India – Not a mere Nation but a Civilization, Hinduism – Not a Religion but a Culture

The concepts of Nation and Religion are a western world view imported into the Indian society. So when you say India is a mere nation or Hinduism is a religion, that is a very narrow definition you are ascribing to both. Let us see why.

Why is India not a mere Nation?

A nation is a western concept, as a political geographical boundary separating societies and its people meant to be united in a “nationalist” idea. But a political nation need not necessarily always mean a unified society. Take the case of UK which is a nation, and Scotland which is a part of it is soon going to vote in September 2014 to decide if they want independence from United Kingdom. Take the case of erstwhile unified nations which went on to be divided into smaller nations later.

Nor do two nations living side by side mean their societies are not unified. East and West Germany were separated as nations but they were a unified society and hence became unified later. So was North and South Vietnam which was artificially separated by political ideologies. People of North and South Korea have a lot more in common than the boundaries that separate them today. The society in India is lot more diverse than the countries in Europe and still we are a single nation!

Diversity of India

India is not a mere Nation, but a Civilization

Hinduism is the world’s third largest religion (in its popular perception as being a religion) after Christianity and Islam. However, an overwhelming majority of Hindus live as a single nation. On the other hand you have Christian majority countries and Muslim majority countries that area a fraction of the size of India living as separate countries next to each other.

Hindus in spite of being such a diverse population in terms of language, geography, practices continue to live as a single nation. The reason? All Hindus share a common civilization which gives them a diverse yet unified culture. They speak different languages and yet think as a single society.

Mere Religion can never be a unifying force, only a common culture springing out of a common civilization can be. Else the entire Europe could have been a single nation, so would have been the entire middle-east. We have a classic example in our neighborhood in how Bangladesh separated from Pakistan.

And it is not just Hinduism alone. Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, all co-exist as a single diverse society in India. Even religions which entered India from outside like Zoroastrianism, Islam, Christianity all have been one in the diverse Indian society and yet maintain their unique identity. Be an invader or a refugee, neither can you destroy the Indian civilization nor does it destroy you. Everybody gets absorbed into this great idea of India.

Civilizations have risen and fallen across the world – Mesopotamian, Babylonian, Egyptian, Sumerian, Roman, Persian all have had their times and vanished – Indian civilization continues to flourish magnanimously since time immemorial irrespective of whether it is a nation or a collection of kingdoms, rising and falling empires, invaders, refugees, doesn’t matter. For India is not a mere nation, but a grand idea with its roots firmly set in the welfare and well being of not just humanity but all life forms.

Why is Hinduism NOT a religion?

Try answering these questions, and you will see why Hinduism is NOT a religion.

  • Who is the founder of Hinduism?
  • Which is that single holy book in Hinduism which all Hindus have to abide by?
  • Who is that almighty single personal God in Hinduism?
  • Which is that single religious institution of Hinduism?
  • Who is that single religious head in Hinduism?

Answers to all these questions are in the negative. Hinduism has no single founder, no single holy book, no single religious head or institution, no single personal God. And there is even more, you can be an atheist and still be a Hindu. You can disagree with all the popular holy books and still be a Hindu. You may have never visited a Hindu temple, and still be a Hindu. It is not about doing Pooja and saying prayers. It is the way you live your life as a Hindu. You can be a Hindu and still go and pray at a Church, nobody can stop you! There is no blasphemy in Hinduism. You can criticize and debate about every aspect of it without any fear. In fact texts like Upanishads, Gitas are full of extremely critical debates and discussions on various core aspects of Hinduism.

Why is Hinduism a Culture?

You practice your religion, but you live your culture.  In Hinduism you don’t practice anything, it is your lifestyle. There is nothing like converting to Hinduism. You do not have missionaries in Hinduism. No where do you find in any Hindu text about how one can convert to Hinduism. You just live your life as a Hindu.

Every aspect of nature is divine in Hinduism which means nature should be respected for it provides us shelter, food and a life supporting system in this Universe. So Hindus worship rivers, mountains, trees, air, water, even other animals, Sun, Moon, planets, knowledge, wealth, everything in the Universe is divine for a Hindu. So you respect nature, follow the laws of nature, and don’t be greedy. Tarudevobhava - trees are divine. You don’t cut trees just like that if you are a true Hindu. In fact you will do everything you can to preserve every aspect of nature around you. Birds build beautiful nests without damaging or altering the surroundings around their nests.

