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9 myths about Hinduism — debunked
An Indian artist dresses as Kali, the goddess of destruction, at a festival in Allahabad earlier this month.
April 25th, 2014
09:00 AM ET

9 myths about Hinduism — debunked

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) - Caste. Cows. Karma.

Suhag Shukla knows that’s how some people outside Hinduism see her religion. As the head of the Hindu American Foundation, Shukla, 42, clarifies misconceptions all the time.

Hinduism is ancient, though there is no specific date for when it was formed. The name is a Sanskrit word; Hinduism and Hindu were coined by invaders who used the terms to refer to the people they encountered when they crossed the Hindu Kush mountains and arrived at the Indus River.

Hotel Death: It's a place of celebration and salvation for souls

In America, Hinduism’s profile was elevated by Indian immigrants who brought their customs and rituals with them and perhaps most recently, by the growing popularity of Hindu teachings like yoga and meditation.

Hinduism is the world’s oldest living religion and the third largest – behind Christianity and Islam – with more than 1 billion followers. Some argue that Hinduism is more a way of life than religion. It has no common creed or church. Nor is it based on the teachings of a founder or holy book.

And it remains a mystery for many.

Myth No. 1: There are 330 million Hindu gods.

Reality: There is one supreme God that cannot be fully known or understood.
Hindus are encouraged to relate to God in the way that suits them best, like worshipping many deities who are believed to be manifestations of God. The trimurti or three main deities are Brahma, the creator; Vishnu, the preserver; and Shiva, the destroyer. That’s why Hinduism is often thought of as polytheistic. It is not.

But there’s debate on the proper terminology for Hinduism. Some call it a monistic religion, derived from the belief that everything in the universe is part of one substance or nature. Some, including Shukla, say Hindusim is henotheistic, which is the worship of one god without denying the existence of other gods. Others, say it is monotheistic.

Myth No. 2: Hindus are idol worshippers.

Reality: Hindus worship a reminder of God.

No Hindu will say he or she is worshipping an idol. Instead, Hindus believe a physical representation of God – in the form of an idol - helps them focus on an aspect of prayer or meditation. For instance, a person who has just opened up a new business may worship Ganesh, the elephant god who represents success.

Myth No. 3: Hindus worship cows.

Reality: Hindus do not pray to cows but they do regard all creation and all life as sacred.

Hindus believe every living thing has a soul. It is true, however, that cows hold a special place in Hindu society. That’s why Hindus refrain from eating beef. Cows are seen as gentle, maternal figures that are providers of milk and other forms of sustenance. They are honored for their value.

Myth No. 4: All Hindus are vegetarians.

Reality: A majority of Hindus eat meat.

But about 30 percent do not. That stems from a fundamental belief in ahimsa, the principle of non-violence. Since all living things are manifestations of God, violence against them is considered contrary to the natural balance of the universe.

Myth No. 5: Hinduism supports a discriminatory caste system.

Reality: Caste discrimination is rooted not in religion but culture.

Caste was an ancient system of occupational class delineated in Hindu texts that over the years developed into a rigid social hierarchy. The lowest castes, or untouchables, were marginalized and faced persecution. But many modern Hindus have argued that caste-based discrimination is not intrinsic to Hinduism and should not be thought of as religiously sanctioned.

Myth No. 6: Women are subservient in Hinduism.

Reality: Not because of religion.

Actually, one attribute that differentiates Hinduism from say, Christianity or Islam, is that it recognizes forms of god as feminine. Hindus revere Shakti, or the personification of God's energy through a female figure.

Some of the most commonly worshipped goddesses are Parvati, a primary form of Shakti; Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom; and Lakshmi, goddess of prosperity.

Women in India may not be equal with men but again, that is not because of religion but culture and people using religion to keep women down. This is akin, perhaps, to Islamic societies forcing women to cover up from head to toe.

“I don’t think there is a basis to disregard women in our religion,” Shukla says. “The Vedas (scripture) don’t give those instructions.”

Myth No. 7: Hindu women wearing ‘red dots’ on their foreheads are married.

Reality: Sometimes.

A red dot was once a symbol of marriage for Hindu women. Today, the dot, or bindi, is largely decorative. Girls and women – married and single - wear bindis of all colors as fashion statements. A tilak, also a mark on the forehead, has religious significance. It's generally made with sandalwood paste, ashes or red turmeric and can be in the form of lines or a dot.

Myth No. 8: The Bhagavad Gita is like the Bible.

Reality: There is not one central, authoritative book in Hinduism.

But Hinduism is rich in scripture with a vast collection of ancient religious writings. Hindus believe god revealed truths to wise men who passed them on for thousands of years through a rich oral tradition. The scriptures include the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas and the Bhagavad Gita, or Song of God.

Part of the epic tale, Mahabharata, the 700-verse Gita is the world’s longest poem and takes the form of a dialog on a battlefield between a prince, Arjuna, and Krishna. It captures the core beliefs of Hinduism but not all Hindus read the Gita.

Myth No. 9: Karma is fatalistic.

Reality: Everyone has the ability to choose life’s actions.

