" The Hindu man drinks religiously, sleeps religiously, walks religiously, marries religiously, robs religiously." - Swami Vivekananda
Hinduism is not considered as a religion but a way of life, because religion is deeply interwoven into the life of a Hindu, the way nerves are interwoven in our bodies. It is very difficult to separate living and religion in the life of a devout Hindu. Both are inseparable. Both compliment each other. Both exist because of each other and both would lose their meaning and significance without the other. Religion is the center of living and living is the center of religion.
In this article we try to understand the philosophy hidden behind this beautiful and noble concept of human life. We will try to understand why a Hindu considers his religion as a way of life instead of calling it a way of worshipping God or following a particular set of beliefs.
Religion is there in every aspect of a Hindu's life. Religion is his inseparable companion, guide and philosopher. It is there, always, however modern or advanced he may be, whether he believes in God or not, at the back of his mind, like a tuft of hair on the head of a priest, deeply rooted in his subconscious, firmly entrenched in his being, from which he cannot escape even if he chooses to follow another religion. It is there when he is born, as if he comes into this world carrying with him the burden of his religion, with all his deeply rooted religious beliefs and practices, as if they are his traditional family tools from which he can never be separated, because his present life is but a continuation and result of his past one. And it stays with him till the end, influencing every action of his and helping him to adjust to the harsh realities of life in a rather philosophical and stoical way and accept suffering as a part of his self-purification and inner correction.
According to Hinduism, religion is not separate from living. It is living itself. God does not exist in temples and sacred places only. Going to the temples is a good practice, but that is not the only way to worship God. God does not exist in temples alone, in some particular altar or sacred place. He exists every where and can be approached in many ways, not just by performing some special yagnas and rituals, but also through the very process of living ones life and discharging ones responsibility towards oneself, ones family, ones society and ones own religion. Even helping other religions is not an abominable act.
The very life that we live on earth is divine. Every aspect of it is infused with Divine presence. Hidden behind the illusion of life is God's golden and immortal presence. If we are clever enough and careful enough in our thoughts and deeds, we can see His foot prints every where, in our lives and actions. We can realize Him right amidst our active living process. If we are careful, if we are intelligent, if we have the right discrimination, we can make the very process of living a kind of daily worship, a means to establish contact with the Divine, a way to purify ourselves and ennoble ourselves, and create, in this very life, amidst this very society, a strong foundation, a lasting basis, for our spiritual growth that would eventually lead us towards self-realization.
The Hindu way of life encourages us to accept living as a means of self-realization. Every activity that we perform while living and every aspect of life that we know and deal with becomes means to realize God. In this approach there is very little difference between living and worshipping. Life is but divine and sacred. The Divine does not exist elsewhere in some heavenly regions, separate and distinct from ours. He is right here, amidst us, at the centers of our very lives and activities. Every act that we perform in this life will either contribute towards our evolution or inhibit it.
Life is verily an opportunity to receive into our selves, the Divine force, the illuminating and enlightening awareness of God, the overwhelming and all encompassing soul consciousness. Life is an opportunity to discover our hidden selves. It is a great way to go beyond our limited vision and limited capacities. It is the best possible instrument with in our reach to realize Truth of ourselves and of God in the truest and grandest possible manner. Performing ones duties with a sense of detachment and as an offering to God, or worshipping God in a temple or during a ritual, are conceptually one and the same. Self-realization can be achieved not only by renouncing the world and performing tapas, but living amidst society, with a sense of detachment, untouched by the corruptions of life, like a lotus leaf in a pond. If we live with a divine sense of responsibility, every act that we perform in the course of our lives can lead us into the mysteries of divine life and into highest transcendental state of light and delight.
Every Hindu artist, who has been brought in the true traditions of Hinduism, knows this secret. For him his art is simply an inseparable from of divine worship. For him it is the best and the easiest way to be in touch with the heart of God. His devotion to God flows out of him in the form of an artistic expression. His art flourishes to the extent he is devoted to God. It is the same conviction, the same philosophy, the same approach, which prompts a karmayogi to perform his duties with a degree of detachment that is rare to come across elsewhere in the world.
The present life is but a continuation of the previous. It is another opportunity that we create for ourselves to continue our experiments with truth, to correct our past mistakes, cleanse our souls and make ourselves more qualified for the infusion of light and ascent into higher planes of existence. The present is so because of the deeds of the past. We are the creators of our own lives and destinies. We create them out of our right and wrong actions which have both positive and negative consequences. So if one has to change the conditions and secure a better future one has to live more responsibly and more carefully. And this has to be done right now, here and in this very life. This is the philosophy, the line of thinking, behind the concept of Hinduism as a way of life. The concepts of the omnipresence of God and his inviolable law of life (dharma) operating universally keeps the typical Hindu careful in his actions and responsible towards his own life. For the typical Hindu religion is thus a way of life, a means of self-purification and inner evolution.