BY VIVEK PANDIT
Knowing that I am a Hindu, many of my classmates and friends have been asking me various questions on Hinduism. All they know about Hinduism is that Hindus worship many gods, cows and Swastika, which they particularly associate with Nazism.
Generally non-Hindus think that Hinduism is polytheistic. Such thinking is false. Hindus believe in one Reality, which is called in Sanskrit, Brahman. Brahman is the Supreme Being in Hinduism, which may be said to be the God of other religions. Hindus believe that Brahman takes three main forms (deities), known as Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Brahma is the creator, Vishnu is the preserver and Shiva is the dissolver of this universe. These three deities (gods) are in actuality three different forms of the same Reality, Brahman. Thus, Hinduism believes in one Supreme Being, but calls it by various names. To further help with this understanding, imagine someone you know who has different roles in life. For example, he (she) may at one moment be a doctor, while another moment a parent, at another time a president of a corporation, may be a volunteer etc. Now in each task this person participates in, he (she) may change clothing. Also, this person may have various nicknames or titles such as Doctor, Dad, President, Mr. or Mrs. and maybe even casual nicknames.
Another misconception is that Hindus worship cows. It is true that Hindus revere cows more than other animals because of what the cow does to sustain human life. When a baby is born, it first breast feeds in order to develop proper bone structure and receives enough nutrients (calcium) in order to stay healthy. However, after the stage of breast feeding, children drink milk out of a bottle. Where does this milk come from? Most milk comes from cows. Cows help humans at a young age to develop into a strong healthy adult. If a cow is gradually helping us from a young age, then why should we hurt these creatures?
Next, a question popularly asked is why do Hindus use a Swastika sign? The swastika first originated from India approximately 3000 years ago (Indus Valley Civilization) and was used as a symbol of goodness in life. Swastika is a Sanskrit word which literally means “to be good” (“su” means “good,” “asti” means “to be,” and “ka” is a suffix). When Hitler came to power in 1933, Swastika was incorporated into the Nazi party flag. Hence, the Swastika has become strongly associated with Nazism and related ideologies such as fascism. This is an unfortunate development and a negative connotation of Swastika. However, Hindus have a pure and positive connotation of the ancient Swastika symbol, unlike the negative connotation of the Nazis.
Hindus believe that an individual is not a sinner. He (she) is potentially divine, but commits sin because of his (her) ignorance of his (her) own true nature. Thus Hindus consider knowledge as the supreme purifier and lay emphasis on education. One of the religious goals of Hindus is to provide the highest education to their children.
Hindus believe that all religions are different paths to the same God. Hinduism says that all religions are like various rivers all leading to the same ocean. Hindus do not believe someone should be considered wrong or be punished for what he (she) believes in. God created us and gave us choices on what to believe. Why would God punish us for different beliefs? What if one does good in his (her) life and follows a righteous path, should they still go to Hell for all eternity? Hinduism believes that there is no right or wrong, there are just different paths. So why should different little beliefs separate us from all believing in the same entity, God?
Hinduism is free, fair, and an all inclusive religion. Hindus accept everyone and anyone can become a Hindu. Hinduism provides various ways of worship to suite the devotee’s personality and his (her) yearning for God. Respect towards all God’s creatures, reverence for all faiths, treading the path of non-violence and non-injury, and performing selfless work for humanity are the major tenets of Hinduism. Hindus deeply believe that the world is just one family of God.
(Vivek Pandit is 14 years old and is in the ninth grade at Grapevine High School in Dallas.)