This is the theory behind karma: for every action a person sets in motion, there is a corresponding reaction. Hindus believe they have to face the consequences of past actions. Each person creates his or her destiny with deeds. The ultimate goal is to have karma that will free a soul and gain moksha, or liberation from the cycle of rebirth.

Sources: Hindu-American Foundation, Hinduism Today and Vasudha Narayanan, associate editor of Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism

- Moni Basu

Filed under: Asia • Hinduism • India

soundoff (208 Responses)
  1. highplainsparson

    "No Hindu will say he or she is worshipping an idol. Instead, Hindus believe a physical representation of God – in the form of an idol – helps them focus on an aspect of prayer or meditation. For instance, a person who has just opened up a new business may worship Ganesh, the elephant god who represents success."

    No idol-worshipers claim to be worshiping the idol itself. Does this distinction sound familiar? It's the same put forward by Christians who use images in worship as "aids" or "reminders." That's what idolatry is, and it's strictly forbidden by God in commandments 1-2.

    April 25, 2014 at 3:22 pm |
    • kudlak

      Same for those who literally "thump" the Bible, right? Many Christians appear to hold that symbol as an idol too.

      April 25, 2014 at 4:52 pm |
      • highplainsparson

        Not sure what you mean. Like performing magical ceremonies with the bound volume? Yes, that would be oddly sacreligious.

        April 25, 2014 at 5:31 pm |
        • kudlak

          No, I'm talking about those who call themselves "Bible-believing Christians". In all things, they appear to be worshipping the book like it's their god. They defend it's reputation for being infallible like it was a god itself. When they need divine answers they flip through it's pages until inspiration gives them an answer. It's almost like prayer. They want monuments erected on government property with passages from it. Isn't that making an idol out of the book?

          April 25, 2014 at 5:52 pm |
        • highplainsparson

          No. It's not an idol. The ink and paper is not worshiped. The words are received in faith as the very words of God. We worship and honor God by honoring his every word. You appreciate your wife by paying attention and listening when she talks.

          April 25, 2014 at 7:32 pm |
        • Akira

          Not is paint or marble, highplains.

          April 25, 2014 at 10:12 pm |
        • Akira

          *Nor is paint or marble.
          Sigh. FFS tonight.

          April 25, 2014 at 10:26 pm |
        • kudlak

          highplainsparson
          Then all idols are just representations of the actual gods being represented, right? Where Catholics have their crucifixes, protestants still have their crosses and both display their bibles, on pedestals just like statues. I really don't see any fundamental difference here.

          You might also have a photo of your wife on your desk to remind you of the real thing, right?

          April 27, 2014 at 1:15 pm |
        • highplainsparson

          My wife is not an object of religious worship. There is a distinction between a symbol and a visual representation.

          April 27, 2014 at 6:11 pm |
        • kudlak

          highplainsparson
          My wife is an object of something like worship to me, ... and at least I know that she is real.

          April 28, 2014 at 4:08 pm |
        • highplainsparson

          I'm sorry to hear that, but thanks for sharing.

          April 28, 2014 at 4:15 pm |
    • Akira

      That's the way the use of religious statues and paintings were intended.
      God was referring to the Pagan idols that were not within His belief system. For instance, the gods referenced in this article would be considered idol worship because they are not of the Judeo-Christian belief system.

      With the Protestant Reformation, of course, anything that could be used to denounce other Christians was freely used. And that Christian infighting is still being employed today.

      April 25, 2014 at 7:06 pm |
      • highplainsparson

        When the Israelites were condemned for molding the golden calf, they were intending it to represent the LORD. "This be your God, O, Israel, that led you out of Egypt. Tomorrow is a feast day to YHWH." they said while showing the calf. Similarly Hezekiah destroyed the brazen serpent, a proto-typical crucifix, when it became an object of idolatry. The 2nd Commandment forbids all worship of God using images.

        April 25, 2014 at 7:34 pm |
        • Akira

          Israel had been corrupted by then. After Aaron made the golden calf, Israel said,
          “This be your God, O, Israel, that led you out of Egypt."
          Aaron, reacting to this, said,
          "Tomorrow is a feast day to YHWH.”

          Did Aaron think that the calf was really God?

          The calf was meant for a new, god of their own invention; the purpose to supplant God.

          Of course, your interpretation is different than mine; this is normal.

          IMHO, if one thinks that praying before a statue of Jesus is praying to an idol, or a false God, it follows that Jesus is seen by that person as a false God.

          I don't know of anyone who looks at a photograph and actually thinks that photo is the living, breathing person.

          April 25, 2014 at 10:10 pm |
        • highplainsparson

          What is a statue of Jesus? Show me one.

          April 25, 2014 at 11:53 pm |
        • observer

          highplainsparson,

          You can find statues of Jesus (prohibited by the Ten Commandments) in nearly any RELIGIOUS shop. If you want to see a big one, google Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. Christian hypocrisy is amazing.

          April 26, 2014 at 12:03 am |
        • highplainsparson

          I know. This is what I'm preaching against. Smash your idols.

          April 26, 2014 at 8:26 am |
        • Akira

          You think a statue representing Jesus is an idol? Oh, I'm sorry that you cannot differentiate and think Jesus is a false god.
          I'm afraid I have to disagree with you, high.

