the hindu religion

Given the right perspective, the hindu religion of india is, in contradistinction to the three monotheisms, much more:

  • individualistic (as opposed to communal). When hindus go to the temple they  crowd up to the priest, get a bit of consecrated food, offer a prayer and quickly leave, elbowing their way through the crowd; otherwise, they will stop by one of the empty, local shrines on their way to the market, offer a prayer and some incense and leave without having met or talked to anyone. There is no ‘congregation of believers’.
  • private. Whereas my parents would have us pray before meals, but performed all other religious functions in the public building of the church on sundays, ceremonies are, in india, mostly carried out in the home: the family (or at least the women) gather ’round the house’s shrine and perform the puja appropriate to that day. Worship is not displayed in public, usually.
  • pluralistic, by which i mean that run of the mill hindus are not particularly concerned about the Truth of their religion and are, moreover, very willing to accept all other religions as compatible with or instances of their own. There is no felt need to stake out a better-than-thou position.

Not to belabor the obvious, but i will point out that all three of these features are, of course, fundamental virtues of liberal western societies, but not of their religions.


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