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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Right Path

In response to some of the discussion about my statements that all religions boil down to love.

Do I think my way is best?

Of course I do.

It's really hard not to think that a religion that has helped you and made sense to you wouldn't help everyone and be the best for everyone.

I think Hinduism holds the answers, otherwise I wouldn't be working so hard to be part of it.

However, Hinduism (at least Smartism) has taught me that we as human beings are all one family. More than that, we are one being. More than that even, all matter in the universe is one being (not just living matter, all matter). Unity is more important than anything else.

If I believe that Hinduism is the best religion with the clearest path to Truth, should I try to convince everyone else of that and get angry, mean, or hurt people who don't believe me? That might seem like unity: get everyone in the world on one page and kill anyone who disagrees. Okay, there's unity.

But that is ridiculous, of course. New people would be born who would have their own ideas and the cruelty of killing defeats the purpose of a unifying religion anyway. You cannot force people to agree with you (have you ever tried to have a political debate with a friend or family member? You really can't force people to agree with you).

People, while being part of the same God, experience the world differently and understand it differently. That variety is beautiful. It is the way the universe was designed to be.

Intellectually I know that there is not a single path that is going to be best and clearest for all people. We all have to follow the one that is clearest to us, the one that makes sense to us. I would not want to become like the Christians and Muslims that I have a problem with, the ones who pressure conversion, saying that their own path is the only way to Truth.

It may seem very strange to say that all religions lead to the same Truth. If you look at the teachings of some different religions, it sure doesn't seem that way. But there is a difference between what one human leader of a religion teaches his followers and what the religion is really about.

If you say, "Islam is about hate and destruction" I say, Where do you get that from? Oh, this one Imam over here says that's what Islam is about and he tells all his followers to kill anyone who isn't Muslim. That is a particular person's interpretation of Islam, but it is not the only interpretation out there.

If you say, "Christianity is about division and worshiping Jesus" I say, Where do you get that from? Oh, this Baptist preacher told me that. And maybe he has quotes from the Bible to prove it. But you know what? I have a different way of interpreting Jesus and his message. Different from all the churches. And I have Bible quotes to support my view too.

"The Kingdom of Heaven is Within You."
"Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself."
I can go on and on. There are also gospels written by people who were contemporaries of Jesus, who knew Jesus, which are not in the Bible. The Bible is a collection of writings written by men and it was men who decided which writings went in and which didn't. Human beings make mistakes.

I'm sorry that I have not read the Quran and cannot make similar arguments, but from the Muslims I have spoken to I have heard messages of love and kindness that I did not expect based on the hype around Islam.

I continue to believe that all religions are based on the same Truth at their core. There are many misinterpretations and many people preaching lies. That's true in Hinduism too. Whatever tradition we identify with, we have to continue to dig deeper and look for the Truth that resonates in our hearts, not just what our guru or preacher tells us is True.

Hinduism is the religion that resonates with me. It seems less bogged down in misunderstanding and the path seems much clearer there than anywhere else. But I have to respect that that is not the case for everyone. As much as I love Hinduism, I will continue to defend the rights of every other human being to find the Truth in his and her own way.

I think the reason some of us have so much resentment or anger toward Islam and Christianity is a fear that they are taking over. Because they are converting religions, how will mine survive? What will I do if one or the other of these religions really does take over the entire world (and what an epic showdown that would be!). As terrified as I am by that, I don't think it can happen.

I think it's like supply and demand. As long as there are people happy and getting a lot out of Hinduism, it will survive. And if there is not a single person in all the world getting anything out of a religion, that religion will die and that's okay, because no one was benefiting anyway. People are benefiting from Hinduism. I am benefiting from Hinduism!

It makes me think of a wonderful book called Fahrenheit 451. In that story, it is a future America in which the government has banned all books and all reading. Books are too dangerous because they allow people to think and form ideas on their own. All information is given to people through enormous TVs in this future world. But as hard as the government works to wipe out all literature, they cannot do it. In the end there is a group of people hiding in the forest who have memorized all the great works of literature and are passing them on orally until the world comes to its senses and realizes how much it needs that literature. It cannot be killed.

