I joined RajivMalhotraDiscussions at yahoogroups.com and immediately submitted a new topic at 9.41 am 10 February 2014 as follows:
The major problem I see is that our scriptures have not been rationalised into a narrative that is generally acceptable as constituting the Essentials of Hinduism that is written to make sense to the average person about the kind of lifestyle and practices that Hindus should legitimately engage in as constituting Hindu Dharma. Consequently, it takes a very long time of personal study to begin to fathom and appreciate who we are as Hindus individually. So when children go to schools they immediately know what Christianity, Islam and Buddhism are because of their written ‘holy’ books, but when asked what is Hindu dharma they are unable to speak. They will identify themselves by their castes still not knowing how that fits into Hindu Dharma. They celebrate the Hindu festivals but do not know how these are related to the religion so that their meaning as related to the religion is lost. Individual Hindu practices become very easy to criticise and attack by other religious groups when the essentials of Hindu Dharma is not taught at school in a simple manner. There are anomalies that need to be tackled and a decision made on what the majority of Hindus believe and practice. What chance have our younger generation got to understand who we are when we have atheists living among us who also claim to be Hindu. I am not prejudging this issue but just stating the fact that the youth are bewildered because of it. Other examples are some people’s claim that Buddha was an avatar of Vishnu. Some say Sikhism is part of Hinduism. For all these reasons, we are still having debates on what Hinduism is as adults.
The Hindu mind cannot and must not tolerate nonsensical religious or material practices. We need to be able to rationalise Hinduism from a scientific standpoint. To tackle this core issue concerning Hindu Dharma we need to set up a task force constituting an intellectual debate the objective of which will be to come out with a book in 5 years time that will set up the essential tenets of Hindu dharma. It’s task will be to synthesise these values from our scriptures and practices in order to produce the Hindu book of Dharma. The task force will have to consider inputs from the general public and accommodate those practices that conform to the narrative of Hindu Dharma. Other practices and beliefs will have to be jettisoned as not being Hindu. Such a book will have to be taught in classrooms from an early age as a subject entitled ‘Religious Studies’ along with alternative ways of life. Then only will the youth realise the strength of Hindu Dharma scientifically and philosophically and why it is a superior religion to those others. It is quite possible to rationalise Hinduism in a sober manner that is scientifically sound.
This is the only peaceful way to proceed in revitalising Hinduism. It is a desirable objective that Hindus go through this introspection in order to arrive at the goal so that the next generation does not live looking at Bollywood for spiritual inspiration.
I followed that message with the following comment in one of the threads:
I find Rajiv Malhotras views to be offensive in many respects. They show him to want a national movement to light a sense of national pride among Indians.
I should therefore point out that nationalism has got only limited value for individual and group prosperity for it comes only by sacrificing other essentials that go to make a harmonious and free society living at peace in the international arena. It is not only offensive to those people struggling to feed their families by doing whatever work is available to them to be cast as Shudras, Rajiv’s videos bring India into disrepute because it ignores that Hinduism recognises that Shudras too have an essential role in society by possessing and contributing their labour asset. Further, he is ignorant of the fact that assets are interconvertible, for the labour assets of the ‘Shudra’ is easily converted into capital asset from savings.
I will go further. The reason that Hindu Indians adopted English language is because it is a powerful language that is versatile and much more easily than their own language conveys their feelings. Indian languages are adapting, by borrowing words from English. It is more important that people find ways to convey their feelings easily than struggle with their own language. Rajiv Malhotra is being offensive to human sentiments when he criticises Indian leaders who do not speak in their own language in foreign press conferences. It is much better to speak in English and get your message across easier.
Rajiv Malhotra is therefore no saviour of Hinduism and the Indian nation.
By 12.55 pm I had been banned from the group, as expected; having earlier tweeted Rajiv Malhotra as follows: Shantanu Panigrahi @ShanPanigrahi · Feb 9 @RajivMessage Rajiv, of course we need to define Hinduism. I see it as a complete way of life as described here: http://satyaadvaita.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/essentials-of-hinduism/ …..
