RELIGION

The Gifts of Hinduism – World Religion News

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On July 16, 1945, in a desert in New Mexico, American theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer witnessed the culmination of the project he had led for nearly four years: the first successful test detonation of an atomic bomb, the deadliest weapon ever devised. The first thought Oppenheimer had while watching it came from the ancient Hindu text, the Bhagavad Gita: Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.

At that moment, half a world away in India, the most famous Hindu of the time, Mohandas Gandhi—known as Mahātmā, or “great-souled”—was appealing to his countrymen for peace, of winning over hate with love.

That one religion can encompass at once unimaginable destruction and ineffable peace and love is a telling sign of the incalculable worldwide influence that Hinduism, Earth’s oldest and third-largest religion, has had over its many millennia of existence.

More familiar to its adherents as Sanātana Dharma—translated roughly as “eternal essence from which one may be sustained”—Hinduism has many revered texts but no all-encompassing “bible;” many seers and wise men, but no singular prophet or messiah; many deities, but no obligation for pantheism or monotheism. Predating recorded history, it is a religion in the oldest sense: a study of wisdom. Subjects covered are not limited to the spirit but also include interpersonal relations, community service, cosmology, metaphysics, philosophy, mythology and many others.

Before Hinduism took hold, our species regarded a supreme being as a sort of fickle celestial Butler to whom you’d submit requests which then may or may not be complied with and, therefore, as Someone you could blame for one’s failed harvests or unhappy life. Hinduism’s great gifts to the world, then, were wisdom and responsibility.

Hinduism set the precedent, followed by its fellow faiths, that religion in its essence is wisdom and that it is up to us—no one else—to follow its precepts or suffer consequences for which we only have ourselves to blame and from which only we can save ourselves.

Not surprisingly, then, one of Hinduism’s central pillars is service to others. Although Hindus represent only 1% of the U.S. population, there are nearly 800 Hindu charities in the U.S.

Recent figures show that about 5,000 Hindus serve with honor in the U.S. military, either actively as soldiers or working for various branches and overseas.

The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, a professional association for Indian American physicians, has 80,000 members representing nearly 30 percent of all doctors in the U.S., the vast majority of those 80,000 identifying as Hindu.

Celebrities raised Hindu or otherwise identifying as practicing Hindus include British rapper M.I.A. (Matangi Maya Arulpragsham), Miley Cyrus, Madonna, Hugh Jackman, Russel Brand, and Julia Roberts. Finding himself in a dark place after the death of his son, Sylvester Stallone found comfort in Hinduism and has been a practicing believer in the faith ever since. Mark Zuckerberg, frustrated with his life, took Steve Jobs’ advice and visited a Hindu avatar in India. His life changed, he returned to the States and founded Facebook.

The gifts of Hinduism spring from the twin wells of wisdom and responsibility, benefitting us all with joy, help, care, and knowledge from its adherents. As the Bhagavad Gita says, When a person responds to the joys and sorrows of others as if they were his own, he has attained the highest state of spiritual union.

 For more articles in this series, visit The Gifts of Islam, The Gifts of Wicca or The Gifts of Scientology.

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