          April 26, 2014 at 10:17 pm |
        • highplainsparson

          Jesus is the true God. A statue pretending to represent him is not the Lord Jesus Christ. It is an idol forbidden by God in Scripture.

          April 26, 2014 at 10:53 pm |
        • observer

          highplainsparson,

          Do you go to religious shops and tell them to destroy their merchandise? What about churches with statues of Jesus?

          April 26, 2014 at 11:06 pm |
        • highplainsparson

          I lovingly tell then that what they are doing is wrong and they ought to take them down, at appropriate opportunities.

          April 26, 2014 at 11:13 pm |
        • Akira

          The statue is not pretending to be anything. My goodness. It's inanimate.
          Jesus is Jesus. I'm sorry you think Jesus is a false idol, but again, I disagree.

          April 26, 2014 at 11:17 pm |
        • highplainsparson

          Please tell me what the Lord Jesus Christ looks like.

          April 26, 2014 at 11:18 pm |
        • Akira

          I'll bet those shopkeepers lovingly look at you and call security, hpp. Because zealotry is scary.

          April 26, 2014 at 11:21 pm |
        • observer

          highplainsparson

          "at appropriate opportunities."

          Why wait? Why aren't to telling them to do it immediately.

          At how many churches have you made this an issue?

          April 26, 2014 at 11:28 pm |
        • Akira

          Whatever the one praying to him in worship thinks he looks like.
          Or you can take Revelation 1:13-16 as your guide. I prefer the former.

          I know that you are passionate and devout, so you have never gone to a Passion Play, seen any sort of movie about Jesus, and stay home from the Christmas Nativity pageants.

          That would be only proper.

          April 26, 2014 at 11:29 pm |
        • highplainsparson

          Of course I would not take part in any of those things. It grieves me too much because it dishonors God. Jesus looks like "whatever the worshiper imagines?" Seriously? Can it get any more idolatrous than inventing an image of him from ones own imagination?

          April 27, 2014 at 12:24 am |
        • tesmith47

          well jesus and god are imaginary already so why not??

          April 27, 2014 at 12:25 am |
        • highplainsparson

          That's where you're incorrect.

          April 27, 2014 at 12:26 am |
        • Akira

          What do you think of when praying to Jesus?
          Seriously, what? Is your mind a complete blank?

          I noticed you skated over the Revelation reference. Was John being allegory or idolatrous when he wrote about Jesus 's appearance?

          April 27, 2014 at 2:31 pm |
        • highplainsparson

          He was not being idolatrous. He actually saw a vision of Jesus. For us, it's a different story.

          April 27, 2014 at 6:12 pm |
        • Akira

          "Of course I would not take part in any of those things. It grieves me too much because it dishonors God."

          How?

          April 27, 2014 at 2:34 pm |
        • highplainsparson

          By disobeying His express commandments and refiguring him in the image of our own sinful imagination.

          April 27, 2014 at 6:13 pm |
        • Akira

          I just noticed this:
          The 2nd Commandment forbids all worship of God using images.
          Incorrect. The 2nd Commandment forbids other gods before Him.
          That's the 3rd Commandment you may be thinking of, and that is the idols you are so fond of bringing up.

          You never answered this:
          What do you think of when praying to Jesus?
          Seriously, what? Is your mind a complete blank?

          He was not being idolatrous. He actually saw a vision of Jesus. For us, it’s a different story.

          Who are you to tell anyone they're not seeing a vision of Jesus?

          By disobeying His express commandments and refiguring him in the image of our own sinful imagination.

          What verse tells you not to envision Him?
          And you think it is sinful to even imagine Him when John describes Him? Is it therefore sinful to even read that description?

          April 27, 2014 at 7:02 pm |
        • Akira

          Actually I should clarify that I do not consider Jesus to fall under the 2nd Commandments description of a false god.
          Or the 3rd Commandment's idolatry.

          April 27, 2014 at 7:10 pm |
        • highplainsparson

          It's in verse 4, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness..."

          This is referring to how we worship God. We are forbidden to worship him in any way he has not commanded, especially with the use of images.

          April 28, 2014 at 10:50 am |
        • Akira

          What's in verse 4?
          Because the 4th Commandment is to keep the Sabbath holy.
          In any case, I disagree completely. I interpret it as Commandment 3 being a continuation of 2, not to have any gods and idols, nor to make any images of a false god, such as what Aaron did when he made the calf.

          You never answered if Aaron thought the calf was God.
          You also never answered what you think of when you pray to Jesus..,is your mind completely blank?

          I'm beginning to think you're a Poe.

          April 28, 2014 at 11:36 am |
        • highplainsparson

          Aaron meant the calf to represent the true God. "This be your God, o Israel, that brought you out of Egypt. Tomorrow is a feast day to YHWH" he said as he showed the calf.

          Read verse 4 yourself. What does it say? What is forbidden in it?

          When I pray, I think about who God is and what he's done for us through Christ. I do not make a mental image of Christ.

          April 28, 2014 at 3:59 pm |
        • highplainsparson

          You must be using the Jewish numbering of the Decalogue. No matter, it's all there. Focus on verse 4.

