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Why the Westerners are attracted to Hinduism? Find Out!

Hinduism is practised widely in countries like Fiji, United Kingdom, Canada, Nepal, the United States, and other countries as well

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Hinduism is considered to be the oldest faith to have ever existed on this Earth, and it draws the curiosity of people worldwide because of its rich culture, customs and intellectual fulfilment that this religion has to offer. It cannot be termed as a religion, but can be best defined as a way of life.

Hinduism is analogized as a tree- where the roots are symbolic of the Vedas and Upanishads, where the trunk has thickened with ‘tapasya’ or meditations of sages and gurus, its branches are the traditions of Hinduism and the fruits are the sects of the faith. This tree is unique in itself but bears a very sweet fruit, mentioned Subhamoy Das, a Hinduism expert on hinduism.about.com.

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Hinduism has so much to teach – both to Hindus and Non-Hindus. Hinduism is practised widely in countries like Fiji, United Kingdom, Canada, Nepal, the United States, etc. It has given the world spiritual assets like Yoga and ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness).

The U.S. Army prac
The U.S. Army practising yoga with Indian soldiers. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Hinduism, or Sanatan Dharma as it is called, also invites acceptance of people from all walks of life. It teaches one about Moksha and Mukti, Hindu terms for liberating or transcending the soul from worldly material possessions.

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Globalisation also plays an important role in the increasing interest of the West in Hinduism. Cross-cultural interactions and Indian diaspora in the West has resulted in their attraction to Hindu culture.

With vegetarianism becoming a ‘trend’ in the West, the fact that Hinduism preaches ‘ahimsa’ and discourages the consumption of meat is another reason why it is grabbing the attention of Westerners.

Krishna temple in the United States. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Krishna temple in the United States. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Hinduism has been repeatedly discussed in European literature since time immemorial. It is lesser known that literature’s finest piece ‘The Wasteland’ by TS Eliot has undertones of Hinduism. The poem ends with ‘shaantih, shaantih, shaantih..’ Besides this, the Romantic Age has been highly influenced by Bhagavad Gita. Poets like William Wordsworth, John Keats and many others have shown the impact of Bhagavad Gita and Shaivism in their poetry.

As a result, many Sanskrit words like dharma, moksha and nirvana have been added to English dictionaries. Hinduism has served the purpose of reformation and liberation of the Western mind, and shall continue to do so.

– prepared by Chetna Karnani, at NewsGram. Twitter: @karnani_chetna

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Shankaracharya: A remarkable genius that Hinduism produced (Book Review)

The irony is that most leading scientists, particularly outside India but also within, have little knowledge of the structure of Shankara's philosophy and the transparent interface it has with scientific discoveries today.

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He was greatly influenced by three basic texts of Hindu philosophy: Upanishads, the Brahma Sutra and the Bhagavad Gita
He was greatly influenced by three basic texts of Hindu philosophy: Upanishads, the Brahma Sutra and the Bhagavad Gita.

Title: Adi Shankaracharya: Hinduism’s Greatest Thinker; Author: Pavan K. Varma; Publisher: Tranquebar Press; Pages: 364; Price: Rs 699

This must be one of the greatest tributes ever paid to Shankaracharya, the quintessential “paramarthachintakh”, who wished to search for the ultimate truths behind the mysteries of the universe. His genius lay in building a complete and original philosophical edifice upon the foundational wisdom of the Upanishads.

A gifted writer, Pavan Varma, diplomat-turned-politician and author of several books including one on Lord Krishna, takes us through Shankara’s short but eventful span of life during which, from having been born in what is present-day Kerala, he made unparalleled contributions to Hindu religion that encompassed the entire country. Hinduism has not seen a thinker of his calibre and one with such indefatigable energy, before or since.

Shankara’s real contribution was to cull out a rigorous system of philosophy that was based on the essential thrust of Upanishadic thought but without being constrained by its unstructured presentation and contradictory meanderings.

He was greatly influenced by three basic texts of Hindu philosophy: Upanishads, the Brahma Sutra and the Bhagavad Gita. He wrote extensive and definitive commentaries on each of them. Of course, the importance he gave to the Mother Goddess, in the form of Shakti or Devi, can be traced to his own attachment to his mother whom he left when he set off, at a young age, in search of a guru and higher learning.

The irony is that most leading scientists, particularly outside India but also within, have little knowledge of the structure of Shankara's philosophy and the transparent interface it has with scientific discoveries today.
Shankara wrote hymns in praise of many deities but his personal preference was the worship of the Mother Goddess.

Against all odds, Shankara created institutions for the preservation and propagation of Vedantic philosophy. He established “mathas” with the specific aim of creating institutions that would develop and project the Advaita doctrine. He spoke against both caste discriminations and social inequality, at a time when large sections of conservative Hindu opinion thought otherwise.

Shankara was both the absolutist Vedantin, uncompromising in his belief in the non-dual Brahman, and a great synthesiser, willing to assimilate within his theoretical canvas several key elements of other schools of philosophy. He revived and restored Hinduism both as a philosophy and a religion that appealed to its followers.

Also Read: Hinduism: The Nine Basic Beliefs that you need to know

Varma rightly says that it must have required great courage of conviction as well as deep spiritual and philosophical insight for Shankaracharya to build on the insights of the Upanishads a structure of thought, over a millennium ago, that saw the universe and our own lives within it with a clairvoyance that is being so amazingly endorsed by science today. The irony is that most leading scientists, particularly outside India but also within, have little knowledge of the structure of Shankara’s philosophy and the transparent interface it has with scientific discoveries today.

Shankara wrote hymns in praise of many deities but his personal preference was the worship of the Mother Goddess. The added value of the book is that it has, in English, a great deal of Shankara’s writings. Unfortunately, most Hindus today are often largely uninformed about the remarkable philosophical foundations of their religion. They are, the author points out, deliberately choosing the shell for the great treasure that lies within. This is indeed a rich book. (IANS)