Friday, November 19, 2010

Proud to be a Hindu

After having spent much time thinking about religious matters, I’ve finally settled on being an atheist. However, being an atheist for me does not mean that I have rejected my cultural Hindu heritage. I celebrate all my festivals with gusto because for me they have ritual significance, much like a convocation ceremony at a university. I also delve deeply into Hindu mythology and philosophy because they fascinate me and give me a sense of where the contemporary Indian society is coming from.

There are aspects of the Hindu culture that I’m very proud of.

(Before I begin, I’d like to point out that there are aspects that I absolutely abhor. Two specific things come to mind. One is the idea that the coincidence of a person’s birth completely determines his destiny, incorporated in the varna/caste system. The second is the deep misogyny inherent in modern Hinduism.)

Vedic Skepticism
I strongly identify with the skepticism shown in the Rigved. The Rigved reads like a genuine and honest inquiry about the nature of the universe we inhabit and our place in it. This discussion gives excellent account of skepticism in Vedic India. There were not only strong skeptics within the mainstream but also alternate schools of philosophy that we seldom identify as ‘Hindu’. Charvak’s materialist school is an excellent example.

Polytheism for me embodies not a belief in a large number of deities but a belief that there are multiple truths and multiple explanations possible. It means looking at the world we inhabit from different perspectives. The Vaishnavites say that the world was born through the navel of Vishnu. The Shaivaites say the world came into being as a pillar of light that was the primordial shiv-linga. The Hindu mind simultaneously holds these multiple truths within itself without seeing a contradiction.

Enshrined in the Hindu practice of worshipping everything in the world around us is the idea that we are part of this world and our existence is meaningless without it. From this I draw the inspiration to protect the environment, our rivers and our jungles and our extraordinarily diverse flora and fauna.

1 comment:

  1. I suspect that the spirit of inquiry (scepticism) and polytheism are linked.