In Kerala and in the coastal belt along Karnataka every ancient family settlement has a backyard area which is called Kaavu in Malayalam (in Kerala) and Haadi in Kannada (in Karnataka). This Kaavu or Haadi is a mini forest area untouched by humans and left for wild animals. Kaavu or Haadi are home to many wild life forms. When the ancient Hindus started building houses, they were quite aware that they were encroaching into the land of the wild animals and birds. So they created these mini forests and ensured continuous protection to these areas throughout generations. Such forest areas and trees were tagged sacred, to ensure people didn’t go and encroach them again. Do you see the reason why they paint the images of Gods and Goddesses on walls to prevent people from littering around?

You treat your guests like Gods - athithidevobhava. You wake up early in the morning in the Brahmi MuhurthaAyurveda and Yoga is your life style to be healthy and sound – both in mind and body. Ayurveda is not a medicinal system, but a natural life style you live so that you don’t ever need medicines. Yoga is not just an hour a day physical fitness session, it starts with teaching you how to breathe. And you breathe throughout your life, not for just an hour a day. So they are part of your life style.

Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam , the entire world is a family is what you abide by if you are a Hindu. Not just all humans, but all living beings are created equally. So we say Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah, may all living beings live happily, in peace, may good happen to all,  may all prosper and live their lives to their fullest potential.

And all this is done without any prayer to a personal God or without following any religious rituals. Religious rituals are just that, original life styles with rational reasons which overtime become practices irrespective of whether they still hold good or not. Religions are stagnant, always have fixed set of laws, culture is not. Hinduism is a culture that constantly evolves, you can discard earlier lifestyles which are no longer applicable or valid in your times or in your place. Which is why you find different sections of Hindus in different geographies having their own lifestyle which is so diverse from others. Lifestyle in Hinduism is both time bound and geography specific wherever applicable – again the reason why it is a culture that evolves and not a religion.

And if you want a constitutional approval of Hinduism being a culture, below is an excerpt from a 1996 judgement by the Supreme Court of India on what Hindutva or Hinduism means

Hindutva is indicative more of the way of life of the Indian people. It is not to be understood or construed narrowly. It is not Hindu fundamentalism nor is it to be confined only to the strict Hindu religious practices or as unrelated to the culture and ethos of the people of India, depicting the way of life of the Indian people. Considering Hindutva as hostile, inimical, or intolerant of other faiths, or as communal proceeds from an improper appreciation of its true meaning.

Hinduism is a culture not a religion, and India is a civilization not a mere nation.

  • vasundhara chaudhry

    It’s a brilliantly written article in such a simple yet beautiful way. Cleared so many questions and points. So thankful for this. Keep the good work going. Really good job. :)

  • Ramakrishnan

    True. Wonderful thought. Our aim should be one World One Family…

  • Nikhil1911

    This may sound racist but it is not, it is the truth – but the white man has invented nothing. He has just copied/pasted everything.

    Computers and Vedas – buy this book, I cannot, I stay aborad. No Western store has it.

    In the Vedas, principles laid down in Mimamsa philosophy vis-a-vis the modern computational systems. Further it asserts that some of the latest principles of computer science were already recorded in Mimamsa texts. To corroborate with the above statement the author selects the FORTAN language of computer to demonstrate the value of expression by an assignment statement. Subprogram in Vedas, data transmission, categorization of statements, queues/stacks & paurvaparya & vitati; time sharing systems, processing time computers; Avilamba of Mimamsa; and password concept in the light of Adhikarvadhi

  • Sambit

    Amazing article..so refreshing..it simply reinforced my absolute faith in sanatan dharma..proud to be a hindu…

  • sceptic

    Its true that Hinduism is a way of life (or culture) having thousands of years of existance. But due to political reasons , some are trying to mould it to zemetic form, which will eventually destroy this culture. This culture is still persisting in spite of numerous invations and attacks due to its non-centric non-zemetic nature. In order to sustain this culture we should eradicate the evil of caste system from its body.

    • itzguru

      True, and the first and most important step to eradicate caste system is government should stop asking which caste a person belongs to. No government application form should have a column for caste.

  • prem k.r paswan

    guru ji input some of the load krishana bhajan ,like Anup Jalota song

  • ecommset

    Vedic Ancient Model and Modern Model of “Science”

    Science is Science, but the fact is we are human, we may select wrong model or wrong direction, heading towards in search of truth and our identity or “to be exact” for our comfort ness.

    Modern Science is more of in search of Comfort-ness than in search of eternal truth.
    So our psychology is to find shortcut of everything to gain the fast comfort.

    So this shortcut leads to Hazards, may long for 1000 to 2000 years at the most for our human civilization.

    I want to discuss here, Model of Vedic Science and so the Eternal (sanatana) Science.

