to find a Hindu family. Vietnam was a Hindu Country until the seventeenth century. Hinduism was dominant in Afghanistan till the tenth century. Hindu influence was there in Persia, Central Asia, and the Western Asia. Afghanistan and Central Asia came under Islamic influence in the period around seven hundred and one thousand AD. If we look at the current scenario, we hardly find the Hindu population.
A majority of Hindus have lost the art of decoding their own spiritual tradition. They can explain a few aspects of Hinduism like Yoga and Ayurveda, but are unable to clearly articulate what Hinduism stands for. The younger generation is often more interested in the popular culture imported from the West than its own spiritual tradition. The literate elite mass is proud of its modern, scientific, and humanitarian views and often denigrates the religious background of our culture. This modern popular culture with its lack of higher values can lead people into a spiritual and moral wasteland. The weakening of the family system, increased promiscuity and the rampant use of drugs leaves many individuals in a worsen life situation.
Hindu Dharma in India has given humanity, the land where human beings have spent most of the time in pursuit of the sacred, not to convert others, but to realise the eternal truth within our own deeper awareness. Practice of conversion is considered as a sin in Hindu Dharma. Hinduism shares its teaching with all those who are receptive. Its concern is with communicating the essence of truth, not merely getting people to change religious labels. It regards truth as something we should search inside ourselves, not try to impose on others as if they were an external thing.
Christianity and Islam spread historically mainly by converting people from their indigenous beliefs, teaching them that their indigenous religion and the culture on which they are based are wrong, inferior or evil. Even many of them donate to such conversion activities that often have Government support or sanction. But, Hinduism has not sought to convert the world by preachers or armies. It grows organically among people as part of a spiritual culture. It teaches people to preserve their indigenous customs and beliefs, to cherish their native heritage. So, Hinduism is the burning example of the best surviving religion from that the most ancient period can help us understand and recreate other ancient traditions from throughout the world. Hinduism is not afraid of criticism by other religions, which it has already received in abundance. The Western religion doesn’t understand that eastern Dharmic traditions are not simply religious beliefs but universal ways of spiritual knowledge.
Significance of Hinduism
The beauty of Hinduism is that it is a religion that allows a universal perspective to flow through it. It is a tradition of spiritual search without barriers that accepts all true aspiration regardless of name or form. It places experimental spirituality above outer beliefs, dogmas or creeds. It is a set of teachings that comprehends all of life, including religion, yoga, meditation, natural healing, mysticism, philosophy, martial arts, science, painting and culture as part of a single reality in its diverse expression like a great Banyan tree.
It is completely different from the Western idea of religion, it is more than that. It includes religious worship, prayer, and meditation of all aspects of art, culture, philosophy and science. It is not simply another way of life but a way of cosmic life.
Hinduism is not limited to any single messiah, prophet, scripture, or church. It is like a great mother and other religions are like her children. Like a mother, she doesn’t like to criticise her children but prefers to nourish and support them
One of the traditions that will greatly benefit from these new trends is Hindu Dharma, whose universality provides for a global integration of culture and spirituality. Modern gurus from the Hindu tradition over the past one hundred years- starting with Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Swami Vivekananda, Yogananda, Aurobindo, and so many have been at the forefront of the new global universality in religion and experimental forms of the spirituality. Gurus in Hindu religion have shared Yoga and meditation practices with the people across the globe without requiring that their followers become Hindu. Today Hindu gurus travel all over the world to share their knowledge with discipline from all countries. Many Westerners are practising Yoga, meditation, chanting Om, other Hindu mantras, and visit sacred Hindu places without conversing with their original religion. Because Hindu teaches more spiritual values rather than conversion practice. In Hindu Dharma, religious teachers are first of all a teacher of dharma, not a preacher promoting conversion to a particular faith or creed. Unlike Christian priests, they don’t take confession, preach, proselytise or function as missionaries. Hindu Dharma is often called as Manava Dharma (Dharma of mankind/human being) that examines our full human potential and develops unique teaching for all types and temperaments of people and all aspects of human life. It teaches all human beings how to develop health, happiness, creativity and liberation.
Hindu traditions require a culturally sensitive presentation not the old colonial prejudice. Hinduism is the most synthetic and can integrate all spiritual paths into a deeper quest for self-realisation. Hindu Dharma is a key component of our greater human, spiritual and yogic heritage that we must examine in order to understand our true potentials as species, not only towards scientific development but towards higher consciousness. Hindu Dharma is the pillar of natural law and immutable truth. So, Hindu Dharma is an attempt to embrace all religions, not to set up one against another. Hindu Dharma can be seen as the world’s largest, oldest and most diverse native tradition.
Disclaimer: This article is a reflection from the book “What is Hinduism? A guide for the global mind” by David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri)