I am not the most devout Hindu of all time. I don’t go to temple everyday and I occasionally eat beef as an American teenager. I do celebrate Diwali and Holi by throwing parties but seldom by having pujas. I used to feel shame from this: “using” my religion and culture to have fun.
However, as I explore my faith and the way it guides my actions and beliefs, I realize that I deserve more credit for the relationship I am building with my religion. Through my learnings and reflections of past and present India as well as the various perspectives that surround me, I see I am developing a moral compass much more aligned with Hinduism than I thought.
Acceptance and Tolerance
Hinduism has taught me acceptance and tolerance of all people and ideas; it emphasizes co-existing in an intentional way. I have been raised to believe that there is no one supreme religion – we should not judge people by their spirituality because all religions have some truths to them.
My faith has always taught me to appreciate the sense of family and togetherness that Christmas and Hanukkah bring while at the same time teaching me to be proud of our traditions. This past year, however, Hinduism has taught me how to advocate against hatred and recognize that not all Hindus follow the sacred texts in the same way that I do.
This past year I interviewed my grandfather, a survivor of the 1947 India Pakistan Partition. A group of Muslims ran him out of the only home he knew, yet my grandfather thanks the other Muslims who helped him on his journey. After immigrating, my grandfather was racially targeted by the Mormons of Utah; children in Utah would pelt rocks at his children because they were Indian. In both of his homes, my grandfather encountered people who did not agree or accept his faith and culture; however, he gave his attackers grace, emphasizing the fact that he was intruding on their communities.
Despite his extreme suffering and oppression, my grandfather reminds me to take the high road – other religions might not believe in spiritual equality, but because ours does, we must practice forgiveness and understanding. From him, I am reminded of the core Hindu value: that we exist to help and listen to each other no matter our backgrounds.
Desecration Of Religion
I wish daily that every devout Hindu and community of Hindus could be as dedicated to the foundations of Hinduism in the way that my grandfather is. Religion has become a topic that is no longer an individual’s decision, but rather a political and social one that is creating hate all over our world. We see such hate in all parts of the world and of the world’s history – be it between Judaism and Christianity, during the Crusades, or in the midst of the Mormon expulsion, every religion has been targeted because other people don’t believe in it.
And despite Hinduism’s acceptance of other religions, we were involved in the Partition which was one of the most atrocious religious events of the world.
Of course, there are many Hindus who don’t believe that the Partition was the Hindus’ fault. But I believe in two sides of every story; though my family was run out of their homes by the Muslim “goons,” 100,000 Muslims were massacred at the same time. It is quite subjective as to who instigated the Partition and who was more at fault, but to me, both religions went through hate and violence all the same. They had an equal right to defend themselves in order to break away from the British.
Their practices of violence should not be condoned, but both parties were the underdogs fighting for freedom and individuality finally. What matters more is what came of it and how my people treat others today. Unfortunately, many people have not been able to leave the past in the past.
Hindus have been incredibly unforgiving despite the foundations of forgiveness. They have not forgiven the Muslims for a massacre that was equally fought, despite the foundations of all-acceptance.
India’s current Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, is slowly turning more and more Hindus into Hindu supremacists when “supremacy” should not even be a word used to describe Hinduism. India is a secular country, meaning that its people can practice any religion they want, and that is what people do. But the current, ultra-Hindu government is taking away every right that Hinduism and India stands for.
One example of the hypocrisy Modi’s followers are demonstrating is the “Holy Cow” debate. Hinduism’s sacred animal is the cow, while the Muslims rely heavily on beef for their cuisine and culinary rituals. Modi’s non-secular followers are threatening and murdering Indian-Muslim beef traders all around the country, as cited in a US State Department report on religious freedom in India. The Bharatiya Janata Party is trying so hard to uphold their religion that, in the process, they are removing every religious pillar and value that Hinduism and India were created on.
I am disappointed in India’s leaders today. I understand that I too am far removed from the issues India faces and do not have to live with the consequences of the Partition, but my grandfathers did and still do. Yet, I have not once heard a word of hate or violence against any religion, let alone the Muslims, come out of my grandfathers’ mouths. They are using their religion to forgive and understand an event that sparked because of religion.
Thus, despite the actions of my home country’s leaders and words of some of the people around me, I will continue to do exactly what my role models are. I will forever keep the key beliefs of Hinduism at the forefront of mind to gain empathy and understanding for others in any situation. I will forever search for ways to learn from others’ religions and identities instead of shutting them down just because they are different from mine.