Being an atheist, writing about beauty of a religion sounds ridiculous and quite hypocritical. Having known its deficiencies and flaws, I am ready, for once, to appreciate its beauty. This is only to get these extremely annoying drones off my back that keep telling me why I am not a true Hindu. And this is to slam my front doors on those supposed upholders of faith who keep entering my home to tell me how I need to live, how I need to 'understand Hinduism correctly' and how 'glorious' it can be only if I were to attain the same knowledge they have attained through their rigorous study, dhyana, meditation, and after deciphering complex algebra.
I think I am quite OK being a Hindu only for one reason - that it allows atheism. And the second best reason is that I am born into it. For me being Hindu is another association, another label, like I am a Telugu, that I am of certain caste, that I am an Indian, that I am a man, that I am human, etc. Some of these labels I am proud of, and some don't matter - like caste. Being Hindu is one of those labels. I don't see a need to shed any of these labels - as long as those labels do not bother my lifestyle and me. I am proud of my roots - but that doesn't mean I consider my labels to be the best while some others are not. I don't go preaching how great it is to be Telugu or to be an Indian. I don't know if a Telugu is superior to Kannadiga or not. I do not deal with such questions and I don't need to answer them. While I am a proud Telugu, I will not die fighting for such a stupid cause as proving 'Telugu is superior to Kannadiga'. Such fights are for fools. I am no fool. When I say I like being a Telugu, it does not necessarily mean I hate Kannadiga. In the same way, being Hindu doesn't mean that I hate other religions.
I see beauty in Hinduism for various reasons. [In my attempt to eulogize a religion I am going to be very generous in giving these accolades. Remember, that for everything that is true for Hinduism, you will find exactly opposite somewhere else within Hinduism.]
These are some of the reasons:
1. There was no such a thing as 'true Hindu'. There are no sets of rules to be followed to prove that you are a true Hindu (till recently). As far as I am concerned, I could be an atheist and still be a Hindu. And someone out there could be praying to Ravana and still be a Hindu.
2. It did not have any single holy text (till recently). There are so many of them- you could pick and choose. It's like Starbucks - many varieties of coffee (and tea) are served.
3. It was not monotheistic (till recently), and that also meant, it was polytheistic. Any one living in this land could come up with their definition for a god and pray to it. No questions asked. They could pray to a widow, or a tree, a snake or a stone. One could even pray to an alien or a film actress (and I think both are the same).
4. It was evolutionary - it changed its form and shape and evolved with time (till recently). Different gods were popular at different times. It is like popularity ratings - sometimes it is David Letterman, and then sometimes it is Jay Leno. The TV shows keep changing. Brahma is now completely faded away. Ganesha is now more popular than his father. Few others, like Indra are completely not welcome back on the show.
5. It allowed for many interpretations of its mythologies. While Ram was good in one version, Ravan was good in another one. Good and bad were treated as something possible in a single human being. Bad does not mean Satan. And being evil does not mean a direct ticket to Hell. Even good people had to struggle hard to get into Heaven. Even the concept of Hell and Heaven change from one book to another!
6. It allowed for atheism. While there could be many gods, it was also possible not to have any god.
And what do I find these days? The very reasons why I like Hinduism are being discarded away by few posers who seem to champion the cause of Hinduism. Without taking my permission they want to represent Hinduism to me, telling me how wrong I am in my interpretations, and why I need to correct it. I say, 'Who the hell are you to tell me how I should live my life?'
The beauty that I see in Hinduism is not found in the holy books, scriptures, or its mythology. It is not found in Vedic Sciences or Vedic Mathematics, its purported achievements of having built nuclear bombs or an airplane. I do not see beauty in its purported complexity of stanzas, slokas, hierarchies of castes, and detailed description of rituals such as ablution.
I think it is found in its simplicity and diversity. It could be taken up by anyone at any time (of course, some of the Hindus were kept out of temples forever). It could be anything to anyone living anywhere. What was true in Hinduism was also false in Hinduism. For some Amavasya (New Moon) is not auspicious while it is auspicious to some others, and they are all Hindus. For some cow is sacred and therefore it is not eaten and for few others it a source of protein for many centuries, and they are all Hindus.
And I don't think Hinduism is so fragile that it needs protection from goons such as Bajrang Dal, fanatics such as VHP, or sympathizers and protectors such as those seen on many elite forums. It has withstood onslaught of many monotheistic, authoritarian and dogmatic religions and has remained vibrant - continuously swelling in its ranks. It has retained its fabric and has continued to be a strong religion. Why should it need soldiers to defend it? And from whom?
What good is it if it can be understood by only those very few elite individuals who can unravel and solve the arcane and obscure conundrums and puzzles? If it can be understood by only few, then how come it is such a mainstream religion?
Hinduism belonged to the people of this land. It will evolve, and it better evolve. It will mean differently to different people. We don't need your Vedas to be Hindus nor do we need to pray to your prescribed gods to be Hindus. I am a Hindu in spite of every rule you impose; and that identity you cannot take it away from me. That's what I like about Hinduism!