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Indian religions

Religions originated in India
The endless variety of Indian philosophy and religion seems to the European mind interminable, bewildering, wearisome, useless; it is unable to see the forest because of the richness and luxuriance of its vegetation; it misses the common spiritual life in the multitude of its forms. Sri Aurobindo

Indian religions, also termed as Dharmic faiths or religions, are the religions that originated in the Indian subcontinent; namely Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism. These religions are also all classified as Eastern religions. Although Indian religions are connected through the history of India, they constitute a wide range of religious communities, and are not confined to the Indian subcontinent.

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  • The endless variety of Indian philosophy and religion seems to the European mind interminable, bewildering, wearisome, useless; it is unable to see the forest because of the richness and luxuriance of its vegetation; it misses the common spiritual life in the multitude of its forms. But this infinite variety is itself, as Vivekananda pertinently pointed out, a sign of a superior religious culture. The Indian mind has always realised that the Supreme is the Infinite; it has perceived, right from its Vedic beginnings, that to the soul in Nature the Infinite must always present itself in an endless variety of aspects. The mentality of the West has long cherished the aggressive and quite illogical idea of a single religion for all mankind, a religion universal by the very force of its narrowness, one set of dogmas, one cult, one system of ceremonies, one array of prohibitions and injunctions, one ecclesiastical ordinance.
  • In view of deliberate attempts in recent decades to project Buddhism and Jainism as separate religions, distinct from Hinduism, it would be in order to deal with them in passing. the attempts have clearly been motivated by the design to separate their followers from the parent body called Hinduism just as Sikhs have been to an extent. Though not to the same extent as in the case of Sikhs, the attempts have succeeded in as much as neo-Buddhists and at least some Jains have come to regard themselves as non-Hindus. In reality, however, Buddhisms and Jainism have been no more than movements within the larger body of Hinduism, not significantly different from Lingayats, Saktas or Bhaktas of more recent times.
  • A number of Indians have tried to define secularism as sarva dharma samabhava (equal respect for all religions). I cannot say whether they have been naive or clever in doing so. But the fact remains that secularism cannot admit of such an interpretation. In fact, orthodox Muslims are quite justified in regarding it as irreligious. Moreover, dharma cannot be defined as religion which is a Semitic concept and applies only to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Hinduism is not a religion in that sense; nor are Jainism and Buddhism, or for that matter, Taoism and Confucianism.
    • Girilal Jain, "Limits of the Hindu Rashtra", in : Elst, Koenraad: Ayodhya and after, Appendix I
  • Likewise, there is much truth in Voltaire's enthusiastic Orientalist assumption that unlike Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the Indian and Chinese “religions” were not based on prophetic “revelations” but on a purely human contemplation of reality.
    • K. Elst: 2001, Decolonizing the Hindu Mind, p. 44
  • As part of their entrenched power position, the British colonisers and later their Nehruvian successors have always tried to control the discourse on religion. Among other concerns, they have seen to it that the term "Hindu" got divorced from its historical meaning, which quite inclusively encompassed all Indian Pagans, in order to fragment Hindu society. In parallel with their effort to pit caste against caste, they have tried to pit sect against sect, offering nurture to the egos of sect leaders by telling them that in fact they were popes in their own right of full-fledged religions, equal in status but morally superior to Hinduism. Hindu Revivalists have countered this effort by reaffirming the basic Hindu character of tribal Animism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism and more recent reformist sects. In some cases, the separation of sects from the Hindu commonwealth was entirely contrived and artificial, in others it had a partial doctrinal justification, though even there the proper distinction was never between them and "Hinduism" as historically conceived, but between them and the Vedic-Puranic "Great Tradition" of Hinduism.
    • Elst, K. (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism.
  • Yet, at the sociological level, the Jain community is entirely part of Hindu society... Historically, Jainism has always enjoyed a place under the umbrella of Hindu pluralism, suffering clashes with southern Shaivism only a few times when its own sectarianism had provoked the conflict. Deciding the question whether Jainism is a sect of Hinduism requires a proper definition of Hinduism... On the other hand, if Hinduism means the actually observed variety of religious expressions among non-Muslims and non-Christians in India, then there is nothing in Jainism that would make it so radically different as to fall outside this spectrum. If Hinduism means all traditions native to India (as per Savarkar and the original Muslim usage), then obviously Jainism is a Hindu tradition.
    • Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • Jains are the best Hindus of all.
    • BJP President Murli Manohar Joshi, Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • I do not regard Jainism or Buddhism as separate from Hinduism. Hinduism believes in the oneness not of merely all human life but in the oneness of all that lives.
    • Mahatma Gandhi. October 1927. The Collected Works, Volume 35, New Delhi, 1968, pp. 166-67. Quoted in Goel, S.R. History of Hindu-Christian Encounters (1996)
