Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Why I am a Hindu?

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.


Caste System

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.


Blue Bike said...

Though I agree with all that you've written, I think this generally depends on every persons outlook towards religion ... In every religion you shall find people who are very strict and some easygoing people. For Example: Even among us hindu's eating Beef is considered bad and a huge majority of hindus wont touch beef no matter how liberated they are. Same goes for Jews and pork ... but still we shall find a lot of beef eating hindus or pork eating jews
So I wont generalize as hinduism being the most "free" religion ... just that even if I call myself a hindu nobody shall object ... think would be the same thing if I call myself a christian or jew ... nobody would care as long as I keep my views private.

kautilya said...

@Blue Bike : you made a good point about beef.

I find it very interesting actually that we in fact have a lot of beef eating "hindus"; it only reinforces my point further... Hindu's are really not an organized religion. What that means is "allowing beef" or not is not sanctioned by any organization (a la vatican or jama masjid).

it's really - to each his own theory.

I am trying to keep my overall conversation at abstract level, and am also decoupling religion and its followers.

My relationship with Hinduism is personal. It's one-to-one, but it's an important part of my life.

Anonymous said...

I saw your note about tea party loonies. Have you been to these tea parties or are you simply drinking the koolaid on CNN, ABC, CBS, MSNBC, NPR and any except FOX (which happens to be a GOP mouthpiece to counter the Democart leaning media). I think loonies are on both sides of the bench. If there were no FOX, I guarantee it will be totally lopsided media coverage.
I do like your commentary on Hindu religion. But as with many upper class hindus, you did make a point to remind that you infact were a brahmin. I have never heard any non brahmin declare his caste openly.
Another point I noted and I have not read your whole blog, is calling Mumbai as Bombay. Again I rarely read nowadays, Chennai being called Madras.
Do you already have a son because coincidentally you said he and not she. Does it show your inherent bias for a male kid. There is nothing wrong with it, but I expected a liberal thinker to have no bias, but may be I am wrong to assume that.
One thing I completely agree on is Hinduism is all about Karma without the expectations of the "Fal". I applaud your writing style.If you could also deepen your thinking by temporarily being the other person that would be great.

kautilya said...

dear anonymous,

guess i will have to respond, one point at a time.

-about tea party loonies : i would have to agree with you that there are loonies on both sides. in fact i never tire of spelling this out and you can find references of that, non-zero times in my other posts. i hate fox. and i am not a fan of msnb too. i think both media houses are are not news orgranizations but propaganda machines of right and left. and no, i have not been to any tea parties, thankfully. you don't have to be in one of them, to tell how fucked up they are.

-about my mention of my cast : i have said, i was "born" into a brahmin family. that is different from saying , 'i am a brahmin'. just to make sure you understand, i am saying i am not a brahmin. i don't consider myself one. i eat meat. i don't follow 99% of any rituals of brahmins. so basically i am not. similarly i say i was 'born into a hindu family' and i continue to 'choose being a hindu'. at the same time refuse to be a brahmin. and yes, i have seen many non-brahmins tell me what their cast is. i hope this helps. (basically this cast thing is a big time BS in my opinion)

-about calling mumbai,bombay : when i talk marathi i use the term mumbai. but generally i prefer the name bombay. i think that is more refelective of what that city is. the politics behind that is plain stupid and boring, if you ask me.

-and yes. i *have* a son, so i was using a real life example. and i don't make any claims of being a 'liberal thinker'. in fact many people who know me, think i am not even a liberal, in how the word is defined today and used. in fact, it would be difficult to bracket me as a liberal or a conservative. i make no apologies for that. i think at heart i am pragmatist. a centrist in many areas. i don't see everything as liberal vs conservative. its not black and white for me. in some areas i am conserative and in some liberal. i read brooks, krugman, friedman, kristoff with equal interest in nytimes. it's all issue based afaimc.