I take great hope from that story. I see this the same way. Hinduism is not at all in danger of dying out, but even if in the future it became a tiny religion, there would always be people secretly passing it on until the world became a safe place for it again. And it always will. Nothing lasts forever, so even a world-wide Islamic regime could not last forever. When the Romans tried to destroy Christianity, they couldn't because people were getting something out of it. There were people who loved Christianity enough to practice it in secret and pass it along until the world became a safe place. I love Hinduism that much.

So I control my desire to tell everyone that Hinduism is the greatest religion out there. It is for me, but I can't speak for anyone else. We all have our own paths to tread.


  1. appeal to all non native hindi(english)speakers pls dont put an extra "a" after every hindu(sanskrit) word and alter the real pronounciation some examples:
    veda-->should be ved(वेद)
    rama-->should be raam(राम)
    yoga-->should be yog(योग)

    its not that hindu words dont end with 'a'. like in gita or geeta "a" has to be stressed.

    actually if any1 wants to learn any forign/new language then he should first learn it to speak it.
    only the secondary goal should be writing/reading.
    as children learn to speak first then at a later stage read or write in this way theres no accent problem.
    hope everybody understand what i mean 2 say

  2. kk,
    It is normal practice to write the "a" when writing sanskrit words in the Latin alphabet, which is pronounced in Sanskrit but not in Hindi.

  3. @Tandav
    yes it is normal practice to write the "a" when writing sanskrit words in the Latin alphabet but its the wrong practice. coz as english is becoming more dominant in india & as hindu literature is now being more and more published in english even indians r nowadays pronouncing indian(sanskrit) words in american accent.

  4. Aamba,
    I think this is a great post. In a way Hinduism has the answer to this within itself, the different divisions of Hinduism all respect each other. I am sure that every Hindu believes that their own lineage is at least the best for them - if not the best full stop. They generally don't interfere with those of other schools or try to convince them to change their beliefs though.
    Aum Shivaya

  5. Aamba,

    If you go back and read your post, you will realise that you have found the answers to the questions you've been searching for. It is such a beautifully written post!

    Sanatana Dharma has withstood the test of time. Through Mughal and christian invaders and through the colonial period, yet its come out as strong if not even stronger then before. That being said, it's all in our hands to pass on the culture and tradition. Hinduism has always been the right path for me and like you said it makes sense and I identify with it and love everything about it after I started questioning. I still have people coming to my door jamming their religion down my throat and wish it would stop but until then I can only hope that one day they practice the same tolerance they so highly speak of - apparently it's tolerant to be intolerant.

    Like you I haven't had a chance to read the Quran. Muslims I've personally known were such wonderful people, never judgemental or anything but of course every faith has its idiots.

    And as they say, variety is the spice of life. If only some people understood that.

  6. To KK, Sanskrit came long before Hindi and in Sanskrit there is a natural "a" on the end of words. I will continue to use the Sanskrit pronunciation when I am using Sanskrit words.

    Hindi and Sanskrit are pronounced extremely differently. I know how to pronounce both. My parents have been Sanskrit scholars for thirty years.

  7. Veda-->should be ved(वेद)
    rama-->should be raam(राम)
    yoga-->should be yog(योग)

    This is how its pronounced in Hindi right? I think in sanskrit its still Veda,rama and yoga ...

    Please shed some light...

  8. I'm quite certain that in Sanskrit it is pronounced Veda, Rama, and Yoga. Taking the "a" off the end is a Hindi pronunciation.

    It is not "Americanized" to have an "a" on the end of all Sanskrit words. In Sanskrit, every letter has an automatic "a" attached to it, even when it is at the end of a word.

    It is Hindi that changed that, and I don't know why.

  9. kk
    you are clearly getting some language lessons here, i have to contribute myself Im afraid...

    yoga , rama, krishna, shiva are the words used in many non hindi languages, like telugu, kannada, tamil etc. Learn before you teach. surya, chicago

  10. amba and others, please see the pics from flood affected Leh region in north India. The diversity of the land of hindus is amazing.....even scary.