Path to Siva: A Catechism for Youth

6 Is Hinduism a Religion or a Way of Life?§


A woman in red worships alone, while another with red nails paints a friend’s hand. As any puzzle’s solution requires all its pieces, so the fullness of Hinduism includes religion & culture.§


Hinduism is a religion, and it is a way of life. Both ideas are true. It is a highly spiritual way of life, which is the perfect definition of religion! The word religion means a particular system of faith and worship. It comes from religionem, a Latin word meaning “respect for what is sacred, reverence for the Gods.” In that sense, Hinduism is overqualified for the term. Unlike most religions, it does not divide life into secular and spiritual opposites. To devout Hindus, all of life is spiritual; all of our daily activities are part of our religious practice. Religion is a powerful word in today’s world, one that we should freely use in describing India’s ancient faith. A related issue is the use of the term Hinduism. This is the broad name by which Sanatana Dharma is known and honored in the world. For centuries Hinduism was misunderstood by the West and wrongly disparaged. But that has changed. Entering the 21st century, Hinduism is recognized as the most compassionate, mystical and enlightened faith on the planet. Its messages of peace, noninjury and openmindedness are urgently needed in this time of strife and bigotry. These values are being appreciated, as are Hinduism’s sciences of yoga, vastu, jyotisha and ayurveda. If we discard the name Hinduism or call it “just a way of life,” we remove it from the grand, esteemed position that it holds and deserves as a major world religion. We should not do that. United together under the Hindu banner, our family of faiths enjoys the many protections given to all religions, and we have a respected, unified voice to the media, government, boards of education and planning departments. Hindus themselves are becoming more confident about their faith, proud to declare, “I am a Hindu.” In universities the world over, Hindu youth stand proudly side by side with students of other religions. That can’t happen if we avoid the name Hinduism. And it can’t happen if we give up the word religion.§


GURUDEVA: Dharma means merit, morality, good conduct, religious duty and the way of life of the wise person.§