Compared with other religions, what is unique about Hinduism?
The Hindu religion sees divinity in everything. It regards everyone as a manifest form of God. Man and God are not two, but one. Divinity is latent in every person. Hinduism teaches that anyone can realize this through effort. Creation and the Creator are not separate; the Creator (God) has become creation. The Hindu religion holds that realizing this non-dual truth is the highest goal of life. The dream is not separate from the dreamer. However, to realize that what one saw was a dream, one must awaken. Even though God is everything, we see everything around us as distinct entities because we have not awakened to this realization. We like some objects and hate others, and thus, life takes on the nature of happiness and sorrow. But when we awaken to our own true reality, ‘I’ and ‘you’ cease to be. Everything is God alone. What remains is bliss alone. To enjoy this experience, Hinduism suggests myriad paths to suit the different natures and aptitudes of different people. It is doubtful if there is any other religion with such diversity in paths, customs and observances.
One can fashion from clay a donkey, horse, mouse and lion. Though different in name and form, yet in essence, they are all just clay. One must have the eye to see the clay in the diverse names and forms. In the same way, we must alter our vision, which beholds plurality in the diverse names and forms of the universe. Actually, the one reality or truth has become this manifold universe. Hence, in Hinduism, everything is God. There is nothing that is not divine. The Hindu dharma teaches one to love and serve everything - birds and beasts, worms, trees, plants, mountains, rivers and even the most venomous snakes — seeing them all as God.
When we attain the highest experience, we will realize that this universe is not separate from us, just as the limbs of our body are not separate from us.
Awareness, hitherto confined to our own body, will expand as wide as the universe. It will not shun anything. Just as we feel the pain caused by a thorn pricking our toe, those who have realized the Truth feel the pain of others as their own. Like the heat of fire, the coolness of water, and the nectar and fragrance of a flower, compassion becomes second nature to them. Consoling others becomes their abiding nature. If we accidentally poke our eye with our finger, we will forgive the finger and gently rub the eye with the finger because the finger and eye are not separate from us. Hence, the goal of Hinduism is to elevate every one to the state wherein one sees everyone as oneself. One attains perfection when the sense of ‘I’ expands from body bound consciousness to embrace the whole universe, and experiences oneness with God. Hinduism teaches one how to see God everywhere in the universe, and shows the way to experiencing oneness with God. Karma yoga, bhakti yoga and raja yoga are the different paths that Hinduism propagates.
Hinduism is known as Sanatana Dharma because it is appropriate for any place and time. It propagates eternal truths that will elevate the whole world. Hinduism aims to uplift everyone. There is no place for sectarianism or narrow-mindedness in it. ‘Asato ma satgamaya’ (‘Lead me from untruth to Truth’), ‘Tamaso ma jyotirgamaya’ (‘Lead me from darkness to Light’), ‘Mrtyor ma amritamgamaya’ (‘Lead me from death to Immortality’), ‘Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu’ (‘May all beings in all the worlds be happy’), ‘Purnamadah purnamidam purnaat purnamudacyate purnasya purnamadaya purnamevaavasishyate’ (‘That is full. This is also full. From fullness comes that fullness. Taking fullness from fullness, what remains is fullness.’) these are the mantras that the rishis bequeathed the world. One will not find in these mantras even the slightest sense of seeing anyone as separate.
The rishis beheld the one, supreme Truth. Truth validates their words. In response to his father, Prahlad declared, “God resides even in this pillar.” His words were fulfilled. God manifested in the pillar. That is what is meant when we say that Truth rushes to validate their words. Usually, new creation takes place in the maternal womb. But the very sankalpa (divine resolve) of the rishis are actualized. In other words, whatever they say comes to pass. Every word of the rishis, who are trikkalajnanis (knowers of the past, present and future), was uttered with future generations in mind.
The refrigerator makes things cold, the heater warms things up, the light illumines objects, and the fan blows air. The underlying electric current
that enables all these appliances to work is the same. Is there any meaning in saying that the current in one is superior or inferior to that in another on the basis of differences in their mode of operation, benefits or price? In order to understand that the electric current is one though the appliances are many, one must understand the science of how these appliances work; one must have practical familiarity with them. In the same way, although every object in the universe looks different externally, the inner consciousness in all of them is one. All that one must do is gain that eye of wisdom through sadhana (spiritual practice). The rishis, who had realized this Truth, handed down their wisdom through succeeding generations. This sagely wisdom has thus more or less shaped the lives of the masses in India. Those who follow that way of life are known as Hindus. Actually, it is not a religion. The word ‘matam’ (Malayalam word for ‘religion’) means ‘opinion.’ The Hindu culture is the sum total of experiences that the rishis, who lived in different ages and who encountered the Truth, had. Hence, Hinduism is not a religion that was created by any individual. It is not a principle that is contained in any one scriptural text, but a holistic vision of life.
Amma, Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi