Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Pitfalls of calling Hinduism a "way of life"

7/19/2007 1:33:36 AM B.N.Hebbar
It became hip and fashionable among some Hindus a few decades ago to say that Hinduism is a way of life and not a religion. And this has been parroted by many without thinking, ever since. Unfortunately, religions that do not wish the Hindus well have used this to its detriment by saying "So, Hinduism is a way of life. This means you Hindus don't have a religion. Your religion then can be our religion. Why don't you adopt ours. You may keep your way of life."

It is thus important to insist that Hinduism is a religion, philosophy and way of life, all rolled into one. These three are not mutually exclusive categories. A tradition can be all three at once as it is in the case of Taoism [Dao-de jiao as the Chinese call it] in China and Shintoism [Kami-no-michi as the Japanese call it] in Japan. Usually, nationally based religions tend to be all three at once than missionary religions.

Why are some Hindus hesitant to call Hinduism as a religion when it has all the elements that characterize a religion? Let's check each of these.

1. Deities: Hinduism has them.
2. Piety and worship: Hinduism has them.
3. Prayers and liturgy: Hinduism has them
4. Scriptures: Hinduism has them.
5. Doctrines: Hinduism has them.
6. Sacred Space: sanctified places of worship and pilgrimage. Hinduism has them.
7. Sacred Time: feasts and fasts. Hinduism has them.
8. Sacred Persons: priests and monastic. Hinduism has them.
9. Rituals: Hinduism has them.
10. Sacraments: sanctification of the important stages of life. Hinduism has them.
11. Miracles and Mysticism: Hinduism has it.
12. Code of Ethics: Hinduism has it.
13. Contemplative practices: Hinduism has them
14. Humanism: Hinduism has it.

The cultural part makes Hinduism more than a religion. It is here that it is also a way of life. One need not exclude the other. Hindus should [as the Taoists and Shintoists have] celebrate their faith as all three [religion, philosophy and way of life] rolled into one.

1 comment:

KVSSNrao said...

Many people now say Hinduism has number of religious faith. That way it is more cosmoplitan. For example Vaishnavism and Shiva following at extreme time did not even the see the temples of others. They do not recognize the gods other faith.

But still both follow the same dharma shastra. Hence some people want to distinguish the specific religious faith with way of life.

For Hindu dharma sutra by Apastamba in blog form visit