Common misconsceptions about Hinduism

Discussion in 'Hinduism' started by Senthil, Aug 15, 2014.

  1. Senthil

    Senthil Active Member

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    There are so many common misconceptions about Hinduism in the interfaith world. As a practicing Hindu along with other practicing Hindus, maybe we can clear up some of those.

    One example is how vast we are. On this forum, for example, there are only 3 or 4 Hindus that are active. So this misconception is allowed to continue, because if and when a person asks a question, it's answered from only one POV of many, and so that person goes away thinking they know a lot about Hinduism, and in reality, they only heard one small version.

    Examples of vastness
    1) 20+ languages with over 10 million speakers
    2) a scriptural library that would be unreadable
    3) views of God that include pantheism, atheism, panenthesim, monotheism, henotheism, and probably more
     
  2. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    lookin forward to this...
     
  3. Senthil

    Senthil Active Member

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    Thanks, wil. Of course my own views will also be slanted towards my school, but I'll try to explain in a more generalized way, as I'm a little bit familiar with all schools also.

    - Continuing along on what we are in terms of 'ist', some will say it's a myth that we're polytheistic, that in actuality we're monotheistic.

    But this idea doesn't include the vastness bit. In actuality, we're both. Some Hindus are polytheists, others are monotheists. Some are inclusive monotheists, (one supreme god, other lesser gods) others are exclusive monotheist (only one).

    We also have the more philosophical ideas of monism (one reality) dualism (separation of God from man, eternally) and pluralism (more than one reality)

    So it gets confusing at times. Most Hindus only have an understanding of their own school, and that may be limited. Few have any deep understanding of other schools, other than in philosophical realms.

    But that's another myth ... Hinduism isn't all that philosophical, it's more living, or bhakti orientated. So an ethical Hindu immersed in bhakti (worship) may have very little philosophical understanding, because he or she just doesn't see that as all that important. In the scholarly side of Hinduism, we have philosophers who don't actually practice. A student of Hinduism may only read books, and never go to a Hindu temple. Yes books are part of it, but in order to get a deeper understanding, you have to live it.

    Also, within all this, there is tolerance ... tolerance of other schools, other ways.
     
  4. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    So can you provide the names for the various schools as you provide the descriptions?
     
  5. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Search, be your own guru.

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  6. Senthil

    Senthil Active Member

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    I can only try, but it'll be very limited, as I'm not interdisciplinary scholar. For example, Vaishnava schools tend to be more dualistic than Shaiva schools, yet there are exception.

    Although Wiki isn't the best source, it gives a pretty clear indication of our vastness.

    Hindu denominations - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    edited: Aupmanyav, I didn't see your post, but looked at the second one. I think it's better than Wiki.
     
  7. Senthil

    Senthil Active Member

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    Myth: Hinduism is just another religion just like the rest, similar to Christianity, Islam, etc.

    The fact of the matter is we're incredibly different. I get this from anti-Abrahamic people. They've only been exposed to Christianity, and they (naturally) jump to the conclusion that all other religions must be similar. Things like, you must proseltyse, you believe in some Being in the sky, you waste money on it, it controls you. Many of the things associated with certain branches of Christianity (the ones they hear about) are just lumped into.

    I think mostly it's because people are too lazy to do just a wee bit of study.

    For one, this generally comes from atheists, or religion haters. Little do they know that Hinduism, at least some branches, are closer to atheism, than they are to Abrahamism.

    The supposed similarity to Islam often comes directly from geography, because India is near to the middle east. But Hinduism and Islam, in reality, are probably the furthest apart of any two major faiths on the planet today.
     
  8. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    not all us abrahamics proslytize, believe in sky beings, waste money or are controlled...

    There are similarities.... I see them between Catholic Saints and Hindu G!ds....

    You pray to the saint of lost things while you are looking for them, you pray for the G!d of education to assist you while you study... the avatars are used to supply the impetus to do the work, no?
     
  9. Senthil

    Senthil Active Member

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    Indeed. Many Christians don't proselytize, but compared to Hinduism, a lot more do.

    I don't see those similarities, but its fine by me if you do. Some Hindus might see similarities though. Just because I don't speaks to the vastness of Hinduism. Occasionally, just to explain it to westerners in a term they would understand, we might compare certain gods to archangels, but it's probably not all that accurate.

