This past Thursday evening, I had the great pleasure of listening to OU’s own Dr. Deonni Moodie give a talk on Hinduism, and it was incredibly interesting, so much so that it made me consider picking up a minor in religious studies. I am taking a comparative religion class this semester and absolutely loving it. Religion so often transcends political boundaries, and has brought people together, as well as torn people apart, for thousands of years. It is utterly fascinating to me, and this talk only further fueled my desire to learn more. In this post, I’m going to share some things that struck me from the talk, as well as things I want to learn more about!
Hinduism is definitely present in America, with over 2 million adherents residing in the states, but it has its roots in India and the vast majority of its faithful reside there. It is one of the many rich parts of American culture as well as being a force to be reckoned with abroad, and the more I hear about it, the more I want to know. Something I found shocking was that Hinduism is really a Western term, given by those outside the religion in an attempt to define it according to their own world views. In reality, Hinduism is an umbrella that covers a plethora of beliefs. This explains why I’ve never quite achieved a good grasp of what it is in the past – it is nearly impossible to pin down, because so many people believe so many different things.
Also surprising to me was the fact that, by and large, Hinduism does not seek converts. According to Hindu philosophy, the idea of conversion is offensive, because it would mean that Hinduism is putting itself forth as better than any other religion, which it never wants to do. The humility of this inspired me, for I have often thought that attempts at forced conversion seem to drive people away rather than attract believers. Hindu people prefer to live and let live, and I suspect we could all do to follow their example.
Hinduism is vast, with over 330 million gods. Some consider these gods to be distinct, while some believe them to be incarnations of the Ultimate Reality that transcends everything and which all should aspire to rejoin. Hinduism is monotheism, it is polytheism, it is a way of life. It is cyclical in nature and often beyond our Western linear grasp to comprehend. Many adherents worship murti, statues of the gods in which the divine are actually present, in temples, elaborate or humble, everywhere from India to our own Oklahoma City.
There is so much involved with this beautiful religion, more than I could even begin to write here, and much more than my limited authority can grasp. I do apologize if this post was rambling: the takeaway is that I am in awe of this beautiful religion and can’t wait to learn more. It is far outside what I have experienced so far, but contains universal ideas that make it accessible to anyone. I cannot thank Dr. Moodie enough for sharing some of her great insight!