Some Myths About Hinduism

Myth 1: Hinduism is a religion

The most obvious misconception about Hinduism is that we tend to see it as a religious faith. To be precise, Hinduism is a way of life, a dharma. Dharma does not mean religion; it is the law that governs all action. Hinduism was not founded by one person, it does not have a core doctrine, there is no central authority, it does not require followers to accept any one idea, and no one can agree on when or even where it began.

The word Hinduism itself is not to be found in any of the scriptures. It was named after the people of Sindh, who settled between the rivers Indus and Sindh in what is now Pakistan. The Persians named people of Sindh “Hindus.” Hinduism is essentially a conglomeration of diverse religious, philosophical, and cultural ideas, beliefs and traditions. It is characterized by the belief in reincarnation, one absolute being, the law of Karma, a path of righteousness and liberation from the cycle of births and deaths.

Myth 2: There are 33 crore Gods in Hinduism
The Vedas does not refer to millions of deities but 33 supreme deities. 33 divinities are mentioned in the Yajur-veda, Atharva-veda, Satapatha-brahmana, and in several other Vedic and later texts. The number thirty-three occurs with reference to divinities in the Parsi scriptures of Avesta as well. The word ‘koti’ in Trayastrimsati koti does not mean the number ‘thirty-three crore’. Here koti means ‘supreme’, pre-eminent, excellent, that is, the 33 ‘supreme’ divinities. The word koti has the same meaning as ‘Uchha koti’.

In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, chapter 3, Yajnavalkya has said that in reality there are only 33 gods and goddesses. Of these 8 are Vasus, 11 Rudras, 12 Adityas, and Indra and Prajapati. 8 Vasus + 11 Rudras + 12 Adityas + 2 Heaven and Earth ( 8+ 11 + 12 + 2 = 33).

Myth 3: Hinduism is an
Hinduism is fairly relaxed and tolerant, but that doesn’t mean we are a free for all. The Vedas are called shruti – meaning that no kind of alteration is permitted. When we are initiated into the religious practice during Upanayanam, we have to exactly recite the mantras as is. Can I improve Bhagvad Gita by inserting/deleting 30 new verses in Chapter 18? On the contrary, if you change even one syllable in a Rig Vedic verse, you risk invalidating it.

Myth 4: Hinduism has atheism within it
There were a few ‘Nastika schools’ of philosophy in ancient India. But, that doesn’t mean they form a part of the Hindu canon that is followed in practice today. Hindu philosophy is a subset of all ideas that originated in India. All the mainstream religion texts are all theistic with explicit reference to God. Vedas speak of God, in Bhagvat Gita Krishna leaves no room for doubt when it comes to God, Adi Shankara leaves no room for further doubt in Bhaja Govindam.

Myth 5: A Hindu is a member of the Sanatana Dharma
A Hindu is one who lives around and beyond, south-east of the Indus river. Basically, Indians are “Hindus”. Sanatana Dharma is followed only if one believes in all the different Gods and Goddesses – these are not even the conventional Gods and Goddesses that the religions of the world talk about. These are Devatas, which represent natural elements, human emotions, desires, actions, among other things.

Myth 6: Hindus are idol worshipers
In reality, Hindus worship a reminder of God. No Hindu will say he or she is worshipping an idol. Instead, Hindus believe a physical representation of God – in the form of an idol – helps them focus on an aspect of prayer or meditation. For instance, a person who has just opened up a new business may worship Ganesh, the elephant god who represents success. The images of Gods and Goddesses, or murtis, are used as focal points to help aid in meditation and prayer.

Myth 7: Hindus worship cows
In reality, Hindus do not pray to cows but they do regard all creation and all life as sacred. Hindus believe every living thing has a soul. It is true, however, that cows hold a special place in Hindu society. That’s why Hindus refrain from eating beef. Cows are seen as gentle, maternal figures that are providers of milk and other forms of sustenance. They are honored for their value.

