Hinduism is an ancient religion that suffers from many false and misconceptions about itself. And such myths have been formed for centuries. In the West, it was difficult to find relevant literature on this subject, and existing works, intentionally or inadvertently, could not cover the real essence of Hinduism.
Attempts to interpret the teachings led to great confusion. You can not approach Hinduism with your own, Western notions of God, heaven, soul, hell, and sins. The existing terms are broader than in ordinary religion. And to understand the real meaning of the scriptures, the same Upanishads, one must read them himself, and not seek interpretations. Therefore, it is worth debunking the basic myths about Hinduism.
Hinduism is a religion.
The most important misconception about Hinduism is that we consider it a religious faith. But more accurately perceive it as a way of life, dharma. This is not a religion, but rather a law that determines the actions of a person. Hinduism was not founded by one definite, there is no basic doctrine and central authority. It is not necessary to accept some main idea. Nobody can even say exactly where and when Hinduism appeared. And the word itself is not present in any of the scriptures. It appeared in honor of the inhabitants of Sindh province, who lived near the Indus River. Now this is the territory of Pakistan. The Persians called these people Indians. Hinduism is a collection of various religious, philosophical and cultural ideas, traditions and beliefs. It is typical for them all to believe in reincarnation, the laws of karma, absolute being, the path of righteousness and liberation from the cycle of births and deaths.
There are millions of gods in Hinduism.
It is believed that Hinduism has 33 crores of deities. One crore in Hindi is 10 million. Thus, according to tradition, the deities are 330 million. Of course, this is a hyperbole, but from dictionaries and directories it was possible to identify by name or functional more than a thousand supernatural beings. The Vedas do not enter into this multitude, they constitute the 33 supreme deities. They are mentioned Yajur-Vedas, Atharvaveda, Shatapatha-brahmana. Most likely, the inaccurate translation and interpretation of words are guilty. So the “supreme deities” turned into “deities, which are 10 million.”
Hinduism is a flexible religion.
Hinduism is quite calm and tolerant of other beliefs, religion, but this does not mean freedom. There is the concept of Shruti, which implies that no changes are allowed. After initiation in religious practice, one must exactly repeat the mantras as they are. Changing at least one syllable will make the prayer invalid.
Hinduism has elements of atheism.
In ancient India, there were several schools of nasties. But that does not mean that they were part of the canonical Hinduism that exists today. Philosophy includes many ideas that have arisen in India. All major religious texts are theistic, with an explicit reference to God. Vedas speak of him, in the Bhavat Gita Krsna does not allow doubts when it comes to God. And in Bhaj-govindam, the protagonist, the religious leader of Shankar, speaks directly of the existence of God. Apparently, in the main religious texts there are no elements of atheism.
All the Hindus are a member of Sanatana Dharma.
Sanatana Dharma is the name of Hinduism in India itself. This ancient religion on the planet has more than a billion followers. Indians are considered to be those who live around the Indus River, not far from it and southeast. Followers of the same Hinduism should be considered all those who believe in the numerous goddesses and gods. And these are not ordinary beings with certain characteristics, which other religions say. In Hinduism, we are talking about the Devata, which are natural elements, human feelings, emotions, actions and desires. But not all believe in them. In densely populated India, there are atheists and adherents of other religions.
Hindus are idolaters.
No Hindu will say that he worships an idol.Rather, it’s about honoring not God, but his reminders. Hindus believe in the physical embodiment of God in the form of an idol. This helps to focus on one aspect of prayer or meditation. Thus, a person who started his own business can worship Ganesha, a deity with an elephant’s head. He is responsible for success and prosperity. Images of gods or goddesses are used as a focus point to help in prayers.
Hindus worship cows.
Hindus do not pray to cows at all, but all living beings are perceived as sacred. In Hinduism, it is believed that every living being has a soul. And it is true that in a local society cows occupy a special place. That’s why Indians abstain from using beef. Cows are considered gentle beings, the embodiment of motherhood, giving milk and life. And the Indians appreciate it with their attention.
Hinduism supports a discriminatory caste system.
