In a way I agree to Karl Marx's view - "Religion is opium of the masses". It indeed is. It intoxicates and numbs big part of humanity into becoming irrational zombies.
So after giving such a dramatically negative introduction to my views of religion, why do I put - "Why I am a Hindu?" in the post title?
Let me explain. But before that, let me get something straight out - I am not a fan of Karl Marx's. I hate his theories in general and oppose communism/Marxism to death. I think communism is bigger danger than all religions put together. It's a bigger evil. Period. (The 'why' side of this? Some other day)
Why I am a Hindu? Or rather why I chose to be a Hindu?
I'll manoeuvre one path of this labyrinth at a time.. and give my best shot.
I was born into a Hindu family. As in, a family, who thinks they are Hindus. Who believe they are Hindus. But if you really ask any of my family members what a "Hindu" really is; I can bet a million dollars (something I don't have), that no one can spell it out clearly.
Quite frankly no one really knows who a Hindu is? Or what a Hindu is? And that to me, is the first plus. It is like pulp fiction. No clearly defined borders. No clearly defined boundaries.
What that means is, you can pretty much believe in what you want. And can believe in what you don't want. There's no over-powering authority (like a Pope or an Imam) who can dictate what's "allowed".
It is non-monotheist in nature. That's a second plus for me. I don't like monotheism. It reeks of superfluous power.
The basic premise of Hinduism, if any at all there is one, is - Karma. And Karma or action/deeds itself is a universal notion. It's non-religious in nature. What I am getting at is, being Hindu in a sense is being non-religious.
People confuse "rituals and traditions" with religion. Religion per se is more like a doctrine.
That brings me to the 3rd plus. Hindus have no overriding doctrine.
Then the point really is - why follow religion at all? What's the point?
I think saying that all religions are evil and all are same is over simplifying stuff. I don't think all religions are "evil" and I most certainly don't think all are same. And there in lies one of my answers for following Hinduism.
Since not all religions are same, but the big ones are really really imposing in a way (either because of money power and/or muscle power), as a human being, I feel obliged to counter it.
Think of it this way. If the tea party crazy loonies form a big political party in the US, thanks to large money power pumped in by Talk Radio hosts and they start throwing their weight around so much so that they start defining and imposing their ways of life, you would need a counter balance, a positive, liberal, alternative pole, to hold. A group that can stay put and hold its own against a bigger power, lest being in danger of being run over.
Hinduism is something like that. It's a counter-alternative (albeit a weak one) to the 2 very big and powerful religions of the world. It's the most liberal religion on earth with no hard-core contours.
Being a Hindu is in essence being a liberal. It's needed sometimes to call out, and be counted and not give the big and powerful a free run. And that's where Hinduism comes to play for me.
Hindus don't massacre "others" under the guise of 'jihad'. They don't have crusades in their entire history of being. And to think its the oldest religion, they had a higher probability of doing that.
Hinduism is like a big umbrella under which several smaller religions found home and wisdom. Buddhism and Jainism to name a few.
But here's the most important reason I like being a Hindu. Believe it or not, Hinduism actually has a branch that supports atheism. In a way Hinduism is OK with atheism.
If I chose not to believe in God, I don't have to and still be counted as a Hindu. Can't say that about others..can you?
As a proud Hindu, I believe in Action. I believe good actions bring good results. I strive not to worry about the "fal". If it comes it comes. Although I am not always successful doing that, Hinduism does tell me it works.
Most westerners, or people who have been bred with western influence deride the 'caste system' in Hinduism, and to an extent rightly so. Anything that tolerates differentiating between humans based on caste of birth has to be criticised.
But we are making a big assumption here. Hinduism has nothing to do with caste. Caste is an outcome of several hundred years of (mis)rule of Kings who happened to be Hindus. It's not religion specific. It's country specific. And most people forget one of the most important data available out there.
Most of the castes that are supposed to be at the bottom of the ladder today were actually rulers and dominant forces few hundred years back.
I was born in a Brahmin family. Most of the Brahmins were extremely poor few centuries ago. Then they started learning and educating and slowly getting into good books of rulers and aligning themselves with power. That's how they started getting better off. Even in today's India, a very large proportion of Brahmins are extremely poor. The so called "upper cast" people who live below poverty line, with virtually zero help from government.
The point being, in cycle of events spread across centuries, some group of people (note : caste = group), find their ways around and move up the food chain while some group simply fall behind due to various circumstances. Both external and internal to the group itself.
Just to simplify this logic a bit, take a look at the different states in India. Each state has a different mix of caste and sub-caste. In overall scheme of things, check what state is ruled by what group. Who's the dominant force. It's a nice homework, if you want to understand caste system in India.
The Hindutava forces
Shiv Sena, VHP, Bajrang Dal represent Hinduism only as much as English represent Soccer. Just because the notorious English soccer fans go rogue with beer in hand, does not mean, Soccer is bad. Or English Soccer is bad. Soccer is followed like a religion by bunch of hooligans too. Does that make Soccer itself bad.
And without going into details of Shiv Sena, VHP etc, I can only say, these are reactionary forces that got created because of extremely lopsided policies pursued by the Congress party over 60 years of its gigantic misrule.(Congress created Shiv Sena to counter rise of communism in Bombay. In last elections in Maharashtra, Raj Thackrey voted for Congress and Sharad Pawar. Something people gloss over conveniently). In fact lot of caste and class struggle is result of Congress's super bad policies.
Does Shiv Sena represent Hinduism. Hell no. Not an inch of it.
In the end, here's something I am going to say. I like Bill Maher to a point. I know he hates religion. I know a few close people who do too.
I am not in argument with any of them. In fact i welcome constructive criticism (not blind hatred plz) of something. For me Hinduism is Karma; actions. It's a spiritual binding if you will.
When I go to temple every few weeks, I close my eyes and sit for sometime. I have a couple of minutes of spiritual connection. And then come out of the temple and go on with the daily routine. That's about it. I don't expect anyone to follow Hinduism. I don't preach it. It is what it is. If I am the last follower of Hinduism, that's perfectly fine too.
I don't want to impose any religion on anyone. Not even on my own kid. If he grows up to dislike Hinduism for whatever reason; that's fine too. Like me, he will have a choice to follow or not. I won't have any say in it.
For me Hinduism is personal. Period.