By Vivek Pandit
Dallas, TX: 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 not correct. Hindus believe in one “Reality,” which is known in Sanskrit as 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/world. 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. Most people may not wear the same clothing they do at their job as they would when they come home or volunteer over the weekends. Also, this person may have various nicknames or titles such as Doctor, Dad, President, Mr. or Mrs. or may have even casual nicknames by which friends may call this person.
Another common misunderstanding about Hinduism 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 (such as calcium) in order to maintain proper health. However, after the stage of breast-feeding, these little children drink milk out of a bottle.
Well here is where a question arises. Where does this milk come from that these young children drink? Most milk comes from cows. Cows help humans at a young age to develop into a strong healthy adult. Many people drink milk daily in order to receive nutrients and calcium just as we did at a younger age. If a cow is gradually helping us from a young age to support our lives and become healthy, then why should we in turn hurt these living creatures?
Next, a question popularly asked is why do Hindus use a Swastika sign? The Swastika first originated from India approximately 3,000 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). Swastika has also been used by many cultures in the past 1,000 year or so. When Hitler came to power in 1933, Swastika was incorporated into the Nazi party flag, which was made the state flag of Germany during Nazism. Hence, the Swastika has become strongly associated with Nazism and related ideologies such as fascism and white supremacy. This is an unfortunate development and a negative connotation of Swastika. However, Hindus have a pure and positive connotation of the ancient Swastika symbol, which shouldn’t be confused with its negative connotation later implied by Hitler’s use of the symbol.
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 they lay emphasis on education, both worldly and spiritual. 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 all and gave us choices on what to believe. Why would God punish us if our beliefs differ? What if we do all good deeds throughout life, help others, and do all good to this Earth, would we still go to Hell for all eternity? Hinduism believes that there is no right or wrong, there are just different paths. Two paths may lead to the same park; one may have a lake on by the side and the other may just have trees. Just because one person says that the right path has a lake and another person says the right path has trees, it all ends up to the same place. So why should different little beliefs separate us from all believing in the same entity, God?
Hinduism is free, fair, and all-inclusive tradition. Hindus accept everyone and anyone can become a Hindu. Hinduism provides various ways of prayer and 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, 14, is an 8th grade student of Grapevine High School in Dallas, TX. He has been going to a Sunday school for the past 10 years).