Thursday, May 9, 2013

What does it mean to be a Hindu by Vaishnav Puri

Group 3[Age 12-15 yrs]
Vaishnav Puri- Newbury Park, CA
What does it mean to be a Hindu?
Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical, religious and cultural systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. As used in the Constitution of India, the word "Hindu" is attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion (i.e. Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism or Sikhism). In common use today, it refers to an adherent of Hinduism.

To be a Hindu is: Love truth, look upon the world as Ishwara. All forms of prayer are valid. You are responsible for your action, for your lot. You can change your destiny. You have a free will. God is love, God is everything. He is in the form of order. He is not partial to anybody. God is not judgmental. Don’t say there will be judgment day and God will sit in judgment and send you to Hell. God is not judgmental. He doesn’t make judgment. You ask for it; you get it.  There is no science, no thought, no possibility that Hindu thought does not embrace? So there is only one way to describe Hinduism for me – although it may mean many things to other people – is that Hinduism is a search, a yearning, to find that which is infinite within one’s own self, a yearning to experience that which is Eternal.
Over the centuries, many religious thinkers developed the Hindu way of life; therefore, today almost every Hindu is fond of saying that Hinduism is not only a religion but is also a way of life. Edmonds has tried to explain this in very simple, yet very effective words, “India is a beautiful country steeped in history, tradition, and art. “ For the 85 percent of the Indian population that follows Hinduism, religion is what makes life endurable. Hinduism teaches them that their plight in life has been caused by their actions in the life they lived before. But, regardless of the misery one may find in this life, Hinduism provides hope that the next life will be better. This brings us to an interesting Hindu ideology, and that is the theory of “Karma”. According to the theory of Karma, we are all part of a cycle of births and rebirths. This cycle has no beginning or end. We are simply experiencing the results of our own actions in our journey through this cycle. Our actions bind us to this world, and such bondage causing action is known as ‘Karma’. While good actions cause us to be reborn to experience the good effects, bad actions cause us to be reborn to undergo pain and suffering.
From ancient times, Hindus have believed in the idea of one “Supreme Spirit” that is everywhere (including in themselves and every creature), formless and everlasting. But people often find it impossible to understand a god that has no shape or form and is infinite. To understand and experience God, the wise men of the past created a form of worship called Upasana, which involves a combination of prayers, offerings of fruit, flowers, incense and light, and meditation. The images and idols are an aid to worship and not the object of worship. Hindus worship only one God, but they do so through many different forms.
Few winters ago I had asked my grandfather (who is among us in spirit now), “why Hindus’ worship so many gods and deities?” This was his reply (which I still remember), “My great-grandfather told me this, and now I will impart this knowledge to you: Hindus believe that all the gods are different aspects of the Supreme Being, a holy spirit who does not have any form. When they worship a god, they worship a particular aspect of the Supreme Being: for example, god the loving mother, god the caring father, god the guiding teacher, god the friend, and so on”. Hence, through the idols, and images Hindus worship a particular noble aspect of humanity.
Hinduism is a vast collection of institutions, customs, practices, belief- systems, philosophies, cults, deities, scriptures and so on which constitute it’s mind-boggling diversity.
The most revered Bal Gangadhar Tilak has described that the acceptance of the Vedas with reverence and recognition of the fact that the means or way to salvation and the realization of the ultimate truth are indeed the distinguishing features of HINDU religion. Thus Hinduism is the way of life. This is the only way which leads to the ultimate truth, supreme reality and the ultimate peace that’s what the people are looking for. Now we should think about the peace and its origin. We can feel that we are in peace when we have least thoughts in our mind. The more thought create conflict and that conflict is root cause of stress, the most common disease heard. Basically peace and the pleasure are the subject of our mind and the worldly thing that supposed to give the pleasure also depends upon the state of mind otherwise they can’t give us pleasure no matter how pleasurable acts they are. The urge for attaining peace and happiness is very natural in human’s heart and under that inspiration people do so many activity in the outer world but there is no end. Life comes to an end but we never come across the peace and happiness,
In ancient time under this inspiration the saints made a complete search for peace and express their well-considered opinion for its attainment in UPNISHAD the part of the VEDAS. Similar to these views saints like Kabir sahib, guru Nanak sahib, tulsidas ji, meera ji, Gyandev ji, Tukaram ji, Ramdas ji and lord budha etc. also have described the views in their contemporary languages. Once any aspirants would go over the literature of self-realized soul would find the same views have been described in Vedas.  The difference among the views of saints seems due to their appearance at different time and places and giving different names to each of such views according to their names by their followers due to excessive admiration of their spiritual preceptors. But ultimately it would be settled that there is an unbreakable unity in the spiritual views of all saints if the essential and the basic principle of all saint’s views are taken into account avoiding the sectarian sentiments separating exteriors from the interior of their thoughts. The ultimate state of all saints is one and the same has been described in the Vedas.
Now the person who is in search of the peace and happiness in their life and observing the rule and regulation for its attainment can be called as Hindu. As it was first described in the Veda; the most ancient book, proven by modern science and the saints who described it was Hindu so we all are by default HINDU when we are in search of peace according the process described in their literature. Because all saints have described the same state and process to attain the ultimate truth so there is no other and better way.
In Hinduism, there are no Sunday schools for religious instruction, but there is a family shrine in almost every Hindu home. Prayers are carried out at the shrine each morning and evening as a part of the family’s daily routine.
Family life plays a significant part in Hindus. For many Hindus, family life means being part of a large family with grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and children all living under one roof. Children born into a Hindu family begin to learn about their religion at home. There is much that they can learn about Hindu beliefs and practices simply by living in a family and in a Hindu community. Respect for elders is an important Hindu culture; hence, an important part of the Hindu family values. Respect for elders is also shown in many small ways. For example, by touching their feet to show respect and then embracing them. At home, a woman, no matter how old she is, will usually cover her head when her husband’s father enters the room. A man does not smoke in front of his father or uncle or elder brother. Because of these reasons, “the old people’s homes” of Europe and America are shocking places in the eyes of Hindus. If our aging parents annoy, disappoint or frustrate us, the only way that this can ever be turned around is for us, as adult care-giving children, to absorb our reactions within ourselves. Our aging parents are teaching us how to be aging parents. It is a wonderful life lesson being taught right before our very own eyes.
Thus we see that Hinduism is intertwined in the lives of Hindus and to all those who believe in Hinduism or its teachings. In conclusion, “Hindus want to move beyond just believing in God to experiencing god for themselves” (Veylanswami). This can be achieved only by adopting Hinduism, which is not only a religion, but also a way of life. 

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