Why I Am a Hindu

We’ve spoken before about what makes someone a Hindu. With Hinduism really being a name for a vast variety of practices and beliefs, it is almost defined by not being anything else! As many people will tell you, it is not so much a religion as a way of life. It is who you are, not just what you do.

Patheos has challenged me with another question. Why am I a Hindu?

It’s difficult to parse out the reasons behind something that I feel blossomed from within me. It’s like the story about the sculptor  who carved away anything that was not the statue. When I carved away the illusions and misinformation in life, I found within the block of stone Hinduism’s spectacular, joyful, colorful presence.

Here are some of my favorite things about Hinduism:

  • There will never be a point at which it is too late for you. There is infinite time to find peace and happiness. It isn’t just one short chance to get it right or you’ll be punished for all of eternity. There is an abundance of time and a beautiful world to explore. You’ll find the answers when you need them.
  • It is a deeply tolerant belief. Hindus can enjoy their way of life without feeling they need to change anyone else’s. Whatever makes you feel close to God is good. Whether it’s a lucky penny, a crystal aura, or the name of Jesus. It’s all wonderful. God is everywhere and in everything. It doesn’t matter what you call Him.
  • There is room for everyone. Whether you are someone who feels connected when praying and adoring God or someone who likes to ponder and study or someone who finds peace when caring for others, there is a place in Hinduism for every approach.
  • It is one of the oldest belief systems in the world and has a long history of insightful philosophers and hard thinking people. It encourages thinking, questioning, and wondering. It never tries to contain the world, making it smaller or less magnificent than its chaotic fullness.
  • It tells us that we are enough. As we are, what we have within us is everything that we need.

Being the child of a scientist, it is important to me to observe the world and how it behaves and try to come up with a theory of why from that observation rather than trying to force the world to behave as I  think it should based on what my religious leaders have told me. From all the religions I have studied and all the observation I have done in the world, Hinduism’s explanations for things make the most sense to me. They fit the evidence the best from my perspective.

When I look within, I feel the spark of divinity and there is no more powerful knowing than when you discover something for yourself. We are able to find Truth for ourselves. We don’t need to trust someone else to spoon feed it to us.

And it is selling ourselves short as human beings to believe that we are anything less than God incarnate.

 

Here are some quotes about Hinduism:

“If I were asked to define the Hindu creed, I should simply say: Search after truth through non-violent means. A man may not believe in God and still call himself a Hindu. Hinduism is a relentless pursuit after truth… Hinduism is the religion of truth. Truth is God. Denial of God we have known. Denial of truth we have not known.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

“When a chunk of salt is thrown into water, it dissolves into that very water, and it cannot be picked up in any way. Yet, from whatever place one may take a sip, the salt is there! In the same way, this Immense Being has no limit or boundary and is a single mass of perception.” — Upanishads, 2.4.12

“Hinduism has proven much more open than any other religion to new ideas, scientific thought, and social experimentation. Many concepts like reincarnation, meditation, yoga and others have found worldwide acceptance. It would not be surprising to find Hinduism the dominant religion of the twenty-first century. It would be a religion that doctrinally is less clear-cut than mainstream Christianity, politically less determined than Islam, ethically less heroic than Buddhism, but it would offer something to everybody. It will appear idealistic to those who look for idealism, pragmatic to the pragmatists, spiritual to the seekers, sensual to the here-and-now generation. Hinduism, by virtue of its lack of an ideology and its reliance on intuition, will appear to be more plausible than those religions whose doctrinal positions petrified a thousand years ago.” -Klaus L. Klostermaier, Professer Religious Studies at the University of Manitoba, former director of Oxford Centre of Hindu Studies

“Jesus Christ knew he was God. So wake up and find out eventually who you really are. In our culture, of course, they’ll say you’re crazy and you’re blasphemous, and they’ll either put you in jail or in a nut house (which is pretty much the same thing). However if you wake up in India and tell your friends and relations, ‘My goodness, I’ve just discovered that I’m God,’ they’ll laugh and say, ‘Oh, congratulations, at last you found out.”
― Alan Wilson Watts, The Essential Alan Watts

“The Bhagavad-Gita is the most systematic statement of spiritual evolution of endowing value to mankind. It is one of the most clear and comprehensive summaries of perennial philosophy ever revealed; hence its enduring value is subject not only to India but to all of humanity.” ― Aldous Huxley

“Religious faith in the case of the Hindus has never been allowed to run counter to scientific laws, moreover the former is never made a condition for the knowledge they teach, but there are always scrupulously careful to take into consideration the possibility that by reason both the agnostic and atheist may attain truth in their own way. Such tolerance may be surprising to religious believers in the West, but it is an integral part of Vedantic belief.” -Romain Rolland

“Compared to Islam and Christianity, Hinduism’s doctrines are extraordinarily fluid, and multiform. India deals in images and metaphors. Restless, subtle and argumentative as Hindu thought is, it is less prone than European theology to the vice of distorting transcendental ideas by too stringent definition. It adumbrates the indescribable by metaphors and figures. It is not afraid of inconsistencies which may illustrate different aspects of the infinite, but it rarely tries to cramp the divine within the limits of a logical phrase.” -Sir Charles Eliot

Here are some books I can recommend for learning more:

Am I a Hindu? The Hinduism Primer

How to Become a Hindu

About Ambaa

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.