          April 28, 2014 at 4:01 pm |
        • highplainsparson

          What did Hezekiah do to the brazen serpent that Moses had made representing Christ, since it had become an object of veneration?

          April 28, 2014 at 4:03 pm |
        • Akira

          Where do you get that the serpent on the pole represents Jesus? That's a reach.

          Do you venerate the cross? It's prominently displayed. Why? Why is that perfectly fine?

          We're not going to agree with each other 's interpretations I accept that.

          Have a nice day. I'm done.

          April 29, 2014 at 6:59 pm |
        • highplainsparson

          The serpent on the pole represented him who became sin for us, lifted up on the cross. John 3:14

          We do not venerate the cross. It's merely a symbol. If I saw people kneeling or praying toward it I would insist it be taken down.

          April 30, 2014 at 4:52 pm |
        • Keith

          That is why there are 31,000 different denominations of protestant Christianity.

          May 3, 2014 at 9:30 am |
  2. vasumurti

    Dr. A.L. Basham, author of The Wonder That was India, explains: "...the old-fashioned type of missionary was quite certain that Hinduism was the work of the Devil, and hence that it was very evil. It did all the things which Christianity, especially Protestant Christianity, said you shouldn't do, such as image worship and the worship of many gods.

    "Catholics were always much more tolerant of this sort of thing. Though he may be theoretically monotheistic, the simple Catholic will, to all intents and purposes, pray to quite a wide range of divinities, including the Blessed Virgin Mary and various important saints, often in the form of physical images.

    "But Protestant Christianity was founded on the basis that there is one God only, divided into three persons, and that worship of images is sinful. To the Protestant of the old-fashioned kind, this was a terrible thing to do, almost as bad as it was to a traditional Jew or Muslim. So the missionaries, I think, are largely responsible for the polytheism stereotype and the 'caste-ridden' society stereotype."

    In 1985, my friend Victor, who is Jewish, invited me to a Shabbat (Sabbath) observance with a group of Jewish students on our college campus. They were singing songs in Hebrew, and clapping hands - almost like a Jewish kirtan (Hindu devotional chanting and dancing)!

    I met a student who said she was interested in things like yoga and meditation, but was put off by the idea of worshiping images ("idols"). She was also skeptical of my assertion that according to Vedic cosmology, human civilization goes back millions of years: she told me she had taken a college course in Anthropology.

    At one point, she equated the worshipping of images ("idols") with the pagan religions of ancient Greece and Rome, asking: "How can you (Hindus) worship images ("idols")–that's so Grecian!" I tried to shift the conversation towards deeper theological questions: "Does God have form?" "What does God look like?" Even Genesis 1:26-31 says man is made in the image of God!

    A convert to Hinduism from a Jewish background, Satyaraja dasa, (Steven Rosen) argues that the Old Testament only condemns the making of mundane graven images and then likening such images to the Supreme Lord. He insists that there is no prohibition against worshipping the form of God Himself.

    Rabbi Jacob Shimmel admitted to Satyaraja that there have been schools of thought within Judaism which regard God as a Person, with a divine form, attributes, qualities and characteristics. They based their position on a literal interpretation of the Bible.

    The Hebrew phrase "zelem Elohim" means "the image of God." Exodus 24:10-12 and Numbers 12:8 also refer to seeing the image of God. God sits upon a throne (Isaiah 6:1); His hair is like wool (Daniel 7:9); and Moses saw His back (Exodus 33:23). In Isaiah 66:1, God says, "Heaven is My throne, and the earth is my footstool." In Ezekiel 1:26, God has a human form and sits upon a throne.

    Moses Maimonides (1135-1204), Judaism's greatest theologian thus far, took the position that God is immeasurable, inconceivable, and therefore, incorporeal. Since the time of Maimonides, Judaism has been impersonal, seeing God only as an omnipresent Spirit ("nirvesesha brahman" in Sanskrit).

    Maimonides regarded passages from the Bible like the ones above as anthropomorphical and metaphorical. However, one of his most outspoken critics, Abraham ben David of Posquiere, wrote that scholars once believed in the literal words of the Bible, and were convinced God was a Person, and they ascribed physical-like characteristics to the Deity.

    Satyaraja's assertion that there is no prohibition in the Old Testament against worshiping the actual form of God Himself is problematic. The biblical prophets of the Old Testament routinely denounce idol worship, and the idolatry they attack is the worship of any kind of image whatsoever... Some of their denunciations, for example, refer to the idols of the neighboring heathen populations of the Israelites as gods that can neither walk nor speak, etc.

    In Bhagavad-gita 12.1, Arjuna inquires of Lord Krishna: "Which are considered to be more perfect, those who are always properly engaged in Your devotional service or those who worship the impersonal Brahman, the unmanifested?"

    Lord Krishna answers: "Those who fix their minds on My personal form and are always engaged in worshiping Me with great and transcendental faith are considered by Me to be most perfect." (Gita 12.2)

    The Lord goes on to say that those who worship the impersonal Brahman also come to Him, but, "For those whose minds are attached to the unmanifested, impersonal feature of the Supreme, advancement is very troublesome." Making progress in that discipline is harder. (Gita 12.3-5)

    So the Bhagavad-gita says worship of the Lord in His personal form is higher than worshiping the impersonal Brahman. The Western religious traditions generally stress the impersonal aspect of God over the personal. Impersonalism is not condemned in the first few verses of chapter 12 of the Gita, it is merely regarded as incomplete and inferior to personal theism.

