Hinduism as a Religion has one of the most loosely defined a set of beliefs among all the major world religions. Although tolerance for other religions seems to be a common belief as other religions are just thought of other ways to reach the one true God. Sometimes the belief delving as far as proclaiming the Gods of other religions as the reincarnations of their own.
A look in the history of the word Hinduism provides us with a rather open meaning. ‘Hindu’ translated from the Sanskrit word ‘Sindhu’ simply means the people living near the river Sind which in ancient times was ‘Hindustan‘ or India. The Britishers added the suffix ‘ism’ to describe the Indian beliefs which were different than theirs.
So, Hinduism is loosely translated and meant just the traditions and school of thoughts originated in India and do not form part of other major religions and ascertain Vedas as the highest authority on spiritual truths. This is a sharp contrast from other major religions whom all had either a ‘word of God’ or set of rules to follow.
This meant Hinduism was cumulative of many philosophies and grew by cultivating them in its own way and it is because of this diverse social structure that Hinduism grew from has extremely high tolerance for other religions as well.
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Hindus believe in one supreme deity although different names are given to it. Sanatan Dharma dictates the worship of one Supreme Bhagwan without denying the existence of other Gods or His other forms. The often quoted proverb that conveys this attitude is, “Ekam sat anekah panthah,” which means, “Truth is one, paths are many.”
Although this seems to be the basic philosophy of Hinduism, but some of the excerpts from Hindu scriptures are contradictory to this idea.
Another example, a verse from Yajurveda says‘ Andhatama pravishanti ye asambhuti mupaste‘ which translates to “They enter darkness, those who worship natural elements.” In today’s world, some take it up to condemn the people who practice the Zoroastrian r
But as a general rule, Hindus do not proselytise- that is convert members of another faith into their own as the philosophy of Proselytization is based on belief one religion is better than others. Hindus believe all religions are the same; so much so that some have proclaimed the Gods of other religions like Christianity and Islam as the reincarnation of their own Gods like Rama and Vishnu.
Some believe the prophet of Islam Abraham is same as God Brahma with the letter ‘a’ written in front of the name instead of back. Some of the incidents from Puranas do match with those in Quran but there’s no conclusive proof.
In the case of Christianity, many Hindus acknowledge Christ as God-man while acclaiming there have been others like Rama, Krishna and Buddha. According to the Hindu priest Shaunaka Rishi Das, Ishu, one of Vishnu’s avatars, “was born in a cowshed, was visited by three holy men, performed many amazing miracles, walked on water and spoke a wonderful sermon on a mountain.” Some Hindus choose to worship the Jesus-like Ishu as their primary god, though they still maintain belief in other members of the Hindu pantheon.
Basically, Hinduism considers all religions to be a part of their own and preaches tolerance and respect for all. No wonder, India boasts of some many cultures living in harmony!
– by Anubhuti Gupta of Newsgram. Twitter: @anuB_11