Hindu Society Contemporary Problems
From The Editor's Desk
(Hinduwebsite Editorial - Exploring Truth Amidst Illusions and Distortions)
Everywhere, the problems people face are endless. Most of them arise when people do not take responsibility for their actions. One may blame the government or the leaders for the ills of society, but in a democratic system these institutions come into existence with people's tacit consent, and approval.
Can anyone enter your house without your permission? Would you let garbage be thrown by others on your front yard? I think that in many parts of India people may not mind much if it happens just outside their houses, because they do not think that the earth and the country are also their homes.
Because of such attitudes, the Hindu community in India is currently going through many problems. As people from India migrate to other countries, they carry along with them some basic practices and perpetuate the values associated with them. The following are the most pressing problems faced by the Hindus in India and to some extent in other parts of the world.
Ignorance: According to a recent report about 35% of the world's illiterate people live in India. That is, one in three illiterate people in the world live there. Most of them live in the villages and remote tribal areas. Some of them migrate to the cities in search of work. Since the government hardly regulates and monitors the working conditions of poor laborers, they live in makeshift houses or sleep on the pavements in the most deplorable conditions. For them their main sources of education, if you can call it that, are Indian movies and television. You cannot expect them to practice any religion, since survival and feeding their families are their primary concern. They are also easily susceptible to conversion by missionaries who offer them economic incentives, while the educated and wealthy Hindus look away with problems and concerns of their own.
Confusion: With ignorance arises confusion of values, beliefs and priorities. Hinduism is a very complex religion. No one can definitely say what Hinduism really is. There are as many versions of Hinduism as there are people. Should you worship one God, ten gods or all gods? Should you believe in the Gita, the Tantras, the Upanishads, or the Sutras? Should you believe in gurus, and worship the enlightened humans called babas while your major gods worshipped for centuries receive no offerings? Many such questions are difficult to answer because in Hinduism there are conventions, customs and practices, but no definitive standards that can be universally applied. People may celebrate the common festivals with a lot of fanfare, but it is just one aspect of religious observance and in most cases very vain and cinematic. Festivals and rituals represent the outer aspects of Hinduism. They provide people with good opportunities to socialize and generate awareness but do not do much good to their souls. A religion can save its festivals, but festivals alone cannot save a religion.
Conflicts: Necessity forces people to live in communities, but it is difficult to make them agree to the same ideas and opinions. It should be rightly so. However, beneath diversity there must be unity so that people can largely live in peace and harmony. Hindus are probably the most disorganized, divided and conflicted society in the world today. A hundred years later, historians probably will study how for 60 years people have allowed atheistic and corrupt leaders and families to rule India generation after generation and how democracy has been degraded to such unique levels in the history of democracy itself. Hindus are divided into castes, linguistic communities, economic classes, and regional groups. These divisions and conflicts often escalate into hatred and communal clashes.
Corruption: Corruption is a major issue for the Hindu community. Hindus have been bribing rulers, ruling classes, and gods for centuries, but in modern India it has assumed a greater dimension. Corruption has filtered down to the grassroots level and infected the society at large. Unfortunately, it is not going to go away anytime soon, because people see corrupt leaders, business people, and employees amassing huge wealth in a short time, and not being punished at all. In a corrupt society, it does not make sense to a common man to live honestly while he has to pay extra for every service. For most of them it is easier to join the looting programs rather than fighting against them. It is a huge problem, so much so that people are now bribing gods also by throwing a lot of black money into temple coffers and seeking favors from them. In most busy temples during rush hours, some people get a priority pass to see the deities, while others have to wait. It is a shame, but it regularly happens in the very presence of God. The income disparities in India are also a problem. On the one hand you have nearly 400 million people with less than five dollars a day income and on the other you have a consumer market that wants to push products at the same prices for which they are sold in the western countries where the per capita income is $40000 - $50000.
Lack of values: Hinduism places a lot of importance on righteousness (dharma) and morality. The theory of karma implies that if you engage in evil actions you will suffer from the consequences. The Bhagavadgita is all about cultivating purity (sattva) and manifesting divine qualities. All the scriptures emphasize the importance of selfless living, so much so that even using the mind and body for selfish purposes is considered evil. If you examine Hindu society today, people mostly follow the evil qualities enumerated in the Bhagavadgita rather than the divine qualities. They live very selfishly and pay little attention to the problems of the poor and the backward castes.
How this will impact
Will Hinduism survive until the end of this century? Many things can happen, but the following are most likely scenarios.
1. Disintegration: If the present trends continue, Hinduism will most likely disintegrate in the next hundred years and lose a sizeable following. Only certain sections of Hindu society, such as the Brahmanas and some higher castes, will remain faithful to its values and practices. The rest may turn to atheism, communism, or other religions. The large scale migration of Hindus will continue, eroding their numbers further.
2. Localization: Hinduism may survive outside India, but it will have local flavors and not much relevance to the fate of Hinduism India. The second and third generation immigrant Hindus will have a different attitude and mindsent from the present generation.
3. Hybridization: Certain sectarian movements and teacher traditions will rise to prominence under the leadership of charismatic gurus. They may call themselves Hindus, whereas in reality they will be just branded versions of Hinduism.
Suggestions for Further Reading
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