6 May 2014 Update: ‘Peace and Pluralism is a powerful combination showing the greatest tolerance towards all beliefs and existential beings. But the path of truth is an even higher plane of existence according to Hinduism’s acinta bheda abheda tatwa. This truth does not dwell on tolerance but on acting according to circumstances to establish the truth and counter lies and deception at all times: hence, satyameva jayate is the essence of Hinduism. Truth is not attained from attachment to any ideas and beliefs such as tolerance, pluralism, or attainment of social order of the type that is implied by inter-faith institutions. For ultimately truth is God-imparted for which one needs to submit to the will of God, and God is not tolerant of injustices inflicted by one section of humanity or one human being on another.
Accepting the injustices inflicted on us is not considered to be the result of adhering to the highest truth because it is not ones dharma to accept the oppression that someone is inflicting on us. In Hinduism we have the strength to resist through a peaceful non-violent means whenever possible to secure truth exposure and justice for ourselves as far as this will take us within the system that is operating and this involves fighting for one’s rights and denigrating the oppressors. A pluralistic outlook on life accepts that people belong to different faiths and philosophies (including secularism), races and castes, who may oppress the individual if he did not belong to that faith. For example, an Islamic person in Saudi Arabia might want to kill me because he considers me to be an infidel and I must resist that not just leave the country to find some place where I will be accepted for who I am. When the action of a person with a different faith affects me materially I will have to resist the oppression with all my might whether that oppression comes from a faith or philosophy such as Islam and Christianity or from secularism, homosexuality or any other form of living.’
25 May 2014 -18 July 2014 Edition and Update: Hindutva means the essence of Hinduism, which is the recognition that people have different beliefs which should be accepted if not celebrated as representing the diversity of religious beliefs in humanity. By Hindu beliefs is meant the range of practices within the Indian subcontinent that have evolved from within and not imported into the region. As a Hindu one can go and see any guru and follow the path that he recommends. The outlook means that all religions can be accommodated within Hinduism, including the Abrahamic religions that have been assimilated within India for several hundred years and form part of the Indian society today. India, the land of Hindus (east of Sindh, so sindus from which the ‘s’ got subsequently deleted) has therefore generated more religions living side by side than any other country of the world.
Thus, within Hinduism there are different strands or religions. It includes satya-advaitism that I practice as being oneness with truth. Other strands perform dharma in the realisation that God assists those who fight for truth and justice for themselves as depicted in the Mahabharrata and the Ramayana. Satya-advaita is the highest religion that I have determined for myself without any guide for I realised that knowledge acquisition and truth exposure represents justice for truth prevails by the will of God through a truth consciousness mechanism. Satya-advaita is also the method that can lead to the realisation of God. Further, it recognises that the fundamental principle of truth-ascertained dharma in the performance of duties and responsibilities. Satya-advaita performs gyanyoga (truth)-derived dharma for ones duties and righteous actions. My forefathers saw that the purpose of life is given in the word ‘Vedas’, which means ‘to know’. Satya-advaita is based on find out the truth for oneself including the studies of the history of religions that have come to us through recorded spiritual literature. All evidences have to be taken into consideration. That is why there are gurus and babas to guide the Hindu. Gurus are necessary to teach what is right and what is wrong.
But leaving my religion aside, what should Hindutva be? I cannot ask anyone else to follow the path that I did. I have not seen anything in spiritual literature that talks about the path that I have discovered and followed. But I know that it should not be discriminated against in Hinduism or Hindutva. Hindutva or the essence of Hinduism of accepting diversity is universally applicable for its pluralistic nature accepting diverse beliefs and religious practices. In Hinduism all beliefs (eg gods) and practices are optional. For example, beef consumption is optional and has been hitherto prohibited for agricultural reasons only within India as a societal custom. Similarly ahimsa is optional, as are meditational practices to connect with the Absolute Infinite in its unmanifest form to attain bliss or moksha (liberation from this world).
So what should Hindu nationalism be based on? It should obviously be based on Hindutva or the recognition and acceptance of diversity of religious beliefs and practices. This means accommodating pluralism rather than secularism (http://www.sunday-guardian.com/analysis/hindutva-is-a-secular-way-of-life) if secularity means God-free (see: https://shantanup.wordpress.com/2013/12/01/secularism-versus-pluralism/). Hinduism is characterised by the acceptance that people are entitled to their differing religious faiths so that intolerance of this should be sufficient grounds for denying a person citizenship in terms of holding the country’s passport for which the passport application form should require this declaration to be made.
