Learning About My Own Heritage...

I was born in a Hindu family. My parents are "spiritual but not religious" people - two of the best human beings I know, but not into "religion" per se. As Hindus we were brought up to respect *all* religions, and not told much about our own - so much so that as a child I once thought that we were Christian! I picked up fragments of the viewpoints of different religions and Science, from people, books, TV etc., and passed through theism, agnosticism and atheism (after reading "A Brief History of Time" by Stephen Hawking!)- before finally choosing Hinduism at the age of 13-14.
Why did I choose it? I found that it is the one "religion" that offers a complete freedom of thought - ranging from materialism, atheism, agnosticism and polytheism, to monotheism - whether dualistic (like Christianity/Judaism/Islam), qualified monistic, and finally monistic. Besides, the best part for an aspiring scientist and a lover of rational enquiry like me, was that there were no "must-believe" rules - nothing was to be swallowed without reason. Like physical truths like electrons, protons, gravity, etc., spiritual truths actually exist, and these are not simply to be believed in as a matter of faith, but to be actually experienced through spiritual practice. "If there is a soul, I must feel it, if there is a God, I must see him [and only then accept such ideas]" - so said Swami Vivekananda, one of Hinduism's greatest saints in the 19th century. And last, but not the least, Hinduism says that different names of God (like God, Allah, Jehovah, Vishnu, Brahma etc.) - finally all represent (perhaps different aspects of) the same God - just like the same "water" is called "water" in English, "eau" in French, "agua" in Spanish, "pani" or "jal" in Hindi etc. Thus, all religions are different paths to the same final goal - complete and absolute Freedom!
Besides, I found the idea of a God the Magistrate, weighing the "good" and "bad" actions of a person, rewarding or punishing with an infinite result for a finite action - like Hell forever, or Heaven forever, logically unappealing.
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26-30
May 4, 2012