Considering that there are so many facets to Hinduism, wouldn’t it suffice for one to practice one or more of them? If so, why is there a need to embark on an academic pursuit of the Sanatana Dharma?
I practice Hinduism; then why do I need to study Hinduism?
Many amongst us are keen believers of Hinduism and its philosophy – only, we express it in different ways. Some of us follow rituals and traditions; others focus on their Gods and places of worship; a few delve deep into scriptures and read them regularly; some are vocal about the role of Hinduism in today’s society; and some have embraced a certain community under the guidance of a Swami or a Guru. For many, Hinduism is purely the joy of celebrating festivals and holy days; for a few, it is a spiritual experience that leads them to dhyāna and dharma, and there are those who are very particular about their beliefs and practices.
Considering that there are so many facets to Hinduism, wouldn’t it suffice for one to practice one or more of them? If so, why is there a need to embark on an academic pursuit of the Vedas and Sanatana Dharma?
Just as all other aspects of practising Hinduism have their place in our lives, so does structured and supervised learning of the great tenets of this ancient religion. Imagine practising yoga without being formally trained in it – we are constantly at risk of injury or health risks because of incomplete understanding of the science, or because we have failed to learn the intricacies of each asana. While each asana comes with its own health benefits, there are clear guidelines about who can perform them, and when, and how they need to be performed. Hence the need for formal training and a guru.
The need to engage in an academic pursuit of Hinduism is equally important, for the following reasons:
- The need to know: How is the ātman different from brahman? What does the Bhagavad Gīta tell us? What is the significance of vegetarianism in Hinduism? Why is yoga not an end in itself, but merely the means to the path of spiritual enlightenment? Why is the knowledge of Sanskrit paramount to understanding Hinduism better? What is the truth behind the much-maligned caste system that is attributed to Hinduism? Is the suffix of -ism justified when Hinduism is slotted with other world religions despite the fact that it is thousands of years older than any of them? There are many more questions to which we need the answers. We need to know, because it is this knowledge that will propel us on our spiritual journey. And this knowledge cannot be obtained by casual research on the internet. It takes an academic resolve to explore, study, introspect and find these answers. It takes the guidance of the experts who become our gurus in this journey.
- The need to lead: Many of us follow or practice certain aspects of Hinduism because we were initiated into it by our elders, and we obeyed them unquestioningly. However, when it comes to encouraging our next generation to follow in our footsteps, we need to be able to address their questions and satisfy their need to understand before they accept. How many of us can put our hands up to claim that we know the nuances of Hinduism, what they mean, why they must be practised and how they benefit us? Contrary to popular Western belief, every aspect of Hinduism, be it tradition or practice, belief or worship, is built on the strong foundation of a rationale. Everything can be explained, but only if we have the answers. That can happen only when we open ourselves to learning and being guided through an exercise that broadens our horizons of what we know about Hinduism. An academic study makes this exercise possible.
- The need to uphold: Hinduism has been subjected to a long, endless phase of discrimination, because of its ‘majority status’ in India and because of misconceived notions about it in the West, resulting in it being called polytheistic, idolatrous and pagan. This has resulted in a dilution of its core values amongst a majority of Hindus, who have been deviating from its original path of spirituality and instead have been choosing the hybrid route dictated by Western practices. There is a long-standing need to clear the fog that has obfuscated this path and show the way for those Hindus who have been led to believe that their religion has riddled society with discrimination and superstition, which is again, a colonial narrative that needs to be disproved. This can be done only by a detailed study of Hinduism and acquiring Vedic wisdom. Only an academic pursuit can help fulfil this objective.
- The need to protect: When the colonial powers left India, they unfortunately left behind a legion of sceptics – Hindus who were critical of their own religion. Rather than question the beliefs, practices and ancient scriptures in an attempt to seek answers, they ended up questioning their religion more to voice their disagreements and flaunt their Western mindset. This continues to this day with the growing liberal voices that have been indoctrinated into the colonial perspective of believing that the West is the ultimate source of knowledge and authority and that everything in the world must meet their acceptance to exist.
- The need to correct: For centuries, the written word on Hinduism has mostly come from the pen of the outsider. Theirs is deemed to be ‘more objective’ and their interpretation of Hinduism is upheld as the world view, which is considered ‘more informed’ and more ‘in line with’ the colonial narrative that has been forced on us. If we need to respond and offer the right narrative, which is the insider’s perspective, we need to be better equipped to do so. That requires an in-depth knowledge of our own past, our ethos, philosophies and our scriptures. It also requires a working knowledge of the wonderful language in which all our scriptures have been presented to us – Sanskrit. A casual reading or internet research wouldn’t suffice. Chances are, such endeavours may lead us back to the colonial perspectives that may appear as search results. Or we may end up reading Westernized versions of our epics because we choose to study them in English. That is why we need to undertake a formal academic journey into Hinduism.
There could be many more reasons why one needs to undertake an academic study of Hinduism to discover various aspects of it. And there is one place of learning that nurtures such studies, offering several courses at various levels to both entrants and experts.
This could be the opportunity you have been looking for – to find the answers, to set right what’s gone wrong, and to reinstall the dormant values in future generations. An entire world of Vedic wisdom awaits, to be explored, revered and understood. All it takes to begin this fascinating journey is for you to get in touch with us.
Cover Image created in Word Art by JS.