There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Benny Hinn and other things (or Hinduism 101)

So, today we have something different. A little religion, a lot of philosophy and a few thoughts that would probably be quite scandalous to the vast majority of followers of faith based religions. Why am I writing this? Because Benny Hinn who is a famous American evangelist preached here today amidst loud protests from the Hindutva brigade – much to my embarrassment I might add.

Let me say right at the beginning that if you wish to read on, you must keep an open mind. Nothing I have to say here in any way contradicts any religious teachings. But it does require something else, something very rarely associated with any religion. Reason. So read what I have to say and then think about it. I don’t insist I’m right. I’m just inviting you to look at life from a new perspective. If you feel that anything I say offends your religious sensibilities then feel free to say so. I will either reply, explaining my position, or I will change my statements and say that I did so and also say why I did so. Because that is the core of my belief. Reason. The heart of Hinduism.

There, bet you hadn’t figured that out by now. Bet you thought I was Muslim maybe, or possibly Buddhist. After all, what does reason have to do all those idols and the hundreds of gods and all those rituals?

I’m quite sure that all that stuff must be quite mystifying to people of other faiths who are rarely exposed to that sort of thing. No, I’m not going to try to demystify it. That’s impossible. It is mystifying even to me and I’ve been a Hindu all my life. I’m afraid that’s just not Hinduism. You see, that’s the biggest misconception people (including Hindus) have about Hinduism – that it’s a religion. Hinduism isn’t a religion, it’s a way of life. All the chanting and the gods – that’s all peripheral stuff. It’s optional (bet you didn’t know that either!).

In fact Hinduism encompasses a very wide range of beliefs – from denying the existence of a God (yes, Hinduism accepts Atheism as a valid belief) to Faith – as possible paths to “The Truth”, if I may call it that. Hinduism is nothing if not secular. The core of Hindu philosophy is that man has only one tool to help him understand his place in the universe (after all, that is the purpose of all religions) - reason. And while it may not always be adequate, it is all he has.

The defining concept of Hinduism was “Dharma” and “Karma” which could be translated as “Duty and Fate” or possibly, “Cause and Effect” (English is a very unsubtle and crude language and simply cannot capture the essence of even simple words in other languages). Hinduism eschewed the simplistic black and white definition of “Good” and “Evil”. Hinduism says that there are actions, and that these actions have consequences. It is one’s duty when initiating any action to attempt to understand all possible consequences of that action, and if those consequences are acceptable. This simple belief is very difficult to apply in practice and requires a great deal of thought. Far more so than any canned “Rules to live by”. If you think about it carefully you will find that ultimately this leads to many of the same rules. But now one has greater insight into their necessity. They are no longer "God's rules" or "The Priest's rules". They're your rules. And the reason you follow them is not because you're scared of going to hell (Hinduism has no such concept) but because you know that by sticking to them you're on the road to happiness and helping others along the same path too.

The reason behind this is that Hinduism respects the individual’s intelligence. It considers him to be capable of reaching the conclusions needed to help him live productively in a society and to find happiness for himself and help those around him along that path. It doesn’t believe in ramming them down his throat with a firm “There! That is what you must believe! You’re too dumb to understand why it must be so. If you have any problem with that then understand that it is God’s word and you can take it up with Him directly.” Hinduism firmly believes that sticks and carrots are for donkeys, not men.

So Hinduism accepts Faith because some Hindus reasoned that through Faith they might find the divine. Others denied the existence of a God, reasoning that there was no proof and so embraced Atheism. That too was accepted as a possible solution. Others explicitly defined their Faith as being monotheistic (yes, we have the One God concept too) or as having a holy trinity (Surprise, surprise) or polytheistic. Yet other possibilities were proposed and accepted. You must understand that when one starts from Reason and then moves to Faith, one has a firm grasp of why he (or she) did so. One is more open to new ideas and perceptions. One is more conducive to change. One is more likely to find happiness (a great many people confuse pleasure with happiness. Hinduism does make that critical distinction. But that’s a whole different story). On the other hand when one starts from Faith because they were told that Faith is the only way and all else is blasphemy, they are like people who’ve lost a leg. They must make their spiritual journey using crutches – the words and beliefs of somebody else.

This happened over 4000 years ago, when the majority of modern religions didn’t even exist. The concepts proposed – that we cannot be sure of the truth and must each decide what we think is appropriate and follow that path, and that all those paths could be correct or none of them at all – was so advanced, that even now, no religion in the world has even considered it. Even the simple step of accepting that “Good” and “Evil” are simply a matter of human perception and not absolute concepts is beyond modern religions. Think about it. The Inquisition most certainly didn’t. Neither do all those people in the “Hindutva” brigade in India who flog Hinduism as a means of getting votes and generally shame all Hindus with their own, selective version of what Hinduism is. I must admit, they make me ashamed to even nominally belong to the same “religion” (it isn’t, but for the lack of a better word…) as them.

More on this topic later. It’s already quite late and Advanced Computer Architecture looms ahead.


Anonymous said...

Great, great writing here Kai. This philosophy is, as you have noted, very difficult for people to understand. I've had very little luck explaining to my American friends how I can be a Hindu and an Atheist at the same time! I think I will refer them to your page in future!


Anonymous said...

Great, great writing here Kai. This philosophy is, as you have noted, very difficult for people to understand. I've had very little luck explaining to my American friends how I can be a Hindu and an Atheist at the same time! I think I will refer them to your page in future!


Anonymous said...

Hey wassup, you write just like you speak man. Good stuff. Where do you find all this about hinduism, please do tell me. By the way whats up with the name. san here.

Neets said...

now i know where i saw you. you work for thoughtworks, dont you!... two days before the barcamp my friend had sent me this link. And when i saw you there i was wondering that i have seen you somewhere... where else could it have been.. here at your clog. Well great article... nice to know there are a few people who share my thought on this subject. :)