- Raising awareness is going to be a learning and enriching process for those who are engaged in it. It may lead to rediscovering or rejuvenating your own Hindu identity.
Hinduism is the oldest religion on earth. It is the third-largest religion in the world. There are approximately 1.35 billion Hindus in the world, the majority of which live in the Indian subcontinent. Even though Hindus have been living in different parts of the world, the general awareness about the Hindu Dharma, Hindu way of life is lacking outside India. Awareness of the Hindu Dharma is needed on two fronts: Awareness within practicing Hindus (or those who identify themselves as Hindus) and Awareness within non-Hindus.
Dharma awareness is essential for those who already identify themselves as Hindus. This is equally needed for the Hindus living in India. The world around us is changing at a pace never seen before. Globalization, modernization & most importantly capitalism has taken a tight grip over society. There are abundant distractions around us that will take you away from yourself, your identity as a Hindu and your knowledge of Dharma. Unlike before, our daily schedules are now dictated by corporate culture and global norms. As a result, the traditions, festivals, rituals, practices associated with Hinduism are rapidly changing whether we like it or not. Traditions, rituals, festivals, etc. have been important tools to understand the Dharma. As the influence and relevance of these tools change due to our 21st-century lifestyle, Hindus will have to make an extra effort to understand the Dharma.
On the other hand, outside India, Hindus are in the minority. In the U.S., Hindus constitute 1% of the total population whereas this number is 1.5% in the UK. In the West, Knowledge about the Hindu Dharma in the non-Hindu community is limited to the 3C’s (caste, cow, curry), yoga (as an exercise routine), animal god/ idol worshippers (not the right words to describe the Ganesha, Hanumaan or a Murthy but that is how they are commonly used to describe Hindu Dharma).
For socio-political reasons, it becomes important that non-Hindus in these countries have a good understanding of Hindu Dharma. It becomes extremely important when it comes to the next generation of Hindus in these countries (again, this is equally applicable to the next generation of Hindus in India). If we want our generation to be confident and assertive Hindus, then raising the awareness of Hinduism in society is extremely important. It is said that “It takes a village to raise a child. It becomes the responsibility of the current generation of Hindus to ensure that the “village” sees the Hindu Dharma in a positive light and has a positive influence in shaping the Hindu identity of the next generation.
The first step to creating the awareness of Hinduism is to educate yourself on different aspects of Hinduism. Being a Hindu is much more than just being born into a Hindu family. The festivals, yoga, rituals, practices, scriptures, history, etc. are the key pillars/tools of the Hindu Dharma. These pillars/tools help us on the journey to experience divinity. Good knowledge of these pillars is essential in understanding Hinduism. Understanding these aspects will reveal why we do what we do and for that dedicated efforts are needed.
The second step to create awareness is to try explaining the above aspects/tools of Hindu Dharma to others. Dedicated efforts to raise awareness by hosting the seminars, writing a blog/article, giving a talk, making a video blog on this topic are going to play important role in the overall process. One way to prepare yourself for such efforts is to anticipate the questions on various aspects of Hinduism & then try to answer these questions with clarity and facts.
Imagine your son or daughter or neighbor or manager or colleague asking questions about Hinduism, for example — how do you explain the concept of divinity? Does it matter which deity you worship? Why do some of our deities have aspects of animal form associated with them? Why do we do certain rituals, poojas, or ceremonies? Are there any mandatory practices Hindus should perform daily? What are the core beliefs of Hindu Dharma? Did Ramayana or Mahabharata really happen or is it just a figment of someone’s imagination? How are the teachings of this several millennia-old civilization relevant and useful in the 21st century? Our abilities and skills to answer questions such as these will determine how we define our Hindu identity.
Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) in the U.S. has launched a “Hindu Dharma Awareness” campaign this year to raise awareness about Hindu Dharma. If you are interested in participating in this campaign, please reach out to the nearby HSS chapter in your area or write to email@example.com. This awareness campaign can guide in terms of resources and training in the two steps explained above.
Raising awareness about the Hindu Dharma is going to be a learning and enriching process for those who are engaged in it. It may lead to rediscovering or rejuvenating your own Hindu identity.
On a lighter note, it may be like the Simba from “Lion King.” Simba, while growing up with Timon and Pumbaa, is unaware of his identity as the Lion. He is eating, behaving, living like Pumbaa and Timon. Nala and the spirit of Mufasa help him see things are they are and his duty as the King of the pride rock. It is only when Simba makes a deliberate effort to seek his true identity and meaning of his existence, he finds his roar like a Lion.
Nikhil Ajotikar is an engineering analyst by profession. He is originally from Pune in Maharashtra and has been living in the United States for the past 12 years. He likes to read and write about Indian history, spirituality, Hinduism, politics and social topics.