SN1101E - Hinduism - Various Points Re: Religion SN1101E...

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Various Points Re: Religion SN1101E Hinduism Indian languages don't have a word comparable to religion! The two closest are dharma , meaning ethics, duty, or a code of conduct; and pantha , indicating community Pantha is particularly interesting because it shows how members of indigenous Indian religious formations really saw themselves as communities rather than a single religious collectivity Even the word hindu itself was used by the Muslims to refer to the native peoples of South Asia, specifically to those who did not convert to Islam; it didn't identity a particular religious affiliation per se, but rather the lack thereof It has been suggested that Hinduism is both a civilisation and a conglomeration of religions, with neither a beginning, a founder, nor a central authority, hierarchy, or organisation; it has no single definitive religious text, nor an overarching doctrine relating its various influences Indeed, Hinduism, historically, seems far more like an accumulation of traditions and beliefs rather than a religion Despite this, early efforts to understand South Asian religions were Western and Christian in outlook For them, religion has to be organised, uniform and centralised, but Hinduism was fluid, contemporary, and inclusivist Comparing Hinduism to their own religions was seen as reasonable and rational way to understand the unfamiliar One problem with this was the tendency to see separate religious identities as exclusive, singular, and possibly monotheistic, thereby discounting any possibility that there might be an overlap of practices and thought However the truth is, whatever conflict there might have been, there were areas of shared concern and dialogue between different communities Indian religion was fluid, contemporary, and inclusivist; its history is a dynamic process of borrowing, conflict, and interaction between and within religious traditions, not confined to a fixed time interval Consider how, for instance, the four central sources of modern Hinduism – Vedic religion, the Upanishads, the classical Hindu synthesis, as well as devotional Hindu traditions – all share a common religious vocabulary In fact, certain words – such as karma , moksha , samsara – are present even in other religions, specifically in Buddhism and Jainism, albeit accompanied by somewhat dissimilar ideas By defining Hindu traditions in their terms, the colonialists might have established a religious identity that did not exist Additionally, there were also considerable gaps between classificatory models and indigenous practices There were many communities that simply could not conceptualise their beliefs and rites in terms of a monolithic universal community Of particular note are the Meherats, whose traditions – in marriage and funeral rituals, for instance – are similar to those of Islam, but frequently marry into Hindu clans; yet this did not imply an alignment with either religion The British census-taking bureaucracy soon came to realise this, noting how the figures of a single religious community
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This note was uploaded on 01/11/2010 for the course SAS SN1101E taught by Professor Kripasridharan during the Fall '09 term at National University of Singapore.

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SN1101E - Hinduism - Various Points Re: Religion SN1101E...

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