Any caste discrimination is based not on religion, but on culture. In India, this ancient system of separation, depending on the professions, was defined in the sacred texts. But for many years the castes have become a rigid social hierarchy. Representatives of the lower castes, untouchable, are marginalized and persecuted. But modern Hindus argue that caste discrimination should not be seen as an integral part of religion, and as punishment for beliefs.
The Bhagavad Gita is an analog of the Bible.
Hinduism does not have one central and most authoritative book. Religion is rich in a whole collection of ancient religious writings. Hindus believe that God has given the wise to see the truth. And this was transmitted through thousands of years, thanks to oral tradition. The scriptures include the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas and the Bhagavad Gita, or the Song of the Lord. It is the basis of Hindu philosophy, but it is part of the Mahabharata. Composed of 18 chapters, the Gita is considered the longest poem in the world and defines the main theses of religion. But not all Hindus read it.
Karma is a philosophy.
Everyone has a choice in their lives. At the heart of karma lies the theory that every action of a person brings into action certain forces that respond with a reaction. Hindus believe that in their lives they have to face the consequences of past actions. Each person is bound by his destiny with previous deeds. The ultimate goal is to obtain karma that will have a pure soul or be freed from the cycle of rebirth.
Hindu texts are full of spirituality.
Having studied the ancient texts of Hinduism, one can see that there are not only books about spirituality, but also secular occupations, science, medicine and engineering. And this is another reason why Hinduism is difficult to classify as a religion. You can not consider him a metaphysical school. In fact, it’s just worth accepting as another world. In fact, Hinduism can be compared with the civilization that exists today on Earth.
Moksha philosophy is dedicated to salvation.
The very concept of salvation is not synonymous with the liberation that Moksha speaks of. After all, this refers to a large number of phenomena. The philosophy of Hinduism does not simply consider the possibility of salvation, but also on what exactly one should save and what to come to do with it. In Hinduism, salvation needs to be perceived precisely as a release. We are saved not only from sin, but from all our existence. Moksha believes that a person should be freed from the cycle of reincarnation.
In Hinduism it is forbidden to eat meat.
Hinduism does not require that its followers be vegetarians. Many devotees do quite well eat meat. Just a vegetarian diet is recommended in accordance with certain principles. One of them is ahimsa, non-violence over animals.
In Hinduism, a woman is not equal to a man.
In ancient society, attentive and respectful attitude towards people who engaged in professional activities, whether male or female. It was believed that people are free to make a choice, change their career or skills, if such an opportunity exists. Vedic prayers also show that women had considerable power in choosing partners for marriage. Being engaged, the couple lived in a monogamous relationship. However, the rights of women were the same as those of husbands. In the Vedas there is little evidence of children’s marriages, the bride’s ransom system and Sati’s ritual tradition. In it, the widow is burned alive with her deceased husband. In the sacred texts, nothing is said about the widow’s self-abasement, about the prohibition to re-marry her. There are also no religious restrictions on the cremation of a woman or participation in the consecration of the funeral pyre of a deceased relative. It is worth noting that in India there were always well-educated charismatic women who were not afraid to enter philosophical discussions with men. For example, Gargi was a great preacher. Hinduism admits that the female mind can be higher than the masculine, while it is worth observing the norms of social etiquette.
Manusmurti is an important social and religious text in Hinduism.
It is absurd to consider the “Laws of Manu” as an important part of the Hindu Varna-ashrama dharma. Confusion is present, despite the fact that Manusmurti often contradicts the Vedas, at least on important moments of castes and women’s rights. And the texts themselves among the Hindus are not particularly popular. In addition, they have never been used as a religious or social teaching.
Hinduism preaches antimaterialism.
In Hinduism it is said that materialistic aspirations or the pursuit of sensual pleasures can not bring eternal happiness. Religion teaches that the unbridled search for the joys of life always engenders invisible suffering at first. Hinduism advises us to practice moderation, to be vigilant and not to get carried away excessively. The ultimate goal of life is liberation, moksha. On the way to this majority, dharma (righteousness), artha (materialism) and kama (sensual pleasures) will be required.