  • HARRY

    @ Ambaa

    Wow! This is beautiful. I couldn’t have said it any better. One of your best write up so far. But I still think you forgot to add something little that makes Hinduism what it is and that is Sanatan Dharma which is a skeleton of Hinduism, that hinduism stands on, which is also the same foundation of the Budhism and also other vedic belief. If you discard Sanatan Dharma from Hinduism then this is same as a building not having a foundation. You can build a tent without a foundation, but not a building.
    Nice one. :)

    HARRY

    PS I think you should do an article on Sanatan Dharma, to tie everything together in to one concept of Hinduism. But other then that, it blew me away.

    • Ambaa

      Thank you!

      I think I tend to see “Hinduism” as another word for Sanatana Dharma. I certainly use “Hindu” to mean that.

      I’ll take your suggestion, though, and explore the concept more.

    • Leum

      Buddhism is a dharmic religion, but not a vedic one. Buddha explicitly rejected the authority of the Vedas.

      • HARRY

        @ Leum

        That’s 100% true. But don’t forget it’s concept is still based on Sanatan Dharma and Sanatan Dharma is based on vedic concept. This is same as saying I don’t like white milk. :) Most of the Buddhism practises, rituals, rules and concepts are Hinduism based. We are only splitting hairs if you say it isn’t. Nice talking to you dude.

        HARRY

      • Ambaa

        Well, I always explain to people that Buddhism is to Hinduism what Christianity is to Judaism. Though Christianity grew out of Judaism, it has evolved into something that is only very basically related anymore. Though Buddhism came into being from a Hindu man, it is very much its own thing.

      • Arjun

        Buddhas own teachings are more Vedic in essence than being anti vedic.He was mainly against the vedic practices that had over time had become decadent.He wasn’t some great rebel like Luther was against the catholic church. He was born a Hindu and died a Hindu.Buddhism was created after him. Dharmic traditions which are part of or evolve through Sanatan Dharma are not like the Abrahamic traditions as one against the other but are reflections of the truth which there are many.

        • Ambaa

          That makes sense to me. I do think it’s important to pay attention to how we worship and make sure that we aren’t losing site of the reasons behind rituals!

  • Sandesh

    Hi Amba,

    You have already done a lot of research on everything you could and as for me I was born with it. So for me to say anything would be like showing a lamp to the Sun lol, (well it’s a hindi saying) for I know I have never delved that deep in Hinduism ever and I never found the need to do so :) .

    Although I agree to what you say… I still feel it’s been corrupted with time… that is why I prefer to stay away from most of the temples and their agenda’s for that is not where I look upon the almighty… so I prefer to help people instead… that’s more of what I feel is better than offering prayers to anyone but I ain’t a Athiest as well. (guess I am weird lol)

    By helping people may be I make a fool out of myself… but I know after my 10 failed attempts I might as well help someone genuinely in need of it.

    I don’t know if that makes me a hindu but it makes me a better and happy human being at the end of the day…. kinda satisfied with what I have and do. :)

    Wish you all the luck and wishes, I just read about you starting a new life with your fiance :)

    • Ambaa

      I think helping others is an absolutely wonderful path and you know what? The label you give yourself doesn’t really matter in the end. Doing good work is good for the world no matter what you call yourself!

  • Mitchell Porter

    “There is infinite time to find peace and happiness.”

    But then you will also lose it, yes? And then you will gain it, and then you will lose it, in infinite cycles for eternity, that have already been happening forever.

    • Ambaa

      No, that’s not it at all.

      I mean, you can sometimes find moments of peace that are temporary, but when you truly become enlightened, that can never be taken away from you.

      • Mitchell Porter

        “when you truly become enlightened, that can never be taken away from you”

        But if your soul is eternal, and has always been here, that means that for an infinite number of previous lives, enlightenment has eluded you (because if you had ever achieved enlightenment previously, you should still be enlightened now, according to what you just said).

        • Ambaa

          Yes, I have failed thus far! I think I’m getting close now ;)

          I think part of the trouble with understanding this is the way time works. We see time as a linear progression, but I suspect that in reality it’s more like everything is always happening at once. Not sure on that, it’s just a pet theory of mine.

        • Pratheesh

          As per the theory of reincarnation a soul have to go through several lives till it attains moksha.once it has reached that threshold,soul would be a part of infinity and ceased to have an identity of its own.
          comments expected so i can have a deeper look into this subject.

          • Ambaa

            This really gets into wondering about what the borders or our identity really are.

  • Kamalsrinivas

    You can also say “it is not an organised religion” hence you have more freedom to do, think and say whatever you want, as long as “you” think it is morally right

  • Kamalsrinivas

    In addition you dont have to answer the question “why you are a hindu”. Because everyone in this world is born a hindu but few of them choose their guru as Jesus, few as Mohammed etc and few deny all guru’s and existence of god.

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  • Mihir Meghani

    Great write up. Very true. Very personal.


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