    Likewise with avatars. I assume you believe that Hindus believe in avatars. Well, again, that's a misrepresentation. The accurate statement is some Hindus believe in avatars. For example, I don't. So back to myth 1: We're vast. The ethnocentricity of Hinduism leads to confusion, because no individual Hindu can speak for all Hindus.
    :)
     
  10. Senthil

    Senthil Active Member

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    Another common myth is that you have to be born a Hindu in order to be one. Many people feel this myth is there as an odd form of protectionism perpetuated by people not wanting to have anyone leave their previous religion to become Hindu. In other words, 'You can't even become Hindu so don't bother trying." Another sense is that it's perpetuated in India as a sort of anti-western thing. "You took everything else, but you're not taking this too." There is a continuing anti-western theme, mostly because of imperialistic oppression of the past.

    Regardless of origins of the myth, and it's perpetuation, it's nonsense. Lots of people have become Hindu, adopted Hinduism, converted to Hinduism, etc.
     
  11. DavidMcCann

    DavidMcCann Hellenist

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    There's an old saying that there are two types of people: those who believe that there are two types of people and those who don't. There are certainly two types of religion.

    Firstly, there those religions which have evolved over centuries as successive generations have interpreted and re-interpreted religious experiences. Their interpretations vary, but there's no view that's found in Japan that can't be found in Africa, and no view that's found in India that would be totally unfamiliar to an ancient Roman. In all it's variety, this is the default religion for mankind.

    Secondly, there are those religions where one (or with Judaism, several) people have declared themselves prophets, messiahs, etc, and announced that they have the one true word and everyone else is a sinful unbeliever. What are the odds on their being right?

    Hinduism is simply the first type of religion as practiced in India. When the ancient Greeks visited India, they didn't distinguish between their religion and that of the locals: they just attended the local temples. Similarly, a Hindu recently said to me that if he could visit ancient Greece in a time machine, he'd have no hesitation about using their temples.
     
  12. Senthil

    Senthil Active Member

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    Myth: Hindus worship idols.

    We don't. There are at least 3 views on this, none of them agreeing with the above. The first view would be not to use statues at all. Schools such as Arya Samaj follow this, and basically do all the Vedic rites via the ritual fire, called a havan or homa.

    The second view, held by many modern Hindus, is that all the various Gods and Goddesses are symbolic and represent some aspect of life, or of divinity. So Goddess Lakshmi, for instance represents wealth ... of culture, of food, of rain, and economy. Ganesha represents good fortune, Brahma represents creation, etc.

    The third view is more mystical, and I believe the most common. There would also be an in-between view that sort of encapsules the last two, and that would be that it's both. The third view is mystical in nature, and it holds that the actual Being in it's etheric body uses the statue to communicate. So the murthy (a statue that has been enlivened by mystic rites) is like the copper wire for electricity. It operates like a channel for communication. By doing the rituals, by prayer, we beckon God's presence to temporarily come, and via that spot, to bless us.

    As for the Sivalingam, it encompasses another myth. It's not a phallic symbol at all, but just a mark, a place. Not well defined, it represents the Absolute, the formless form, so to speak. How the other interpretation ever came to be is beyond my knowledge, but it's certainly not what Hindus themselves believe.
     
  13. Senthil

    Senthil Active Member

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    And that highlights one of the problems I referred to earlier ... our diversity. I hope you didn't conclude that all Hindus would say that. Some would, some wouldn't.

    This so often happens. A person once told me that you have to be born in India to be a Hindu. 'Why?" I asked. His answer was just like yours. "A Hindu told me." After me, he at least had a sampling of 2 people, not one.
     
  14. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Search, be your own guru.

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    David, a Hindu might not worship Greek Gods and Goddesses, but I am sure of one thing, he would not say that it is wrong. He would be respectful to them. :)
     
  15. Senthil

    Senthil Active Member

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    Myth: Hinduism supports the caste system.

    Let's not kid ourselves ... caste exists in Indian society, and its across all religions including the supposedly casteless ones like Christianity and Islam. But generally Hinduism takes the brunt of this criticism. But Hindu doctrine (nor any religion) supports it. It's not a religious problem, but a societal problem.

