“Are you Hindu?” he asked me.
I was bending down to tie up shoe lace. Still I managed to look at him in an instant (without breaking my neck, that is.)
No, he was not mischievous. Nor was he teasing me. He looked very serious.
Actually, just a nod from me would have settled the matter.
But as it always happens with me, it triggered a chain of long hidden thoughts.
I was with a group of total strangers. We all had joined together one Sunday afternoon with a group named ‘Delhi Metro Walks’. The idea was to explore Old Delhi that evening and taste typical Delhi food. We were walking, eating, chatting for last few hours. We were a group of just 9, and more than half of them were obviously non Indians.
On the way, we came across a Jain temple. Some were not interested but I went in. It was not an ancient temple as such and I was disappointed with it.
While coming out, I was thinking about ‘Role of Temples’ and suddenly this question was thrown at me.
And this young man, non Hindu, non Indian asked me this particular question.
I am rather stubborn about certain things. One of that is ‘not allowing people to recognize my religion from any external signs’. For long, strangers have assumed me to be anything but Hindu. So, when this man asked me this question, I was really surprised.
“I was born and brought up in a Hindu family”, I answered honestly.
Now it was his (and others’) turn to be amazed.
“What do you mean? Have you changed your religion?” he asked.
“Oh, no, that is not the case,” I said, though my ideas about Religion are still evolving.
From casual conversation, the discussion was fast turning to be very personal.
“Being Hindu is very easy”, I was thinking aloud.
What is the essence of Hinduism?
For that matter, what is the essence of any religion?
Philosophy, Ritual and Social Rules are the three major aspects of religion.
Now the social code has been replaced by Law. So, no question of following religious rules.
Ritual I have hardly ever followed. That has not stopped me from being a Hindu.
And Philosophies – there are so many, I like many of those. I like Charvaka and Shankaracharya, Gautama the Buddha and Ramanujacharya, Kapila and Patanjali; Shrikrishna and Ramkrishna Paramhamsa, Tukaram and Kabir, Aurobindo and J Krishnmurty .. the list is unending. I can criticise any one of them and every one of them and still I can be a Hindu.
Hindu philosophy in a way is a big 'HoldAll' and I like it that way!
Some say: Rebirth, Law of Karma, Liberation are the basic tenets of Hinduism. I don’t think I believe in any of those seriously. Intellectually I can argue about it and write articles .. but they do not constitute my core values of life.
Still I am 'a' Hindu – because I am born and brought up in a Hindu family and I have not converted to any other religion.
You can do anything, you can do nothing, you can criticise, you can rebel....but still the Hinduness remains intact.
That is the beauty of ‘Being a Hindu’.