Sunday, April 29, 2007

Who is a Hindu?
Monday 30 April, 2007
09:21 15/Apr/2007 2 Comment(s)
Who is a Hindu
Due to the wide diversity in the beliefs, practices and traditions encompassed by Hinduism, there is no universally accepted answer to the question, "Who is a Hindu?", or even agreement on whether Hinduism represents is a religious, cultural or socio-political entity. In 1995, Chief Justice P. B. Gajendragadkar was quoted in an Indian Supreme Court ruling:[4]When we think of the Hindu religion, we find it difficult, if not impossible, to define Hindu religion or even adequately describe it. Unlike other religions in the world, the Hindu religion does not claim any one prophet; it does not worship any one God; it does not subscribe to any one dogma; it does not believe in any one philosophic concept; it does not follow any one set of religious rites or performances; in fact, it does not appear to satisfy the narrow traditional features of any religion of creed. It may broadly be described as a way of life and nothing more.Thus some scholars argue that the Hinduism is not a religion per se but rather a reification of a diverse set of traditions and practices by scholars who constituted a unified system and arbitrarily labeled it Hinduism.[5] The usage may also have been necessitated by the desire to distinguish between "Hindus" and followers of other religions during the periodic census undertaken by the colonial British government in India. Other scholars, while seeing Hinduism as a 19th century construct, view Hinduism as a response to British colonialism by Indian nationalists who forged a unified tradition centered on oral and written Sanskrit texts adopted as scriptures.[6]A commonly held view, though, is that while Hinduism contains both "uniting and dispersing tendencies", it has a common central thread of philosophical concepts (including dharma, moksha and samsara), practices (puja, bhakti etc) and cultural traditions.[7] These common elements originating (or being codyfied within) the Vedic, Upanishad and Puranic scriptures and epics. Thus a Hindu could :* follow any of the Hindu schools of philosophy, such as Advaita (non-dualism), Dvaita (dualism), Dvaitadvaita (dualism with non-dualism), etc.[8][9]* follow a tradition centered on any particular form of the Divine, such as Shaivism, Vaishnavism, Shaktism, etc.[10]* practice bhakti (devotion) or any of the other yoga systems in order to achieve moksha.In 1995, while considering the question "who are Hindus and what are the broad features of Hindu religion", the Supreme Court of India highlighted Bal Gangadhar Tilak's formulation of Hinduism's defining features:[4]Acceptance of the Vedas with reverence; recognition of the fact that the means or ways to salvation are diverse; and the realization of the truth that the number of gods to be worshipped is large, that indeed is the distinguishing feature of Hindu religion.Some thinkers distinguish between the concept of Hinduism as a religion, and Hindu as a member of a nationalist or socio-political class. Veer savarkar in his book Hindutva considered geographical unity, common culture and common race to be the defining qualities of Hindus; thus Hindu was a person who saw India "as his Fatherland as well as his Holyland, that is, the cradle land of his religion".[11] This conceptualization of Hinduism, has led to establishment of Hindutva as political movement in the last century.[12][edit] Origins of the word HinduSee also: Etymology of the names of IndiaRiver Sindhu, Ladakh This image has an uncertain copyright status and is pending deletion. You can comment on the removal.River Sindhu, Ladakh This image has an uncertain copyright status and is pending deletion. You can comment on the removal.Hindu is derived from the Persian pronunciation of the Sanskrit word Sindhu (Sanskrit: सिन्धु, the name for the Indus River), located in what is now Pakistan.[13] The Persians, using the word "Hindu" for "Sindhu", referred to the people who lived near or across the Sindhu River as "Hindus", and their religion later became known as "Hinduism." The religion had previously been known as Sanātana dharma (the eternal law), Vaidika dharma (law of the Vedas), Arya dharma (the noble religion), or Mānava dharma (the religion of mankind). Eventually the word "Hindu" came into common use among Hindus themselves,[2] and was adopted into Greek as Indos and Indikos ("Indian"), into Latin as Indianus.[14] and into Sanskrit, as Hindu, appearing in some early medieval texts (e.g. Bhaviṣya Purāṇa, Kālikā Purāṇa, Rāmakośa, Hemantakavikośa and Adbhutarūpakośa)[15]

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