Hinduism in View of World Thinkers
RELIGION, 21 Feb 2022
Surya Nath Prasad, Ph.D. – TRANSCEND Media Service
The History of Hinduism begins between 2000 and 1400 B.C. Hinduism, based on Vedanta (Upanishads), is a religion of perpetual verifiable truth. It does not believe in a book, a person and a personal God. There is no sect, no creed, and no caste in Vedanta. According to Vedanta, we are all God, incarnations of God. In its view, the man’s very self is God.
It is a religion of universe and God in man. It is a religion that claims the manifestation of perfection already exists in man. Hinduism advocates self-education for perpetual discovery, it enables every individual without any discrimination to manifest /to unfold / to evolve the perfection already in him or her to be man (human) incarnation of God, who would naturally be a peaceful creature living together peacefully on this planet earth.
Hinduism is totally catholic (universal) free from priesthood. It is for all to experience, to realize man in them and to manifest the perfection i.e. truth or god. It is neither in the books nor in the teachers.
Thinkers of the world have appreciated Hinduism not for it contains good ideas, but it has the thoughts to be tested to discover the pre-existed knowledge within each and everyone, though in many times, it may be in contrast to the existing or the past-discovered knowledge (in the field of science, religion, philosophy, and other disciplines). And for this contradiction, Hinduism of Vedanta does not punish for the discovery of new truth, but appreciates and encourages for this by giving proper recognition through acceptance, because Hinduism considers discovery of new truth as the realization of higher truth from the journey through the lower truth. And this process of uncovering the pre-existed knowledge is the dynamic side of Hinduism based on Vedanta.
Hinduism is the oldest of all religions in the world. Many great world thinkers were highly impressed with its universal, tolerant, and elastic tenets. Below cited views on Hinduism of a few world renowned thinkers are worth mentioning here. However, before to cite the views world thinkers, the author of these lines would like to mention the universal views of two great Indian thinkers, viz. Swami Vivekananda and Dr. S. Radhakrishnan.
Swami Vivekananda thinks Hinduism as perpetual universal religion to help humanity to realize its own true divine nature. Once he said, “The Hindu religion does not consist in struggles and attempts to believe a certain doctrine or dogma, but in realizing – not in believing, but in being and becoming” (35) Swami Vivekananda (2005) also said at the Parliament of the World’s Religions at Chicago, America in 1893, “If there is ever to be a universal religion, it must be one which will have no location in place or time; which will be infinite like the God it will preach, and whose Sun will shine upon the followers of Krishna and of Christ, on saints and sinners alike; which will not be Brahminic or Buddhistic, or Christian or Mohammedan, but the sum total of all these, and still have infinite space for development; which in its catholicity will embrace in infinite arms, and find a place for, every human being from the lowest groveling savage, not far removed from the brute, to the highest man towering by the virtues of his head and heart almost above humanity, making society stand in awe of him and doubt his human nature. It will be a religion which will have no place for persecution or intolerance in its polity, which will recognize divinity in every man and woman, and whose whole scope, whose whole force, will be centered in aiding humanity to realize its own true divine nature.” (1996)
In view of Dr. Radhakrishnan, “True religion is not what we get from outside, from books and teachers. It is the aspiration of the human soul, that which unfolds within one self, that which is built by one’s life blood. Those who follow this view are the seers. They belong to a single family though they dwell in spaces far apart. They belong to the open, unorganized community, the invisible Church of Spirit, whose membership is scattered over the whole earth. They realize in this world that which is open to man. Their lives are marked by boundless openness, authentic life, fidelity to truth and love for all creation.” (n. d.)
Prominent Sanskrit scholar in America and authority on Atharva Veda Maurice Bloomfield, who has appreciated the Upanishads in his book: The Religion of the Veda. He writes that “there is no important form of Hindu thought, heterodox Buddhism included, which is not rooted in the Upanishads”(as cited in Ranganathananda, 1997).
The words of English writer, humanist, pacifist and Vedantist Aldous Huxley about Gita describe the philosophy of Vedanta as “one of the clearest and most comprehensive summaries of the perennial philosophy ever to have been made. Hence its enduring value, [is] not only for Indians, but for all mankind” (cited in Rao, 1958). The message of Gita to all including non-Hindu audience is that they should work constantly. They should work, but they should not be attached; they should not be caught. They should reserve unto themselves the power of detaching themselves from everything, however beloved, however much the soul might yearn for it, however great the pangs of misery they feel if they are going to leave it; still they should reserve the power of leaving it whenever they want (to know more about the message of Gita to the world audience, one may refer to Vivekananda, 1995).
After reading the Upanishads, the German philosopher Schopenhauer, who was a believer of Buddhism and Vedanta, exclaimed: And oh, how thoroughly is the mind here washed clean of all early engrafted Jewish superstitions …. ! In the whole world there is no study … so beneficial and so elevating as that of the Upanishads. It has been the solace of my life, it will be the solace of my death! (referred in Rao, 1958).