22 July 2014 Update: To summarise, a Hindu is one who accepts and practises the principle of religious freedom that each person is entitled to his or her own personal religion. This therefore excludes proselytising religions like Christianity and Islam at a stroke. It means that all Hindus tolerate Christian and Muslim religious practices even if this is not reciprocated. Tolerance is however limited by the need to ensure self preservation and survival with dignity through ones dharma (duties and righteous actions). The proselytisation activities from other religions including preaching in public areas and building of mosques and churches in Hindu dominated areas are highly offensive to Hindu dignity and so also not tolerated by Hindus who must fight those who disrupt their dharmic lives in this way. A central tenet of Hinduism is dharmo rakshati rakshita which means that if one preserves dharma dharma will preserve the individual. Preservation of dharma can be by killing the oppressors if necessary so that ahimsa per se is not central to Hindu dharma.
24 July 2014 Update: After receiving three Tweet-replies from Rajiv Malhotra yesterday I find myself blocked by him on Twitter today. This is a pity. He had been copied into my discussions on religion with @BHPanimalwatch yesterday which must have irritated him somehow. This shows the great divergence of opinion that there is between Rajiv Malhotra and me or that he is pursuing an agenda that he thinks will get interrupted or hijacked by me. He had tweeted: ‘No point arguing with uninformed but over-opinionated @ShanPanigrahi’; by this comment he was obviously referring to me and true to his word he did not engage with me in the ensuing discussion.
31 July 2014 Update: The only religion created by God (Sri Krishna) for the land of Asia south of the Himalayas is the original religion of Hinduism. All the others prevalent today are derived from the guna consciousness gods of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Of these Christianity, Buddhism and multiculturalism are divine or sattvic religions inspired through Brahma, whereas Islam and modern Judaism are evil or tamasic religions inspired through Shiva. However, it should be noted that the ‘Ten Commandments’ was revealed to Moses by Sri Krishna. When this Judaism went astray Christianity developed and spread because it was divine. Hinduism is therefore an overriding religion that is protected by Sri Krishna.
1 August 2014 Update: The provisions of the ten commandments given by Sri Krishna to Moses are part of the dharma of Hindus as clarified here: http://satyaadvaita.wordpress.com/2014/08/01/gods-ten-commandments-given-to-moses/.
2 August 2014 Update: The question on the importance of ahimsa was clarified to me by Hardik Bhatt (@iHardikBhatt) on Twitter this morning when we wrote: “अहिसापरमोधर्म: धर्महिंसाथेवच:” अर्थात, अहिसापरमधर्महैपरधर्मकेरक्षणकेलिएहिंसाकरनासर्वोतमहै That is to say, non-violence and not-killing is the highest dharma (do’s and don’ts), but fighting (including killing) to protect dharma is the highest form of living. So one can imagine how important this it. One needs to fight even to the point of killing in order to protect dharma including the highest dharma, namely, ahimsa or non-violence. And the second verse to this shloka is: धर्मएवहतोहंतिधर्मोरक्षतिरक्षित: अर्थात, धर्मउसकीरक्षाकरताहैजोधर्मकीरक्षाकरताहै, धर्मबिनाकाजीवनमृतु/जानवर/असुर/मलीचसामानहैजोआपकीहीमृतुकरताहै This means, the person who spends his life protecting dharma, is protected by dharma back in turn; whilst the person who kills dharma is killed by dharma. Harkik Bhatt writes further: this shloka is part of a conversation between Bhisma and Yudhister before the Mahabaharatta war.
4 August 2014 Update: Veganism, an extension of vegetarianism, is a crucial requirement of Hindu dharma:
Why the world should tend towards veganism:
God created nature to supply foods (animals and plants) to all varieties of organisms. We humans need to work out what is ethical (dharmic) utilisation of these products. This comes from knowledge of our biology within the context of the need for humans and the human species to survive. When we add to this the term ‘survival with dignity’ we ask the question of what is ethical living or dharmic living (in Hinduism).
I have written extensively on the ethics of biodiversity in relation to humans relationship to the environment (https://shantanup.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/the-ethics-of-biodiversity-and-environment-management/). Living in harmony with nature is a concern that is central to our appreciation of the planet and its resources that we have inherited from previous generations. We need to hand it in the same way to future generations, or we would be looked upon as having destroyed the Earth to make it uninhabitable. In this context, I developed the idea of Green Socialism (https://shantanup.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/the-economics-of-green-socialism/). This blog sets out the case for considering ethical human nutrition in accordance with the need to adopt the highest order of dharma in relation to the environment.