    And this is the nature of Vedic civilization: to engage people from all walks of life, regardless of their station in life, and purify them in their souls' progress towards God. Whereas in the Ten Commandments, God says, "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me," in Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna merely dismisses demigod worship as "less intelligent" (Gita 7.23), even though He also classifies demigod worship as in the mode of goodness, or sattva-guna (Gita 17.4).

    Much of Christianity's intolerance of other religions stems from Judaism, like the commandment against worshiping other gods, rather than merely dismissing it as an inferior form of worship, as Lord Krishna does in Bhagavad-gita.

    April 25, 2014 at 3:06 pm |
  3. Lucifer's Evil Twin

    CNN: I doubt you will read or act on this comment... but we appreciate the attempt at diversity on this 'Belief' blog. How about you guys do a Buddhist article next? I find Buddhism's lack of a deity and message of personal enlightenment more fascinating than reading about all of the disparate christian cults in this country.

    April 25, 2014 at 2:33 pm |
  4. PRADEEP SINGH

    For people who are raised on falsehood of history that teaches -AMERICA discoverd by Columbus(It existed and people lived in USA for millinons of uyears untill columbus came and terrorized and converted many to christianity). Visit http://WWW.DECODINGHINDUISM.COM if you really want to understand HINDUISM/SANATAN DHARMA or not one of those people who said that SUN Revolves around EARTH just 200 years ago and ehen told science, man was hanged by BIBLE BELT people. Hinduism scriptures knew astrology >50K years before- link- http://hinduismdecoded.blogspot.com/2014/01/scientific-verification-of-vedic.html

    April 25, 2014 at 1:42 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      The first Europeans to discover the Americas were the Norse (AKA Vikings) Leif Eriksson 1000 AD

      April 25, 2014 at 2:09 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      >50K years? ummm... no, I think not.

      April 25, 2014 at 2:11 pm |
      • Rick Russell

        Although I don't know that we can say what happened 50K years ago, it's almost certain that human history is longer than we know. Recent excavations ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6bekli_Tepe ) have found stone monuments 11000 years old, for example - real stone with images carved in relief.

        April 25, 2014 at 3:42 pm |
        • Lucifer's Evil Twin

          I don't question the age of humanity... but Hinduism > 50k years? Unlikely. Humans were barely drawing on cave walls 50k years ago.

          April 25, 2014 at 4:46 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Astrology is to astronomy what phrenology is to neurology.

      April 25, 2014 at 2:14 pm |
    • Rick Russell

      You might want to check your history. I don't believe Columbus set foot on what we now call the United States, and the United States itself was created almost 300 years after Columbus' expedition.

      April 25, 2014 at 3:36 pm |
  5. PRADEEP SINGH

    It is partially true and illunderstood. Hinduism is so vast as not easy to understand in a book. It is like a ocean of knowledge,scientific, spiritualism,knowledge. Visit some better blogs to know HINDUISM bit by bit – It is a science ,- http://WWW.DECODINGHINDUISM.COM

    April 25, 2014 at 1:28 pm |
  6. jknbt

    a joke for you: a hindu was having trouble that day first with his wife, then with the traffic on the long commute to work, then with his boss, then with the afternoon rain that drenched him as he & his coworker left the office. the hindu comments to his coworker, "well, I guess it's going to be one of THOSE lifetimes!"

    April 25, 2014 at 12:51 pm |
    • snuffleupagus

      A Catholic priest, a Rabbi and a Protestant minister are in a small boat fishing on a lake. They run out of bait, and the priest stands up, steps out of the boat and walks acrsoss the water to shore. He gets the bait, walks back on the water, gets back in the boat. The Rabbi doesn't blink and eye, the minister is flabbergasted. As the day wears on more bait is needed and, without a word, the Rabbi gets up and does the same walking on water bit the priest did.The minister is beside himself. When they run out of bait yet again, the minister yells "I'll get it!" He stands up, steps out of the boat and plunges into the water. The Rabbi and the priest look at each other and the Rabbi says: "We should have told him were the rocks are."

      April 25, 2014 at 1:07 pm |
      • Akira

        This makes me laugh every time I hear/read it.

        April 25, 2014 at 7:18 pm |
  7. jknbt

    if you want to understand hinduism, go back to its origins in babylon.

    this article has a lot of mythology to it....you can't make generalizations like this about the religion of a billion people and thousands of sects. since hinduism has no central authority like the pope, and no uniform belief system, the de-mythologizing points made are as inaccurate as the generalizations the article tries to refute....

    there are practicing hindus that do/believe/practice all the things denied here, including worship concrete gods which is idolatry. they believe in the one god like the metaphor of an ocean...the different gods are its waves....

    April 25, 2014 at 12:47 pm |
    • bharatkrishna

      Yes this is right. People are used to religion being defied as obedience to 'one' true God. Hinduism is like chose your path based on your capacity. No 1 rule for everyone and every situation since no one is alike. Even twin brothers are different in their capacity. So when they see Hinduism, there is a tendency to dismiss it as not being a religion, which is a dangerous position. I would say it is a religion but would change the definition of religion.

