This was a question on Quora to which I replied. Yet my reply was marked as “needing improvement” and was made invisible to others. I can‘t see anything wrong with my answer. Please judge for yourself.
Here is my reply:
Both points of the Quora question are right: Hinduism is the most reasonable system of living and it is being denigrated.
In case people, who don’t know much about Hinduism and believed those who denigrate it, have doubts if it is indeed the most reasonable system, this may clear their doubts:
The main point in Vedic philosophy is that the one, eternal Consciousness (Brahman) has become this universe. This claim is – apart from being the truth – clearly the best possible foundation for any society. If you believe (and it can be reasonably and scientifically concluded) that the essence in everything is the same and eternal or divine, there will be respect for others, including animals and nature, and you will also find strength and happiness in yourself.
There are many more great aspects in Hinduism, for example the four goals of life (purusharthas), four stages of life (ashramas), the dharmas connected with each stage, plus the huge knowledge in the ancient texts regarding worldly sciences and metaphysics, from which especially the West benefitted without acknowledging it.
But this is not the topic here.
The question is: Why is Hinduism being denigrated?
Incredibly, the reason is BECAUSE Hinduism is the most reasonable system of living. BECAUSE it is so profound. Because it comes closest to truth. Because Christianity and Islam are no match for it. And because those two religions need to protect themselves if they don’t want to lose their power and influence to the most reasonable system of living.…
This means the denigration is after all not so incredible, but can be explained:
When the Vedic knowledge first reached western universities, the intellectual elite there were impressed. Prominent personalities like Voltaire, Mark Twain, Schopenhauer, and many others spoke in glowing terms about India’s tradition. And even later, in the early 20th century scientists like Heisenberg, Schroedinger, Oppenheimer, Pauli, Einstein or Tesla were in their research inspired by Vedanta and acknowledged it. Voltaire had praised the Vedas as the greatest gift for humanity.
So there was real danger that the Church would lose her sheep as the Christian view of the ‘true’ God, who sits in heaven, is jealous of other gods and sends all those who are not baptized into eternal hellfire, was no match for the Indian concept of Brahman which is the one conscious essence in all forms, like the one ocean is the essence in all the waves.
Of course the Church was not keen on losing even more power than it had lost already due to people like Voltaire who fought against the Church’s unreasonable dogmas.
It surely wanted to put an end to this praise of India’s great civilization. And the strategy was simple and time-tested:
Teach children all over the world negative aspects about Hinduism and later generations will be convinced that it is worthless because that’s what they learnt.
But which negative aspects were there to project?
‘Idol-worship’ was projected as a top negative aspect, without even trying to understand it. They did not understand that the different ‘gods’ (‘deva’ was mischievously translated as god) are in essence one with Brahman. “Idol-worship” is a great sin in Christianity and Islam. So to point out that Hindus worship sun-god, tree-god, or a god with an elephant head did its job of making Hinduism look as primitive as earlier the pagan traditions were made to look primitive.
I remember how in school our ancestors were ridiculed that they worshipped trees or thought that god is angry when there was thunder. We believed what we were told and felt lucky that we now knew the one true God, who loves us so much that he even sent his own son to earth…
Next, they projected an “oppressive caste system”. Incidentally the term caste is not there in any ancient Indian text. The Vedas speak of four varnas, which were compared with the different parts of a human body, and varnas were fluid, not determined by birth.
Why did the British choose ‘caste’, a Portuguese term for class or race? Did they want to give the impression that the Hindu social system is ‘cast in stone’? The worst term they projected was ‘untouchables’, which convinced every school kid around the world that Hindus, and especially Brahmins, must be evil, forgetting that ‘not touching’ somebody is far less evil than butchering people because they did not accept Christianity or Islam. Moreover, as we know today, it may have even had hygienic reasons to avoid germs. Indians knew already thousands of years ago about germs causing illness, while in Europe doctors didn’t see value in washing hands even 200 years ago.
I won’t go into how the British cemented the ‘caste system’ and created untouchables by declaring whole tribes as ‘criminal by birth’. Those who are interested can search the net. Just so much: Hindus need NOT go on the defensive when ‘caste system’ is thrown at them. There is no need to get rid of the varna or jati system, only because ‘caste’ is so heavily criticised. Every society has a structure, and the Indian varna system might well be the best structure.
But yes, by all means give up any discrimination (and as a consequence, reservation). Yet discrimination against those, whom one sees socially below one’s own standing, is not inherent in Hinduism. It is inherent in human nature all over the world.
Neither need Hindus go on the defensive when ‘idol-worship’ is thrown at them. Acknowledging and worshipping the different powers in this universe, without which life would not be possible, surely makes sense. To greet the sun makes more sense than turning your back to him claiming, he is only a ball of helium. Touching the earth in reverence makes more sense than exploiting her. Not only are these powers or devas absolutely essential for our life, but are also permeated by that great Brahman. Everything is permeated by that one consciousness.
But one thing strikes me as strange: While the clergy of both dogmatic religions maliciously denigrate Hinduism, the Hindu clergy does nothing of this sort to the dogmatic religions. Hindus don’t even mention unacceptable claims by those religions which are in the public domain, like ‘Hindus will burn in hellfire if they don’t convert’. Why don’t Hindus do it? Wouldn’t it be in the interest of truth to point out their flaws?
Maybe the major reason why Hinduism is constantly being denigrated is to keep Hindus busy with defending themselves and in this way prevent them from realising that the Abrahamic religions have serious flaws.
And social media like Quora also pitches in by preventing posts, which present Hinduism in positive light, from reaching its readers… like it did with this article.
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