  • It was only in the nineteenth century that Western Indologists and Christian missionaries separated the Buddhists, the Jains, and the Sikhs from the Hindus who, in their turn, were defined as only those subscribing to Brahmanical sects.... Nowhere in the voluminous Muslim chronicles do we find the natives of this country known by a name other than Hindu. There were some Jews, and Christians, and Zoroastrians settled here and there... The chronicles distinguish these communities from the Muslims on the one hand, and from the natives of this country on the other. It is only when they come to the natives that no more distinctions are noticed; all natives are identified as ahl-i-Hunûd-Hindu!... In all their narratives, all natives are attacked as Hindus, massacred as Hindus, plundered as Hindus, converted forcibly as Hindus, captured and sold in slave markets as Hindus, and subjected to all sorts of malice and molestation as Hindus. The Muslims never came to know, nor cared to know, as to which temple housed what idol. For them all temples were Hindu but-khãnas, to be desecrated or destroyed as such. They never bothered to distinguish the idol of one God or Goddess from that of another. All idols were broken or burnt by them as so many buts, or deposited in the royal treasury if made of precious metals, or strewn at the door-steps of the mosques if fashion from inferior stuff. In like manner, all priests and monks, no matter to what school or order they belonged, were for the Muslims so many “wicked Brahmans” to be slaughtered or molested as such. In short, the word “Hindu” acquired a religious connotation for the first time within the frontiers of this country. The credit for this turn-out goes to the Muslim conquerors. With the coming of Islam to this country all schools and sects of Sanãtana Dharma acquired a common denominator - Hindu!... Once again, it goes to the credit of the Muslim conquerors that the word “Hindu” acquired a national connotation within the borders of this country.
    • S.R. Goel in Shourie, A., & Goel, S. R. (1993). Hindu temples: What happened to them. Vol. II
  • The religions whose theology is least preoccupied with events in time and most concerned with eternity, have been consistently less violent and more humane in political practice. Unlike early Judaism, Christianity and Mohammedanism (all obsessed with time) Hinduism and Buddhism have never been persecuting faiths, have preached almost no holy wars and have refrained from that proselytizing religious imperialism which has gone hand in hand with political and economic oppression of colored people.
    • The Perennial philosophy - By Aldous Huxley
  • Caste is real. The working class is real. Being a Naga is real. But ‘India is just a geographical expression!’ Similarly, being a Muslim of course is real – Islam must be seen and talked of as one block of granite – ... But Hinduism? Why, there is no such thing: it is just an aggregation, a pile of assorted beliefs and practices – ... And anyone who maintains anything to the contrary is a fascist out to insinuate a unity, indeed to impose a uniformity, where there has been none. That is what our progressive ideologues declaim, as we have seen. In a word, the parts alone are real. The whole is just a construct. India has never been one, these ideologues insist – disparate peoples and regions were knocked together by the Aryans, by the Mughals, by the British for purposes of empire. Anyone who wants to use that construct – India – as the benchmark for determining the sort of structure under which we should live has a secret agenda – of enforcing Hindu hegemony.
    This is the continuance of, in a sense the culmination of, the Macaulay-Missionary technique. The British calculated that to subjugate India and hold it, they must undermine the essence of the people: this was Hinduism, and everything which flowed from it. Hence the doggedness with which they set about to undermine the faith and regard of the people for five entities: the gods and goddesses the Hindus revered; the temples and idols in which they were enshrined; the texts they held sacred; the language in which those texts and everything sacred in that tradition was enshrined and which was even in mid-nineteenth-century the lingua franca – that is, Sanskrit; and the group whose special duty it had been over aeons to preserve that way of life – the Brahmins. The other component of the same exercise was to prop up the parts – the non-Hindus, the regional languages, the castes and groups which they calculated would be the most accessible to the missionaries and the empire – the innocent tribals, the untouchables.
    • Arun Shourie - Eminent Historians: Their Technology, Their Line, Their Fraud
  • The Semitic religions are not religions in the Eastern sense of the term. Their thrust is towards outward expansion, not towards inward exploration. In fact, in the Eastern sense, they are not spiritualities, but are what Marx calls ideologies, tailored for political expansion and imperialist aggression. The two systems —Eastern and Semitic— differ widely in their outlook, perspective and approach. The former speaks in the language of Self or Atma, the latter in the language of external Gods; the former speaks of the Law, the rita, the inner, spiritual and moral law of being and action, the latter speak of Commandments of an external being. The two differ also in their concept of the deity. The god of Semitic religions is “jealous”; he can brook no other gods. He is the sole Lord of the world; therefore, he marches at the head of an army of believers to lay claim to his domain. Those who oppose him are rebels.
    • Ram Swarup. Ramakrishna Mission. (1986). Ramakrishna Mission: In search of a new identity.
  • This is not an idealization but a firm reality : no matter what the "evils of Hindu society" may have been, subjecting the individual's freedom of religion to any public authority is not one of them. No wonder that Voltaire, who strongly opposed the Church's totalitarian grip over men's lives, and may count as one of the ideologues of secularism, mentioned the religions of India and China as a model of how religion could be a free exploration by the individual.
    • Elst, Koenraad. Ayodhya and After: Issues Before Hindu Society (1991)

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