      April 25, 2014 at 12:53 pm |
    • snuffleupagus

      jknbt, you really are an ignorant person. Your religion has done nothing to educate you, but sure has dumbed you down.

      April 25, 2014 at 12:55 pm |
      • jknbt

        people that don't have anything intelligent to say always fall back on insults.

        you are the one who has expressed ignorance here.

        April 25, 2014 at 4:13 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      "this article has a lot of mythology to it....
      ----
      Well, it is about religion, isn't it?

      April 25, 2014 at 1:05 pm |
    • PRADEEP SINGH

      I agree eith you. Pl visit http://WWW.DECODINGHINDUISM.COM to help us all understand this vast scientific DHARMA.

      April 25, 2014 at 1:33 pm |
  8. vicharprachar

    I think this article is as much incorrect as the myths being busted. Trying to define a whole geographic people under an "ism" is indeed a thankless task. What 'Hinduism' really represented to others and themselves was the Meta Ethic of Dharma. Ram/ Krishna/ Gurus/ Buddha/ Vaishnavs/ Advaits and even the atheistic sects in "HIndu's" all upheld the meta ethic of Dharma. The rules of Dharma have been expounded. Not absolutist but an ideal to evolve to. The concept of Karma and reincarnation amongst Dharmics helps in that goal. Within those Meta ethics the freedom to spiritually experiment, join an existing moksha marg, debate are all inherent in the Dharmic society. That is why you find Ram/Krishna urging to to defend Dharma and not Hinduism. That is why Ram fought a 'HIndu' Brahmin Ravan on the wrong side of the meta ethics of Dharma. THat is why most Buddhiist canons have been penned by Brahmins. THat is why you will find Dharmic comfortably respecting the tenets of each others Moksha margs. Early 20th century and earlier most HIndu's were indeed vegetarians. Most Moksha margs put Ahimsa very high up. Exceptions to the rule are not the rule. Exceptions to everything exist in India. Even Krishna in BG extols Ahimsa and compassion for all living beings whilst exhorting Arjuna to fight to uphold Dharma. Yet there is no contradiction in that duality. For more info: http://vicharprachar.wordpress.com/2013/10/20/the-dharmic-and-secularist-overlay-to-society/
    http://vicharprachar.wordpress.com/2013/10/30/tenets-of-a-dharmic-rashtra/ and also http://vicharprachar.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/why-societies-must-adopt-dharma-over-secularism/ so in the end we are all Dharmics whichever Moksha Marg denomination we may individuallye belong to irrespective..

    April 25, 2014 at 12:39 pm |
    • PRADEEP SINGH

      I agree more than I I could. Yes, this was only Dharma in million of years Human kind is in Earth untill barbaric terrorism first from Bible belt came in 2000 years ago and then islamist barbaric cult came 800 years ago. Goal is conversion and nonbeliving on idol BUT THESE SAME PEOPLE HAVE PICTURES OR SOME sort of Stone as in Mecca. THESE ARE CULT. Come to see me at http://WWW.DECODINGHINDUISM.COM to understand Hinduism BIT BY BIT.

      April 25, 2014 at 1:36 pm |
      • Lucifer's Evil Twin

        One cult.. telling another cult... that they are incorrectly following the blah blah blah

        "Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups." – George Carlin

        April 25, 2014 at 2:21 pm |
        • Keith

          George Carlin was a wise man,

          May 3, 2014 at 9:34 am |
  9. Alias

    @bharatkrishna
    Thank you for your comments here.
    America is dominated by the christians and we don't have much opportunity to discuss other religions with poeple who actually know what they are talking about. ala, articles like this ^

    April 25, 2014 at 12:36 pm |
  10. thefinisher1

    Atheisim is the biggest myth of them all.

    April 25, 2014 at 12:00 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      you need help.

      April 25, 2014 at 12:01 pm |
      • thefinisher1

        Dawwww! Doggie got out of his cage again! You are doing more harm to your own atheism than I ever could! Thank you so much!

        April 25, 2014 at 12:29 pm |
    • bharatkrishna

      Non- theism is as valid as Theism.

      April 25, 2014 at 12:04 pm |
    • Concert in an Egg

      troll, atheism does exist. I have proof to share on request.

      April 25, 2014 at 12:16 pm |
    • Alias

      I just think you're all butthurt again because this ancient culture disproves several things in your bible.

      April 25, 2014 at 12:32 pm |
      • thefinisher1

        Butthurt?! LOLOLOL. Don't make my sides hurt. I think you atheists are butthurt as less people believe your lies.

        April 25, 2014 at 1:56 pm |
    • In Santa We Trust

      Finish that thought and explain why. Atheism says that theism has not provided evidence for a god; our knowledge of the physical world shows that the creation myths of all religions are incorrect so there is no basis for the personal gods of any religion.

      April 25, 2014 at 2:02 pm |
    • tesmith47

      when you die you wont know the truth

      April 26, 2014 at 11:48 pm |
  11. Vic

    I wonder if Hinduism is tied to a certain language, originally; the article does not touch on that. From what I learned in the past, India has more than 1000 languages.

