A question I have asked myself a few times – am I a Hindu? In other words – What constitutes a Hindu?
I do not believe in the existence of various ‘devas’ of hindu puranic tradition. I do not believe in rebirth. I do not believe that there is afterlife. And I do not believe that there is metaphysical entity called god.
AND YET – I FIND MYSELF PERFECTLY FITTING INTO HINDU PHILOSPHY….
The reason is simple… Hindu isn’t a monolithic faith. It isn’t really a religion. It is very fluid, with differrent meaning to different people. It is the only ‘tradition’ (I hate to call it religion) that can’t be defined or fathomed easily.
Most sacred texts of Hinduism are effectively propositions. I.e. a non binding, non-definitive, philosophical hypothesises that one may or may not accept. Just like the modern scientific hypothesises on so many subjects.
Which is why it was possible for Hinduism to have so many different systems within the same tradition. The idea of classifying Hindu as a single religion was that of the Europeans, because they couldn’t fathom a system that didn’t have a single text (like bible/quran), or a single belief system or even a single god!
My thoughts align more with the Charvaka (nastika / humanist) school of thought, that was propounded in Brahaspataya Sutra (by Charvaka Rishi, also sometimes called Lokayata). So, the Hindu system has had many like me before and has assimilated these thoughts in to its tradition.
Charvaka origins are traced to rigveda. Buddhist & jain systems have elements & principles of Charvaka system (except they believed in atma and rebirth while brahaspatya didnt)… Brahaspataya sutra says that the universe is made up of active physical forces, that react when stimulated. These phisical forces are active, but not alive.
– the Varnashrama system,
– the existence of super-spirit (god),
– existence of soul/Rebirth
It says “Happiness is the highest end in life. There is no soul and no life after death. There is no world other than this world. Heaven and liberation from the so-called cycle of birth and death are imaginary ideals. Everyone will inevitably die. No one will be reborn. Therefore, one should make the best of one’s life and live happily as long as one lives. It is irrational to suggest that one should give up pleasures of life because they are mixed with pain. It is just like saying that we should throw away our finest grains because they are covered with husk and dust.”
Buddha, who most probably was contemporary of Charvaka – took this idea of happiness to another level and created a religion without god! His philosophy revolves around what constitutes Dukkha (Sadness) Origins, existence, cessation & path to handle that.
In otherwords, how to be happy. No wonder, he is called the world’s first psychologist!!
The truth is what we perceive, because what we can’t perceive is beyond us anyway. Since each person’s perception may be differrent, there can be different truths.
But, Buddha focused on one truth that pervades all – Sadness/suffering. No one escapes this.
Is it any wonder Buddha was included in to 10 major incarnations of Vishnu (Dashavatara)??
That is the nature of Hinduism – a tradition that assimilates all thoughts and philosophies and lets people live with their ‘truth’.
THAT IS WHY I AM A HINDU.