The population of the world has become used to the consumption of livestock products that has decimated biodiversity, used up a considerable amount of fossil fuels as energy, and made us unhealthy as never before. We cannot eat dead animals due to toxin build-up in the carcases so have to harvest animals while they are still alive. In doing so we torture animals to satisfy our avarice for livestock products. It is high time to consider whether we should continue to damage ourselves, the animals and biodiversity in this manner. So the question that arises is can we and should we avoid certain or all livestock products in our diet.
As a Hindu and a believer that God created us and is watching what we do concerned for our welfare and the welfare of the planet I wondered whether becoming a vegetarian (that is no meat and fish) also meant giving up eggs and milk according to our shastras the most important of which were the Vedas. I was told that Vedas said that only asuras/rakshases (imbeciles/devilish people) ate meat. I knew from Gita that God is very scathing of atheists and talked about them in the same manner. But here He is saying that those eating meat are no better. How can this be? What does this mean? Does one really becomes a ‘rakhshas’ by eating meat and fish in that ones character changes? Surely, true Hindu dharma would be to eat whatever is on the table as food to carry on from day to day I reasoned. So how true is Hinduism in this respect. I needed to consider the rationale for this dharma (ethics) if it was true for I felt that God would not inculcate something in Hinduism if it did not have a sound basis for the good of the planet. My Hinduism required me to live a dharmic or ethical life by careful consideration of the ethics involved in all areas of life. And in analysing this I was being led to the conclusion that when one considered the need to live in harmony with nature Vedic times had banned cow slaughter and beef eating as being totally adharmic or unethical conduct for a good reason. The animals were domesticated for agriculture and were tended to produce food but there was considerable reverence and love shown to cows and bulls and this was inculcated into the people by incorporation into the religion so that it became part of the dharma that had to be practiced and protected. God had made this clear to the people. A vegetarian society was therefore encouraged through the religion of the Vedas (http://agniveer.com/no-beef-in-vedas/).
Today we know through nutritional studies on human dietetics that we do not need animal products to live healthily so that eating them (eggs, meat, fish, milk) is adharmic (unethical). Eating animal products is adharmic because it is bad from considerations of (i) animal welfare/ahimsa (non-violence towards sentient creatures); and (ii) biodiversity. All beings are sentient if when you touch them they move, so that it includes all animals but not plants. Our humanity, that is the gentility that makes us humans as distinct from animals requires us to treat animals well. For this the ideal is to let animals be born naturally and die naturally. Let nature run its own cycle. Let us not interfere with flesh and blood movements of nature when we have agriculture and synthetic/semi-synthetic nutritional and medicational technologies as dietary supplements in the palm of our hands to feed and sustain us.
The cow produces its milk for its own calf so that it can live not for us humans: thus by drinking milk we are in effect killing the calf by depriving it of its life chances. This is particularly relevant to the indigenous cows of India which did not produce more milk than needed for their calves so that lots of calves died of starvation. Modern livestock farming is intensive in terms of energy use and also very brutal to the animals both in the farm and through the transport of the animals in vehicles for slaughter. Eating these animal products means that the consumer is being brutal to the animals. One cannot escape the responsibility by saying that I just buy my livestock products from the shops and am not concerned about how it got there. Similarly, chickens are confined intensively in wire cages to lay eggs continuously without any access to fresh air and exercise. Broiler chickens live in buildings in cramped conditions and develop health problems. They are fed high quality feeds at great cost, usually with fishmeal made from fish caught in the oceans which is a disgraceful way to destroy the marine environment. The same applies to intensive pig rearing. The buildings in which chickens and pigs are maintained with large amounts of energy spent in heating and ventilation. Intensive milk farming is particularly adharmic because the animals are specially bred to generate massive quantities of milk so that they are unable to live in comfort naturally and have to be housed in cramped conditions in farms to do nothing but eat and produce milk. When their productive life is over they are discarded for meat products. What a rotten way to treat life. I do not want to see cows suffering on streets and dairy farms in India or anywhere else.