    April 25, 2014 at 11:56 am |
    • bharatkrishna

      Hinduism is not particularly tied to language. It was a highly decentralized tradition. The vedas are in Sanskrit. While the local languages had developed the philosophies in their own language. Saiva Sidanta for example is in Tamil and is very much part of Hinduism. There was never an attempt to enforce a language on everyone unlike what is portrayed by Western Indoligits who vilify sanskrit as trying to wipe off local languages.

      April 25, 2014 at 12:03 pm |
  12. Concert in an Egg

    I didn't believe in reincarnation the last time, either.

    April 25, 2014 at 11:49 am |
    • bharatkrishna

      You needn't believe, but can be respectful to those who do. I don't think this article was intended to justify Hinduism and to get people to become Hindus. It's very un-Hindu to do so. It's purpose to create cultural awareness and break stereotypes.

      April 25, 2014 at 11:54 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        I believe Egg is making what is commonly known as "a joke".

        April 25, 2014 at 11:56 am |
      • Keith

        you missed the joke

        May 3, 2014 at 9:36 am |
    • Keith

      Now, that is funny

      May 3, 2014 at 9:36 am |
  13. levdtrotsky

    Who wrote this??? The Gita at 700 verses is surely not the longest poem in the world; Rather, the Mahabharata of which it is part, at 100,000 verses is the longest poem. the Gita is not scripture, it is smriti, not sruti; higly respected, but not at the same level as the Vedas. As for the "polytheism question, an expression common in Hinduism is devotion to "God and the Gods."

    April 25, 2014 at 11:40 am |
  14. Doc Vestibule

    OBEY THE COW GOD!

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hha-3aWEtGI&w=640&h=390]

    April 25, 2014 at 11:27 am |
  15. Reality

    Women are subservient in Hinduism. One example are the arranged marriages still prevalent in Hinduism.

    But let us once again take the broader look at all religions and put them in their rightful place i.e. the myth pile.

    And tis easy to do:

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    • A constant cycle of reincarnation until enlightenment is reached and belief that various beings (angels?, tinkerbells? etc) exist that we, as mortals, cannot comprehend makes for a no on Sikhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    "The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. "

    April 25, 2014 at 10:29 am |
    • bharatkrishna

      "Women are subservient in Hinduism. One example are the arranged marriages still prevalent in Hinduism."

      First if all, not all arranged marriages are held against the woman's will. The ones which are held are actually a minority.
      Second, there is nothing wrong about arranged marriages. It is just that the parents play the role of match.com
      No scriptures 'command' that arrange marriages are a pillar of Hinduism and should be mandatory.
      You cannot attribute social issues to Hinduism.
      If arranged marriages are a symbol of oppression of women, then not having a female pope 'officially' is 1000s of years of history is a symbol of oppression of women in Catholicism.

      "Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism."
      Buddha is not a single person. Buddha just means enlightened being. Anyone can become a Buddha. You and me can become a Buddha. Buddha is not a 'chosen' prophet either. Your statement seems to comes from the Abrahamic notion of 'false prophets' being an indicative of false Gods/religions.

      April 25, 2014 at 10:41 am |
      • Reality

        Please give reliable statistics on arranged marriages where women are not subservient.

        Regarding Sh-it Happens- a more complete list:

        http://www.thejaywalker.com/pages/sh-it_happens.html‎ et. al.

        "
        Close-to-complete Ideology and Religion Sh-it List

        April 25, 2014 at 6:01 pm |
    • Concert in an Egg

      Taoism
      Shit happens.

      Buddhism
      If shit happens, it's not really shit.

      Islam
      If shit happens, it's the will of Allah.

      Protestantism
      Shit happens because you don't work hard enough.

      Judaism
      Why does this shit always happen to us?

      Hinduism
      This shit happened before.

      Catholicism
      Shit happens because you're bad.

      Hare Krishna
      Shit happens rama rama.

      T.V. Evangelism
      Send more shit.

      Atheism
      No shit.

      Jehova's Witness
      Knock knock, shit happens.

      Hedonism
      There's nothing like a good shit happening.

      Christian Science
      Shit happens in your mind.

      Agnosticism
      Maybe shit happens, maybe it doesn't.

      Rastafarianism
      Let's smoke this shit.

      Existentialism
      What is shit anyway?

      Stoicism
      This shit doesn't bother me.

      April 25, 2014 at 11:46 am |
      • Lucifer's Evil Twin

        Humorism
        This shit is hilarious.

        April 25, 2014 at 12:06 pm |
        • Concert in an Egg

          LOL

          April 25, 2014 at 12:14 pm |
      • Akira

        Finally! Religion explained.

        April 25, 2014 at 12:37 pm |
    • PRADEEP SINGH

      For people who are raised on falsehood of history that teaches -AMERICA discoverd by Columbus(It existed and people lived in USA for millinons of uyears untill columbus came and terrorized and converted many to christianity). Visit http://WWW.DECODINGHINDUISM.COM if you really want to understand HINDUISM/SANATAN DHARMA or not one of those people who said that SUN Revolves around EARTH just 200 years ago and ehen told science, man was hanged by BIBLE BELT people. Hinduism scriptures knew astrology >50K years before- link- http://hinduismdecoded.blogspot.com/2014/01/scientific-verification-of-vedic.html

      April 25, 2014 at 1:42 pm |
    • Keith

      Reality, you would never make it on the debate team.

