Hindu religion is the oldest living religion, by far known to humankind. According to modern theology or anthropology, we know that Homo Sapiens is at least 350,000 years old. Behaviourally modern humans were present 40,000 years ago. Agricultural evidence is present from 10,000-year-old civilizations and evidence of Hinduism is as old as at least 4,000 years. Historians conclude that an older Indo-European religion influenced the modern Hindu religion. They believe that the Indo-European culture spread from somewhere in central Asia to Europe and India. It brought with it, its language, culture, and religion. Later, the Indian culture and politics transformed into what exists today that we call Hinduism. This theory is based on various similarities among the Indian, Roman, and other cultures of the same time.
The Western Hinduism
But this belief is not quite old. The scholars of the 19th century came up with the theory of ‘Aryan invasion’ in India. Before that, western scholars considered India, a country of indigenous and tribal religions with good ideals but no knowledge. They neither understood Sanskrit, nor did they have the advances in cosmology and physics. As a result, they believed the Hindu religion to be mythological and orthodox. Even before that, western society did not even acknowledge India as a civilization in history. After the European dark ages, western scholars of science behaved like idiots. They persecuted several of their own for saying that the earth was round or that the sun was at the center of the solar system. It is only natural, that they thought of Hindu scriptures as backward and mythological.
But the world developed in sciences, and Hinduism gained attention for its pre-contained revolutionary theories and philosophies. Archaeologists found samples of its trade artifacts from all over the world, and as old as 2500 BCE. Eventually, the western civilization’s pride in being the ‘greatest civilization’ shattered after the discovery of ginormous empires and scientifically advanced literature of India. As a result, their collective ego could not oversee this and came up with theories like ‘Aryan invasion’ to establish their superiority. Today they are adamant about their theories, which they say are based on evidence and facts. But they have forgotten about their theories of the recent past which too were based on “evidence and facts”. The only fact that stands true is that while time tests and challenges the western theories every day; The Hindu philosophy becomes increasingly concrete.
Who is a Hindu? A Hindu of the Past, or a Hindu of the Present
Although numerous pieces of evidence oppose the ‘Aryan invasion’ and even the ‘out of Africa’ theory. My intent is not to get into the mud fight of evidence and facts. If one believes in humanity, above all biases, it does not matter if an Indian or a Turkish composed the Vedas. But one thing is disturbing in this context. Just like a nation is its citizens, religion is its followers. Hindu religion, even if started in America is extinct there now. It is the Indians who have kept the culture and memory alive. So, if a person from a different culture becomes the authority on it, people will never know the truth. Scholars, who know nothing about the culture, profess about it and make conclusions about the facts and myths of it. This demeans the culture and debases the facts.
We must try to understand the Hindu religion from its own perspective. After all, it is not dead yet. It can speak for itself and does not require guesswork of speculation and derivation based on examples or evidence. I am not saying that Hinduism is a closed group. But a person must pass the level of a student to be a teacher of the sort. So, to understand Hinduism in its true sense, I will allow myself to speak a little bit about it. At the same time, I promise not to include my own prejudices. I will try to keep my thoughts restricted to the teachings of the systematic traditions of my culture.
What is Hinduism?
The Hindu religion is not only the oldest but the most diverse in the whole world. We can put Hinduism on one side and all the other religions on the other; Hinduism still will prove to be more diverse than all the others combined. Yet, all the subsets of Hinduism have a union in terms of outcoming philosophies and mutual respect for one another; Making them count under one religion of Hinduism. One sect focuses on logic and reason, while the other advocates’ rituals. One sect believes in spiritualism, while others consider God to live in material things. Some people believe in worshiping only one God over others while others consider worshipping separate Gods on separate occasions. This nature of Hinduism confuses the theologians of today. They cannot get a grasp on what the actual underlying philosophy is.
Ultimately, they give up and say that Hinduism is not a religion. It is an idea or a way of life where one is free to choose his or her belief. Indeed, they say this in praise, compared to Abrahamic religions. But this is not the fact. Hinduism does not allow its followers to believe in anything and everything. Truth is never flexible. Hinduism is equal if not stricter in its ideologies compared to other religions. The thing that sets it apart from other religions is the mutual respect and inclusiveness in ideologies. In that way, if all other religions correct their mistake of insulting others to prove dominion, all will be Hindus; And yet nobody will have to change their religion. This is the main reason why the world has never seen a drive of Hinduism, trying to convert others. Because Hinduism does not aspire so.
What is Religion? In terms of Hinduism
Hinduism too alienates certain religions and discards them from being its part. According to Hinduism, the world segregates into two religions, ‘Sanatana Dharma’ and ‘Mlechha Dharma’. ‘Sanatana’ literally translates to ‘always’. So, the sects that arrive from the oldest form of Hinduism are of the Sanatana discipline. Hinduism does not believe in the eternal law. It is mandatory that in every Mahayug, Veda Vyasa recompiles the holy literature of Vedas and Puranas. Also, the avatars of Gods incarnate periodically to correct the errors that happen over time. Actually, the Hindu Religion is a mixture of both types of laws; The laws that need to change with place and time and those which do not change in the present Universe. The disciplines in Sanatana Dharm are Dharma (Religion), Artha (Prosperity), Kama (Pleasure), and Moksha (Liberation). The principles are Tap (Austerity), Pavitrata (Purity), Daya (Kindness), and Satya (Truth).
The second religion is ‘Mlechha’ which literally translates to faint or indiscrete. In the context of religions, it means that the religion is not based on any authentic principles. People manufacture beliefs in these religions as they feel; The ideologies in these religions are based on emotions rather than scientific facts. Since these religions do not have authenticity, they are prone to manipulation. One baseless thought replaces another. According to the Hindu scriptures, Kaliyug establishes its dominion by expanding the Mlechha Dharm all over the world. It then manipulates the good ideals of these religions into destructive and selfish ones. The principles of Mlechha Dharm, as described by Bhavishya Puran are; Vishnubhakti or faith in the supreme God; Agni puja or worship of fire, light, sun, etc.; Ahinsa or non-violence; Tapasya or austerity; Indriyadaman or celibacy.
The selfish leaders today, use the good ideals in Mlechha Dharm to manipulate people. In turn, the followers of these religions, debased from their ancestry, easily grab the rope of deceit; Leading consecutively to conservatism, materialism, foible, ambition, and futility. People following these religions must understand this and change their ideals accordingly.
As for the Hindus, the main challenge is to fight the unified slogan of “Change is the only constant”. We need to understand that change is not mandatory. If a person perceives pleasure in something, it is not necessary to change it to pain. If a child receives an excellent upbringing, it is not compulsory for him/her to change the process. He/she can repeat the process for bringing up the next generation. The Hindus must have done some virtuous deeds to be born in such an enlightened culture. They must not flow in the stream of popularity but stick to the truth. The problem that a modern Hindu faces, is not of discovering a good ideal for life. But the struggle is in balancing the four aspects of Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha. So, this is what a good Hindu should strive for.
I ran out of space in this blog. In my next blog, I will try to focus more on the problems that Hindus are facing in the modern world.