How Hinduism got its name and is it a religion in the first place?
It is fashionable to say that all paths lead to God, that there is only one goal and that the whole world is one family. But how much does one understand the significance of this truth (?) in real life.
Samuel Huntington a Harvard Social Scientist has forwarded a theory which he calls “Clash of Civilizations” in which he expresses that the world is distained to be at war with itself and this clash is to take place along fault-lines that define the boundaries of various civilizations. He summarizes that Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists and everyone will either be making truce or fighting with everyone else based on compatibility or lack of it respectively.
But then Hindus have this term ‘Vishwamevakutumbakam’—the world is a family. Now then, are ‘world family’ and ‘clash of civilizations’ not contradictory points of view?
As of now the spiritual world is referred to in terms of conflicting ‘religions’. So there are ‘n’ major ‘religions’ of the world and they are listed as Judaism, Christianity… and so on and in that list is added Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism. And that leads to the next conflict—there is a claim among some Hindus that Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism are part of Hinduism while followers of these religions themselves claim that they are separate religions. Without stopping there the debate stretches into questions about dogmas, about conversion, about terrorism, about tolerance/intolerance and so on…
To get to the root of the debate it is useful to take up an important issue: "the world thinks of Hinduism as a ‘religion’; what does Hinduism think of itself…?"
The answer is as strange as it is interesting… and the best way to unravel its secret is to get to the origin of the word Hindu itself…
It is folk lore now… a Persian traveler came over to India, saw the great land, went back and said that there is a religion which is difficult to understand because of its multiplicity of gods and so he said those that lived there were ‘Hindu’. Why ‘Hindu’? Because he could not pronounce ‘Sindu’, for that is what he wanted to imply—the religion of the land where the river Sindu flows. This goes to imply that looking upon Hinduism as a religion springs from the conclusion of one individual who could not understand Indian Spiritualism.
The absurdity of it all is that the average Hindu today looks at Hinduism through the eyes of this foreigner—that it is a religion…! This also means that the brand of Hindutwa communalism spawned in the Indian nation is based on a perspective of religion which is essentially not Hindu in origin. It is based on a world view which is basically Huntingtonian in nature… The Hindu today refers to himself in the language that is alien to his own traditions of essential global unity.
What then is this alternate Hindu outlook on religion…? Strange it will seem but the answer is that there is no such thing called religion in the Indian Milieu… Gandhiji complicates it further when he says, “There are as many religions as there are individuals in this world”.
What the Indian system of spiritualism recognizes, which is close in content to the term ‘religion’, is the term ‘Guru-parampara’.
Indian Spiritualism recognizes an ‘essential truth’—and then it recognizes ‘enlightened masters’ called ‘Gurus’—and it recognizes the ‘Sishya’ who seeks to find oneness with the divine through and in the Guru.
But of course, as of now this word ‘Guru’ has been corrupted rather badly, so much so that someone who teaches the other to tie a shoelace is called guru—not to mention the use of the word to say ‘hey pal!’ In truth however, even Dhrona who taught Arjun everything he knew in respect of his legendary skills, was only an ‘Acharya’ to Arjun; it was lord Krishna who was the Guru.
So what is Christianity? Is it not a ‘guru parampara’ with Jesus Christ as a Guru?
What is Islam? Is it not a tradition that has sprung from following a ‘Rishi’ called Muhammad the Prophet?
This perspective, when taken further, leads to a point where the absurdity of ‘clash of civilizations’ becomes obvious. Whether one follows Jesus Christ or follows Guru Nanak… the end of the journey is mergence with the same divine so where is the conflict…? Without a doubt, that conflict lies in ignorance—in the inability of the sishya to merge in the Guru…
So then can it be said that proof of success in spiritualism lies in the fact that a truth seeker has risen above ‘religion’ and entered the service of the whole of humanity? Only journeying students, stuck with matters of chaff in the ‘guru-paramparas’ end up fighting with others… once mergence with the divine is achieved through their respective Gurus all quarrels become meaningless…
So then if Jesus Christ is a Christian’s Guru, then, being a person living in Sindu-land, does he reserve his right to choose Jesus Christ as his Guru…? But of course he does… Lord Krishna had 64 different Yogas to achieve mergence with the divine which he learnt from 64 different Gurus. So the why should a citizen of Sindu-land not accept Tej Guru Tejparkhiji as his path to salvation? Or then why should he be denied the path of Karam Yoga, taught by lord Krishna to Arjuna, on his path of finding everlasting life… or any other legitimate path…?
In fact the Indians have a task at hand. It is inappropriate to live in the land of the Bharatas and look at the world in terms of ‘Religions’. In the land of the Bharatas there is no clash, only oneness… Vishwamevakutumbakam is its creed and there is respect for all Guru Paramparas…
Hindus taking the western world view and fighting amongst themselves is one thing… taking the Indian world view and making the others stop fighting is another… What does one choose?