The question does such thing as “Hinduism” exist? Since this is not a ‘belief’ or ‘ideas’ of a particular person or a group, ‘ism’ does not fit with it. This name was given by those who did not understand the system and in back of their mind they thought that theirs is the only truth and others are all ‘false belief’ or ’satanic path’!
Hinduism is more than a religion, more than the theological direction in which the west understands religion. It is an unbroken spiritual tradition that is founded on the principles of Dharma which is often called Sanatan Dharma.
The ideal function of dharma is to provide a sound, fundamental world-view which correctly orientates the individual to the cosmos and thus can serve as the basis for an intelligent guide to living.
The relation of Sanatana Dharma to the Hindu system is like science to technology. What does the word “Hindu” represents? According to the dictionary: ‘the inhabitants of India’ or ‘followers of Hinduism’ are Hindus. Simply, Hindu is name of a dharmic system and a culture. How about a “Hindu religion”? Does it exist? How many different “panths” and sects can be found which is based on Sanatana Dharma? And, are they like other religions of the world? Should we adhere to Hindu system as a belief-oriented system? Is it right to call it “Hindu faith”? The answer is simple: If such a belief is necessary for certain individuals it is OK. But a system cannot stand on belief or assumption. It must have a rock solid foundation of truth, facts and logic, and it must be able to accommodate the least evolved person as well as the most evolved one.
It differs from Western religion in certain key respects:
- Its origin cannot be traced to a single person who received a divine revelation and became the founder of the faith.
- It is not based upon a particular book.
- It cannot be defined in terms of a dogma or a body of beliefs that distinguishes its followers from the rest of humanity.
- It does not have an established institution with the power to induct or expel people from the faith.
- A central institution or authority such as a church or an association does not control it.
- It is not averse to examine and assimilate fundamentally diverse thoughts and beliefs into its system.
- It has been evolving continuously, through internal reforms and as a reaction to threats and challenges.
- Even though there is no central authority that enforces cohesion among its people and lays out plans for the future, its fundamental concepts and outlook have permeated all sections of the society.
What are the fundamental notions essential in Hindu Dharma?
- Recognizes that the greater portion of human religious aspirations has always been unknown, undefined and outside of any institutionalized belief.
- Allows absolute freedom to the rational mind of man. It never demands any undue restraint upon the freedom of human reason, the freedom of thought, feeling and will of man.
- It is only a means to an end, and all dharmic means that ultimately lead to the final goal are approved of.
- Does not force anybody to accept particular dogmas or forms of worship. It allows everybody to reflect, investigate, enquire and cogitate. Gives reverence to individual spiritual experience over any formal religious doctrine.
- As there is no separation of humanity as believers and non-believers, the need or question of organized conversion do not arise. This attitude finds further expression in the fact that the dharmic traditions tend to be non-proselytizing even when they become missionary.
Let us talk about Dharma - not religion. Let us understand Dharma and find out our own Dharma. One may or may not be religious, may or may not believe in God, but can be Dharmic! If we understand this system as an approach to a universal tradition, which shows how truth and spirituality can be integrated into the whole of life, then it can be of great value for formulating a global dharmic culture today.