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Re: gods

In article <2q6quh$qm3@ucunix.san.uc.edu> mani@crissy.stanford.edu (Mani  
Varadarajan) writes:
> In article <2q46jg$1t3@ucunix.san.uc.edu> kmanoj@po.EECS.Berkeley.EDU  
(Manoj Khiani) writes:
> > Well, as you may or may not know, Hinduism is polytheistic.  Many  
> > I think, personify similar attributes. 
> I prefer to avoid the term Hinduism precisely for this reason.
> I don't know what you mean by it. Certain people who are considered
> Hindus are polytheistic; others are not. Others are atheists, others
> are animists, others perform ancestor worship.

Agree with the sentiment largely, but I must point out that more often  
than not, a typical 'Hindu' is an animist on one day (e.g. Naga panchami)  
an ancestor worshipper another day (a day of shraaddha) and a polytheist  
on all days. 

> Let's deal with a real religion -- say the religion of Bhakti, or
> better yet, take Vaishnavism, a religion that exists all across 
> India.  People who call themselves Vaishnavas are very clearly
> monotheists. Same for strict Saivas. What's more, it is much easier
> to identify the beliefs, practices, and religious texts of Vaishnavas
> than it is of "Hindus". Why have we succumbed to adopting a vague term
> foisted upon our people (who are exceedingly diverse) by outsiders?

How many such "strict" Vaishnavas and Saivas can one find? A Vaishnava  
family which uses Vedic rites at crucial events (naming, upanayanam,  
marriage, funeral) and calls upon Indra, Agni, Soma, Varuna, Mitra and  
Viswedevas is by no means strictly monotheistic. Same for Saivas. Except  
for the Lingayats, I don't think there are any such 'strict' monotheists.  
Vaishnavas are more known for excluding Siva from worship, and Saivas for  
excluding Vishnu!

On the other hand, aren't the terms Christian and Muslim as vague as the  
word Hindu? There are Catholics, Protestants, and Eastern Orthodox people  
and there are Shias and Sunnis and Sufis; no 'typical' Christian or  
'typical' Muslim. Just as the word Christian helps one identify a set of  
beliefs and just as the word Muslim does the same, so does the word Hindu.  
The only thing to be remembered is that because of its broad width of  
conflicting views, the word Hindu can be more confusing. Ultimately, the  
word Hindu is only a convenient way of referring to ourselves. Clearly, in  
accepting that the Vedas are sruti (at least in theory) a vast majority of  
Indian people coalesce into what can be described as orthodox Hindu. Thus  
the Jains and Buddhists and the Lingayats who don't believe that the Vedas  
are sruti are even in the Indian tradition seen as not 'in', therefore for  
purposes of modern reference, not Hindu. 

> I believe this topic merits discussion. In essence, what I am trying
> to say in a non-inflammatory manner is that the term "Hindu" means
> very little compared to "Christian", "Jew", or "Muslim". On the other
> hand, the terms "Animist", "Vaishnava", "Saiva", "Advaitin", mean
> a heck of a lot more.  In many cases, a Vaishnava and Saiva have as
> much in common as a Christian and a Muslim living in Lebanon, i.e.,
> the overall culture and language may be similar, but the religious
> beliefs and practices are starkly different. 

Maybe so, but in many more cases, in India, the "Animist", the  
"Vaishnava", the "Saiva" and the "Advaitin" have a heck of a lot more in  
common among themselves than does a Christian and a Muslim in Lebanon. The  
vast majority of people who consider themselves Hindu do worship all  
deities though they may have some sort of mental hierarchy about which  
deity is superior to the rest. 

> [Moderator, please inform me if you have rejected this article
> as being anti-Hindu. Thank you.]
> Peace,
> Mani

S. Vidyasankar

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