What makes you a Hindu ? Praying to God , visiting a temple , performing rites & poojas, chanting mantras , maybe wearing a Sacred Thread if you are a Brahmin, celebrating festivals , eating sweets & savories, knowing your mythologies & maybe an attempt at reading the Bhagwad Gita ! Is that it or is there more to being a Hindu ?
Most religions have one holy book The Holy Bible , The Holy Quaran , The Guru Granth Sahib to name a few . Hinduism has thousands – 4 Vedas , 108 Upanishads, Holy Gita , Vedangas, Darsanas , Itihasas Puranas , Upavedas, Agamas , Upangas, Tantras , Charvakas, Manusmriti Puranas and many many more. You can spend a lifetime doing a Phd in Indology trying to figure out the meaning of all that is written in these ancient scriptures
Most Religions are based on the teachings of 1 Spiritual Leader – a person who had visions from God , the Holy Son , a Messiah, Buddha , Mahavira – a person who was spiritually awakened. Hinduism has hundreds of Rishis who after intense meditation heard the voice of God and were able to narrate their learnings for all and transferred them to ancient scriptures.
What is Religion ? The teachings of the Holy Prophet that has now been institutionalised. Is it original , is it diluted , is the essence lost ? The goal of every Religion is to awaken you and take you on the path of self realization – has religion succeeded in that mission. To me it looks like Religion is the cause of most of the wars we have seen in our lifetime and before. Its also the basis for caste systems and to demean women.
What is Spirituality ? This leads us a question of Who is God & Who Am I ? How did Life begin ? Why is Man so evolved a animal ? Is God the statue in a temple ? How come the Holy Vedas never talked about Temples & Deities ?
One of the greatest spiritual thinkers of our time has been Swami Vivekananda – he made an interesting observation ” If you have faith in all the three hundred and thirty millions of your mythological gods, … and still have no faith in yourselves, there is no salvation for you. Have faith in yourselves, and stand up on that faith and be strong; that is what we need ”
Shiva may live in Mansarovar & Vishnu may be in the ocean of Milk – and thats a big MAYBE , but history has recorded that Buddha, Mahavira , Christ , Shankara, Vivekananda , Ramkrishna , Ramana Maharishi lived on earth. Its interesting to read about them and understand how they reached Spiritual Bliss and what is their interpretation of “Who is God” ? You will see a common thread. The exercise of connecting their spiritual learnings is a complex exercise but I will at least try and connect a few dots.
The common theme that emerges from all of them and all the ancient scriptures of every Religion is that God is everywehere. There is immense potential in every individual. We are able to utilize only a fraction of our potential. We spend too much time on the materialistic body and hardly any time to know what is that power which gives us life & intellect. The mere act of spending 30 min to focus on your breath gives you so much peace every day. Think of what you can achieve if you are able to meditate for years and get to know your inner self .
Here is an attempt to try and simplify the meaning of how there is a bit of God in every human being – Let us assume that God is the massive infinite Power Grid and this grid is connected to every living being. Each living being is like a bulb with different capacity. Someone glows at 10W while someone glows at 100W. But suppose you had the power in you to increase your capacity from 10W to 100W . another way of looking at it is that we are all a node of a massive cluster of computers connected to a supercomputer , each node has a different power but can communicate with the mainframe , some have a 256 KB link while others have a 4 MB pipe – then all of life is a connected world. Just like Sun Micrcosystem said ” we are the dot in the dotcom ” – maybe there is a dot of God in all of us. And thats exactly what Shankara talks about in his concept of Advaita. And what every Religion spells out in their holy books
And spiritual awakening is nothing but magnifying this dot till it merges with the mainframe which is infinite God. Vipassna , 8 fold path , Chakra awakening, every religion has a route to elevate yourself to spiritual bliss. To meditate and focus on this you need to cut out the material world. So when the Taliban says – No music , dance , entertainment – they are not wrong – because these are distractions to the cause of spiritual awakening , just that the journey is an individual one and cannot be forced on anyone by a bunch of religious fanatics.
Just spend a few days at an ashram with simple Sattvic food , no TV , no music , no Internet , no phone , no talking to anyone and see the calming effect it will have in you. The stress, noise , transactions around us makes it very difficult for us to be in touch with our inner self.
Which brings me back to the main theme of Religion Vs Spirituality. And Osho explains this beautifully in his book – “Belief , Doubt & Fanaticism“. He says don’t be a Christian, Buddhist , Hindu or Jain – Try being Christ, Buddha, Shankara or Mahavira. Follow the journey they took and then you will experience the joy and eternal bliss they were able to achieve – what Religion preaches today is no way close to what they practiced in their lives – a little bit of deviation by each set of followers has created a huge divide from the original thoughts of our great spiritual leaders.
And to be a Christ , Buddha or Shankara you have to ask the question that Ramana Maharishi asked ” Who am I ” – the answer to this can come only from introspection & meditation. Meditation is not easy. The toughest job is to control the mind. Try doing it for a few minutes in a peaceful and quiet surrounding and then slowly you will be able to master the art.
“Doubtless, oh great warrior, the mind is difficult to subdue. It is restless all the time. But oh! Son of Kunti, the mind can be conquered by repeated exercises and dispassion to sensual objects.” — Krishna to Arjuna, Bhagavad Gita 6:34