Hinduism: A Love Story

The Aum, the primal syllable and sound of creation in Hindu thought.

Hinduism is one of my favourite religions in the world. For a few years I’ve been looking into it, and I’ve liked what I’ve seen.

pic_shiva_a_27

Shiva, my favorite deity

For starters, Shiva (also known as Rudra, Isana, Mahadeva, Maheshvara, Mahakala etc.), who I sometimes refer to as the greatest god. He is such a rich character. He has such a great aesthetic. He is insanely powerful. He embodies both light and dark qualities. He is associated with fire. He has material and earthly qualities, as well as cosmic, spiritual, and divine qualities. He is fierce, and somewhat laid-back. He is a warrior, and yet somewhat philosophical. He is ferocious in his justice and power, and great in his other virtues. He has intimate connection with creation and destruction, and primal forces. He has access to great pleasure, and is associated with said pleasure. Infinite is his freedom and his free spirit. And as I said in my post The Joy of Chaos, he qualifies as a god of chaos, due to these amazing qualities. With the exception of his ascetic persona, he is everything I could admire. I can relate to him as a being who reminds me of my alter ego. And there are other deities in Hinduism I like, especially goddesses. The Hindu philosophy of god is also quite cool. I’ll try to sum it up without grossly oversimplifying it. There’s the Great Spirit, the Brahman, and it’s a cosmic force or principle that pervades all of existence, and the millions of deities (Shiva, Vishnu, Durga, Ganesha, Brahma, Lakshmi, etc.) are different aspects of the Brahman, or ways of worshipping that god, and even worshipping deities is just a different way of being spiritual.

Durga, warrior goddess of power and an aspect of Shiva’s wife, Parvati (or Shakti).

The other source of my admiration is Hinduism’s flexibility. For a while, I thought that, based on the stories, Hinduism was, in some ways, just like the Abrahamic religions. I realize now that I am only partly right. Hinduism, or Hindus, have interacted with Christianity and Islam, and as such have adopted their ideas. British censures have also damaged Hinduism to a considerable degree. I heard from a Hindu friend of mine that the stories in Hindu texts aren’t what matters. They’re not important. They’re just allegories meant to convey various ideas. When I told that my philosophy is heavily based on freedom, personal power, and individual responsibility, and wondered if I could find something in Hinduism that was in sync with it, he told me that not only is it very much in sync, but it is a conclusion of that philosophy. He said “You are in charge of your life of (Karma) making sense of the world that you live in (Dharma), not some God or planet. YOU are the Spirit/God you are searching for in the highest heaven (Advaita Vedanta)”. Hinduism is a religion in which you can do anything you want and follow any spiritual path, in both cases suiting you, and this flexibility is derived from its nature as a pluralistic religion and spiritual philosophy.

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12 responses to “Hinduism: A Love Story

    • Of course. I forgot about that. I do hate the caste system, but guess what? That wasn’t even sanctioned by Hindu scriptures. It was a social invention in India, not a religious one, just that they took that atrocity and slapped Hinduism’s good name on it just to justify it.

    • @ Frank King Photos: as the blogger has written, the caste system is quite often lumped with Hinduism and yet the hereditary, hierarchical caste system never had sanction from the scriptures of authority in Hinduism. The scriptures of authority talk about caste being a form of division of labour (which every modern society uses) and it being based on Guna (ability/nature) and Karma (actions in THIS lifetime not past lifetimes).

      Echoing what Sriram has rightly written that the Manusmriti is a Smriti and Smritis have less or no authority in Hinduism so it cannot be used to justify any statement saying that Hinduism sanctions this or that.

      @ Blogger: Excellent blog and nice to see that you quoted me (nucdev@yahoo.com) in your article – “in charge of your own life …… dharma…….etc…..”

  1. its true that the flexibility of Hinduism is something that gets a lot of attention but the flexibility is also confusing to a lot of people including people who are supposedly born into it. I remember a discussion with a friend where he asked what is the method to become a Hindu and as far as I could tell it just starts are birth because Hinduism is not a religion, its a collective way of life. There never was any detailed conversion procedure. It is nowadays that we have a lot of people propagating a load of stupidity that leaves a lot of people scratching their heads in confusion.

    The 2 other most controversial things that most people relate to Hinduism is the caste system and the Manu Smriti. The caste system is very notorious because of the wrong interpretation of it. In the Bhagvad Gita 4th chapter 13th verse Krishna states that he created the 4 castes but goes on to complete the statement that actions and qualities are what decide a caste not birth.

    Having said that one has to look at the caste system as an economic model where each caste was attributed based on ones work and responsibilities. If birth defined the caste membership then some of the important scriptural works of Hinduism are by people who were never born in the highest of castes.

    The other horse that gets regularly flogged is the Manu Smriti which is a book of laws. Unfortunately the language of Sanskrit is not easily understood these days and Manu Smriti suffers for that very same reason. The word Smriti means that the book was written by humans and was contextual to a period in time and has to adapt or be changed according to time. Given that its man made and time sensitive, the Manu Smriti has to read with the fact in mind that people and times have evolved and we have to be logical and we can pick and choose that which is applicable and reject the rest. We use the same yardstick with all the laws that we have today and reject or scrap or amend old laws.

  2. I like Hinduism. The Mahabharata, the Ramayana, and the Vedas are beautiful text.
    The Hindu deities are colorful and emotional. Their actions aren’t always black and white. Even when devotees try to paint their actions as always right.
    The caste system is a part of Hinduism. Hinduism is a bajumble of various traditions and beliefs of India. But is it any different from other societies? All societies had a caste system. The Indians just gave it a name and fleshed it out. Intermarriage between various social classes has always been discouraged, in all countries.
    But other than that, Hinduism is one of the greatest religions on the planet, second only to Buddhism. 😉

    1 I Laud Agni, the chosen Priest, God, minister of sacrifice,
    The hotar, lavishest of wealth.
    2 Worthy is Agni to be praised by living as by ancient seers.
    He shall bring hitherward the Gods.
    3 Through Agni man obtaineth wealth, yea, plenty waxing day by day,
    Most rich in heroes, glorious.
    4 Agni, the perfect sacrifice which thou encompassest about
    Verily goeth to the Gods.
    5 May Agni, sapient-minded Priest, truthful, most gloriously great,
    The God, come hither with the Gods.
    6 Whatever blessing, Agni, thou wilt grant unto thy worshipper,
    That, Aṅgiras, is indeed thy truth.
    7 To thee, dispeller of the night, O Agni, day by day with prayer
    Bringing thee reverence, we come.
    8 Ruler of sacrifices, guard of Law eternal, radiant One,
    Increasing in thine own abode.
    9 Be to us easy of approach, even as a father to his son:
    Agni, be with us for our weal.

    • I take it you really like Agni, not just because it’s a great image. I think Agni is cool too. He’s got great symbolism I love. Unlike in that picture, he is actually eternally young, because the fire is always re-lit, constantly.

    • Yeah. ISKCON literally have a problem with anything that doesn’t glorify Krishna and Vishnu. They label all other gods, even Brahma, Shiva, and Durga, as “demigods.” apparently, anyone who worships them is only doing it for the material benefits.
      It’s one thing to have pride in your deity, and a whole other thing to go around accusing people who worship another deity, as “materialist.”

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