Every street of India has a shrine. And nine out of ten modern day professionals genuflect and fold their palms into a devotional Namaskar while passing the spot. People from every class and strata of society acknowledge the presence of deity every day in their lives in some way. It could be a chant of the sacred Gayatri Mantra, or a clasping of palms in a ‘jai’ before a home shrine or in the street. In the face of all the technological progress, this is a power of another nature. It is the power of faith and spirit. Science and technology are great and reach the moon and evaluate barren rock but they don’t get to the heart of the matter. Importantly, they do not banish spirit.
India or Bharat has a timeless relationship with God. Down the ages seers, saints and holy souls have periodically taken birth in India, to illumine the path to Divinity. More so, in this sacred land Avatars have periodically incarnated as humans to uplift humanity, re-establish dharma, and guide seeking souls to salvation. This is the land where Hinduism has flourished for centuries and continues to do so.
Hinduism, the primary religion of India, has a rich and complex nature. It’s infinite, ever-creative and evolving spirit, affords multiple perspectives. The whole mystery of existence is endeavoured to be explained in the sacred texts and holy utterances of the sages and saints of this great religion. Also, though ancient, it holds out brilliantly as Sanatana Dharma – the eternal principle. Even in today’s post-modern era it prevails and informs it’s followers in marvellous ways. This is because, it is not circumscribed by narrow tenets, but is fluid and expansive.
Promoted by the belief that the whole world is one family – Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, Hinduism offers a universal code for living a harmonious life. Reverence for all sentient beings and the belief that the Divine pervades every atom of creation makes Hinduism the most inclusive of all religions. It covers the entire canvas of human experience; its free-flowing expansiveness cannot be contained in a few holy texts or to any one portion of life. It is about the total life experience – dharma, artha, kama and moksha. It is both, about living in the world and rising above it in transcendental awareness. Hinduism, if a religion, is not just about God, it is about everything – in fact it states that God is everything. Be it the stone or the tree or the heart of man (or ant), He pervades it all. Isn’t that wonderful?
Worship is a vivifying and central part of a Hindu’s life. The temples and shrines, are not lifeless structures of stone, but sacred spaces of heightened spiritual energy. The multitudinous gods and goddesses are, to the community of the devout, animate energies, who listen and respond to ardent prayers and supplications. Gods breathe in India. They listen. They give solace. They are in fact, the biggest devotional support system, for the poorer, non-elitist sections of society. The constant “Presence” of a watchful Deity, in some form or the other becomes a constant reminder of a Higher Reality and the need for cross-checking one’s actions on the touchstone of dharma or righteousness.
Apart from Hinduism, India enjoys the diversity of other faiths. Temple bells ring side by side to the muezzin’s call from the minarets, and our vibrant country witnesses varied religions, including Christianity and Zoroastrianism, being practised vigorously with the spiritual disciplines prescribed.
Ultimately, all religions of the world, are per se “good.” They provide a moral code of conduct to followers, and promote humanitarian virtues. (Another matter that the core principles are often overlooked and misguided elements make a mockery of religion). The need of the hour is, for the good in each religion to be highlighted and acknowledged, simply because, religion is not going anywhere soon!
The transcendence experienced in the uplands of the spirit is unquantifiable and blissful. Let each religion follow its own way, as long as it does not harm another. Sri Sathya Sai Baba says, “Let the different faiths exist, let them flourish, let the glory of God be sung in all the languages and in a variety of tunes. Respect the difference between faiths, but recognise that in essence, they are one and underlying it all, there is only one religion – the religion of love.”