Hinduism appeals to the educated minds because it offers them a lot of freedom to practice it. Many scientists and educated elite in India are devout Hindus. They are drawn to it, despite their rationality and scientific background, because they find in it a greater synthesis and integration of human aspirations with the highest of spiritual values. Hinduism offers them a lot of flexibility to pursue their faith according to their vision and understanding, without suffering from conflicts, guilt and fear. In the following discussion, we list a few strong reasons why many educated Hindus prefer following Hinduism in today’s world. They also explain why Hinduism is popular in many countries despite the fact that it has no central authority and no designated missionaries to spread its message.
1. In Hinduism you have a wider choice
Hinduism is not a dogmatic faith. It is well known that Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life. Hinduism is a name we have given to a number of independent faiths, philosophies, beliefs, and practices. Although for various historical reasons we have reduced and degraded Hinduism into a religion, until a few centuries ago there was never a religion called Hinduism in the history of the world. Every philosophy and religious tradition that originated in India formed part of a great exploration in which the scholars of Indian subcontinent participated in their quest for answers to the riddles of human existence. The same spirit of enquiry and freedom of choice prevails in Hinduism even today. In Hinduism, you can choose your path, beliefs and practices. If you do not believe in God or if you want to follow your own spiritual path that does not recognize God, no one has the exclusive authority to sit in judgment and label you as a heretic or atheist. You may be still labeled, but they can do so only as individuals. As a Hindu, you do not have to believe in any particular religion or dogma, but choose what you want to believe and incorporate them into your way of life. You can choose both material and spiritual goals, and in pursuit of your chosen goals, you can practice your faith according to your inherent nature. You have the freedom because you are responsible for the consequences of whatever you do or choose. If you believe in rituals, you can practice rituals. If you are spiritual by nature, you can practice yoga and meditation and stabilize your mind. If you have distaste for worldly life, you can renounce the world and become a monk. Hinduism thus offers you a wider choice. You can pursue the path of knowledge, the path of action, the path of renunciation, the path of devotion, or a combination of some or all of them.
2. In Hinduism you are not oppressed by dogma
Hinduism recognizes the limitations of the human mind and intellect in understanding and affirming existential truths. As a Hindu, you have the freedom to explore truths on your own, or challenge those who claim to know them. You can discard the scriptures or choose whatever you like. The Vedas are considered the highest, but those who practice Tantra do not necessarily recognize them. Even among those who accept the Vedas, some follow the ritual portion of the Vedas and some the Upanishads. Many people also follow the particular teachings of their spiritual masters, whose knowledge may be derived from any number of sources, including those of the Buddhists and Jains. Debates and discussions have been part of the history of Hinduism. They are recognized in the tradition as the convenient and recognized means by which people may arrive at truths or question those with which they disagree. While different standards may be applied to validate truths, the authority to determine transcendental truths rests solely with those who experience them because transcendental truths cannot be validated objectively or intellectually, but only subjectively through personal experience. In other words, a statement does not become true because simply a spiritual teacher has said so. It becomes true only when you experience it. You may know about the truth from the scriptures, but at some point you must be able to experience it. Since Hinduism does not recognize any dogma as final, but only a set of principles, it does not have any founders, but many spiritual masters and enlightened beings, who have explored truth and left their experiences and observations in various scriptures as statements, hymns and verses. You do not even know some of their names, because they did not leave any record of them and did not feel the need to do so.
3. In Hinduism you can customize your faith and choose your path
As stated before, in Hinduism there are many paths to liberation. You can choose any of them, or if you want you can even customize your own faith based upon your preferences, inclinations, and convictions. You can mix the old and traditional beliefs with newer ones. You can combine one or more religions to create your own. Ultimately, it is your choice and your actions which determine your life and your future. Hindu scriptures affirm that a person’s faith is according to his or her inherent nature, which is determined by the triple gunas, past births and karma. The freedom comes with responsiblity. Whatever paths and methods you may choose, you will be responsible for their consequences. If you worship demigods or gods of lesser divinity, you will attain them. If you choose the highest God, you will attain Him. If you believe in the nonexistence of God, you will enter the non-Being. If you follow the demonic way of life and indulge in sins, you will fall into the darkest hells. You are thus the center of your universe. You can choose your faith or even invent one of your own, but you must take responsiblity for your choices. Your religion does not necessarily elevate you or ennoble you. It depends upon the purity of your faith, resolve and your actions. The scriptures may give you direction, but what you intend to do in life and what you do determine your destiny. This is the central theme of Hinduism.
4. In Hinduism you can attain the highest freedom
The highest goal or the goal of goals in Hinduism is achieving absolute freedom or moksha. In a simple sense, moksha means freedom from the limitations that life imposes upon you. For a human being, the world is like a prison. Everyone who enters it lives in chains, subject to birth and death, delusion, ignorance, sin, karma, and bondage. For a human being, who is endowed with knowledge, self-awareness, and intelligence, there is no better endeavor than to find an escape from this predicament. That escape is called liberation. Liberation does not have to be an earth shattering abstract experience. You can achieve it at various levels. In a practical sense, liberation means freedom from desire, want, fear, expectations, dependence, attachments, ignorance, delusions, relationships, pride, selfishness, egoism, individuality, religion, nationality, caste, race, ownership, etc. In the mortal world, true freedom is freedom from all these. You arrive at it by gradually severing all the bonds that you form with the world, by practicing detachment and renunciation. Hinduism teaches that freedom does not come by having but by becoming free from the compulsion to be anything or become anything. You have to unburden yourself, unwind yourself, and leave everything which holds you back or controls you. Freedom from everything that binds you and bothers you is the ultimate freedom, which you can attain only by renouncing all your desires, attachments, and likes and dislikes. If you are anxious, guilty, sad, angry, afraid, or moved by any of the emotions, it means you are not free. It also includes freedom from the authority of institutions, dogma and society. The ultimate purpose of freedom is to enjoy life, not to shun it. As a liberated person you have the freedom to enjoy whatever life offers, even sexual pleasure, without preference and choice, and perform actions not for your personal enjoyment but as a representative of God upon earth. Whatever you do upon earth, is part of God’s creation and part of His eternal duty. If you acknowledge that you are His projection upon earth and your life is an extension of His own, you will be free from all the consequences of your actions and earn the right to live freely without any cares and anxieties.
by Jayaram V