Many quasi-Hindu sects abound in India that try to distance themselves from Hinduism to give their cult a more universal character [meditation, yoga, etc.]. Briefly such sects claim that they’ve discovered/invented a path that transcends religions and hence they cannot be pinned down a narrow categorization called Hinduism. In this post, we will endeavour to examine such claims and the historical precedents to set things in perspective.
Let’s understand the position of these cults on this issue:
- They claim that their approach is universal – beyond bodily associations such as religion – and their method can be appreciated by people of all religions including Islam and Christianity.
- They’ve incorporated wisdom not only from Hinduism, but are open to receive whatever good the other religions have to offer. Being a good Muslim/Christian is same as being a good Hindu.
- They do not necessarily follow typical Hindu festivals with the same materialist fanfare and consumerism.
Let us for a moment ignore the Hindu perception of these sects and focus on how Islam & Christianity receives their claims.
Many followers of these sects aren’t well read about Islam & Christianity and more importantly do not appear to show interest in knowing the details of the religions whose essence they supposedly understand. They project their own perspective onto these religions that – all religions are equally true or all lead to the same path. [Even this, in passing, is a typical Hindu trait].
Per Islam, one isn’t a Muslim if he/she does not believe in Allah as one-true God and Prophet Mohammed as the last Prophet whose words are final.
Likewise, per Christianity, one isn’t a Christian if he/she believes in salvation outside of Jesus Christ.
Both Islam and Christianity believe that anyone outside their cult suffers in hellfire after death. This neatly puts Gurus of these sects in hellfire at some stage, for they also believe in these religions, and don’t believe only in them.
Leaving aside the Hindu identity, one cannot be both Muslim and Christian at the same time, for both are mutually exclusive identities. Either you accept Prophet’s finality or you don’t. You’re either a Muslim or you’re a Christian – you cannot be bit of both for there is no middle ground here.
Even an attempt to learn from both sets you apart as neither Muslim nor Christian, because these religions insist complete obedience to their set of beliefs and one isn’t free to choose some and leave the rest. The subordination must be total.
By their very act of individual endeavour to achieve liberation/ enlightenment the Gurus of these sects cannot find place in Christianity or Islam, for they’ve sought to chart their own path putting aside the one-true path prescribed to humankind for all times. These frozen beliefs are central to a practising Christian or Muslim; one cannot neglect them and still claim themselves as its followers.
So irrespective of these sects’ position with respect to Abrahamic religions, the Abrahamic position on these sects is clear: they’re set on the wrong path for they haven’t reposed their complete and unadulterated faith in the one-true religion.
Although these sects claim to be open to other religions, they’ll still locate themselves in hellfire [in the latter’s perspective] for having resisted the complete submission to their faith. Lest these deluded folks ignore this crucial point, ardent followers of Abrahamic faith see them as one needing help or punishment for being incapable of following the one-true path despite being aware of the same.
Whatever else these cults are, they clearly aren’t Christians/Muslims. They cannot claim to have learnt [or be open to learn] some good things from these religions too, because the very first prerequisite for learning from these faiths is: rejection, nay condemnation, of all other faiths.
Hindu or Human Universal?
Hindu or Human Universal?
Few people try to dislocate yoga from Hinduism, pointing that nowhere is the word ‘Hindu’ mentioned while discussing them in ancient texts. As if Mahabharata and Ramayana self-refer themselves as ‘Hindu’ epics! Of course, the world ‘Hindu’ was first used to by Muslim invaders to classify pagan Indians [non-Muslims in Indian subcontinent]. Hindu scriptures never refer to themselves as ‘Hindu’; instead we find many dharmas, and dharma is not religion as the West understands it.
The Hindu identity has been an evolving one, with no frozen set of beliefs. Secularists in India pinpoint instances of beef consumption in Vedas to criticize ‘hypocrisy’ of present day Hindus. But it’s their own inability to grasp religion as an evolving system that comprehends this inconsistency as hypocrisy. Consequently, the many limitations of Hindu traditions notwithstanding, what sets Hinduism apart from Abrahamic religions is that its mutable and it even recognizes the transient nature of laws and beliefs.
The claim to have transcended bodily associations is typically Hindu and is non-existent in Abrahamic religions where enlightenment leads to firmer entrapment in dogma instead of expansion of worldview.
Sample this statement by the fifth Sikh Guru, Arjan Dev ji: “From Hindus and Muslims have I broken free.” Superficially, this statement gives an impression of conscious dissociation from both Hinduism and Islam. Islam enjoins unqualified belief in the finality of Prophet’s teachings, so much that Ahmediyas who differ only in as much in this finality alone, are disqualified from self-identification as Muslims and are discriminated against. But from dharmic perspective, this statement is entirely understandable and identical to advaitic position: that association pertains to body, not the soul that’s free from all material contamination.
It’s a telling demonstration of the neo-spiritual types’ ignorance, when they claim that they can be adherents of both Abrahamic and Pagan religions which are mutually exclusive. This is analogous to a Britisher of colonial era believing with utmost sincerity that India is theirs – a perspective that clearly wasn’t shared by many native Indians.
Other trivial differences like not celebrating Hindu festivals with fanfare cannot be used to form a separate identity for such sects. Even among these festivals, few are more prominently celebrated in specific regions. This only shows that one can choose to follow their specific path within Hinduism without much fuss.
Such sects owe their independent operations to the congenial Hindu ecosystem which strives for coexistence of faith and reconciliation of values rather than competition for harvesting souls and ruthless elimination of opposing values. I consider these sects as largely useful [in business sense, for most do not advocate criminal or anti-social ideas and followers do find some happiness in their chosen path, however contrived or illusory]. However I wish they also do some their homework better instead of swallowing whatever is offered to them as gospel truth. Truth isn’t simple and needn’t follow any predestined format – hence myths such as all religions being same should be verified and cross checked with facts.
The claim that these sects are non-Hindu does not appear to square with facts in conclusion.