    What are prime and basic model of vedic science, why it is so eternal, why do we eat fruits of that, today also. Why in regular interval, we think that oh! it was there in Veda.

    Biggest question is “why we Indian people can not lead and propel further to our Vedic science” ?

    1. Come out from Modern science model and the infrastructure associated with it.
    2. Rebuild the Basic Infrastructure of Vedic Science Model.
    3. Make Systematic and Compulsory learning of Veda.
    4. Force the Government for above.
    5. Re-establish the importance of Vedic Model
    6. Re-discover the Logic and ideology of Vedic Science
    7. Master the Logic and Direction of essence of Veda.
    8. Re-discover Mantra-tantra-yantra Science which is some sort of comfort-ness for every day life instead of modern gazettes, Hence the Mantra science is more of Eternal science but can be utilize for daily comfort.
    9. Movement for Mass adoption of the Vedic Science

  • ecommset

    History repeats and revenge of karma

    I want to discuss some thing unusual, but it is usual by nature, you have to think wide for this matter, because topic is sensitive.

    My research is all about ” why India is conquested by so many attackers of world.
    example, Huna, Kushites, greeks, romans, turk, mongols, islam, britishers , where as india had never attacked any of these people and country.

    Reason is hidden in Law of Karma, and Karma’s revenge.

    let us go to ancient world when,
    1. Lord Parshuram eradicated Kshatriya Kings form the earth,
    2. Rama conquered Shrilanka and other countries
    3. Mahabharata, so many kings of the world, were destroyed along with their army and people.

    and there are many more legendary wars in ancient India.

    So naturally, revocation of Law of Karma comes in to fact.

    Those were the people affected by above wars took rebirth after so many thousand years and came to India and attacked India and their culture and people.

    Above required more research to justify the facts.

    • itzguru

      Hahaha, you are talking as if people in other parts of the world never warred with each other, were always at peace, and India went around destroying other parts of the world.

      And
      1) Why did Parashuram eradicate Kshatriya kings? What about the Karma behind his reason? Did he suddenly go nuts and start doing it?
      2) Why did Rama attack Srilanka (he did not conquer it, the throne was handed over to Ravana’s brother), Was he a war mongering mongol or Iranian shah to go and attack Ravan? What about Ravana’s karma?
      3) Why was the Mahabharata war fought? Did Pandavas never faced any injustice and they suddenly ganged up with other kings to start a big war? What about the karma of Kauravas?

      I will tell you about the Good Karma India and Hinduism has. There have been onslaughts on other parts of the world too. Egyptian civilization got destroyed, so did Mesopotamian, Babylonian, Sumerian, Even Tibet got conquered by Chinese, Pagans vanished, Zoroastrianism vanished, Buddhist vanished from its earlier dominance. On the other hand Hinduism and Indian culture which is much older than all these cultures and civilizations survives even today, Hinduism is the third largest religion in the world, no amount of invasions, attacks have been able to destroy the culture of Hinduism and that of the Vedic civilization from India unlike what happened in Iran, America, Australia, Italy, and other parts of the world.

      So if you look at it India and Hinduism has more good karma which has saved us inspite of all the odds, attacks, loot, invasion we have faced for thousands of years. So there is nothing to crib about for us, abrahamic religions succeeded in spreading across the planet, but not in India.

      Now tell me, you still think we have bad karma ?

      • ecommset

        Thanks for your reply, It is a Great reply….

        I think Who were sufferer from ancient Indian war, were Vedic Hindu originally, they reborn there and as a different culture and religion and attacked us through past 1000 years.

        Whatever,we fought to destroy evil of those time, but like ” suke (dried) ke saath hara (green wet) bhi jalata (burn) hai ”

        Those vedic hindu, who suffered and survived, they ran from India and settled there like

        Persia : parsu tribes

        Dahyus

        Kushan : Kush Tribes

        Kambojian: Kamboj

        Yadus: Judas

        Arabs: Ashwa, Arva Tribes

        Laos : Luv Tribes

        Egypt: Ajapati

        likewise many tribes of Vedic Hindus settled there and they forgot 90% of the essence of Veda and they developed their own culture and religions.

        They must have forgot Samskara also.

        They reborn and come back to india and attacked us by law of Karma

        Reason could be whatever , either they want to conquer us or loot of the wealth of India or destroy our culture , This is a most favoured reason i guess, why Islam and Christianity spread so vast in the world ? inspite they do major devilish performs to spread their culture. Why God is not resisting them?, Why we Hindu do small devilish thing and we loose everything?. Why God do not give instant justice to them. All these questions leads to The rethinking the law of Karma,

        Vedic India was The Jumbu-dwipa and consisted from Ethiopia to Australia to Mayan Maxico (south America), Some part of China etc..

