Hinduism Simply A Way Of Life

1596 words - 6 pages

HINDUISM SIMPLY A WAY OF LIFEISN'T HINDUISM SIMPLY A WAY OF LIFE?" This is a question I am frequently asked at satsang gatherings. It invariably makes for spirited discussion, as there is avid interest and a lively diversity of opinion. Years ago, Swami Chinmayananda, founder of Chinmaya Mission, gave a dramatic lecture on the subject (bit.ly/ hinduism -way-of-life). Here are key excerpts: "'Hinduism is not a religion. It is a way of life.' You can today hear it in every drawing room wherever youngsters are sitting and discussing Hindu culture and India. You can hear them blabbering this quotation: 'Hinduism is totally different; it is not a religion. Then what is it? It is a way of life.' This is a false statement! No thinking man will accept it or give it any credit at all. What an abominable stupidity is wrapped up in such an attractive sentence! 'Hinduism is not a religion; it is a way of life.' Oh! I see! And Christianity? It is a religion? Oh! So it is not a way of life? What is religion without a way of life? How can there be a way of life without religion? Think! It is a self-contradiction to say it is not a religion; it is a way of life. If Hinduism is not a religion, it is only a way of life; then Christianity is a religion and therefore no way of life. What is religion without a way of life? Does not a religion guide us in our world, in our life? So, it is an empty, high-sounding statement."Swamiji goes on to explain that the notion originated with German Indologists who, in the late 1800s, translated the word mata as religion: "The Germans, who first tried to translate our Sanskrit literature, unfortunately made a great mistake. They used mata forreligion: 'Buddha mata,' the religion of Buddha; 'Chraistava mata,' the religion of Christ; 'Muhammediya mata,' Islam. Then they came to Hindu mata, and the poor Germans got confused, because in the Hindu religion there are very many mata. It is a composite mata. Mata comes from the Sanskrit word mati, meaning 'buddhi,' 'intellect.' That which is crystallized in the intellect is called a mata. Mata only means an opinion! Hindu religion contains Shankara mata, Ramanuja mata, Madhva mata. Various acharyas who have given various viewpoints of life, and the attitudes or the thoughts of the Upanishads-they are all called mata, mata, mata. So [the Germans] they came to the conclusion that Hinduism is not a religion. Then, what is it [they wondered]? It is 'the way of life!'"Hindus inquiring about the merits of this infamous statement are generally not immersed in the practice of Hinduism. They may have in mind that the sum total of Hinduism is to follow dharma, to live virtuously and fulfill one's duty, and that there is no need to do more.Hinduism is a way of life, but it is a spiritual way of life, encompassing good conduct, worship, selfless service, scriptural study and meditation. And what is the definition of a spiritual way of life? Religion!While Sanatana Dharma is, as the Germans observed,...

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