French novelist dramatist, essayist, art historian and recipient of Nobel Prize for Literature Romain Rolland declared, “The only religion that can have any hold on the intellectual people is the rationalistic religion of Advait Vedanta (p.43)
The Spanish writer J. Mascaro described the Upanishads as the ‘Himalayas of the soul’ (p. 46).
Max Muller, who has translated the Upanishads, describes them as “the light of the morning, like the pure air of the mountains, so simple and so true if once understood” (p. 46).
American author, historian, philosopher, tax resister and leading transcendentalist Thoreau exhorted his countrymen not to read the New York Times, but to read the eternities, meaning the Upanishads (a mentioned in Rao, 1958).
Annie Besant (2009), president of Theosophical Society, said:
“After a study of some forty years and more of the great religions of the world, I find none so perfect, none so scientific, none so philosophic, and none so spiritual as the great religion known by the name of Hinduism. The more you know it, the more you will love it; the more you try to understand it, the more deeply you will value it.” (p. 8).
Arnold J. Toynbee, a universal British historian, and author of A Study of History in 12 Volumes, maintained: “As I have gone on, Religion has come to take a more and more prominent place, till in the end it stands in the center of the picture…. I have come back to a belief that Religion holds the key to the mystery of existence; but I have not come back to the belief that this key is in the hands of my ancestral Religion exclusively…. The Indian religions are not exclusive minded. They are ready to allow that there may be alternative approaches to the mystery. I feel sure that in this they are right and that this catholic – minded Indian religious spirit is the way of salvation of all religions in an age in which we have to learn to live as a single family if we are not to destroy ourselves” (p. 50) (cited in Radhakrishnan, 1968) .
Louis Renou was a French Indologist, Author of Religions of Ancient India, History of Ancient India, History of Vedic India, and Hinduism. He has written about Hinduism. Renou said, “The troubles of the present age, which are rightly or wrongly attributed to the Western materialism, have helped to increase the prestige of Hinduism. Some people see it as the authentic survival of a tradition, or rather, of the one Tradition, and make it the basis of their philosophia perennis. Others try to incorporate it in a universal religious syncretism… Hinduism provides an incomparable field of study for the historian of religion… it manifests all the conceptions of religion, and its speculation is continually revealing them in a new light. It combines powers of constant renewal with a firm conservancy of fundamental tradition… Above all, in the interpenetration of religion and dharma in general and the reciprocal stimulus of abstract thought and religious experiment, there is an underlying principle that, given favourable conditions, may well lead to a new integration of the human personality” (cited in Radhakrishnan, n. d.).
Monier-Williams, who was founder of University’s Indian Institute, author of Indian Wisdom, Modern India and Indians, and Buddhism, has also written about Hinduism. Monier-Williams claims, “The strength of Hinduism lies in its adaptability to the infinite diversity of human character and human tendencies. It has its highly spiritual and abstract side suited to the philosopher, its practical and concrete side congenial to the man of the world, its aesthetic and ceremonial side attuned to the man of poetic feeling and imagination and its quiescent contemplative aspect that has its appeal for the man of peace and lover of seclusion (quoted in Krishnamurthy, 2002, pp. 161).
Thus, Hinduism is not merely a religion but it is a way of life. In view of Hindu tenets, there is essential unity in the understanding of religion and outlook on life. Hinduism is perpetual extension of thought which makes Hinduism a very tolerant, non-violent, peaceful, liberal, flexible and universal. These are the basic features of Hinduism.
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Bose, A.C. (1954). The Calls of Vedas. Bombay: Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan.
Krishnamurthy, V. (2002). Science and Spirituality : A Vedanta Perception. Bombay: Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan.
Mishra G. & Mohanty, A. R. (1993). Voices of Modern India : Views of Great Indian Thinkers. Calcutta : Orient Longman Ltd.
Radhakrishnan, S. (n. d.) Recovery of Faith. New Delhi: Hind Pocket Books.
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Ranganathananda, S. (1997). The Charm of and Power of the Upanishads. Calcutta: Advaita Ashram.
Rao, P. N. (1958). Introduction to Vedanta. Bombay : Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.
Vivekananda, S. (1996, 2005). Chicago Addresses. Kolkata: Advaita Ashrama.
Dr. Surya Nath Prasad, former president & currently executive vice president of International Association of Educators for World Peace (IAEWP), associate professor of education emeritus, former visiting professor, the graduate institute of peace studies, Kyung Hee University, Republic of Korea, founder & editor-in-chief, Peace Education: An International Journal. firstname.lastname@example.org
Tags: Hinduism, India, Religion
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 21 Feb 2022.
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