How Indian Mythology Can Help In The Present
Prejudices and Myths About Hinduism
Hinduism is one of the 5 major world religions and it is the third largest world religion after Christianity and Islam with 850 million followers. Hinduism is certainly the strangest of the great religions from a Western point of view. India as the motherland of Hinduism has the oldest continuous cultural history and so the "Sanathana Dharma", as the Indians call their religion, is a summary of very many different traditions. It can even be said that various independent religions belong to Hinduism, which for the sake of simplicity are named with the term Hinduism.
Under the mantle of Hinduism, very ancient customs and, at the same time, very well developed methods are gathered. The Hindus have brought various sciences to perfection and, especially in the field of spirituality, have made an invaluable contribution to humanity. The Indians had a harmonious and functioning system full of prosperity, until society was drained and the structures of living together collapsed, first by the Muslim and later by the Christian occupiers. In ancient times, the influence of Hinduism went very far beyond the borders of today's India to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Persia, Burma, Malaysia, etc.
In this post I would like to clear up and explain some common prejudices and myths about Hinduism. I myself came into contact with Indian philosophy and Hinduism through Buddhism and yoga and I am very fascinated by this culture. I think that we can learn a lot from the legacy of India if we get over a few cultural hurdles, and I would like to help with that.
Prejudices and Myths About Hinduism
- "There are 330,000,000 gods in Hinduism."
"Indian polytheism completely contradicts the monotheistic worldview of Christianity."
There are many different gods and goddesses in the Sanathana Dharma, but the question is what exactly is meant by “God”. The word "God" can be translated into Sanskrit in different ways, e.g.
- "Devata" = radiant
- "Ishwara" = supreme lord
- "Brahman" = the all-one
If one looks at the philosophy behind the religion, one realizes that behind all forms of the divine (the “gods”) there is the one formless divine reality that is named differently depending on the one. There is practically only one God, one Divine Reality, but this in an infinite number of manifestations. In the spirit of the oldest text in Hinduism, the Rig Veda, where it is said:
"There is one truth, the sages call it differently."
Of course there is also a multitude of mythological stories about the individual gods, but these are to be viewed more symbolically. The so-called gods are not in competition with one another, but are different emanations of the One.
- "In Hinduism, idols are worshiped."
"The figures and images are viewed and worshiped as God."
Durga Ma Gotze
Yes and no ... In yoga philosophy it is very clear that God is always and everywhere present, inherent in and exceeding everything in the Kantian sense. So God is nowhere more or less present. So in the 6th chapter, verse 8 of the Bhagavad Gita, the most important text of Hinduism, is also very nicely formulated: "The yogi, (...) for whom a lump of earth, a piece of stone or gold mean the same thing, is in harmony." In this divine all-unity there are objects and places where it is easier to be aware of the omnipresence of God. For example, there are special places in nature that have a strong power, and there are things that radiate more or less energy. If you open yourself to it, you can find access to a higher reality in the various pictorial representations of God and this access is worshiped in order to experience the grace of the one.
"Cows seem to be more important to the Indians than people."
In India not only cows roam freely everywhere, but also goats, pigs, chickens and many other domesticated and wild animals. The cow plays a very special role for Hinduism for various reasons. Cows are so sacred to the devout Hindu that the Islamic conquerors drove cows forward to their armies in order to be protected from Hindus. This high status of the cow is mainly due to historical reasons, because the cow has always been very important to life and survival. Almost anything can be used by the cow, not only the milk but also the urine as medicine and the shit as fuel and cleaning agent. Ghee (purified butter), milk and yoghurt are also required for the archaic Hindu rituals, so it is also said that the cow gives everything and does not ask for anything. Already in the oldest Indian writings the cow is mentioned as particularly holy, for example there is "Kamadhenu", the wish-fulfilling cow and it is said in the Atharvaveda "the cow is Vishnu", ie the sustainer of the world. There are certainly many other reasons. Gandhi said:
“Protection of the cow means protection of the whole mute creature of God. This is the gift of Hinduism to the world. And Hinduism will live as long as there are Hindus who protect the cow. "
However, India is not a special case, because in almost all ancient cultures the cow was very valuable and had a corresponding protection in the social structure.
- "Hinduism is patriarchal and women only play a minor role."
"The worldview of Hinduism is misogynist per se."
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