Mind And Body Health
Noble Thoughts:

Hinduism - More than ďA Way of LifeĒ          

          It became hip and fashionable among some Hindus a few decades ago to say that Hinduism is just a way of life and not a religion.  And this has been parroted by many without thinking ever since. Unfortunately, religions that do not wish Hinduism well have used this to its detriment by saying: ďSo, Hinduism is a way of life.  This means you Hindus donít have a religion. Your religion then can be our religion. Why donít you adopt ours as your own? You may keep your way of life.Ē  It is thus important for Hindus to insist that Hinduism is a religion, philosophy and way of life all rolled into one. These three are not mutually exclusive categories. A tradition can be all three at once as in the case of Taoism (Dao-de Jiao as the Chinese call it) in China and Shintoism (Kami-nomichi as the Japanese call it) in Japan.  Usually, nationally-based religions tend to be all three at once, as opposed to the missionary religions. Why are some Hindus hesitant to call Hinduism a religion when it has all the elements that characterize a religion? Letís check each of these characteristics: Deities, piety and worship, scriptures, doctrines, sacred space (sanctified places of worship and pilgrimage), sacred time (feasts and fasts), sacred persons (priests and monastics), liturgy and prayer, sacraments (sanctification of the important stages of life), miracles and mysticism, rituals, code of ethics, contemplative practices, humanism and a concept of salvation.  Hinduism has them all. Over and above this is the culture.  It is this cultural component that makes Hinduism more than a religion.  It also becomes a way of life.  One does not exclude the other. Hindus should celebrate their faith as all three (religion, philosophy and way of life) rolled into one as Taoists and Shintoists have done in China and Japan respectively over the centuries.


Hinduism Today, Jan-Mar 2008                                                                B.N. Hebbar