      May 3, 2014 at 9:38 am |
  16. kudlak

    I'm not sure who publishes the encyclopedia, but Hinduism Today comes out of Hawaii and the other one is also American. So, I wonder whether this reflects Hinduism as a whole, or just the Western practice of Hinduism?

    April 25, 2014 at 10:26 am |
  17. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    This is a nice article.

    April 25, 2014 at 10:11 am |
    • Vic

      India is rich in one of the most ancient cultures, and nowadays, it is has potential for a Superpower.

      I enjoyed the TV show "Outsourced" while it lasted.

      April 25, 2014 at 10:29 am |
      • bharatkrishna

        "Outsourced" was typically the caste, cows, curry kind of portrayal of Indians. The caste part is especially overplayed. It's like portraying white americans to be slave owners even in today's time.

        April 25, 2014 at 10:44 am |
        • Vic

          Yeah, the Class System was obvious when Rajiv was posing as the Call Center manager when his potential father-in-law stopped by so he (Rajiv) could marry his daughter.

          April 25, 2014 at 11:23 am |
        • In Santa We Trust

          Tell that to the Dalits.

          April 25, 2014 at 11:53 am |
      • bharatkrishna

        In Santa We Trust, your statement is irrelevant to the conversation. I do not deny the existence of bias in the society, but the west stereotypes it too much.. partially because they map their own experience and history of slavery & racism on to India. Anyways, problems of Dalits are internal problems of Hindus and others have no business in trying to set things right in Hinduism.

        April 25, 2014 at 11:58 am |
        • In Santa We Trust

          To your first point – it was directly relevant to your comment.
          To your last point – you don't get to tell me what to think.

          April 25, 2014 at 1:22 pm |
  18. Vic

    I always learned that Hinduism has multiple Gods, it is interesting to learn that it is one God and three manifestations, "trimurti," according to the article. That is somehow similar to the Christian Trinity.

    To me, it all boils down to Who God Is.

    April 25, 2014 at 9:59 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      In the Hindu creation myth, their triune God, Para Brahman, plays different roles in the infinite cycle of existence.
      The universes are made by Lord Brahma the Creator, maintained by Lord Vishnu the Preserver and destroyed by Lord Shiva. In their times, each universe must be destroyed to form the next one.

      Working in the boundaries of Einstein's relativity, theoretical physicists have recently put forward the Conformal cyclic cosmological model that demonstrates how the end of one universe becomes the Big Bang of the next in an endless cycle.

      It could well be that the Hindus are closer to the truth than the Abrahamics.

      April 25, 2014 at 10:04 am |
    • Vic

      To me, it all boils down to Who God Is, hence the "Origin" of all things.

      Also, Karma is pretty much reap what you sow.

      April 25, 2014 at 10:12 am |
    • kudlak

      Wouldn't Catholic Patron Saints also be similar to the auxiliary gods of Hinduism? Catholics don't believe that the saints have any powers of their own, but only that God worked through them. Aren't they just a reminder of certain aspects of God then?

      April 25, 2014 at 10:16 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        Have you ever read Gulliver's Travels? In the land of Laputa, if one wishes to get the attention of the King, one must first engage his flapper – someone whose job it is to jiggle the King's ear with a bladder on a stick.
        In the Catholic world, the Saints are God's flappers.
        For example, if you can't get into your car, God is more likely to remind of that you left you keys in the bathroom if you engage Saint Zita first. As the Matron Saint of Lost Keys, she can communicate your prayer better than you can yourself.

        April 25, 2014 at 10:34 am |
        • kudlak

          It's all about having friends in high places, or appealing to those who have the ear of the King, eh?

          April 25, 2014 at 2:22 pm |
  19. Keith

    Seems much nicer than a religion where the "god" will smite you if you're bad.

    April 25, 2014 at 9:40 am |
  20. Sea Otter (Leader Allied Atheist Alliance)

    "Everyone has the ability to choose life’s actions."

    "This is the theory behind karma: for every action a person sets in motion, there is a corresponding reaction."

    There is truth in karma... even Abraham Lincoln inadvertently understood the concept...

    "When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That's my religion." -Abraham Lincoln

    April 25, 2014 at 9:28 am |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      That was supposed to be posted under this handle... I think WordPress was having a seizure just now

      April 25, 2014 at 9:42 am |
      • Alias

        So why do you think it matters what name you use?
        Are we supposed to know each of your personalities by name, or are you just an idiot that thinks posting the same dribble under different names will make us believe it?

        April 25, 2014 at 10:01 am |
        • kudlak

          Maybe he sees himself as like the Hindu God: Many Avatars representing his many personality traits?

          April 25, 2014 at 10:18 am |
        • Lucifer's Evil Twin

          Who peed in your coffee this morning?

          April 25, 2014 at 10:35 am |
        • Alias

          I don't drink coffee. It must have been one of your neurosis drinking from the yellow fountain.

          April 25, 2014 at 12:29 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.