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Hinduism is an ancient religion that suffers from many misconceptions and misconceptions about itself. In the West, it was difficult to find relevant literature on this topic, and existing works, intentionally or unintentionally, could not capture the real essence of Hinduism.
Attempts to interpret the teachings have led to great confusion. Therefore, it is worth debunking the main myths about Hinduism.
Hinduism is a religion. The biggest misconception about Hinduism is that we consider it to be a religious belief. But it is more accurate to perceive it as a way of life, dharma. It is not a religion, but rather a law that determines human actions. Hinduism was not founded by anyone in particular, there is no main doctrine and central authority. It is not required to accept any main idea. No one can even say for sure 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, who lived near the Indus River. Now it is the territory of Pakistan. The Persians called these people Indians. Hinduism, on the other hand, is a collection of various religious, philosophical and cultural ideas, traditions and beliefs. They are all characterized by belief in reincarnation, the laws of karma, absolute being, the path of righteousness and liberation from the cycle of birth and death.
There are millions of gods in Hinduism. It is believed that in Hinduism there are 33 crores of deities. One crore in Hindi is 10 million. Thus, according to tradition, there are 330 million deities. Of course, this is a hyperbole, but from dictionaries and reference books it was possible to isolate more than a thousand supernatural beings by name or functionality. The Vedas are not included in this multitude, they are 33 supreme deities. They are mentioned by the Yajur Vedas, Atharva Veda, Satapatha Brahmana. Most likely, inaccurate translation and interpretation of words is to blame. So the "supreme deities" turned into "deities, of which there are 10 million."
Hinduism is a flexible religion. Hinduism is quite a calm and tolerant religion of other beliefs, but this does not mean freedom. There is the concept of Shruti which means that no changes are allowed. After initiation in religious practice, one must exactly repeat the mantras as they are. Changing even one syllable will invalidate the prayer.
There are elements of atheism in Hinduism. There were several schools of nastikas in ancient India. But this does not mean that they were part of the canonical Hinduism that exists today. Philosophy includes many ideas that originated in India. All major religious texts are theistic, with an explicit reference to God. The Vedas speak about him, in the Bhavat Gita, Krishna does not allow doubts when it comes to God. And in Bhaja-govindam, the main character, the religious leader Shankara, directly speaks of the existence of God. As you can see, there are no elements of atheism in the main religious texts.
All Hindus are members of the Sanatana Dharma. Sanatana Dharma is the name of Hinduism in India itself. This oldest religion on the planet has over a billion followers. Indians are considered to be those who live around the Indus River, not far from it and southeast. The followers of Hinduism are all those who believe in numerous goddesses and gods. And these are not the same ordinary creatures with certain characteristics that other religions talk about. In Hinduism, we are talking about Devatas, which are natural elements, human feelings, emotions, actions and desires. But not everyone believes in them. In densely populated India, there are both atheists and adherents of other religions.
Hindus are idolaters. No Hindu will say that he worships an idol. Rather, it is not about honoring God, but reminding him. Hindus believe in the physical embodiment of God in the form of an idol. It helps to focus on one aspect of prayer or meditation. So, a person who started his own business can worship Ganesha, an elephant-headed deity. He is responsible for success and well-being. Images of gods or goddesses are used as focal points to aid in prayers.
Hindus worship cows. Hindus do not pray to cows at all, but all living things are perceived as sacred. In Hinduism, it is believed that any living being has a soul. And it is true that cows have a special place in local society. This is why Hindus abstain from eating beef. Cows are considered gentle creatures, the personification of motherhood, giving milk and life. And the Indians appreciate it with their attention.
Hinduism maintains a discriminatory caste system. Any caste discrimination is based not on religion, but on culture. In India, this ancient system of division according to profession was defined in sacred texts. But over the years, castes have evolved into a rigid social hierarchy. Members of the lower castes, untouchables, are marginalized and persecuted. But modern Hindus argue that caste discrimination should not be seen as an integral part of religion and as a punishment for beliefs.
Bhagavad Gita is analogous to the Bible. In Hinduism, there is no single central and most authoritative book. Religion is rich in a whole collection of ancient religious scriptures. Hindus believe that God gave the sages the ability to see the truth. And it has been passed down thousands of years through oral tradition. The scriptures include the Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas and Bhagavad Gita, or the Song of the Lord. It is the basis of Hindu philosophy, but it is part of the Mahabharata. Consisting 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 philosophy. Everyone has a choice in their life. Karma is based on the theory that every human action sets in motion some forces that respond with a reaction. Hindus believe that in their lives they have to deal with the consequences of past actions. Each person is connected by his fate with previous deeds. The ultimate goal is to receive karma, which will have a pure soul, or to free yourself from the cycle of rebirth.
Hindu texts are full of spirituality. After studying the ancient texts of Hinduism, you can see that there are not only books about spirituality, but also about secular pursuits, science, medicine and engineering. And this is another reason why Hinduism is difficult to classify as a religion. Nor can it be considered a metaphysical school. Basically, it's just worth accepting as a different world. In fact, Hinduism can be compared to the civilization that currently exists on Earth.
Moksha's philosophy is about salvation. The very concept of salvation is not synonymous with the liberation that Moksha speaks of. After all, this applies to a large number of phenomena. The philosophy of Hinduism not only considers the possibility of salvation, but also from what actually needs to be saved and what to come to with it. In Hinduism, salvation must be perceived precisely as liberation. We are saved not only from sin, but from our entire existence. Moksha believes that a person must free himself from the cycle of reincarnation.
In Hinduism, it is forbidden to eat meat. Hinduism does not require its followers to be vegetarians. Many adherents use meat quite successfully. A simple vegetarian diet is recommended according to some guidelines. One of them is ahimsa, non-violence against animals.
In Hinduism, a woman is not equal to a man. In ancient society, people who were engaged in professional activities, whether a man or a woman, were attentive and respectful. It was believed that people are free to make choices, change their careers or skills, if the opportunity exists. Vedic prayers also show that women had considerable power in choosing partners for marriage. While betrothed, the couple lived in a monogamous relationship. At the same time, women had the same rights as husbands. There is little evidence in the Vedas about child marriages, the bride price system, and the Sati ritual tradition. In it, a widow is burned alive along with her deceased husband. The sacred texts do not say anything about the self-abasement of the widow, about the prohibition on her to remarry. There are also no religious restrictions regarding 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 have always been well-educated charismatic women who were not afraid to enter into philosophical discussions with men. For example, Gargi was a great preacher. Hinduism admits that the female mind can be higher than the male, while it is worth observing the norms of social etiquette.
Manusmirti is an important social and religious text in Hinduism. It is absurd to regard the "Laws of Manu" as an important part of the Hindu Varna ashram dharma. Confusion is present, despite the fact that Manusmirti often contradicts the Vedas, at least on important points of castes and women's rights. And the texts themselves are not particularly popular among the Hindus. Moreover, they have never been used as a religious or social teaching.
Hinduism preaches anti-materialism. In Hinduism, it is said that materialistic aspirations or the pursuit of sense gratification cannot bring eternal happiness. Religion teaches that an unbridled search for the joys of life always gives rise to suffering, invisible at first. Hinduism advises to practice moderation, be vigilant, and not overdo it. The ultimate goal of life is liberation, moksha. On the path to this majority, dharma (righteousness), artha (materialism) and kama (sense gratification) are required.