Hinduism, Problems, Prospects and Challenges

Future Vision

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, the commingling of numerous traditions enriched Hinduism and made it acceptable and appealing to diverse people across multiple cultures and linguistic groups.

At the same time, on the negative side it imparted to it many weaknesses, contradictions, confusion, and an assorted or sundry character. Because of its complex nature, which has been the result of its historic development in a plural society, without proper knowledge and guidance it is difficult for people to practice it and remain steadfast.

The tradition of gurus or spiritual masters is supposed to address the problem and reduce the complexity. However, the fallibility of some gurus and their close followers often create crises of faith among their followers and erosion of values and faith in the tradition itself.

Since it is a continuing tradition, Hinduism has to bear with the burden of its past also. One of its major challenges is how to deal with the social change and the increasing diversity of the people who practice it without compromising its core values and ancient beliefs.

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. Unless you have good knowledge of the scriptures and its essential doctrines, you cannot easily satisfy the skepticism and rational enquiry of its critics and nay sayers.

Some of the troubling features of Hinduism in this context are, the birth based caste system, the status and the role of women and girl children, gender discrimination in ritual practices, etc., which cannot be explained away or justified as in the past with the help of scriptures without attracting criticism.

Hindu women in today’s world want their voices to be heard. They want to be respected and treated as equal partners in all aspects of life, including religious and spiritual practice. They also expect that gender discrimination will cease to be a social issue and both men and women should equally share the burdens and privileges of the institution of facility.

The same is the case with the groups that have traditionally and historically been subjected to many disabilities in the past. Their demand for social equality, justice, dignity and fair treatment cannot be ignored or trivialized, nor can they be excluded from participating in religious activities or performing priestly duties if they so desired.

Another important change that happened in the last few centuries is that Hinduism is no more confined to India or the Indian subcontinent. Many Hindu families migrated from India to other countries where Hinduism was never practiced before.

At the same time, many people from other countries, who never visited India, joined Hinduism and made it their religion. They bring their own flavor and cultural nuances to the tradition and add to it further diversity and complexity.

Thus, globalization of Hinduism and the migration of Hindu families, coupled with the exponential growth of the Internet and the social networks, created its own challenges, since people who practice the faith have to adapt to the changing circumstances and accommodate diverse views and local traditions and customs as part of its tolerance and inclusiveness.

Another important problem is the absence of formalized leadership and institutions, which are universally and formally acceptable and which can dictate policy and principles of the doctrine to all Hindus as in case of dogmatic religions.

Currently Hinduism has many formal, informal, private and public organizations, apart from numerous teacher traditions and caste based institutions. Although they seem to exert influence over a wide section of Hindus, they do not enjoy universal acceptance or authority 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. Without formal authority such as the Church, every Hindu has to rely upon his own judgment and discretion to practice his or her faith.

While Hindus presently enjoy enormous freedom in choosing their beliefs and practices, it also makes them vulnerable to confusion and indiscipline, while it keeps the community at large divided, unorganized and ill prepared to deal with larger issues, problems and challenges.

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 vast sums of money that have been flowing into India for religious conversions and the organized and sustained effort of the outside forces that are inimical to Hinduism to denigrate and undermine faith.

Equally troublesome is the destabilization effort by certain groups and organizations from within and without to weaken Hinduism and its leadership by fomenting communal and isolating Hindus from other communities, and presenting the religious conditions India to the world in rather poor light.

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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