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Thread: The role of Hinduism in India today

  1. #1

    The role of Hinduism in India today

    Hello,

    I'm not sure it is the right place for asking this, but still I hope someone might help.
    I would like to know what role does Hinduism play in the Indian society today. In particular:
    1) the role of the Gurus, the temples as an institute for the observer and the lay person alike. (how authoritative are they, by whom are they funded ecc)
    2) the state of the caste system...as I understand it is legally abolished, but on the cultural level, what part of it still present and felt?

    Thanks!

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    Re: The role of Hinduism in India today

    Namaste

    I had a very long-winded answer to give you as I have been reading around Hinduism and culture. I have started reading "Everyday Hinduism" by Joyce Flueckiger. I have also been reading up on commentaries surrounding Sanatana-Dharma, texts and all sorts. I don't have the answers though!!

    But I will post this (my thinking): What role does Hinduism play in India today? Well, you need to start by defining Hinduism. And that, as I have been reading, is the rub.

    So, what do I mean? Is it culture, is it religion? What is this thing? This is what makes Hinduism incredibly complicated for me (but a wonderful journey regardless). Honestly, in my mind it is both or perhaps everything all at once. It does not pay heed to what might considered to be an arbitrary "binary" distinction. This or that, these or those.

    Think of it in terms of manifestations. How does something come into being? How is something expressed?

    By the way you structure your question I would posit that you wish to know 'how Hinduism as a distinct religious practice manifests in Contemporary Indian Culture?', and 'how (for want of better phrasing) the secular institutions dovetail with the religious institutions?'

    My first thought is "unpack" what you mean by religion and Hinduism. From there you can begin to look at how this "entity" you have identified manifests culturally, and many different levels of culture....

    The idea of "this affecting that" is not as easy as it first seems. That is a whole lot of me not saying very much, but start with the base. Once that is solid, move on with your analysis/understanding. IMHO. (as always methods may vary etc etc)

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    Re: The role of Hinduism in India today

    Namaste Maa,

    You have chosen beautiful name for yourself ... Maa means "Mother" in Hindi and Sanskrit and that is such a lovely word !!

    Quote Originally Posted by maa View Post
    I would like to know what role does Hinduism play in the Indian society today. In particular:
    1) the role of the Gurus, the temples as an institute for the observer and the lay person alike. (how authoritative are they, by whom are they funded ecc)
    2) the state of the caste system...as I understand it is legally abolished, but on the cultural level, what part of it still present and felt?
    Hindu Dharma is not an institutionalized religion. It is not an organised religion. There is nothing like One Book, One doctrine, one belief system, one authoritative head like Pope or Mullah which dictates terms here. This religion (if we are pardoned using that term) is quite vast and is the most difficult religion (as far as my studies say) on the earth to understand. I will tell you something :
    a) If you believe in God then you are an Aastika. If you don't then you are Naastika. And you both are Hindus.
    b) If you eat Non-vegetarian food, you are a Non-vegetarian. If you eat only and purely vegetarian food, you are vegetarian. And you both are Hindus.
    c) You worship God in form then you are worshipper of Saakaar Brahman, if you worship God as formless, you are worshipper of Niraakra Brahman and you both are Hindus.
    d) If you want to worship God as Father, you can be a Vaishnava or a Shaiva or some other sects which worship God in Maler form. If you worship God in female form as Mother ... you are a Shaakta and still all of you are Hindus.
    e) If you go to temple, it is OK. If you don't then also it is OK. You are still Hindus.
    f) If you want to worship God for getting rid of this world's problems and for getting heaven, it is OK. If you are tired and bored of this world and don't want to play anymore and want to attain NirvAAna then also it is OK. You both are Hindus.
    g) If you want to fast on certain days, it is OK. If you don't then too it is OK. You both are still Hindus.

    ... so on and so forth.

    So, what makes one a Hindu because all the above requirements are not compulsory for a Hindu. It is not an easy question to answer. The basic features of a Hindu :
    a) All living beings are divine. Respect all forms of lives (not only humans but also animals and the insects and the trees or even grass). The less you harm them as you live on this earth. If you violate this, you accrue bad karmas and you have to pay for it either in this life or in the lives to come.
    b) The life of any being is not one. It is an endless cycles bound by Laws of Karma. You must break this cycle to attain the blissful state of Brahman.
    c) Respect all forms of God and respect everyone's faith.
    d) God takes any form and attribute as He is worshiped.
    e) The Creator and the Creation are not different. On one plane of Reality It is unified Brahman only and the same is this Creation too in another plane of Reality.
    f) Your all identities are false and illusory. You are none but Brahman. The ultimate goal of all beings is to attain that state of Brahman again.
    g) There was no time when a God created this Creation. This Creation is the handiwork of God's powerful MAyA and that is beginningless. Once you Realise Brahman or the Reality, all questions are answered and you are one with Brahman in the same manner as a drop of water mixes with endless vastness of the Ocean.

