• Ashu Bisht

Misconceptions About Hinduism, Clarifying The Views of Hinduism

As Hindus there is no need to change or give up one's principle beliefs in order to satisfy other religious and so-called secular viewpoints. And neither should Hindus be swayed or be left in doubt about their own principles when people or scriptures of other faiths contradict and criticize them. There are many misconceptions about Hinduism, let's debunk the most known.

Hinduism has world-negating views

Some scholars and audiences have misinterpreted some of the principles or practices of Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma. One such misconceptions about Hinduism is that it is world-negating. Perhaps such conclusions have been derived from observations of Hindu ascetics who wander in society without possessions or personal care, perform severe austerities in remote caves and mortify their flesh.


Such conclusions may also have been extrapolated from some philosophical teachings that describe the world to be false or illusory.

Hinduism, however, is not world-negating or non-compassionate, and does not teach to shun one's duty, sympathy and empathy. Renunciation and austerity are a part of spiritual Sadhanas (discipline through which an individual attains abode of God) or practices, in which an aspirant or ascetic cultivates Vairagya (detachment) or inner indifference to worldly objects and situations. This enables him to eradicate his mundane desires and realize his own Soul and God.

Four goals of human life according to the Hinduism

is that the majority of Hindus are householders leading a normal family life and fulfilling social responsibilities and duties. Furthermore, the Bhagavad Gita advocates action and doing one's duty, and preaches that work is worship. "Do your own allotted work, (for) work is better than inaction, even the sustenance of your body cannot be accomplished from inaction." The Hindu Shastras also prescribe the four purusharthas (endeavours or goals), namely, Dharma (knowledge of right and wrong), Artha (Livelihood), Kama (Family Responsibilities), and Moksha (Actions for salvation of soul), which are the roadmap of life, prompting all co make efforts to achieve them.

At other times, Hindus have been branded to be fatalistic because of their beliefs in the karma principle (the universal law of cause and effect with regards to one's actions) and God's all-doership. As fatalistic followers, Hindus are criticized as uncompassionate to those who are suffering physically. challenged or have lost their lives in natural calamities Hinduism, however, does not teach fatalism.

Arvind Sharma, Birks Professor of Comparative Religion, McGill University, Canada, asserts

"To think fatalistically about karma is unhelpful when, in fact, as human beings we have the power at any moment to change our own behavior, and thus its consequences for our future. Free will rather than fatalism characterizes the operation of karma."

Hinduism celebrates the karma principle as the individual's freedom to create his or her future state of existence through his or her present actions and thoughts.

Some also think that all Hindus believe in many "Gods". But this is not so. The Hindus mainly believe in one Supreme God, who manifests in various human and other forms to reestablish faith and morality! They worship only one or several of his manifestations with the belief that they are worshipping the Supreme God.

Varna-Ashrams or Caste System In Hinduism

Another aspect that is severely criticized and taught in some textbooks and by some teachers is the caste system. It is one of the most common misconceptions about Hinduism. It has been broadcast, written about and taught with such enormity and force as if Hinduism is mostly just about the caste system. It is one of the core beliefs of Hindus but this view is greatly flawed. The caste system is believed to be an aberration of the original Varna System which was based on a person's qualities (gunas) and aptitude for a particular type of work (karma). Some believe that over time, discrimination and class hierarchy crept in due to human imperfections and ego. Recognizing the growing rigidity and injustice of the decaying system, modern reformers of India from the 19th century onwards like Bhagwan Swaminarayan, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Dayananda Sarasvati, Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi and others made great efforts to eradicate discrimination based on caste.

Hindu society had an organized social structure for the harmonious progress and development of individuals and society. It was called the Varn-ashrama system, which classified people into four classes (varnas) and stages (ashramas). Varna included the Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras; and ashrama meant the four stages of life, namely, Brahmacharya (student wedded to celibacy), Gruhastha (householder), Vanaprastha (retired life) and Sannyas (ascetic life).

The system, not practiced now, was originally based upon the personal qualities (gunas) and aptitudes for types of work (karmas) of individuals. It was not birth-based, i.e., caste system in Hinduism, as it later deviated to become.

The observance of Varn-ashrama dharma credited the individual with punya (goodness) and thus the attainment of swarga (salvation).

Every society has its problems and issues. Many Hindus have recognized their problems and have taken steps at many levels to rectify them. Although sati, dowry and caste discrimination continue to exist in some places, they are officially banned by the Indian Penal Code. Many Hindu and social organizations have been making active efforts to eradicate these inequities. The rapid urbanization and spread of education in India in the last century has also mitigated caste discrimination.

True Perception of Hinduism

Many modern scholars have shown that in the past Hinduism was criticized by colonial scholars due to their own biases and misunderstandings. Even today, when Hinduism is criticized, it might be because of the critic's incorrect perceptions or preset beliefs based upon his or her own religion and culture. Imagine the difficulties one would encounter if one tried to interpret physics from the principles of biology. Hinduism can be fully perceived and experienced by a practicing Hindu or a sincere scholar - if they both accept the guidance of a bona fide Hindu guru.

Such gurus, in addition to Mandirs and Shastras, are the main pillars of Hinduism. Hindu rituals, festivals and spiritual practices revolve mainly around and celebrate these three main aspects.

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