Hinduism, Problems, Prospects and Challenges
From The Editor's Desk
(Hinduwebsite Editorial - Exploring Truth Amidst Illusions and Distortions)
Hinduism is a continuous living faith with a history that dates back to prehistoric times. Since it was not an organized religion, many beliefs and practices of the Indian subcontinent that could not be distinguished or categorized as organized religions became part of Hinduism. On the positive side, it enriched Hinduism and made it acceptable and appealing to diverse groups of people.
At the same time on the negative side it imparted to it inherent weaknesses, contradictions, confusion, and a miscellaneous aspect. Because of its complex nature it is difficult for people to practice it without proper knowledge and guidance. The tradition of gurus or spiritual masters is supposed to address the problem, but unfortunately it suffers from lack of credibility due to the actions of few individuals with questionable integrity.
Since it is a continuing tradition, Hinduism has to cope with the burden of its past also. A major problem is dealing with the social change and the increasing diversity of the people who practice it. Due to the progress of our civilization and advances in our knowledge and ways of living, many ancient practices and customs which were once justified are no more tenable or acceptable to today's Hindus.
For example, the birth based caste system or the lesser status that has been accorded to women and people of less privileged sections cannot be justified as in the past. Women want their voices to be heard and respected and expect that gender discrimination will cease to be a social issue. So is the case with the groups that have traditionally and historically been subjected to many disabilities in the past. Their demand for equality and fair treatment cannot be ignored.
Another important change that happened in the last few centuries is that Hinduism is no more confined to India. Many Hindu families from India migrated to other countries where Hinduism was never practiced before. At the same time many people from other countries joined Hinduism and made it their religion. Thus, globalization of Hinduism created its own challenges, since people who practice the faith have to cope with local traditions and customs, and adapt to the circumstances.
The lack of formalized leadership which is acceptable to all Hindus, and which can dictate policy and principles of the doctrine to all the faithful as in case of dogmatic religions, is another problem. The organizations that seem to exert influence over a wide section of Hindus do not enjoy universal acceptance because of their political and geographic affiliations and their limited resources. Many moderate Hindus view them with suspicion and do not trust their policies, politics, and programs. It practically leaves every Hindu to the mercy of his own judgment and discretion. While present day Hindus enjoy enormous freedom in choosing their beliefs and practices, it also keeps them divided and unorganized to deal with the problems the community faces as a whole.
Many scholars, institutions, and spiritual groups have been working hard to spread the right information about the faith and create right awareness among Hindus. However, their effort pales in comparison to the tons of money that has been flowing into India from outside and the organized and concerted effort of the forces that are inimical to Hinduism to convert its people to their faith. Equally troublesome is the destabilization effort by certain foreign and indigenous groups from within and without to weaken Hinduism and its leadership by fomenting the communal divide between Hindus and non-Hindus, and between India and its neighboring countries.
These problems do not seem to go away anytime soon. They are going to afflict individuals and the community and test their faith. Hinduism will have to cope with the challenges of modern times, ensuring at the same time that the new generation of Hindus remain loyal to its tenets and become its guardians and upholders. The coming decades are going to be more exciting and more difficult to endure since the world will witness many new inventions and discoveries, each of which may challenge the faith, its beliefs, scriptures and way of life. As it has been done in the past, Hinduism must be ready to assimilate and integrate the new knowledge and march on into the next century with increased complexity and diversity. Let us hope the coming generations will be prepared to accomplish this difficult task and keep the faith glowing.
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