Hinduism is a unique faith! The most obvious
misconception about Hinduism is that we tend to see it as just another
religion. To be precise, Hinduism is a way of life, a dharma. Dharma
does not mean religion. It is the law that governs all action. Thus,
contrary to popular perception, Hinduism is not just a religion in the
tradition sense of the term. Out of this misinterpretation, has come
most of the misconceptions about Hinduism.
Hinduism: A Modern Term
Words like Hindu or Hinduism are ananchronisms. They do not exist in the
Indian cultural lexicon. People have coined them to suit their needs in
different points of history. Nowhere in the scriptures is there any
reference to Hinduism.
Hinduism is a Not really Polytheistic!
Many believe that multiplicity of deities makes Hinduism polytheistic.
Such a belief is nothing short of mistaking the wood for the tree. The
bewildering diversity of Hindu belief - theistic, atheistic and agnostic
- rests on a solid unity. "Ekam sath, Vipraah bahudhaa vadanti", says
the Rig Veda: The Truth (God, Brahman, etc) is one, scholars call it by
What the multipicity of deities does indicate is Hinduism's spiritual
hospitality as evidenced by two characteristically Hindu doctrines: The
Doctrine of Spiritual Competence (Adhikaara) and the Doctrine of The
Chosen Deity (Ishhta Devata). The doctrine of spiritual competence
requires that the spiritual practices prescribed to a person should
correspond to his or her spiritual competence. The doctrine of the
chosen deity gives a person the freedom to choose (or invent) a form of
Brahman that satisfies his spiritual cravings and to make it the object
of his worship. It is notable that both doctrines are consistent with
Hinduism's assertion that the unchanging reality is present in
everything, even the transient.
A Culture More than a Religion
Hinduism does not have any one founder, and it does not have a Bible or
a Koran to which controversies can be referred for resolution.
Consequently, it does not require its adherents to accept any one idea.
It is thus cultural, not creedal, with a history contemporaneous with
the peoples with which it is associated.
A Common Faith of the Indian Subcontinent
The Aryan Invasion Theory having been completely discredited, it cannot
be assumed that Hinduism was the pagan faith of invaders belonging to a
race called Aryans. Rather it was the common metafaith of people of
various races, including Harappans. The Sanskrit word 'aryan' is a word
of honourable address, not the racial reference invented by European
scholars and put to perverse use by the Nazis.
Much More than Spirituality
Writings we now categorise as Hindu scriptures include not just books
relating to spirituality but also secular pursuits like science,
medicine and engineering. This is another reason why it defies
classification as a religion per se. Further, it cannot be claimed to be
essentially a school of metaphysics. Nor can it be described as 'other
worldly'. In fact, one can almost identify Hinduism with a civilization
that is flourishing even now.
A Culture Much Older than we Believe
Evidence that Hinduism must have existed even circa 10000 B.C. is
available: The importance attached to the river Saraswati and the
numerous references to it in the Vedas indicates that the Rig Veda was
being composed well before 6500 B.C. The first vernal equinox recorded
in the Rig Veda is that of the star Ashwini, which is now known to have
occurred around 10000 B.C. Subhash Kak, a Computer Engineer and a
reputed Indologist, 'decoded' the Rig Veda and found many advanced
astronomical concepts therein. The technological sophistication required
to even anticipate such concepts is unlikely to have been acquired by a
nomadic people, as the Invasionists would like us to believe. In his
book Gods, Sages and Kings, David Frawley provides compelling evidence
to substantiate this claim.