Thursday, May 9, 2013

What does it mean to be a Hindu?

Group 3 [Age 12-15 yrs]
Shreeya Sati Singh- Raleigh, NC

What does it mean to be a Hindu?
To me, as a teenager growing up in the United States, it's an absolute BLESSING to be able to call myself Hindu. In times when religious dogma pre-dominates, and intolerance reigns supreme, the ancient Hindu scripture Rig Veda, proclaims Ekam Sat, Viprah Bahudha Vadanti (There is only one truth, only men describe it in different ways). To belong to Sanata Dharma that is universally accepting, and refuses to preach either 'our way, or the highway', one that doesn't judge the belief systems of others, and does not believe in 'conversion' to be 'saved', makes me believe that I am a liberated, pure, strong and happy soul. It gives me the assurance that I, the soul, am complete in myself, and on a beautiful journey to experience the love of the Supreme soul.
Often, Hinduism is targeted, and accused of having many Sampradayas. As a Hindu I know that this accusation holds no water because, as Maharajji says there are only 2 Sampradayas: 'Shreya' (the desire for Divine Bliss) and 'Preya' (desire for the material world). This, I feel is the only universal division in all of mankind today! We have just complicated it by thinking we are Christians, so are different, we are Muslims, so are different, we are Buddhists, so we are different! Those who pursue God realization through any religion, to me, fall in the category of 'Shreya', and others, 'Preya'. To belong to a philosophy that is so simplistic, loving and encompassing, is a blessing for me.

The innate concepts, or four main principles of Hinduism, also appeal to me greatly. The concepts of:
  • Dharma
  • Karma
  • Re-incarnation
  • God permeates everything

Knowing that Dharma requires I uphold and sustain the highest order of my duties, gives me clarity in life. It is easy for me to decide on what my responsibilities are as a teenager, my parent's child, a student, but most importantly a soul on a God realization journey. The philosophy of Karma makes complete logical sense to me and helps me remember that my thoughts, words and deeds today, will decide my destiny, tomorrow. Believing in rebirth, instills in me the faith that I am an eternal soul, that is birth less and deathless. It makes me courageous and allows me to not be overly attached to my body as that is only a temporary costume. The faith that God permeates everything, allows me to feel one with all that surrounds me; be it flora, fauna, gross objects or people. It helps me respect and understand idol worship. When Hindus are branded as idol worshippers, I acknowledge the shortsightedness of those who say so. I heard a saint once narrate an experience he had. He was visiting the west and was sarcastically asked by a pastor to speak about God, since Hinduism had 'so many'. The saint replied, "We don't have many Gods, we have ONLY God. Everything IS God." That being the case, seeing God in an idol makes absolute sense! Being aware that God is in everything and everyone, also increases love and patience for all around us. It makes it easy to respect all life; animate and inanimate. This awareness has made it very easy for me to be a vegetarian despite living in a country where we are still a rarity! When my friends ask about my vegetarian lifestyle choices, I tell them that I 'genuinely' love animals and "non-violence" is my motto.
Being a Hindu re-enforces in me that absolute and unflinching faith, and unconditional love is dearest to God. Having scriptural knowledge to further and uplift that faith and love is great, but without love and surrender, no amount of knowledge is helpful. Many saints who became God realized were illiterate - the one common thread though that bound them was their unshakable faith in God and a pure childlike love and desire for Him. I have often heard Maharajji in his discourses say that Hinduism is a very easy religion to follow. There aren't any strict dos and don’ts. Directing the mind towards Divine love is all that is needed to realize God. For me, this is easy to understand because it makes so much logical sense. Whatever I think about for long periods, I get more attached to (positive and negative). So if I decide to think about God more, then my mind will automatically detach a bit form the world, and attach more to divinity! The easiness of this approach appeals to me.
Another beautiful aspect of being Hindu to me, is being encouraged to find a Guru who will lead me through the ocean of life and death. When we need teachers and guides for every activity, subject, hobby we decide to try out, we can sure use the wisdom of a God realized saint to carry us through lifetimes of birth and death! I love having this option available:). There is no stigma attached to pursuing spiritual masters and surrendering ones intellect to one that we make our Guru. How easy life becomes! Our guru is like an encyclopedia of wisdom and knowledge and one who has all the answers! S/He can be approached with all questions that we may otherwise hesitate to ask. He is completely non-judgmental and constantly loving. He knows what's best for us and when we are ready for the answers, we are given them!
I love the fact that Hinduism make me fearless and encourages questions. I believe most of our scriptures are answers to questions! This to me is a very unique feature of Hinduism. Many a times when we discuss religious concepts, my friends belonging to various faiths believe, that "the word of God should not be questioned." This is a double edged sword because what is being referred to as 'word of God' are lines from holy books that are man written! Though it is impossible to understand God with a material mind, yet Hinduism allows for all questions to be asked and gives answers to all mans queries. Being Hindu, I feel happy that many belief systems flourished under its umbrella. People were not persecuted for voicing conflicting beliefs, but instead, were given a place in the vastness of Hinduism.
A truly amazing facet of Hinduism has been that it has withstood the slaughter of so many invaders who wanted to wipe it off the face of the earth. I feel blessed to belong to a religion that has constantly evolved and refused to die out! It is thousands of years old, yet as relevant in today's times, as in the past. So many questions and situations mankind is faced with today, can be answered by reading Hindu scriptures. Its resilience teaches me to be steadfast in my beliefs and uphold the highest values no matter how intense the storms that come at me.
Being Hindu makes me feel empowered. Since Devi shakti is revered in Hinduism as is Radha Rani, I feel being a girl, is a very special blessing. It allows me to associate with all the strengths of Ma Durga and Radha Rani and aspire to be as invincible and devotional like them. I feel I am made in their image and should always work towards the propagation of good, destruction of evil and aspire for the highest forms of devotion. If I am aware of my inner strengths and work on realizing them, then being a girl is a huge strength and not a weakness.
Being a Hindu to me, therefore, means being aware of, and realizing my potential, and having the faith that there is a Superior power always watching over me. He saturates my being with utmost love and care! I just need to be aware of His presence at all times.

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