Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Actually Hinduism means universalism. It is not just any sect.
The president of India Dr. Radha Krishan was asked, 'Who is a Hindu?'
He said by negating all the religions, i.e., one who is not a Muslim, one who is not a Christian and so on, whoever is left is a Hindu.
So all those who accept everything, are Hindus. It is very difficult to define a way of life as a religion. A way of humanism is really what Hinduism is. It does not force you to follow just one scripture, one book, or one ritual per say. It simply says that the world is a family, accept knowledge from every side. Realize yourself and serve others. This is the principle.
When I was in America, I was talking to some people about, the constitution of America. It is exactly what Hinduism is, honoring diversity, freedom of worship, liberty, and justice to all; the whole philosophy is what Hinduism is.
This universe is versatile, there are so many dimensions and so many ways to go to the one truth. That is exactly what the essence of Hinduism is.
Unfortunately, in this country the self-esteem of Hinduism has gone down so much. In the colonial era, they suffered a lot. So the self-esteem and prestige went down. It is only during Mahatma Gandhi’s time, or little before, when Swami Vivekananda tried to tell people and reestablish their pride in their culture and religion.
Lord Macaulay, when he went to London, he wrote to Queen Elizabeth, saying, 'I have travelled the length and breadth of India, and I have not see one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such caliber, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage'.
He wrote this letter. It is a very famous talk that he gave in the British parliament. After that they systematically destroyed the Indian culture.
He said that people should think that they are no good, and that was successful. In the 40's and 50's people started thinking that way. That anything from India is not good.
But now times are changing, we simply have to tell people this country had some very good things and some bad things also, like everywhere, because our culture has been interpolated by things which are not good.
Originally, the caste system was for professional convenience. People of professions were grouped together. Later on it became hereditary, and then the rigidity increased.
Anyone who did not follow the rules of a particular community were kept out for a small period of time as untouchables, as a punishment. Like you are in chamber of commerce, and you did something bad and you were thrown out.
But untouchability was never bad so it became a big problem for the Hindu religion later on. Saints throughout the ages have worked to eradicate the untouchability, and they have been successful.
I have written a book, the heritage of Dalits. Many saints were from the untouchable community.
Coming back to this lack of self esteem, this needs serious attention because there is no one big authority. Hinduism is just a way of life. It has its advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantage is that you cannot bring uniformity. On the other hand, the advantage is it has a lot of scope for growth.
Religion alone is not enough, the spiritual aspect is needed to regain the self esteem and prestige.