concepts

Q/A: Why is Hinduism so complex?

Q: I have often wondered why the Hindu religion is so complicated. Other religions, in contrast, appear simple. There is one text, one god, and that’s it in these religions.

A: Hindu religion is complicated because reality is complicated. Reality is not reducible to simple trite slogans and simplistic sounding ideas of heaven and hell. Why should anyone deserve an eternal place in hell or heaven based on what he/she does in one life? It seems absurd. Hinduism views a person’s journey in this world to be without beginning. This explains why each person’s nature is so complex. A person has samskaras or mental impressions accumulated over many lifetimes which determine his or her approach to life. To account for the diverse natures of diverse individuals, Hinduism has several different texts, corresponding to the mental makeups of individuals. These different texts provide different paths and name different gods whom one can please. Each person is free to follow their path according to their mental makeup which determines their adhikara. Accordingly they reach distinct destinations and reap results.

Another reason for the existence of different texts and paths is that the absolute reality, even though one, has infinite variety in it. Analogous to the the blind men and the elephant story, the absolute reality is variously revealed as Bhagavan, Paramatma and Brahman. Those seekers who focus on particular aspects of the one reality emphasize that aspect, and accordingly there are scriptures that convey their experiences.

Overall, reality is complex, and the people living in that reality and perceiving that reality are complex, and to account for it all, Hinduism is complex. We can take the simple approach but it will not capture reality in its shades and in its completeness.

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