    ****
    Yes, I didn't answer on Caste system. You may believe in caste system as a vast majority of Hindus do believe and you may not believe in caste system as slowly the new generation is breaking barriers and entering into inter-caste marriages. Temples are places of worship. You go there and worship the deity there. Temples are funded by people'd donations. If you decide to have a Guru, you have to strictly follow the path of the Guru as Guru is considered God. That is why it is very important that you choose your Guru after a thorough research and giving time to yourself. Don't rush to have a Guru.

    OM
    "Om Namo Bhagvate Vaasudevaye"

  4. #4

    Re: The role of Hinduism in India today

    Namaste Devotee Ji,

    a) If you believe in God then you are an Aastika. If you don't then you are Naastika. And you both are Hindus.
    I just wanted to add something on the meaning of Aastika and Naastika, which I feel there is a common misunderstanding in translation of words and one culture to another. If we are to take these as literal in modern language then Naastika is Atheist not believing in a God and Aastika as a believer or Theist, both of these concepts are based on monotheism.

    Now in Wiki it has been translated slightly different and more closer to the original meanings but still not fully accurate

    Astika (Sanskrit: आस्तिक: "orthodox") and Nastika: ("heterodox") are technical terms in Hinduism used to classify philosophical schools and persons, according to whether they accept the authority of the Vedas as supreme revealed scriptures, or not.

    In main understanding
    Naastika have been associated with Jains and Buddhists and have for sometime been used as something to divide and separate as opposite forces where Jains and Buddhists are opposed to Vedas or Brahmanism. Naastiks are usually associated with Shramanas, they were tyagis, yogis, mystics, renounced practitioners who solely practiced through oral traditions the siddhis, samadhi and other more subtle aspects of the yoga and Self realization outside of the Varna and society. I would say if one traces out the true lineage of the shramanas one would only come to meet the lotus feet of Avadhuta.

    I do not know enough about Jains but in regards to Buddhism this is not very close to the real truth. As part of my practice I dont take notes, but in several suttas in Pali traditions Siddharta encouraged the Brahmins to be better Brahmins, he was a reformer, in one sutta which I can find out with some effort and time, there is one Brahmin who found out something profound in his study the Vedas, but at the time there was some rule among the Brahmins that profound secrets were not be shared with the public or ordinary masses, but such was the profound realization of the Brahmin that at the same time he felt that it was an evil to not share his insights and his heart felt heavy. He sought out Council of Siddharta The Buddha The Awakened one, Tathagatha One Well Gone and Siddharta The Awakened One, Loka vidhu Knower the worlds (lokas) confirmed all his thoughts and told him to reveal whatever profound insights he understood as good and the right way. If he was against the Vedas and Brahmins he would have told him something else.

    That is just one examples, which there are many.

    In the times of Siddharta many of his disciples came from high class Brahmins backgrounds, and some where not only learned in all the Vedas but were also accomplished in many of the esoteric and subtle practices. And many of his closest disciples were Brahmins,
    moggallana and sariputta being good examples, they we highly gifted with different range of siddhis, or accomplishments, perfections. They sought out Tathagata to go to the next level above the conventions and practices within the Vedas that was practiced by the Brahmins of the time.

    I found some relation to this what his Higher than the Vedas if we can speak in this subtle and delicate way in the account of Narada Muni meeting with Sanatkumara, Sri Narada was also fully accomplished in the Vedas, he mastered everything that was to be mastered but still he didnt know the Atma and Sanatkumara revealed to Him.

    There is also a deeper meditation which I aspire to in this, Tathagata Buddha is non different to Atma Brahman and full realization only comes with Dharshana, vision or experience of the Self, the conventions and sciences or the Vedas are vehicles to the Self, but as Avadhuta Gita and other passages in the Upanishads mention that the Self can only be known through the Self, not by any other means.

    The point of my post is that God or rejection of God, or Vedas and the rejection of the Vedas is not really associated with Nasitka and Astika in its purest meaning, there are inherently related to each other, it may be along the lines and more closely associated with para and apara vidya.

    Pranam
    Last edited by markandeya 108 dasa; 08 June 2017 at 03:58 AM.

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    Re: The role of Hinduism in India today

    Namaste Markandeya ji,

    I cannot say that I am authority on this subject but this is what is taught to us by our parents and the Brahmins while growing up in today's Hindu Families. Astika and Naastika have come from the root "Asti" i.e. Exists ... so, a believer in existence (of God, supremacy of the Vedas or existence of Atman) is Aastika and that who doesn't believe so is a Naastika. In today's Hindu society, it is related today with what I have stated in my post. However, what you say also is correct because as per information gathered by me, there is no clear consensus on the definitions of these two words and it includes varying definitions. The Wiki I referred to states : "Āstika has been defined in one of three ways; as those who accept the epistemic authority of the Vedas, as those who accept the existence of ātman, or as those who accept the existence of Ishvara.[6][7] In contrast, nāstika are those who deny the respective definitions of āstika.[6]"

    In the Nastika schools, usually we also include the Aajivikas and the CharvAks including the Buddhists and the Jains. The Sharmans that you have mentioned come under the Aajivikas who were prior schools before Buddhism and Jainism as they are mentioned in their ancient texts.

