I am Grenadian, but I sure don’t “look” it. That’s not me talking – that is the comment I’ve heard all my life. I am of East Indian descent. My parents are from India and they moved here many years ago. I was born in the very same hospital many of you may have been born in – the General Hospital in St. George’s. In my heart I never felt different to people around me but I was constantly showed that I was. In addition to my appearance, my religion and culture is different. I am Hindu.
As a child and throughout my teenage years at home, my family and I would be in the designated prayer room in the evening before dinner. We would light incense and sing our prayers. The scent of incense always triggers fond memories of family bonding and time spent together. It was and still is a very a peaceful time for me.
Growing up in Grenada, while in school, I was constantly taunted for “worshiping” multiple gods and idols. My classmates would tell me that my religion wasn’t real and this caused me to questioned my beliefs for many years as a child. Why was it so different and complicated that I wasn’t able to explain it to anyone? In primary school I was tormented for not being Christian. “You don’t believe in Jesus and you will go to hell” was a common taunt in my earlier days. But to me, Jesus was the son of God and I did believe in Him. Why wouldn’t I? We had images of Jesus and a rosary bead in our prayer room and I never questioned that he was the son of God, performed countless miracles and spread his ministry across the world. Never.
I went to a Catholic secondary school and I would attend mass and church services. I sang and prayed just like everyone else and believed what I felt in my heart. I was never allowed to take communion though and I did have a few friends who made me feel like I was less of a person than they were because I wasn’t able to receive it.
I wasn’t taught to doubt anyone’s beliefs or that my religion was superior to anyone else’s. However, I was never able to effectively defend myself and explain that I belonged to a religion that believed in all other religions. This never made any sense to anyone. To them, a religion was either true or untrue. That still astonishes me even to this day. My religion, to me, was all about peace. Today people still have a misconception of what Hinduism really is.
Hinduism has been called the oldest living religion in the world. We believe that souls in the universe undergo cycles of rebirths or in other words reincarnation. This means that a soul travels through thousands of forms and births before it comes into human form. When in human form, we now have a duty (Dharma) in life to be good, do good and be harmonious with our surroundings. The act of “doing” is referred to as Karma. Hinduism is about a set of practices and beliefs that teaches us how to live well in this life we are blessed with. Good and bad deeds can create your Karma and from that you will either be rewarded or punished. The goal of living well is so that our soul can attain Moksh which means freedom from the physical form, ending the cycle of rebirths and becoming one with the Creator. Moksh can also be understood as salvation or redemption. It is not as easily attained as just doing good however. Moksh is attained through good karma, prayer, meditation and enlightenment but as a general rule, this is what we are taught to aspire to.
Hinduism has been misunderstood by many when the use of the word “god” is mentioned. The word should not be taken so literally. It is believed that that the One True Creator has manifested throughout history in many Avatars (forms) to come to the assistance or service of humans during times when the world was in grave danger. This, I believe, is what leads people to believe that Hinduism is about worshiping many gods. Hinduism is a religion of many prophets, deities, holy books and scriptures.
With regards to other misconceptions that people may have about Hinduism, such as the caste system, arranged marriages etc, I will assure you that those are cultural aspects and not religious ones. They were created by people to have control over society. The religion itself does not condone anything that results in putting one human being or animal above or beneath another. That is not what Hinduism is about.
You can believe in one god or many and be Hindu. You can chose to not believe in any and still be Hindu. Being Hindu allows one to think independently and objectively without conditioning or any fixed faith system. As a Hindu you respect other religions and don’t condemn anyone for their beliefs. Hinduism is philosophical, peaceful and just wants us to do, speak and be good. It is not governed by superstitions and rituals. It is a personal relationship you have with your Creator and there is no need to convert or be initiated. Hinduism follows natural law yet it is logical. The essence of Hinduism is spirituality. It is not something you can seek. Hinduism is within you.
No matter our religious belief, we are all on a journey through life. Oftentimes, religion drives a wedge between us. However, if you pay close attention to the common message through all religions, it is that we should do good, be good and not harm another being.We are not so different, after all. We are just taking different paths to the same destination.
Love and Light.