Dharma (ethical living) requires that we demand humanely-farmed livestock products and be prepared to pay extra or go without. Humane farming of animals is to let them live natural lives and then killing with anaesthesia to eat their meat. But even this is not very ethical for it deprives other predator species in nature of this resource to harm nature and biodiversity. To live in harmony with nature we need to give up meat, fish, eggs and milk from our diets altogether to live like vegans. Studies have shown that veganism gives quite healthy lives to humans (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veganism). Vegan diets can be perfected with artificial supplements. Such a diet is consistent with the vegetarianism practiced by the Hindus of Vedic times in India. It is an update on that vegetarianism because some would argue that the child Krishna ate milk products so how can God say now that drinking cow’s milk is unethical. It should be noted that this rationale does not argue like the Vegan Society does that man should live without exploiting animals in any way, for example as bullocks to plough fields or for transport purposes: the considerations here are strictly about the dietary habits which cause humans to subject animals to torture and death for food, that is, here we are dealing solely with the ethics of human nutrition.
Abandoning animal products in ones diet will make a country and its people richer financially as well as generating a greener environment (land and atmosphere) with more biodiversity. For a country like India with a large population a major part of which lives in poverty this aspect of the considerations is particularly relevant.
These then are the reasons that in Hinduism ahimsa (non-violence) is considered param (the most important) dharma, and himsa (violence) to protect that param dharma is regarded to be at the highest echelons of dharma. This is God-revealed knowledge to Hindus. Once we know this everything falls into place. If we disregard it we go against God’s wishes. I trust God that He knows better what is in our best interests now and in the interests of those yet to live on this Earth.
I have been a consumer of livestock products of every kind (except beef) for all my life. But this morning (3 August 2014) I had my first cup of tea without milk in it. I hope that I have taken this as a first step towards changing into a vegan because I truly agree with God’s rationale as described above. He has enlightened me through my truth-seeking and fine-tuned my ideals for an ideal society. I thank God for doing this and am striving to put it into practice. Accordingly I was hoping to eat lots of Quorn products but learn that it is not suitable for vegans because it contains eggs, albeit free range eggs now: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quorn. So I have to see how to devise my new diet.
4 August 2014 Update: I just had Alpro Almond (unsweetened, pure and natural taste, made with almonds and without soya) milk substitute with my cornflakes: it was as lovely. The label says it contains the antioxidant vitamin E, is low in calories (26 kcal per 200 mls) and is a source of calcium.
Is Honey a Vegan Food? I am not going by the definition of Vegan coined by Donald Watson in 1944 which defined it as follows: Veganism is a way of living which excludes all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, the animal kingdom, and includes a reverence for life. It applies to the practice of living on the products of the plant kingdom to the exclusion of flesh, fish, fowl, eggs, honey, animal milk and its derivatives, and encourages the use of alternatives for all commodities derived wholly or in part from animals. My rationale for the purposes of this blog on the ethics of human nutrition is that domestication of animals for the purposes of generating non-livestock products is permitted in my dharma, so that horses and bullocks can be used for ploughing the fields and for transport. Similarly, honey bees can be domesticated to assist agriculture by the pollination of crops and producing honey as a by-product which is essentially a plant product made of nectar and pollen but regurgitated as bee vomit. The bees release enzymes into the honey but this does not serve as a nutritional product of the bee that it needs for survival or for other bees. The bees are not caused any pain in the harvesting of honey. Further, bee keeping is highly desirable way of maintaining biodiversity by the protection of the honey bee. Thus, honey is a sustainable product that vegans can eat. Besides energy from sugars honey is a source of vitamins, minerals, pollen and protein (http://www.benefits-of-honey.com/honey-nutrition.html) so a good part of a vegan’s diet.
7 August 2014 Update: Alcoholic beverages Alcoholic beverages resulting as products of fermentation processes can also be consumed as edible drinks by vegans with regards to the ethics of human nutrition discussed in this blog.
17 August 2014 Update: Vegetarianism, and the more extreme form of showing respect for animals of veganism, whilst ethically-desirable as well as being ‘sattvic’ dietary habits, are not of paramount importance as a component of ‘dharma’ which focuses on the striving for ahimsa (non-violence), truth, justice and honesty. This is because there are lots of situations in which one is compelled to consume animal products in order to survive and to get by from day to day. Indeed there are pastoralists in sub-Saharan Africa who thrive on the blood, milk and meat of their livestock: dharma is applicable to them too as it is for all humanity. I do not think that God is saying that pastoralists should not live in these semi-arid areas and move to places where they can live a vegetarian life.
