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Clarification of doubts related to Hinduism

 

Recently, a Hindu man sent out an email with some questions he was asked about Hinduism, that he needed answers to. Some of those questions and the answers to them are published here, as we all may come across such questions. Every Hindu should know the answers to such questions. This emphasises the need for taking and imparting education about Hinduism.

1. Why do Hindus believe in many idols?

Hindus worship God in His various forms as well as the formless aspect of God, as Hinduism teaches that ‘there is nothing but God’, that is, ‘God is in everything’. Some Hindus may worship a certain form of God for specific reasons, such as Srī Ganesh is worshipped to remove obstacles, Srī Dattatreya to overcome ancestral souls’ (pitar/poorvaj) trouble, the Mother Goddess to acquire Divine Energy (shakti) and supernatural powers (siddhi), etc.

Each idol is a representation of a Deity or Divine Energy. There are millions of Divine Energies and aspects of the Divine, each with a specific Divine function in the universe. For example, the specific Divine function or main Divine aspect of Brahmā    is Creation (utpatti), while that of Srī  Vishnu is Sustenance (sthiti) and of Shiva is destruction (laya.)

Depending on the mission of Its particular Incarnation, the Divine may take a form accordingly. For example, while most forms of Deities show the Deity’s ‘Savior of devotees’ aspect (symbolised by the Deity’s hand raised in blessing) and ‘Destroyer of evil’ aspect (symbolised by the Deity’s weapon carrying hand), the destroyer form of Srī Durga has weapons and destroyer symbols in all Her hands.

2. What is Shiva-linga? Some say it is the male genital organ.

The words ‘Shiva’ and ‘linga’ are from the Hindus’ ancient, scriptural language Sanskrit (Sanskrut). ‘Shiva’ means auspiciousness and ‘linga’ means a sign or a symbol. Accordingly, the Shiva-linga is the symbol of Shiva. It is the "symbol of God, who is all-auspiciousness."

It is a misconception (stemming from the time that Hindu literature came into the hands of non-Hindu scholars) that the Shiva-linga  represents male genital organs. To be able to understand Hindu scriptures, a spirit of deep inquiry about the Divine is required and such a spirit is developed with daily spiritual practice (sādhanā) as per the spiritual principles of Hinduism.

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3. Why did Brahmā create different castes as mentioned in the Vēds ? Is that good?

Please tell which verse refers to this in the Vēds, as this is a misconception. The Vēds    talk about the system of spiritual classes based on one's spiritual constitution (qualities) and deeds, to provide a path to every person to progress to God-realisation. The caste system is a social ill, as is discrimination found in all societies, not limited to Hindu society. 

4. Why do Hindus not eat meat and eat vegetables, when plants also have life?

Hindus' Holy Scriptures like the Srīmadbhagwadgitā recommend a vegetarian diet, as it is a spiritually pure ( ttvik) diet, while a non-vegetarian diet is a spiritually impure ( masik) diet. The health benefits of a vegetarian diet and the fact that animals feel much more pain than do plants, are established scientific consensus!
Hinduism teaches one to overcome the spiritually inferior components of Raja-Tama to progress in the spiritually pure component of Sattva, as it promotes spiritually pure qualities like love, courage, economy, fairness, etc.   

5. Why is Hinduism so confusing?

Imagine a first-grade student looking at Ph. D. level curriculum; it would seem confusing! Hinduism is comprehensive. It has many Scriptures (4 Vēds, 108 Upanishads, 18 primary Purāṇs , 18 upa-purāṇs for each primary Purāṇs , Itihasas, the Srīmadbhagwadgitā  , Tantras, Samhitās, upa-samhitās, and 1000s of other Shrutī and Smrutī texts; and many other books, compositions and commentaries by the Āchāryas) that provide a profound system of attaining complete and direct knowledge about the Divine.

Even a literal study of Hinduism's many Scriptures can take lifetimes. Add to that the fact that most scriptures of Hinduism are in Sanskrit, which needs several years to master. Otherwise, one is often at the mercy of widespread mis-translations by non-Hindu (often anti-Hindu) so-called scholars.

Hinduism can be confusing to one who has not studied and understood its basic principles, which are like the grammar to understand a language. Hence, rather than trying to understand Hinduism with one's own limited intellect, it is important to learn it from an authority on the subject, that is, Hindu Saints/Gurus. They can make us well versed in the “grammar” to understand and live Hinduism (Dharma).

6. Why can’t Hindus pray directly to God? Why do Hindus need a middle man?

In Hinduism, accessing God is not just limited to prayer, but there is a system of spiritual paths to experience that one is none other than God! Hinduism's Scriptures like the Vēds and the Srīmadbhagwadgitā  are not man-made, but have come directly from God or His Incarnation.

Unlike ideologies that emphasise the separation between human and Divine, Hinduism teaches that with the guidance and grace of a spiritual authority like a Guru, it is relatively simple to progress to the constant experience of Divinity in oneself and everything.

7. What is the real meaning of ‘Om’?

Some Hindu Scriptures like the Mandukya Upanishad are entirely devoted to the explanation of ‘Om’, which may give some idea about how profound this syllable is - it is considered to be the primal sound, Divine syllable.  

In brief, the syllable ‘Om’ or ‘Aum’ is taken to consist of three phonemes, ‘a’, ‘u’ and ‘m’, variously symbolising the 3 Vēds , the Hindu trimurti (‘a’ representing Brahmā , ‘u’ Vishnu and ‘m’ Shiva) or the 3 stages in life (birth, life and death). ‘Om’ is a sacred syllable representing Brahman, the impersonal Absolute of Hinduism - omnipotent, omnipresent, and the source of all manifest existence.

8. Why does God have wife and children in Hinduism?

This is a misconception. In Hinduism, God (Īshwar, Brahman) does not have wife or children, as the God principle is unmanifest. In the context of Deities, the male deity is the Purush or Principle aspect of God, the female deity is the Prakruti or Energy aspect of God, and children refer to the combination of those Divine Principles and Energies.

For example, Srī  Durga is the Divine Energy of Shiva who is the Destroyer principle of God, and Srī  Ganesh is the Divine Principle spiritually born of Srī Durga and Shiva principles. It is like the color yellow comes from a combination of green and blue colors.

9. Why don’t Hindus worship at regular times?

In Hinduism, there are various systems of worship. In the path of ritualistic worship (karmā kand), there are auspicious times during each day, week, month and year, to perform such worship. For example, one should perform ritualistic worship after taking a shower in the early morning hours and soon after sunset.

However, Hinduism teaches to progress from worship limited to regular times, to worshipping the Divine all the time; only the mode of worship will differ accordingly. This constant communion with God is achieved at higher stages in the spiritual journey, through constant remembrance of His Name and contemplation on the Divine.

People who do not follow any form of worship are found in all communities, not limited to the Hindu community.

10. Why could Hinduism not develop (like some other religions did)?

This is a misconception. Hinduism is already the most developed, advanced system and science; the concern should be not about developing it, but to understand, live and preserve it!

If one is referring to spreading the way some religions did, Hinduism historically has not spread like that, as the whole world used to be Hindu before religions were created and spread. Hinduism (Sanatan Dharma) teaches the way of peace and expansiveness, devoid of sectarianism that causes divisive evangelism, forced conversions and disharmony. However, it is the need of times that Hindus take and impart Hinduism education, and stand united to stem the tide of such assaults.

 

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