Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Hinduism is not a religion ; It is a philosophy. So I'm told at the Chinese restaurant around the corner, a joint for old retired men to have beers and lunch.

I don't pretend to give a lecture on religion, but rather a short summary of my conversation with the man, as well as a few field observations and comments about them.

Hinduism describes life and death as part of an universal pattern. The universe is a cosmical entity, of which the timeless infinity lies behind everyday life's reality. The material world made of atoms is actually ruled by superior mystical powers which decide of the fate of all things and beings. Each man has a destiny embedded in him, and if he doesn't fulfill it in this life he will reincarnate to continue the quest. Atoms, protons, neutrons and electrons are all part of this universal scheme and encourage the fulfillment of destinies. The concept of good and evil is formed by each person's morality. Someone is bad if another person is here to judge his actions as bad. Moreover, determinism makes us stay what we were yesterday, and we will be the same tomorrow. This concept of eternal soul reminds me of what I've already learned with the Krishna followers. So much for free will...

Hinduism religion is unrationalizable. It takes us light years away from our Western philosophy and its rationalist (Descartes, Spinoza) or empiricist (Locke, Hume, Berkeley) tradition. The starting point for building our understanding of the world is Reason, whereas Hinduism as a philosophy describes a knowledge which is above reason, a higher reality. A the ISKCON temple for instance, the classes are given by the Institute of Higher Consciousness. The understanding of reality is not achieved by repeted experiments and study of causality, but by years of meditation, prayers and a blind faith (blind to us as faith does not use Reason, but rather a kind of Intuition that comes from the heart, or the soul) in another world, beyond ours, that we hope to reach after going through the four stages of spiritual life. Being a "student" first (mainly studying the Vedas) ; Then a "housekeeper" (everyday life, material happiness and experience of pleasure, sacrifice of instant individual happiness for the one of our family, more rewarding) ; To then become a "forest-dweller" (retire oneself for everyday life distractions to begin spiritual awakening) ; And eventually be an "ermit" (Sannyasa), virtually cut from the outside world in order to complete one's consciousness of the spiritual world. Dictature of the senses versus meditation. To sum up, Hinduist philosophy is hard for us to apprehend as it does not fit our rationalist understanding. Eastern spirituality doesn't rule out Reason, it transcends it.

As artistically stunning as it is, Hinduist artwork (shrines, statues...) and the devotion to the many Gods of Hinduism might actually be against the old foundations of the religion, according to which one should not worship the representations of the Gods. This information remains unverified (any grounds for this assertion Sourabh?), and even if it was true I don't know of any religion which still follows its founding principles. We usually read what we want to in the Holy Scriptures of any faith (Jesus always told us to love our neighbours as ourselves, and to give the other cheek ; But how many Christian families actually apply these? The fear of our own neighbours being very common in our society). The foundations of hinduism were layed in the Vedas, or vedic writings, including the oldest one the Rig-Veda, written between 1500 and 900 B.C., being the oldest book about philosophy or religion. The Vedas gather a great number of stories about the Gods, myths and beliefs, some of whom date back as far as 5000 B.C. The caste system, roughly set in the Vedas, was then further developped in the Upanishad. A lot more was depicted in the two most famous epics of Hinduism, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, written between 800 and 200 B.C. They are the most refered to when it comes to religious practices, rather than the Vedas.

Originally, the caste system was invented by the Aryans invaders, who used it to keep the natives in their position of conquered people by calling them "Dasas" (slaves). Then the karmic hierarchy developped, placing in order from high to low: the Brahmins (priests), Ksatriya (nobles, warriors), Vaisyas (farmers, merchants) and Sudras (servants), and many other sub-castes (carpenters, cleaners etc..). The untouchables are outside of this hierarchy. It is worth noting that it is uncertain whether religion backed up this cast system, and it was often broken, sometimes resulting in new caste formations. in facts, it seems clear that the caste system was mainly used as a powerful tool to maintain the relations of socio-economic domination.

Although source of unvaluable beauty to the observer, a lot of religious practices seem to be taking a lot of time, money and energy, for the whole of Indian society. So much time and money that is not allocated to infrastructures (roads...), cleaning and maintaining of public spaces, and furthermore education. Just to cite three of the main issues, in big cities and rural areas. What would be the cost of setting up an irrigation system to make farmers less dependant of the monsoon? A lot of religious practices and supersition get in the way of freedom for some youths, and may even substitute to their education.



    There are some small/big (e.g. Upanishadas) mistakes which i will let you know.
    i intend to write on Hinduism and let you know after that.
    I hope I would not mind if i use some of your informations as cut,copy and paste to save time.

    I will let you know the source of one ONE GOD in Hinduism.

    The name of potters village is Kumartuli.
    The name of place where we went from Bishnupur is Garhpanchkot

  2. Much of current Hinduism developed after Moryuan Empire (beginning of AD). Most of the Indian art, philosophy, Sanskrit literature developed during this era of Indian history. Since, Buddhism and Jainism was on rise, thus lot of traditions were altered with, to take Hinduism to masses. Actual Hinduism (there isn’t actually, it is way of life) was Sanatan Dharma (vedic age). Actually, all Indian religions have same philosophy (3 above) but marketed/sold to masses differently.

    The best way to understand Hinduism is to understand Sankhya philosophy. Since, there are many practical applications built out of that concept (yoga, ayurveda, jyotish to name a few) thus it is definitely scientific coz there is no scientific law which opposes any idea in Hinduism. In fact, it gels with under developed modern studies very well.

    You are true in understanding material aspects of India but I think, you will find your views changing very soon as you know western version of Indian History not authentic Indian History
    1) India was never invaded by Aryans, there are several discoveries lately (search internet) and common sense when one look at languages and historical information and Vedic text of ancient India before Christ era.
    2) Unhygienic India - It is not related to religion. Coz, same religions are present in the land from millenniums and India was once documented as very clean and beautiful place by many foreign travellers before English invaded India. I would say even poverty can’t be the reason to stay filthy. The more suitable reasons can be
    1) Too much population without resources - It is not easy to deal with so many people with limited resources. So cities are full of people but no arrangement of proper sewage etc. We can't leave cities and die hungry so we have to adjust in bad cities. And I am sure there are fewer who make place dirty and many makes it as there are not alternative arrangements by governing body
    2) Another problem, I think is: too much individualism, ideas, opinion, differences in India as practised by its religion - so unable to gel as democratic society for material constructiveness. As diverse India is, I think it will take long time for democracy to mature. As you know a very large Religious gathering can be held in India any time with utmost ease because these things are matured and everybody understands how to deal with it or what to expect. But building roads, schools, infrastructure as society – nobody knows what to do or how to deal with it.

    Another point people think of India as wasting so much money in religious activities than putting of infrastructure. I think, it is very little true:
    1) Religious festivals drive lot of economic activity which actually/mostly goes to downtrodden people in the society. (lot of charity, large feeds and donation for social cause)
    2) You will be amazed to know if you try to figure out how much money temples make and basically, in our society it should go to needy people (ideally)
    3) Religious activity binds people together.
    4) Religious practises instil good habits even who missed formal education and keep masses engage.

    Last but least, I really liked your blog, you definitely have travelled India more than me and I hope you would have enjoyed the trip with the limitations it offers. Please keep up your good work.