IS HINDUISM A RELIGION?
When we see Hinduism at a glance, we could say that it is a Religion. Hinduism is a Religion practiced by majority of the people in the land of India. However, when we see it in the deeper sense, Hinduism was tailored from Sanatana Dharma, according to the convenience. Sanatana dharma is not a religion. Sanatana dharma is Spirituality. Sanatana dharma means the eternal and righteous way of life. Practicing Hinduism as a religion gradually leads one to spirituality. Sanatana dharma is based on the ancient immortal Vedas. Hinduism is also based on the Vedas, however there are some regions and people who deviate from the core Vedas and have faith in ancestral practices. In this context, I would like to explain the difference between Religion and Spirituality.
We all have been introduced to Religion right from the time we were born. Parents and elders introduce us to Religion they follow, and we follow their beliefs and faith blindly. This is going on for generation after generation; no one takes care to question it and if questioned they were rejected.
Religion is based on faith, rituals, ceremonies and dogmas. Humanity is separated in the name of Religion. Religion cares for caste, colour, race and creed. Religion is based on beliefs and faith. The belief of one sect or one Religion may not go along with the set of beliefs and faith of other sect or Religion. Religion limits our thinking. No one dares to question anything about any Religion. This leads to many unanswered questions from time to time and ultimately when people cannot find answers, they are ought to leave that Religion and follow the next. The concept of God is prominent in Religion. Religion makes one to believe that worshipping God is the ultimate end to problems. Religion personalises God and give a form and name to God. Religion makes one believe that God is outside the beings and God resides only in a particular space given for God. Rules are strictly followed in Religion. Religion gives certain qualities for God. Religion specifies a certain path and as said earlier, it separates humanity and even it separates the universe in to different spheres as fourteen lokas and so on. It doesn’t mean that all the lokas does not exist, but in spirituality everything is considered as one.
Spirituality helps one to expand the mind to vastness, to infinite. Spirituality is not based on beliefs. It is purely based on experience. The essence of the Vedas guides one in the path of spirituality. Vedas guide one to realize and experience one’s Self and realize the vastness of the Self. One realizes that the Self is infinity. A person in the path of spirituality either see the Self in all or He will see all in the Self. The presence of a guru will help one in the path of Spirituality. Practicing Religion for a long time will gradually lead one to Spirituality. Hinduism as a Religion is very close to Spirituality. The concept of God gradually vanishes and the Universal Atma as the Self is established in the mind. One can select any right path to reach Spirituality. Spirituality as well as Sanatana dharma is not allergenic to other religions and beliefs. Gradually, dualities will fade away from the mind. Spirituality makes a person inclusive and help him to balance his emotions.
Sanatana dharma is a path to attain liberation; which means to understand and experience that there is nothing else in this creation other than Brahman, the Self. To fine tune in this path many rituals are done to train the uncontrolled mind. Only a controlled mind can grasp the higher principles needed for liberation. By time, the rituals gained importance and the core concept took back-stage. The rituals and beliefs needed to train the mind took the shape of Religion and the universal concepts are given form and name and worshipped as external Gods in temples. Thus, Hinduism emerged from Sanatana dharma. People took the support of the Gods to move forward in the path of Spirituality. By time, many people began to believe that there are many Gods in Hinduism. They forget the fact that all the different forms of God lead to that ultimate destination Brahman.
Thus, Hinduism paves way for liberation. In a way Sanatana dharma is not different from Hinduism; but Sanatana dharma is more advanced than Hinduism, which is practiced as a Religion.