6 August 2014 Update: We need to stop talking in terms of Hindu dharma and focus only on dharma, that is, ones duties and righteous actions that enables us to live consistent with nature and reality. The way to do this was made clear by God when science had not reached the stage for the vast majority of people where they could perceive reality from observations of the bare facts of their environment. This is why God said to ancient Hindus that striving for ahimsa (non-violence) is the highest dharma followed by striving for justice, truth and honesty. Dharma is understanding reality and living by reality as the law for human action because it produces harmony in nature which then flourishes and preserves God’s creation for the future. Dharma is therefore the law for ethical living that preserves creation. Hence God is known as Creator and Preserver.
If the param dharma is ahimsa, as discussed, and Hindutva is pursued to protect that parma dharma, it is the highest way to be. Hindutva is the protection of dharma, so I practice Hindutva.
24 August 2014 Update: When one acknowledges that dharma, as elaborated since 1st August 2014 above, emanates from and is under the direction of God and is eternal and timeless we define what Hindus know as ‘Sanatan Dharma’.
6 February 2015 Update:
The shloka means that the person who spends his life protecting dharma, is protected by dharma back in turn; whilst the person who kills dharma is killed by dharma. Dharma is only the advice that Sri Krishna gives to humans. When we talk of sanatan dharma we mean that Sri Krishna will assist those who fight to preserve dharma. That is what is meant by dharmo rakshati rakhshita. In practical terms it means that society has to kill and get rid of those who commit the most heinous of all crimes, like the case of the men who raped and killed a young woman in Delhi a couple of years ago and the terrorist responsible for Mumbai atrocities. If a mosquito is sucking your blood you need to squash it dead. So there is a limit to non-violence through love and compassion.
The 'human blood suckers' of society who need to be fought tooth and nail through the use of courts, blogs and public fora to expose their behaviour to protect the public. Sri Krishna definitely assists this kind of dharma from my personal knowledge of living in the United Kingdom and being involved in lots of proceedings of this nature.
Dharma only works or protects through the actions of a dharmic person or persons, that is to say there is no order in the universe called dharma that is implemented. But Sri Krishna assists the dharmic person in fulfilling his duties when it is sincerely and considerately undertaken as a the guiding principle of living. The story of Ramayana was specially created under divine guidance to depict the essence of dharma. That is how the story should be read. It should not be read as if God had descended as Himself to guide humanity. That is why it has no references to God. That was left to the Bhagavad Gita to explain.
The dharma of different vernas are different; the dharma for a Brahmin is to seek the truth and expose knowledge for society; the dharma for a Kshatriya is to fight physically to protect society; the dharma for a Vaishya is to conduct the business and agriculture to sustain society, while the Shudras do the menial tasks according to what society needs. That is how the ideal Hindu society should be organised. The Brahmins do not fight to kill: they have to be sattvic and practice non-violence completely. They cannot even recommend violence to the King/ruler as way of dealing with issues that affect society. The Kshatriyas and Vaishyas on the otherhand should be of rajasic gunas to deal with issues of security including food security respectively. It is only for Kshatriyas and Vaishyas that the Mahabharatta shloka is applicable. Shudras being of tamasic mentality do not have any restrictions of ahmisa of other aspects of personal conduct as they are accepted as being people of tamasic mentality.
A person must only fulfill his or her svadharma. It is for society to determine whether it is operating according to any eternal law through the process of democracy. Sri Krishna can advice the human beings through thoughts planted into the minds of the politicians and adminstrators if He thinks that society should govern itself according to any eternal law or first dharma. A Brahmin has to earn money just like anyone else if society does not provide for his livelihood in terms of donations. Whether anyone consults a particular Brahmin is up to them. If they are not doing their Brahmin verna duty then society will shun them and they will starve and be forced to adopt some other verna (in the reformed verna system that I recommend).
9 March 2015 Update: Sanatan dharma is a man-imagined idea attributed to God as an eternal law or advice. Sri Krishna does not prescribe any kind of dharma for humans to follow. Dharma is for the individual to decide on the basis of his own mentality and circumstances as determined by the gunas that attaches to him or her.
