Hinduism is a way of life and not essentially a religion. The religion is called- Sanatan Dharma- the universal law of inclusiveness in nature or Praying, protecting and living in tune with nature. The term and concept of Hinduism was coined only recently. The word Hindu originates from the word Sindhu. Anyone who is born and lives in the land of Sindhu is a Hindu. Being a Hindu doesn’t mean following a particular faith. The Hindu way of life is essentially an art of salvation, a philosophy, a science.
But recently due to certain influences, the geographical identity has given way to a religious identity. There is no particular belief system associated with the Hindu way of life. Someone may believe in God; someone else can choose not to believe in God. Everybody is free to have their own way of worship. Even in a family, each individual can worship the God of their choice, or not worship anything, and still be a good Hindu.
In most of the contemporary religions, the teachings of the God or his Messenger is the final authority and if you don’t conform to it, you will either end up in hell or be punished by God, but the beauty of Hinduism is that everyone is free to do what he or she thinks is right. After Krishna gave all the secret and holy knowledge on various topics to Arjuna, told him what constitutes right and wrong. Lord Krishna at the end, says:
इति ते ज्ञानमाख्यातं गुह्याद्गुह्यतरं मया ।
विमृश्यैतदशेषेण यथेच्छसि तथा कुरु ।।18 – 63।।
After having revealed to you all the words of wisdom, holy advice and the most secret of the secret knowledge, please give serious thoughts and ponder over all that I have told you, and then, DO AS YOU WISH !!
(Adhyay 18, Shloka 63).
There is no scope for any sort of fundamentalism in the Sanatan Dharma or its many scriptures which emphasize radical inclusion, real peace amongst all divisions of people, and pluralism. So in spite of letting the fundamental ethos of Hinduism be lost in religious intolerance and various dogmas, let us preserve, protect and nurture the legacy of great sages and intellectuals who have blessed the land with their presence and knowledge.