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The Future of Hinduism


future of hinduism

Hindu community constitutes about a seventh of the world population with over a billion people living in various parts of the world, with the large numbers being concentrated in the Indian subcontinent. The community is in a transformative state as many processes are happening simultaneously in their macrocosm with urbanization, modernization, migration and growing inequalities in income levels and living standards. The community also faces a number of social problems and maladies such as abuse of minor girls, rapes, dowry problems, persecution in countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh, gender discrimination, illiteracy, evils of materialism, conversions, caste inequalities, poverty and so on. Looking at the confusion and commotion among Hindu groups one may wonder about the future of Hinduism.

Hinduism emerged through many problems and challenges in the past. However, the problems it faces today are very different and more intense because of the speed with which both information and misinformation can reach the people. A thousand years ago it was extremely difficult for a ruler to reach out to his people on a daily basis. Missionaries from abroad had to travel hundreds of miles to reach the villages where the masses lived. Nowadays you do not have to even go to the villages. You can enter the minds of people through television, radio, newspapers, and the Internet. Then we have extremist elements in various parts of the world who are intent upon spreading terror and chaos.

We believe that despite these glaring problems and challenges, Hinduism will survive and plod on into the next century, provided the world manages to survive against the suicidal tendencies among a few destructive groups and their passion for wars and violence to settle differences. If history is any indication, Hinduism will survive not because it has a billion followers, but because it has a dedicated minority of scholars, spiritual masters, religious teachers and priestly families, who transcend their self-interest in the service of their faith.

Ever since the tradition made its early appearance in the Indian subcontinent a few thousand years ago, a majority of its adherents have remained mostly on the fringes of the religion. They played an insignificant role other than acting as witnesses to the events that unfolded before them. It was the elite which carried forward the torch of Hinduism. It is highly doubtful whether the first Shankaracharya who is considered an important personality in the development and preservation of Hinduism was ever popular among his contemporaries, or known to the masses. The people he met and interacted were mostly scholars, priests and a few influential people. Many Hindus even today may not know much about him. Even today many Hindus who live in villages do not know who he was. They may mistakenly consider him one of the many Shankaracharyas who head the various spiritual organizations that were established by him.

The hard truth is that in all these centuries and millenniums, Hinduism survived largely because of the intellectual work done by a few priestly families, scholars, and ascetic groups, and because of the patronage and protection given by warrior kings and wealthy merchants.

Even if we take out the past caste equations and solely go by individual nature and behavior, the pattern still remains, except that the rulers are out of the equation, and the governments who now regulate the lives of Hindus do not render any service to Hinduism even in countries where Hindus form a majority. Actually, in many countries they discriminate against Hinduism because most Hindus do not perceive it as a problem and do not use their influence to protect their faith or their community.

Fortunately, as before Hinduism has a few dedicated writers, religious teachers, spiritual masters, committed community leaders, religious institutions, and a few educated land owners and wealthy merchants. They support Hinduism despite the cold shoulder they get from the politicians and the vast majority of their own the community members. You may consider them the elite section of modern Hindu society, the Brahmanas, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas by nature, service, and profession, not necessarily by birth. The rest are all Shudras, by temperament, choice and profession, even if by birth they are from higher castes.

These modern Shudras practice religion only for selfish ends. Unless there is something in it for them, they will not even bother to appreciate the good work done by others for the community. You will find these Shudras in all wakes of life and you can observe their indifference and ignorance. They will go to temples to bribe the gods and demand reciprocal benefits, celebrate a few festivals, watch devotional programs, perform some ceremonies, and in extreme cases indulge in magical rituals. There their faith ends. Most of them cannot go beyond these superficial aspects of religion because they are too poor or too ignorant or too busy to focus upon their own spiritual welfare.

Therefore, for some decades in future you can expect a lot more commotion, confusion, evil, crime, politics, corruption, gender discrimination, and many such evils in Hindu society. You can also expect problems to Hindus worldwide due to religious wars, crimes and violence from extremist elements in all religions. Going by the current trends Hinduism may likely undergo a radical transformation and become more Christianized because of the corrupt influences, and misinformation. The film industry will continue to distort Hinduism and Hindu culture for its own ends, until people forget its true and essential nature and remember only the mythology and the false imagery the film world creates for them.

However let us hope that in the eye of that storm, under such dark clouds, dedicated and pious modern Brahmanas and Kshatriyas of the modern Hindu community, from all caste and national backgrounds, will carry forward the light of knowledge and wisdom contained in the ageless scriptures of Hinduism into the next century.

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