Tufail Ahmad, Ex-BBC journalist tweeted “All religions are false. All gods are false.” which has been re-tweeted several times. Perhaps he is trying to provoke Hindus for a debate (on Twitter?). But I doubt he will be getting anything better than rhetorical answers.
This is my attempt to answer him from a Hindu point of view. I am neither a saint or a baba nor a studious authority & historian or theologian. I am a common man.
Tufail Sir, We need to define what is called religion. Dictionary meaning says: “The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.”
Tufail Sir, exactly after 9/11, one my American friend asked me similar question “Who are You?”. So he wanted to know whether I am a Christian, a Muslim or a Jew. I told him I am a Hindu. He was confused. He couldn’t sense anything. We had a long discussion about Hinduism which went something like follows:
Who am I?
This question is being asked by our Indian ancestor for literally 1000s of years. They had even more difficult questions of which human kind is not able to get answers.
I am born to a Hindu Family & therefore I am a Hindu. But beyond that there is a deep rooted philosophy which every Hindus follows.
Following sentences are from Rigveda & translated lucidly in Hindi by Prof Dev for Bharat Ek Khoj. I have loosely translated them for this piece. It is not word to word translation but essential thought is the same.
There wasn’t anything as Truth or un-Truth before this universe came in to existence.
There wasn’t even the Sky. Where was this water before the universe came in to existence? Were the both hidden by somebody?
Who created this universe? Is there really somebody who created this universe? Where does he stays? Perhaps he knows that who created this universe or did he really know that? Nobody knows it…..nobody knows it.
The one who is in existence even before this universe came in to existence, he must be the one who is the master of the universe. We pray to that great one, giving a small portion of food (हवी दे कर ) to him.
If you look at these questions & last statement, human kind is not able to find out the answers to these questions even after so much scientific body of modern knowledge. Questioner in Rigveda himself is skeptical about that. But he has not closed his mind that there isn’t anybody. He also feels if at all he is there he could be somebody like me who can eat my food.
Several people have already said Hindu is the word derived from Sidnhu for the people who flourished around Sindhu river. Even Supreme Court has said it is not a religion, it is a way of life. This is how Hindu mind looks at god. He is always skeptical but he has not closed his mind.
Now you will ask questions that what about various Gods & Idols. So let me tell you some truth about Hindu mind. I don’t go to any temple & pray, I don’t worship any particular god. And still I am a Hindu. Nobody tells me that you are sinner because I don’t pray to the god. My mother used to worship Ganapati & she never forced me to pray. Forget about my mother, not even any Pandit ever told me about worshiping a particular god, if at all he thinks, he will just suggest, no force. I used to go in RSS shakhas when I was young, nobody ever asked me which god do you pray?
Hindu mind gives great respect to extraordinary abilities found in nature. He gives godly status to anybody around him & even his mother, father & wife or his love. That is what some times Sufism claims about relationship with god. That is why you see many erotic figures in many Indian temples & carvings & Hindu don’t get offended by it.
There is a story about Swami Vivekanad. Somebody asked him what is the point of having idol when you know that it is not a god? Swamji saw a frame of than man’s father & mother on a wall. He took that in his hand told the questioner to spit on it. The questioner refused because it was his father’s & mother’s picture. Swamji explained even though you know this is just a paper & ink/some chemicals that has created the image of your parents you consider them as your father & mother. In the similar way Hindu knows the idol is not the god but he is open to imagination of him & existence of him. So Hindu never insists about “The Particular God”
You must be aware, every Hindu has liberty to pray to idol of his choice. He can worship god in an idol form or he can worship in the form of non existence (Nirakar निराकार). So idol worship is essentially giving a visible form to a god. For those who can worship a non form god he can worship him, if it is difficult for a person to imagine without any material form, he can worship in the form of idol.
Now let us come to gods like Rama, Krishna & other gods. Tufail Sir, Hindu mind can easily give a godlike status to human being who has extraordinary capability according to him. He will worship him, will try to bring that extraordinary mans extraordinary qualities in to him.
Let us think about Lord Rama. With the stroke of palace politics, he was thrown out of the palace. He had to go to Jungle for 14 years. There also his wife was kidnapped by Ravana. He had to fight with Ravana creating an army of monkeys & rescue his wife. When he comes back he had to send his wife back again to jungle because of public perception. He was not able to enjoy his children growing in front of his eyes. Frankly speaking Lord Ram’s individual life was really miserable. (This was all said by Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev & I totally agree with it. Video on youtube). But why do Hindus worship him and give him godly status? Because in all these adverse conditions through out his life this gentleman Rama never compromised on humanly principles. The Dharama (not a religion). He never went off balance in so much adversities through out his life. He did his duties & the things which are good for human race. That is why he is literally called Maryada Purshottam (मर्यादा पुरूषोत्तम). Ultimately Hindu says he is a man but a Great Man. The one who realized these qualities in Rama was Hanumana, even though he was a monkey, Hindu mind doesn’t mind praying him also as a god.
So essentially Hindu mind worships human beings & also animals who have got excellent exceptional qualities (Cow). Same can be said about other gods. They are all human beings like us or animals or nature. They are like us. They have problems like us. But they have some exceptional qualities for which they are worshiped like a god. That is why Hindus say there are 30 Crore gods equal to population at that time. In every human being there is an existence of the God. In nature there is every where an existence of god, the goodness & greatness of nature.
Now let us come to Abrahmic religions. They think that there is only one god in the sky & you have to believe in his existence. You can not question it’s existence. If you say so you are punishable by that god & his followers. You are a sinner & you will be forgiven by that god in the sky if you accept his existence. This is closed mind which doesn’t accepts other views. If idol worshipers don’t agree with this, you are free to break those idols, because they worship false gods. You can take idolaters with their family in to possession & treat them as slaves. You can destroy their places of worship. Tax them. This didn’t happen in the ancient past only. It happened in today’s world in case of Yazdis in Syria.
Do you know Tufail? The problem with Abrahimic religions is they are too much organized as a military or a political party. There is little theology or philosophy. There is one god. There is one Father or a Mulla who helps you understand what is good for your religion & not. He is the person through whom you talk to or understand or connect to the god. And because you cannot think beyond what Mulla or a Father says he becomes a powerful political figure. You cannot defy him.
That is their strength because that gives these religions brutal power to oppress & weakness because they have a closed mind.
The problem is organized Abrahamic religions & their concept of god. Religions like Parsi & Jew who were alien to this land of Hindus were persecuted by Islam & found refuge in India because of the Hindu openness about the concept of a god. All were protected & had a place in this country.
Can we say the same about Islam or Christianity?
Now on this background seek yourself the answer for your statement “All Gods are false gods”. We Hindus are seekers not believers. So whatever you want to believe you can believe. As a Hindu you can believe”All religions are false, All Gods are false”. But can we say this about Islam or Christianity? That is the freedom Hinduism offers. Unfortunately, Abrahamic religions are abusing it to destroy Hindus themselves. And they succeed. Because Hindus are not organized like military or political party to prove their god is the only god & all other are false.
All non believers or atheist are following basically Hindu Thought, but they are afraid to accept this because they feel afraid they will get labeled.
Hindu expects you to keep your mind open.
One can discuss other Indian Religions on this background with the concept of Abrahamic Religions.