Myth 8: Hinduism supports a discriminatory caste system
In actuality, Caste discrimination is rooted not in religion but culture. Caste was an ancient system of occupational class delineated in Hindu texts that over the years developed into a rigid social hierarchy. The lowest castes, or untouchables, were marginalized and faced persecution. But many modern Hindus have argued that caste-based discrimination is not intrinsic to Hinduism and should not be thought of as religiously sanctioned.

Myth 9: The Bhagavad Gita is like the Bible
There is not one central, authoritative book in Hinduism. But Hinduism is rich in scripture with a vast collection of ancient religious writings. Hindus believe god revealed truths to wise men who passed them on for thousands of years through a rich oral tradition. The scriptures include the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas and the Bhagavad Gita, or Song of God. Part of the epic tale, Mahabharata, Gita is the world’s longest poem and captures the core beliefs of Hinduism but not all Hindus read the Gita.

Myth 10: Karma is philosophical
Everyone has the ability to choose life’s actions. This is the theory behind karma: for every action a person sets in motion, there is a corresponding reaction. Hindus believe they have to face the consequences of past actions. Each person creates his or her destiny with deeds. The ultimate goal is to have karma that will free a soul and gain moksha, or liberation from the cycle of rebirth.

Myth 11: Hindu texts are about Spirituality
Writings we now categorize as Hindu scriptures include not just books relating to spirituality but also secular pursuits like science, medicine and engineering. This is another reason why it defies classification as a religion. Further, it cannot be claimed to be essentially a school of metaphysics. Nor can it be described as ‘other worldly’. In fact, one can almost identify Hinduism with a civilization that is flourishing even now.

Myth 12: The term Salvation is not the same as Moksha
“Salvation” is an ambiguous word that can refer to a lot of phenomena. It is not just a question of how one might get saved, but also what one is saved from and to. In Hinduism, “salvation” is most frequently referred to as “moksha,” which means most literally “release.” One is saved, not from sin, but from one’s own existence. The point of moksha is to be released from the cycle of reincarnation.

Myth 13: Hindus are allowed to eat meat
Hinduism does not mandate that its followers be vegetarian. Many adherents of Hinduism are not vegetarian, although a vegetarian diet is encouraged in accordance with principles such as ahimsa (nonviolence) extended to animals.

Myth 14: Woman’s place in Hinduism is not equal to.
The ancient society was in fact quite considerate and respectful to those (both men and women) engaged in various vocations, and people were free to make choices or changes in their careers or skills if the opportunity existed. Vedic prayers also indicate that the women had considerable say in selecting their marriage partners, and were espoused to live in monogamous relationships while enjoying same rights as their husbands. Furthermore, in the Vedas there is little evidence of child marriages, dowry system and the practice of Sati.

Similarly, there is no indication of any stigma relating to widowhood or the remarriage of a widow. There is also no religious restriction against women cremating or lighting the funeral pyre of their departed kin. Note also that the well-educated, scholarly and charismatic women of yore, who also participated in many philosophical debates with men, included Gargi (the daughter of Vachaknu – from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad).

Myth 15: Manusmriti is an important social & religious.
It is a great misunderstanding to consider the Manu-smriti (or Manu’s proclamation) as being an important part of the Hindu Varna-ashrama dharma. This confusion persists even in spite of the fact that Manu-smriti as a smriti (or smrti) often contradicts the sruti (or Veda) on several important points relating to the caste system and women. Manu-smriti was never popular among the Hindus. Moreover, they never used it as a religious or social text.

Myth 16: Hinduism advocates being anti-materialistic
What Hinduism says is that materialistic pursuits or running behind sensual pleasures is not going to fetch you everlasting happiness. It only says that behind any unbridled searching for enjoyment, there is always a pain lurking behind. Hinduism advises one to practice moderation, to be watchful, and not to get carried away. Hinduism does place liberation – ‘Moksha’ as the ultimate goal of life and for the majority, the path of progress towards the goal (Moksha) includes Dharma (righteousness), Artha (materialism) and Kama (sensual enjoyments).

Courtesy: Speaking Tree [TOI]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s