Hinduism can be very confusing not only to strangers but also to practitioners of the faith. Hinduism has no single scripture, no single prophet or single god. The rituals are many and make much demands on Hindus to prepare for worship.
Given this large volume of accumulated knowledge and rituals over thousands of years, it becomes confusing to the average Hindu to select what is relevant to serve his well being at a particular point in time. For funeral rites this can be challenging to a bereaved family.
It is important that Hindus grasp the guiding principles of this dharma. If not, Hinduism can be torturous and painful to its practitioners, possibly explaining why some are migrating to more simplistic belief systems.
Before writing this paper, I asked a few Hindus if they can outline to me the fundamentals of Hinduism. One respondent who is active in the mandir was able to outline the forgoing fundamentals. It only demonstrates that she knew the value of the industry that she was engaged in.
Imagine someone wishes to trade in gold stocks but has limited knowledge of the industry. Such an individual is not investing per se but gambling. Similarly, Hinduism can be compared to an industry and those of us who are working in the industry must take time to learn about the industry in detail – when it was started, who were the pioneers, what were some crises the industry encountered and how they were overcome, etc.
Unfortunately, too many practitioners are busy debating over rituals- should ghee or coconut oil be used to light the deeyas? Is it right to use wax deeyas? How many times the thali must be waved when arti is performed?
The following are the fundamentals of Hinduism:
- Hinduism teaches that God or Bhagavan is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-present. All-powerful: God is in charge with no one to rival him such as Satan. Lord Krishna guided Arjuna in the Mahabharata war that saw the destruction of the evil Duryodhana and his brothers. All-knowing: when a devotee realizes that he is a spark of divinity, all his doubts are cleared and questions are answered. All-present: the divine consciousness pervades the universe, and not restricted to the heavens or selected people.
- Hinduism teaches that the Vedas contain the truths about God, Mankind and the Universe. The four Vedas-Rig, Atharva, Sama and the Yajur-and the Bhagavad Gita are the core scriptures of the Hindus. The Upanishads are contained in the end of the Vedas. The Ramayana, Mahabharata are epics that tell of the exploits of heroic men and women. The Puranas-Vishnu, Shiva, Bhagavat- provides an account of the gods and goddesses. If there is a conflict between the Ramayana and the Vedas, the latter will prevail.
- Hinduism teaches that you are the atman or soul, not the body. The soul is sat-chit-ananda -truth, consciousness and bliss. In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna said that the soul is pure and divine and cannot be destroyed. This is unlike Christianity that teaches that “all have sinned and fallen short of God.” It is un-Hindu to call one a sinner.
- Hinduism teaches reincarnation or rebirth of the soul until it realizes its divine nature. A Hindu is not condemned to hell for eternity but is always given a chance to liberate himself or become aware of his divine nature.
- Hinduism teaches that the law of karma, that is, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. How do you explain the differences among people-race, sex, region, economic and social wellbeing, etc? It is only reincarnation that is going to shed lights on those difference among mankind.
- Hinduism teaches that the Supreme will manifest on earth as an avatar time and time again to protect his devotees, destroy evil and re-establish dharma or righteousness. This explain the Supreme taking avatar to stem the tide of evil – Rama came when Ravana was wreaking havoc, Krishna at the time of Kans and as Narasingh to protect Prahalad from Hirankashipu.
Hinduism is an open and liberal faith. It gives the devotee, the family and community the freedom to follow their rites and rituals in the manner they know best so long as they are not in breach of the fundamental principles of Sanatan Dharma. Should Hindus use alcohol in worship or sacrifice animals? The fundamentals of Hinduism do not forbid such actions. The religion allows the individual to apply his reasoning before acting.
Is there the need to standardize rituals in Hindu worship and ceremonies? I think the use of the word ‘standardized’ is un-Hindu and adharmic. Even attempting to outline ‘fundamentals’ of the dharma may be being narrow-minded.
Hindus must be cautious not to cut, shape and shave their dharma to bring it closer to Islam and Christianity. A few reformist movements within Hinduism have attempted to do so but only to succeed in the short run but not in the long term.
It is always better that Hindus teach through actions rather than idle debates and discussions. Such talk shops only generate heat but shed very little light. We need to always keep to the back of our heads that Hinduism is a dharma or way of relief rather than beliefs in five principles as is the case in other faiths. According to scholars the root word of dharma is ‘dru’ which means ‘that which sustains.’