The point of being a Hindu is the freedom and flexibility it gives one to determine the truth for oneself from all the factual and delusional material that abound not just within the shastras of Indians but from all literature. You can change your views from day-to-day in the process of determining the truth. Nothing is infallible, not even the Bhagavad Gita. The only way in which the term infallibility can be used is by showing proof that what one conceives and passes on to others as truth has been scrutinised by God as a revelation. To err is human is an old saying. Further, things that have been revealed by even God in the past have a limited shelf life and is periodically updated by Him to suit the new conditions in which humans live.
There is in Hinduism unity in diversity, meaning there is rationality in the conception of Hinduism as the way of life of a people. Nothing is ruled out, nothing is ruled in: reality can be anything. There is the freedom to search. This leads to diverse practices all of which are not just tolerated, but given respect for it is accepted that no one knows the truth for certain. People are entitled to their conceptions. The diverse practices that people engage in fit into a narrative of what Hindus are as a people and so what the homogeneity is composed of in terms of the unifying bonds between the different strands of practices. Hinduism is not ‘a’ particular way of life but the result of the practice of diverse ways of life based upon the recognition that there are different elements and facets to Nature and humans too are diverse in trying to relate to these from the limits of their perception with the majority focusing on particular aspects as it relates to their daily lives.
To address the issue of unity in diversity we need to ask why should there have been polytheism in Hinduism and it still persists in the 21st century. It persists because God does not try and change any of the conceptions that have been formed and are in the process of forming. Nature itself is diverse under one solar system. The relationships between different components of Nature are also varied yet unified into a system. Similarly, the human mind is diverse. We worship things that we need for our survival individually. From this train of thought we appreciate plurality and that there may well be gods for everything. There are also different ideas about reality. These are all formed by the human mind. They are attempts at fathoming reality. None are revelations from God. The only thing that God has ever done was to generate avatars who realised His existence and formulated various conceptions for society. God has let them do that because that is how He has created Nature to generate diversity within a whole. That is why Hinduism is so vast. In it we see the benefits of a pluralistic approach to the formation of society.
So how does it all fit together? When the full picture of Hinduism is not grasped the value that particular individuals place on their beliefs and accompanying practices will not be recognised by artificial scholars who look at superficialities instead of trying to understand how over thousands of years a people developed to become the Hindus of the world. Hinduism has everything in knowledge and devotional worship. Some sect exists with a conception of reality that is just right for its adherents. If you get fed up of it or just do not like it you go to some other sampradaya or parampara. They are all spiritual food for thought away from the mundane process of existing to live. People are striving for a spiritual existence above materialistic existence. And there is no animosity between the different conceptions because Hindus are freethinkers, each person having the right to work out what is true for himself. When you recognise different types of religions within Hinduism some formal and most informal, you can identify the adherents as being advaitists, vedantists, Shakta, Vaishnava, Shaiva, Smarta, or those who follow the teachings of particular Babas like Shiridi Sai Baba, Sri Sri Ravishankar, each carving out his or her own philosophy. Each person is going to a deity-based belief that meets his or her needs. One may have preferences for particular gods and beliefs but it is accepted that others may chose a different deity that gives them different types of strengths and comfort to cope with their lives. That is what society is about. Each person has a different character and strength (gunas) for which they are selecting the god that will best look after their needs which their minds will accept. There is room for no gods as atheists too. Every god-based belief is true in itself as they are derived from guna-consciousness energy created by God. So all paths are relevant and pertinent beyond criticism.
There is extensive literature on all the common sects for studies. There are astika or nastika lines of thoughts, that is those that take their authority from the Vedas and those that are independent of the Vedas. The Vedic verna-based caste system for the social stratification in society is also not universally adopted as seen in the existence of Dalits and the casteless. There was once widespread belief in astrology, which is nothing short than the worship of a god through another religion. The belief is now on its way out. There was also belief in karma that got transferred to new existences. That too is diminishing. Religions come and go. In Hinduism there are also grotesque religions steeped in superstition.
The unifying theme in all spiritual practices is devotion. It is common to all of Hindu religions, that shows itself through worship, that is puja with or without idol worship; the striving of yoga and meditation. The method of yoga is also varies, one can be a jnana yogi as a householder, or one can become a renunciate as a sadhu on the banks of a river, or an Aghori baba. Society accepts these as legitimate pathways to determining truth. Each devotee chooses his own path and specific to the individual practices. They address different aspects of reality specific to the needs of the devotee.
