12 Shocking Truths About Religions

  1. Religion, understood as something related to ‘beliefs’ is a modern Western concept which did not exist 300 years before. {Nongbri,Brent (2013). Before Religion – A History of a Modern Concept. Yale University}.
  2. Religion as a modern concept arose during Protestant reformation, when many people began to emphasize ‘what they believed in’ more than the kind of life they lived.
  3. None of the religions have a word for ‘religion’ and none of them identified themselves based on beliefs. The religions used a different word to call themselves, which is Dharma in Sanskrit, Deen in Arabic and Halakha in Hebrew. All these words mean ‘Law’ or the way of life. It focuses on a way of life that brings ultimate happiness both to yourself and others.
  4. Hinduism as a religion is a modern concept popularized by Irish missionary Charles Grant in 1787. Before that, no one identified themselves as a ‘Hindu’. So in a sense, Hinduism is the youngest religion on the planet. Dharma was never based on an identity, whereas the modern notion of Hinduism is based on identity.
  5. Most of the attempts to define religion is based on the unconscious assumption that it should sufficiently resemble Protestant Christianity. When people debate about whether a particular ‘ism’ such as Marxism is a religion, they are debating whether it is sufficiently similar to Protestant Christianity.
  6. But essentially, all these so called religious traditions are the offshoots of a central wisdom which developed during axial age (8th to the 3rd century BCE). This was developed by inquiring into the nature of human suffering and finding liberation from it.
  7. The central wisdom of axial age was based on inquiry rather than blind faith. They kind of had their own peer review just like we have in science. Their conclusion about human psychological suffering and the way out of it had more to do with the sense of a separate self in human beings rather than belief in supernatural things.
  8. The central wisdom of axial age found that the key to permanent peace in this life is to get rid of the sense that you are a person or entity that is seperate from the rest of the existence. They found three ways that helped: Mindfulness and insight related practices (Jnana Yoga), practices based on unconditional love and devotion (Bhakti yoga), practices based on doing the required actions without being attached to the results (Karma yoga).
  9. Christianity is pure Bhakti yoga; Islam is a combination of Bhakti and Karma; Buddhism is focused mainly on Jnana. But the mystical traditions of these schools also have Jnana Yoga or practices based on insight.
  10. What we call ‘sanatana dharma’ or Hindu Dharma is a school which recognizes all three methods. It is not polytheistic though; Surrender is not possible with two divinites. So Hinduism as a polytheistic religion is a recent myth; we only had monotheistic schools like Shaivism, Vaishnavism etc.
  11. The various monotheistic schools of Indian subcontinent were connected by a single dharma by Adhi Shankara. Many folk traditions were also creatively absorbed within the context of Dharma and their elements were used as psychological aids. All these schools recognize different divinities as aspects, manifestations and various forms of one Supreme reality. If thought as formless, it is called Nirguna Brahman. If imagined with form, it is Saguna Brahman.
  12. So, all religions, if understood properly, lead to the same goal. This has been repeatedly asserted by people like Guru Nanak, Kabir, Rumi, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Shirdi Sai Baba, Vivekananda, Sivananda, Gandhi, Abdul Kalam and many others.

An article that you may be interested in: Pappankulam – A Village of Brahmins and Four Vedas

Also read:

Why is there so much hate between Hindus and Muslims in India?

Prophet Muhammad Exposed – A Different Perspective That Everyone Should Read

Hinduism and Dharma: The Distinction between a Religion and a Way of Life

Author: Shanmugam P

I am a blogger and a self-published author. My book "The Truth About Spiritual Enlightenment: Bridging Science, Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta" is a guide to the ultimate freedom, bliss and oneness. The book is based on my own experience. My book "Discovering God: Bridging Christianity, Hinduism and Islam" shows how all three major religions of the world lead to the same truth. I am a past student of Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Swamigal Golden Jubilee Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Sankarnagar, Tirunelveli District.

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