A Beginner’s take on Hinduism – Learnings for the Modern Thinker

Womenlines takes pleasure to welcome Sakhee Dheer as a guest contributor at Womenlines. Sakhee leads Digital Marketing for APAC Global Business Marketing at Facebook Singapore, currently. In this article, Sakhee is sharing her understanding of Hinduism-

In today’s world where cultures across the world are battling biases, discrimination, hate speech and other anti-human behaviour, it is important to re-read some of the foundational texts and scriptures of our humanity and re-learn human fundamentals without the ones contaminated by centuries of greed, division and exploitation. In my quest to understand more and be more mindful of our existence, I have embarked to learn more about Hinduism and try to be more conscious of our history, bias and also goodness! 

I recently wrote about how the last few months have forced each one of us to take a hard look at our how we lead our lives, what is important, what needs to be nurtured and what needs to be let go. In my quest to learn more about myself, our surroundings and cultural influences, I embarked on reading more and doing more. One question that has been with me all my adult life till now has been about who we are, what is our purpose in life and are we supposed to find our higher purpose? These questions keep me curious, ensure I am authentic at home and work, show care and try to genuinely listen and be empathetic.

Interestingly, I recently stumbled on a course by Harvard on Hinduism and in my quest to learn more about myself, go within, and possibly answer some existential questions!!!, I decided to give it a try. And what started as a simple desire to be equipped to have more meaningful conversations on my religion has ended with an explosive curiosity to know more. For those interested, here is the link to the course that I recommend to kick start your journey. Hinduism is known to be the oldest religion. It is called the Santana dharma or the eternal religion and no matter how deep I went into the course or my research alongside, I feel I haven’t even scratched the surface.

My readings have helped me understand how Hinduism has evolved over centuries, given the background to the religious practices and in many cases just some validation to things my elders have shared anecdotally. It has also helped me see some of the evils of Hinduism and allowed me to begin to build an objective view of how it has evolved over centuries. I also believe some of my findings have helped pick up deeper lessons on leadership, decision making, strategic action and mental steadfastness. After having begun my journey down this path, I strongly feel that many of us do not understand the essence of Hinduism, the goodness it has to offer and is stuck in the dogma that political leaders have created for their gains. Especially in today’s world where cultures across the world are battling biases, discrimination, hate speech and other anti-human behaviour, it is important to re-read some of the foundational texts and scriptures of our humanity and re-learn human fundamentals without the ones contaminated by centuries of greed, division and exploitation.

As I have made myself aware of the historical context of Hinduism, the revered scriptures of Vedas, Upanishads, Shrutis and Puranas, I feel strongly for what it has to offer. For me, Hinduism is a “way of life”. It is diverse and has something for everyone. In today’s times, the widespread popularity of yoga and meditation practices connected to fundamental Hindu practices are a case in point of the universality of the knowledge. The oldest scriptures Vedas and Upanishads talk about the connection with the environment and the existence of the Supreme Self. Both concepts are extremely important in today’s context. The Vedas and Upanishads are written in the form of hymns and philosophical discourse that point to real experiences sages then had, and explain the stages of attaining the realisation of consciousness. A concept I am blown over by. I am trying to internalise some of the teachings on the power of our mind, intellect and consciousness. I wish there was an easy way to experience this!

The power of Hinduism and the reason I believe it has survived all these years is the flexibility it has provided. In chronological order starting close to 15BCE, we have had multiple Hindu texts: Vedas->Upanishads->Smritis (Manusmriti)-> Ramayana->Mahabharat->Bhagavad Gita->Puranas->Bhakti texts -> Vernaculars. Each of the texts has evolved from the previous texts and they still carry the essence of Vedas and Upanishads. I have come to believe that at different junctures of human history, our ancestors added layers to the texts to match their context, whether it be to manage kingdoms or to govern during the colonial era. Some of the negative practices of caste and gender discrimination come from different eras but when we go back to the essence of Vedas of one Supreme Self and the connected Brahman (Universe) and Atman(Soul) all else seem just man-made alterations to very evolved scriptures of our ancient ancestors.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the time I have spent to learn more. For me, the saying from Bhagavad Gita, To be in the present moment and do all our actions without any expectation of result and attachment’ stands out. I find this such a powerful mantra for our present-day lives as well, where much of the outcomes of anything we do are dependent on so many different parameters than just our efforts. By being in the present, giving our best and not getting demotivated / arrogant by the outcomes will help us to continue to push, learn, grow, innovate, do good and help others irrespective of outcomes. Hinduism has such vast history over more than 3 Millenia, multiple powerful scriptures, timeless knowledge on ‘ways of life’, alignment with nature and overall wellbeing. Wish I could agree with it being just a religion, I think it is much more. 

Sakhee Dheer currently leads Digital Marketing for APAC Global Business Marketing at Facebook. In this role, her focus is to educate, inform and excite Facebook’s page owners and advertisers about using Facebook’s family of apps meaningfully and effectively to reach their audience. Sakhee specialises in running integrated marketing, analytics, and building agile teams.

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