A Universal Vision: Hinduism's Path of Unity
By David Frawley
Hinduism is probably the oldest continually practiced religious and spiritual tradition on the planet, with its roots going back over 5,000 years. In fact Hinduism has no specific point of origin or end. The basis of Hinduism can be found not in a particular prophet or prophets or in a single book but in the eternal, in the cosmic mind itself, accepting a variety of great teachers and teachings over the long course of time and the different types of human cultures. Hinduism has never rejected any aspect of human religious aspiration, whether it is the use of images, a variety of rituals, or many techniques and approaches to meditation.
Hinduism is the third largest of the world's major religions, with over a billion adherents worldwide. It is the largest of the non-biblical traditions. It is the largest of the pagan traditions and the best surviving of the great pagan traditions that once dominated the world and traces of which remain everywhere. It is the largest of the native or indigenous traditions being rooted in the land and life of its peoples. Hinduism is firmly rooted in nature and honors all aspects of the natural world as sacred. Its holy places are not simply sites of important human religious activity but sacred mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, and flowers.
Yet perhaps most importantly Hinduism is the largest of the world's ‘pluralistic' traditions. It does not emphasize one formulation of divinity, one prophet or savior, or one holy book for all. It honors a variety of great gurus and their various books and teachings. Under its vast scope it can embrace a great variety of religious views and practices. This makes Hinduism the largest of the world's non-proselytizing religions. Hinduism does not seek to convert the world to a single belief but holds that we should honor the unique divine expression in each person and in each culture. It gives people the freedom to follow whatever spiritual path they find valuable. Hinduism can even accept atheists as part of its honoring of freedom of thought and inquiry.
Hinduism is more an ‘experiential spiritual approach' than a religious belief system. It directs us to our own individual spiritual practice, which it calls sadhana. Hinduism contains a vast science of yoga and meditation, including such diverse practices as asanas, mantras, meditation methods, rituals, and pilgrimage. It is not just a religion but is also a ‘spiritual science' embracing systems of healing for body and mind (Ayurveda), astrology (Jyotish), architecture (Vastu), music, dance, literature, and even a science of language (Sanskrit). Hinduism is an entire culture and way of life with its own attitudes about food, vocation, and our relationship with the universe as a whole. It religious gatherings like the Kumbha Melas have tens of millions of participants, making them the largest such gatherings in the world.
Hinduism traditionally calls itself Sanatana Dharma or the eternal way of truth. It is the formulation of a universal tradition that is adapted locally to individual and community needs. As such, Hinduism has a wonderful vision of the future and embraces all of time. It holds that each individual soul is on a unique journey to Self-realization and God-realization, union with divinity within, through the course of many lives. It strives to offer the aspiring soul all the tools, aids, and inspiration to move along that path with wisdom, grace, and compassion.
The future of Hinduism is of its universal vision, its global relevance, and its unbounded sense of the sacred. Such an honoring of divinity and an acceptance of the full range of human religious and spiritual practice is what humanity needs today to take us beyond our current global crisis rooted in conflicting beliefs and dogmas and a non-sacred way of life. The future of Hinduism is the future of humanity and of the eternal aspect not only of our nature but of the entire universe.
Dr. David Frawley is the founder of the American Institute of Vedic Studies and the author of numerous works on Vedic wisdom, including Inner Tantric Yoga: Working with the Universal Shakti: Secrets of Mantras, Deities, and Meditation.