“Don’t call it “ism”. It’s not just an “ism”. It’s way bigger than that.” Strongly replied Abhaya Asthana, the national president of World Council of Hindus, America, when asked about his thoughts on Hinduism. This was the first time someone, an authority in Hindu culture had denied what was proposed as acknowledgement of collective Hindu representation. Until then, the idea of Hinduism came across as accepting of all suggested notions and definitions of its existence including uneducated speculations, distorted citations of philosophical theories, out of context reports on traditions and significantly insignificant relevance in terms of world religions without any formal opposition.
“Ism” is defined as “a distinctive practice, system or philosophy, typically a political ideology or artistic movement” in Oxford dictionary. Definitely the Hindu legacy counts for far more than that. It not only provides an all-encompassing view of life to build and sustain a just and civilized society but it does that with ultimate freedom. It is that freedom that inspired Hindu born and trained leaders like Guru Nanak, the founder Sikh religion and Gautam Buddha, the founder of Buddhist religion to branch out so successfully. Fitting it to be an “ism” is understandably demoting.
For a system that hosts and nurtures inclusion at its core, the separation from all other systems caused by “ism” is in reality the separation from the very foundation. Dr. Asthana’s rather immediate and striking response addresses the rather unattended and slow separation of understanding of Hindu dharma from Hindu dharma. This schism from ism is new and refreshing. It is also challenging because now we must begin the journey to identify, understand and re-establish what is.
There are more questions than answers when it comes to Hindu world, especially when we compare it to other religions following standard methods of inquiry. Unlike all other religions there is no known founder and there isn’t a book that can be identified as the “manual”. This is also one of the big reasons why despite of continued attacks and prolonged dependence, Hindu world is still intact. There was no founder to be replaced or a book to be destroyed. Hindu world stands tall in all its glory and its pillars are somewhat mysterious living ideals that are often referred to as “ways of living.”
In the series, The Curious Hindu we will share highlights of our adventure of exploring the Hindu world.