    OM
    "Om Namo Bhagvate Vaasudevaye"

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    Re: The role of Hinduism in India today

    Namaste,

    When we live in the 'Trump World', it becomes apparent that we need to distinguish between real news and fake news. Similarly, we need to be mindful of what Hindus living in India and practicing Hinduism per their ancient traditions think Vs. what is disseminated on their behalf by 'reading' the works of 'outside' experts on Hinduism. I have seen countless occasions where an observer reads something, superimposes his/her cultural/religious/rational frame of mind on it and comes up with a 'new and twisted' view of Hinduism. The credibility of the source of information and its proximity, both physical and spiritual, to the subject matter does matter; else one is bound to get 'fake description' similar to the 'fake news' that we have been saturated with over the past several months.

    Pranam.

  7. #7

    Re: The role of Hinduism in India today

    Namaste Devotee Ji,


    Thank you for your reply and what you state is the general accepted view , Its not a simple subject and I am not sure where to start and not sure it would be fully inline with the title of the thread and I too am not an authority but I have seen and been taught some things that are very clear but hard to explain or it takes time to explain and usually better by oral means


    Śramaṇa is a translated as seeker, ascetic and one who lives outside of society, so Śramaṇa would not necessarily be someone who is outside of The Vedic fold. If we are to take sad dharshana or six schools as classical Vedic identity, I know most of the 6 views are included in the Pali texts in one form or another, maybe coded in a different way and original authors taken out, but by view they are included to varying degrees. Ultimately the sramana is aiming at Pali asankhata The Unformed, Unoriginated, Unconditioned, Uncreated & Unconstructed , beyond of all becoming and conditionality. This is quite a high aim and to realize asankhata the dristi would need to be very advanced and many or most of the portions of Vedas that were practiced by the Brahmins related to the maintenance and raising of society not necessarily towards Nirvana or Self realization beyond all forms and conventions.


    Schools and sects to me has a certain misrepresentation when the word view is taken into account, when we think of view usually we ascribe view to meaning an intellectual or philosophical view and that defines the nature and identity of that school or sect. But as I see it view Pali diṭṭhi, Sanskrit dṛṣṭi, is more of a compound of mind or consciousness and teachings are delivered according to the level of student, some things maybe relevant and others maybe not at that time of the discourse, so view as having a fixed meaning and made into a sect may not be the original purpose and true meaning of diṭṭhi~ dṛṣṭi which would be applied skillfully between the speaker and the hearer.


    I consider and I stand to be corrected but the Ājīvikas, Śramaṇa, would have had a wide range of practices and the practices would be arranged and taught via the dṛṣṭi of that person, and it was not uncommon that one would learn from different teachers and different teachers would have their perfections at different levels of dṛṣṭi. Maybe some were more extreme than others to reject the Vedas or the Brahmins practice of the Vedas but I feel very strongly if the pure essence is found there is no conflict or dividing line. Perhaps in their purest forms they are reformers and their words are taken as criticism and total rejection when taken out of context.


    If all that ( sayings and teachings of past sages ) becomes intellectualized then we have so many different sects and this can cause division when the original oral transmissions was to raise the persons dṛṣṭi.


    I do consider that there is an intimate relationship between the sramana and the brahmin and the varnas, they are all interdependent.

    Pranam

    Last edited by markandeya 108 dasa; 08 June 2017 at 12:14 PM.

  8. #8

    Re: The role of Hinduism in India today

    devotee,

    Thank you for your comment.
    I have a follow up question for you then if you don't mind -
    What should one do to not-to-be a Hindu then? Because it seems like almost anyone of any faith coming and settling in India can be eventually considered a 'Hindu'...
    Can someone be a Hindu outside India (or an Indian community)?

  9. #9

    Re: The role of Hinduism in India today

    Quote Originally Posted by Believer View Post
    ...what is disseminated on their behalf by 'reading' the works of 'outside' experts on Hinduism. I have seen countless occasions where an observer reads something, superimposes his/her cultural/religious/rational frame of mind on it and comes up with a 'new and twisted' view of Hinduism.
    You know...this is a VERY crucial point. The most crucial actually.
    Almost every single book I read relating to Hinduism, was written by though an Indian, but always someone who lived in the US or the UK and has some degree of Harvard/Columbia/Cambridge ecc...And I always suspected strongly that they were biased in the way you described. I try to weed out the useful information, but on most of their points (usually the most fundamental ones) I just have to take them for their word. That's the main reason I started reading here, because I thought I had more chance of getting the right spirit of your tradition from here, and not those westernized PhDs and professors.

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