June 28, 2009
Once there was a big gathering of people for the celebration of a particular festival of India. As is usual in such gatherings in American Universities they become multinational celebrations. After the cultural events were over the people scattered into their own groups and continued their chit chats.
In one of the groups that I accidentally drifted with I heard a small conversation about religion. Some one who was interested about the religions of India asked a question about the nature of Indian religion. These kind of celebrations were usually sponsored by immigrants from India who settled in the United States for quite sometime but still maintain certain kind of links with their parent communities back home in India.
They have their American accent to their credit and a better grasp of the culture of “America” than say a newcomer international like me. They have their power channels to explain the culture of India in their fascinating ways which often sounded to me like a fixed notion outgrown in imaginative ways that existed much in the past than they would exist now if at all. These groups are typically known in the colloquial lingo to be the so called ABCD..[don’t ask me for the expansion]
Having heard the question about the nature of Indian religion a guy present in this group [a typical sponsor] quickly answered “Oh Hinduism is an amorphous religion”. I didn’t quite know what he meant by that but as much as clear to me in that instant it meant there is no definitive religion that you can call Hinduism, there are just thousands of ways and an artificial cohesion among these or a collective form and this is known as Hinduism. Not really a religion per se.
Somehow I felt this irked me. This guy certainly isn’t aware about the natural tenets of this religion if you can define religion to be a set of “set of beliefs”. But there may be certain grains of truth in what he wanted to represent. e.g. in my “cultural shocks” I perceived the western religions to be more structured in a particular line of thought as if somebody is trying to control your belief process socially rather than give you [or not take away from you ] your spiritual freewill. And then you may have a split here or there forming another line or school of thought, another heretical branching here and there and yet another somewhere else but in the end they exhibit certain kind of similarity of a social mentorship of the individual’s belief process.
So I became a lot more interested about the religions of India or more appropriately stated I became more interested to know what Indian religion is all about and how they really relate with what I have experienced independently. After-all I have lived for two decades in this country called India and how the “hell on earth” some ABCD….XYZ can tell me what’s true about India and its religion.
My research or knowledge on this was based on my individual observations, experience, feelings and their relevance to what I can infer from them. I didn’t lose myself in a blind alley but I think I can conclude at-least to myself that Indian religion as far as it can be called Hinduism is not an amorphous religion, religion per se it might not be but the basis of such attribution are meaningless.
Like you can not compare gravity with molecular force or the forces of electric charges by being adamant on the formalities of one or the other you can not compare religions on the basis of how one particular religion is seen by a group of people especially its adherents and compulsive associates with how another religion must be seen without respect to what its adherents, associates and scholars see it.