        See Islam is spreaded almost in all Asian countries, European has conquered all most where Vedic Civilisation was there.

        So they might had reborn from Vedic Hindu to current culture and attacked for conquering and attacking the world major countries.

        Why China never Attacked us before 1950 inspite they were populated than India, they had a solid reason?
        Why Russia never Attacked India?,
        Why greeks, roman, arabs, mongols, turks, huna etc. are only attacker in the world?

        All these leads to Law Of Karma i suppose.

        Also, if you think Micro, you will realise God is fighting with God means fighting with Himself to Justify their creations and balance.
        “Jaise Ek khudki soch ke saath khudki soch ko hi ladna padta hai” Clash of thoughts.

        • itzguru

          I dont buy this logic, both sides suffered in those wars, and wars have happened across the world civilizations. And as I said earlier, why did all other civilizations on this planet vanish without trace and new ones took over, while vedic culture continues to survive in big numbers?

          You are speaking as if the situation today is permanent, but if you look at history that is not the case. There have been times throughout history where other philosophies, religions, cultures have risen above Hinduism and gone down without trace after that. So these are just temporary times.

          Remember once upon a time Buddhist was the greatest threat to Hindu culture, if spread beyond what one can even imagine today occupying more than 80% of the world then. If you read the texts of those times people thought Hindus is as good as finished. Where is Buddhism today?

          Yada Yada hi dharmasya, it has always happened in the past, will always happen in the future – reestablishment of sanatana dharma as a major world culture. I never worry about the survival of Hinduism, it has merit and will always be there. These are just cycles, nothing too much to worry about or break our heads about it.

    • Harry Potter

      Hm..that’s an interesting point-of-view that is. However, there are some loopholes that’d better be stuffed.

      1. None of the people who died were from outside India (or say outside the purview of Hindu/Indian culture)
      2. None of the people who attacked were from India! So, how does one explain the irony?
      To this you may simply reply that reincarnation is not bound to a region or a culture and those who died in the earlier wars reincarnated in Europe and West Asia and took revenge. Fair game! But, there’s more trouble with your assertion.

      1. It seems to be based on the famous one-liner western understanding of the concept of Karma – “That what goes around, comes around”. Which anybody who knows something about Karma will promptly admit, is not entirely true (Although it’s kind of true in essence and we must appreciate them trying to understand Indian ethos where appreciation is due). There’s more to Karma than that.
      2. The scriptures in Hinduism are supposed to be a guiding force, not a strict routine that must be adhered to. Therefore,we must wait for modern science to patronize reincarnation until we take it as a matter of fact.

      So, it’d be good if you changed ‘justify the facts’ to ‘justify the propositions’ until the research is done to fruition.

      I, personally, do not believe in reincarnation as yet, but an interesting point-of-view yours is! Good luck with your research.

      To end – Why could the Japanese not be invaded (bombed yes, but invaded no) when they invaded as many people as anybody else did in world history.

      • ecommset

        Point of discussion is…

        ” why India is conquested by so many attackers of world.
        example, Huna, Kushites, greeks, romans, turk, mongols, islam, britishers ,europeans, “where as india had never attacked any of these people and country.”

        Who were sufferer from ancient Indian war, were Vedic Hindu originally, they reborn there and as a different culture and religion and attacked us through past 1000 years.

        who were innocent and sufferer of those wars got this virtue of reborn for justifying Laws of Karma

        Justice for whom who has envy and hatred to Vedic Religion. Why they hate vedic culture? , yes they born hatred to vedic culture.

        Why anti-vedic people? where as Indian People never attacked them for last 2000 years. Indian people never converted them forcefully. We never destroyed their religious places,
        Why we are suffering for what reason,? why we accepted partition,? why we shared our regions with them? Why and many whys for Vedic Hindu Culture….

        So i thought answer lies in Laws Of Karma….

        Nearest and Dearest can harm you more any time in principles whether today or in long future.

        When Lord Krishna Had to suffer for his bodily-death reason from His Karma……………….

  • Suchi

    really helpful info for today’s confused generations of ours.. Thanks a lot and please keep posting..

    • itzguru

      Thank you.

  • Surya

    How can I thank you personally?..I have been following closely this Blog zine…every article is informative..insightful..eye opener..some times I feel so sad after knowing the fact of how we were and how we are today….at the same time feel really proud of the same fact, that we belong to such a gr8 culture heritage..hmm!..it must be the god’s grace that we have taken birth on this land…

    • itzguru

      by sharing all this information with everybody you can :)

  • vicky

    gud one

    • sree

      Informative :)