    Originally, we had varna, which was intended as sort of guilds for merchants, or various segments of society. Varna was suppoesed to be looking at peoples individual strengths, and often it did follow family lineages. Somewhere along the way barriers developed between castes, and we ended up with what e have today. I know of no Hindu leader alive today that speaks about caste as something we should keep. However, it's tricky to rid ourselves of it, just as class i hard to get rid of in the western world. The economic turndown in America widened the gap between rich and poor, it didn't narrow it. So any stratification of society anywhere can be seen as a problem, but the solution is trickier. India is on the growing side though. By that I mean, caste is becoming less and less a factor with each generation.

    It's been awhile since I posted on this topic, and I should explain why. There was some very insulting anti-Hindu hate misinformation from another thread. Yes, I reported it, but nothing was done. So I'm not really sure now if this particular forum is heeding it's own rules. I guess time will tell.

    Is it truly interfaith, or is it interfaith from a particular perspective? Reminds me of some university 'world religion' classes in some western universities, where it all sounds good, but in reality it's a take on world religions from one religion's perspective. In other words, this one is good, but the rest don't live up to it, and here's why.
     
  16. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea An ordinary cup of tea

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    This place is simply not very moderated, for good and ill.
     
  17. Gordian Knot

    Gordian Knot Being Deviant IS My Art.

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    Senthil said "As for the Sivalingam, it encompasses another myth. It's not a phallic symbol at all, but just a mark, a place. Not well defined, it represents the Absolute, the formless form, so to speak. How the other interpretation ever came to be is beyond my knowledge, but it's certainly not what Hindus themselves believe."

    Funny you should bring this up. Just saw part of a series made for television which discusses the many histories and myths of ancient Asia. This particular segment was on the religions of Southern India, and of the historically critical role Raja the Great had in the building of those stunningly beautiful temples. Of course they showed the lingams and of course they called them phallic symbols. *Sigh*. Do you ever feel one is running faster and faster and getting nowhere?

    As for how the lingams became associated with the phallic symbol. My guess would be a combination of two historical events. One is the temples of the south where every square inch is carved with statues of people having sex in just about any combination possible.

    The other fact is that these ruins were rediscovered during the time of Victorian England. These British explorers were, of course, horrified at those temple depictions. It would have seemed very reasonable for the English explorers of that time to put two and two together (sexually explicit temples + phallic shaped objects inside other temples) and decide lingams must be phallic symbols!
     
  18. Senthil

    Senthil Active Member

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    Have you been to South India? Yes, some gopurams do have such carvings, but there is also a lot of other stuff going on. I've pilgrimaged there substantially, and never seen anything like you describe, and yes, I did look. It's part of life. One temple in particular , Khajuharo, I think, has many such carvings. But what you say about it being everywhere is a myth.

    Yes, Victorian times were like that. They couldn't handle nudity anywhere (Hawaii, Tahiti, North America) so perhaps you're right about how it came to be. :) It's odd for me to even defend the idea as it seems so far out.

    These days, I hear it very rarely, and usually it's intended as an insult rather that as a simple misunderstanding. Hurtling insults back and forth can have any forum degenerate pretty quickly. I'm sorry to hear that there is little moderation here.
     
  19. Senthil

    Senthil Active Member

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    So I might as well deal with the mundane and silly ones as well...
    Myth.. Marijuana is part of Hinduism, even essential. Hindus are just a bunch of stoners.

    Maharishi was surprised when he realised how many of the 60s crowd were taking drugs. Yes, there are some sadhus of the north who imbibe marijuana. They are maybe less than 0.01% of the Hindu population. Of course, the west is attracted to this sort of thing. In a recent article about the Kumbh Mela (a spiritual gathering at a river where millions come to bathe in the Ganga or other rivers) a writer observed that there are 200 000 sadhus there, but if one lights up, about 20 photojournalists descend to video the 'event'.

    Smoking dope, for the normal Hindu, simply isn't part of it. I don't know a single Hindu who smokes it. Not one.
     
  20. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Staff Member

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    You reported the thread that linked to the Cracked.com article:
    http://www.interfaith.org/forum/penis-worship-today-17167.html

    I made the decision, for good or ill, that it was fine to remain as a topic of conversation. I didn't see anything specifically anti-faith on that thread.
     

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