By Promod Puri
Why are there so many gods and goddesses in Hinduism? Why worship an idol? Is going to temple mandatory in the faith? What impact does the caste system have on Hindu society? Why do some rituals make perfect sense while others are so vague? What are the secular and diverse characters in Hinduism? What physics principles constitute the sound of Om? What is karma and its role in our day to day lives?
These are some of the many questions which intrigue the non-Hindu mind as well as even among the Hindus especially those belonging to the younger generation.
Wrapped in mystique and antiquity the identity of Hinduism lies in its wide-open structure which allows and let develop diverse and distinct ideologies and practices without any governing body or binding scriptures.
“Hinduism has no traditional ecclesiastical order, no centralized religious authorities, no governing body, no prophet(s) nor any binding holy book; Hindus can choose to be polytheistic, pantheistic, monistic, or atheistic. Within this diffuse and open structure, spirituality in Hindu philosophy is an individual experience”.
– Julius Lipner, author: Hindus: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices. Source: Wikipedia.
Hinduism is not merely a religion or as it is often referred “a way of life”. It is a multi-disciplinary academy as well. It is a democracy of conflicting, contradicting and controversial thoughts and ideologies.
Beyond its practicing rituals, customs, and traditions Hinduism thru its various schools offers comprehensive studies in philosophies, metaphysics, and sciences which cover every aspect of human endeavors.
As such it recognizes diversity of thought. The rational and liberal thought in Hinduism is the very basis of Sankhya School which is one of the several ancient Hindu faculties infusing diversity in the theological philosophies of the religion. Sankhya in Hindi or Sanskrit means number. In this empirical meaning, Sankhya seeks rationality as demonstrated by numeric equation 2+2=4. It rejects 2+2=5. In other words, a concept must go thru rational examination before being accepted or rejected.
An example of its rational and liberal acceptance of thoughts is revealed in Hindu theism in the following statement from the Rig Veda Chapter X, Para 129 which says:
Who knows, and who can swear,
How creation came, when or where!
Even gods came after creation’s day,
Who knows, who can truly say
When and how did creation start?
Did He, do it? Or did He not?
Only He, up there, knows, maybe;
Or perhaps, not even He.
(Promod Puri is the author of Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, And Traditions)
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