It’s becoming popular to say that Hinduism is not a religion but simply “a way of life”, or not a spiritual tradition but a cultural phenomenon…like the current yoga trend in America. This helps Hinduism keep a sort of cult status which is incorrect. Hinduism is hardly a cult.
Many Hindus do not know enough about their own Hindu Sanatana Dharma, which they claim as their proud birthright and heritage, in order to effectively tell a non-Hindus what Hinduism is. Though of course many can. Hinduism is also difficult for others unfamiliar to grasp. For these reasons, Hindus simply say that it is a way of life, not a religion. Many Christians and Muslims also like to say that Hinduism is not a real religion simply because it is an unorganized and polytheistic one.
To state that the world’s oldest and most comprehensive (I’d argue the most profound and copied religious tradition on Earth), is but “a way of life”, a culture, a science, a philosophy, a political party, etc….(This) is demeaning and playing into the hands of monotheistic missionaries who want to convert you to their religious monoculture and set you free or on fire…thinking they’ve saved you from their Hell that their religion and/or God imposed upon all Pagans, and constructed in the first place. Hinduism is actually all these things mentioned and more without all the division and conflict.
So where does this idea stem from? For many centuries fundamental Christians, Muslims and radical atheists have declared this to be accurate. That Hinduism is not a religion at all. Mostly since Hindus are not monotheists. Even though some are. They do not even have a modicum of respect for the religion-Hinduism to say it is an actual, true or real religion. Even though many of their religious stories can be found before in Vedic stories.
In reality, Hinduism was the initial religion and all other religions just copied parts of it here and there. There are way too many commonalities between Krishna and Christ to just ignore. Unfortunately many Hindus are too nice and respect other religions to the point that they parrot such sentiments and statements thinking themselves holy, passive, modern and wise for claiming that Hindu Sanatana Dharma is not a religion. They certainly don’t want any rocking of boats and are passive to their own detriment.
Many Hindus would rather bow down before Abrahamic religious traditions and their very limited and narrow view and definition of the term ‘religion’; which to them specifically refers to a purely belief-based, blind-faith and dumb dogma. A no intelligence required religion. In fact, they abhor intelligence.
The first Biblical man and woman were to choose from a tree of knowledge or a tree of life…as if the two we mutually exclusive. Surely Adam was taken in by a women. Christianity and Judaism are patriarchal religion after all. They(Adam and Eve), chose to eat from the tree of knowledge, intelligence or enlightenment, rather than from the tree of life and blind faith; and because of this the Biblical God cursed them and all their descendants.
This is of course why Christians need a savior. It’s a set-up. Obviously the Abrahamic God doesn’t want any competition. Hindus and others following similar Eastern Dharma(s) have for millennia thought of religion as being closer to the term’s etymological meaning.
The word ‘religion’ is etymologically defined as that which brings non-duality or union between all opposites, or union of individual’s awareness and cosmic consciousness, or the natural microcosm and the macrocosm of nature and the cosmos, or the individual soul and the creator, preserver and destroyer of universal reality, which many call God.
Allow me to further differentiate between dogma and Dharma, or between fundamental and non-fundamental religions. Are Hindus also Fundamentalists? An exclusive, dogmatic belief and conversion-based religion with one book, one God, one prophet, one chosen people and one lifetime followed by an eternal Heaven or Hell, is going to be prone to religious fundamentalism. It’s like spiritual Amway. This does not describe Hinduism which holds an emphasis on karma, reincarnation and diversity.
Religious fundamentalism means believing that there is one true religion and/or believing in a particular scripture which is automatically taken as the infallible word of God; and an insistence that all humans accept it as such, or else. There is no such thing as this sort of fundamentalism in the Hindu Dharmic tradition or its many scriptures which emphasize radical inclusion, real peace amongst all divisions of people, and pluralism.
Hinduism does not absolutely insist upon one God. Hindus do not believe in one savior, one originator of their religion, one son of one God, one prophet, one chosen people, one lifetime to get it right or one book as the final or highest form of divine truth. So no true Hindu would ever say that only their scriptures were true while others are abominations against truth and/or the word of God.
Is there one of anything? These sort of absolute divisions only create intolerance and waring factions in our world, as they have throughout the last 3k years or so. No true Hindu would say that the scriptures of others were totally and absolutely false. No true Hindu would say that only Hindus can find or be reunited/united with the divine reality, while all others will burn in Hell for all of eternity.
That is the epitome of selfishness, intolerance and spiritual bigotry. I’d challenge anyone who insists that the Bible or Koran are the source of absolute truth and/or the apex of morality, to look at the scriptures and tenants of Hindu, Buddhist, Jainism and Taoists’. You own it to yourself to do so.
Why does it matter? I’ve come across a few Indian Hindus in the last 30 years and many other Western non-Hindus recently, who insist that Hinduism is NOT a religion but a culture, and because I was not born into an Indian culture, I am not really a Hindu.
I’ve followed, studied and practiced some form of Hindu Dharma for 30 years, but I’m being told that being Hindu is an impossibility because I am an American with white skin.
I try to tell them that Hinduism is actually a religion and not a race or nationality, but their ignorance and bigotry remains resolute, while their minds remain static. I’ve even been compared to Rachel Dolezal, a leader of an NAACP chapter who was born Caucasian but identifies as Afro-American and insists that she’s black.
No one is born into any religion. It is to be a sacred choice. We may be born to Hindu or Christian parents, into a so called Hindu or Christian society…but no one is born into any religion whatsoever. The very idea of this being born Christian, Hindu or whatever is flawed. Dare I say that we’re all born atheists. I will also tell the reader that converting to any other religion other than your parent’s or society’s preference, is not an easy task. It takes will power, intelligence and great resolve.
It also takes a great understanding of the religion that one is being to converted into.So please, my Hindu brothers and sisters, think before you speak- not visa-versa. We should all be proud of our Dharma which transcends all things in this world and in others. The word ‘Hinduism’ is a misnomer in and of the word itself. Hinduism is however, the current status or term synonymous with Sanatana Dharma or the eternal and natural way, path or religion. Let us not be put off by the word ‘religion’ which has also come to mean something it is not.
Let’s understand that Hinduism is actually a religion, in some ways it is THE religion that simultaneously shares much in common with other world religious and spiritual traditions. Being so very ancient, it has of course become intertwined with other meaningful aspects of life: art, music, poetry, cuisine, psychology, medicine, politics, sociology, philosophy, theology, aesthetics, mysticism, gnosticism, esoterics, existentialism, epistemology, animism, pantheism, monism, etc. But let us not forget that Hinduism is indeed a religion….and let’s find pride in it!