Will Hinduism grow into an universal religion in Australia

What is Meant by Universal Religion?
Each religion is characterised by its history, rituals, mythology, and philosophy which are not shared by other religions. Other non-Hindu religions all offer only one pathway for everyone to follow—they cannot be ideal universal religions.
Swami Vivekananda has extensively dealt with the idea of Universal Religion. These ideas are compiled in a comprehensive book form, “What Religion is in the words of Swami Vivekananda” by Swami Vidyatmananda (ISBN 81-85301-45-X). The essential point is that a society consists of people with so many varieties of minds and inclinations. Swami Vivekananda has grouped them into four categories.

  1. The active man, who aims to use his tremendous energy in doing work—
    charitable work, building hospitals, organisations, etc.
  2. The emotional man with excessive love for the sublime and the beautiful.
    He enjoys the aesthetic side of nature and adores love and the God of love.
    He has a love for the great souls of all times.
  3. The mystic, who is bent on analysing himself to understand the
    workings of the mind and obtain control over it.
  4. The philosopher who wants to weigh everything and use his intellect even
    beyond the possibilities of all human philosophies.

For a universal religion, it must be able to supply food for all these various types of minds: “…a religion that will be equally acceptable to all minds; it must be equally philosophic, equally emotional, equally mystic and equally conducive to action. And this combination will be the ideal, the nearest approach to a universal religion. To become harmoniously balanced in all these four directions is my ideal of religion.”
“This religion is attained by …YOGA—the union. To the worker it is a union between men and the whole of humanity; to the lover, the union between himself and the God of love; to the mystic, between his lower and higher Self; and to the philosopher, it is the union of all existence”. They represent different pathways known as Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga and Jnana Yoga, respectively. These pathways and more are recommended in the Bhagavad Gita and discussed in, especially but not restricted to, the following Gita verses: 3.03, 3.05, 3.09, 3.30, 4.11, 4.21, 2.47-8, 4.28, 7.21-2, 8.12, 8.22, 9.15, 9.23, 9.27, 11.53-4, 12.08-11 13.24-5, 18.66, 18.56.

Since they are all considered valid pathways, the question of conversion from one to another does not arise. Naturally, conversion has never been part of Hindu tradition. Conversion becomes a necessity when all minds need to fit into one chamber.

Is Hinduism a Universal Religion?
Because the Hindus are mostly concentrated in India, in a geographic sense Hinduism is not universal. However, like us in Australia, the Hindu diaspora now lives on all continents. It is time we think of Hinduism in universal terms. Hindu teachings are always directed to the whole of the human race. “Truth is one, sages call it by various names” proclaims the Rig Veda. “Aham Brahmasmi”, “Tat Tvam Asi”, and “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” all refer to the one human race with the individuals being sparks of the Divine. This attitude is fundamental to the Hindu psyche. The Bhagavad Geeta assures us, “In whatever manner humans approach Me, I favour them in that very manner. In all ways humans follow My path”. “Whichever form (of a deity) the devotees want to worship with faith, that very firm faith of theirs I strengthen.” Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna also reassures us, “Jata mat tata path” (as many faiths, so many paths). This idea reverberates all through the different schools of philosophy and the vast array of mythology. Its evolutionary nature keeps the Hindu book of knowledge open to adding new pages in the time to come. It has an enormous capacity to adapt and adjust to new rituals—even the rituals that belong to other religious traditions.
Yes, Hinduism is universal in its constitution.

Will Hinduism Grow into ‘the Religion of Choice’ in Australia?
Whether or not Hinduism will be ‘the Religion of Choice’ in Australia depends on how we and our institutions conduct ourselves. It could happen spontaneously if we first made ourselves perfect examples of human beings. For that to happen we need to start making conscious efforts to learn our spiritual wealth—philosophy, mythology, and rituals—and live the ideals of peace, perfection, and freedom. Philosophy gives us conviction in God. Stories of Mahabharata, Ramayana and Puranas inspire, mould, and enrich our values, ideals, and conducts. The rituals help grow the loving emotion that sustains spiritual practices. We need to cultivate all these things. Hindu households should all be inspired to have a shrine to trigger this chain of experiential knowledge. That the Hindus normally take so little interest in learning Hinduism may be because the spiritual literature is so vast that it poses an unsurmountable challenge to a beginner who gives up before trying. Cognitive psychologists would agree that if a challenge is perceived to be too high and unwinnable, there is little motivation to try to win it. This hindrance must be overcome. It requires a concerted effort to bring about a sea change in the way the Hindus live in Australia.
There is no central spiritual body to inspire the whole Hindu community. Hindu religious establishments, albeit many, are independent. No single establishment can reach out to the whole community. This void must be filled by a socio-political organisation of which the Hindu Council is the leading contender. Will the Hindu Council ready itself to take up this challenge in the spirit of a singular objective? It is suggested here that an initiative be made to prepare an essential information booklet, “Must Learn Hinduism Basics” in a concise, digestible form, and a copy be made available to each household.

Paper presented by

Dr Ashit Mohan Maitra for the Australian Hindu Conference 2021 

Hindu Chaplain
The University of Sydney                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The University of Technology Sydney (UTS)



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