Thus, no one forces anyone to be anything that they do not want to be. There are no holy books for all but sampradayas are free to compile their own literature that they will call scripture through a process of argumentation. That is the Hindu position which consequently evolves continuously and depending on the era and its level of scientific knowledge of Nature and the person doing the thinking and formulating it gets updated. Hindu society encourages free thinking and each person will therefore have his own ideas which will get a hearing. Some will be atheistic, others monotheistic or polytheistic etc. As time passes, old ideas may accordingly be completely dropped or modified and new ones formed. That is why we cannot tell what most of the gods currently represent. We can make them represent whatever we like and start a new religion. The unity in the diversity is given by the fact that the ideas exist side by side because they are propagated by individual adherents who will be at different stages of knowledge acquisition. The ideas are fostered by society so that people have a diverse range to consult and choose which one they adopt.
I too have an idealism that I have searched out during my truth-search phase. But I know that God has not sanctioned it as being God-approved. It is the best that I have come up from my years of almost constant communications with Him. I am not keen on getting it widely publicised for adoption. I have written my Blog about it and that is all that I will do. People have to do their own research into what I have written and formulate their own ideas on what reality consists of. That is how I wish to leave it.
25 March 2015 Update:
Frequently asked questions on Hinduism:
Are you willing to answer questions about Hinduism? : Yes, fire away.
What do you want others to know about your religion? Hinduism does not have one religion but numerous (countless) religions. My own religion focuses on ethical living, that is, dharma. Ethical living requires one to understand reality and merge with it to determine the best way of conducting oneself to preserve that reality as one travels through life.
What are some of your religious traditions/rituals which your family follows? Different members of the family follow different traditions and rituals: each is free to discover the truth. Hindus do not impose beliefs on others.
How does observing or performing these rituals affect your daily life? The mind focuses on the principles of ethical living, dharma.
Do you mind describing your relationship with God? It is a continuous process of discovering reality through oneness with God. I acknowledge God as divine, know-all, wise and intelligent beyond human comprehension. Further He is available to humans for one-to-one communication that can be attained through the process of yoga in which one devotes oneself to determine truth through satya-advaita, or truth accommodation.
Do you have any type of scripture or literature that you read and follow? I read selected scriptures from all across Hinduism some of which guide my life but place importance on particular literature (Satyamev Jayate shloka being the primary inspiration) thinking of building upon this from life experiences to work out the need for and means of attaining ethical living (dharma) all by myself.
Do you pray? If so, how do you pray? My prayers are limited to simple acknowledgement of God to whom my life is submitted for charting out as He is someone who has proven Himself to be my saviour and made me attain my objectives in life. All my actions are dedicated to God through thoughts that clarify if I am attaining ethical living in the process.
How do you feel about other religions? I do not have anything against any of the religions thinking that God has created Nature and so the guna-consciousness element that generates different religions. I like certain things in all religions but do not regard any of them to have constructed the ideal way of living, that is ethical living or dharma.
Does your religion/faith provide guidance/hope for your future or life after death? I have faith that I will lead a life that will give me peace of mind. I do not believe in an afterlife thinking that I will be reduced to atoms on my death, which will be the end of my existence as a highly conscious life form.
Can anyone become Hindu or must you be born into the religion? Being a Hindu is nothing specific; it is diverse made up of numerous religions. You can be any one of these different religions within Hinduism by following the rules of the sampradaya you choose. Or you can be free to follow your own conscience and devise your own religion. If you accept the diversity contained in Hinduism as I have described in this blogpost you can just go around calling yourself a Hindu from the next day.
Are there aspects of your religion that are no longer practiced? There are numerous aspects that are no longer practiced by some or other Hindu: No one has to follow any aspects. They are free to devise their own conceptions under Hinduism
What are the most important traditions in the practice of Hinduism? (Yoga? meditation? Karma? Reincarnation?) If you wish to worship a God or several gods, puja will be the most important tradition in the practice of Hinduism. If you wish to seek knowledge, yoga is the way to go with meditative practices. Karma and reincarnation varies in the way it is understood by different Hindus.
Is there anything else you would like to discuss about your religion? Yes, I would like to discuss the practice of dharma which is the optimisation of ethical living as discussed on vegetarianism here: https://satyaadvaita.wordpress.com/2015/03/24/vegetarianism-and-dharma-in-satya-advaita/. But I must stress that dharma is not commonly accepted to be contained in all strands of religions within Hinduism. This needs to be considered when you choose what kind of Hindu you want to be.