Note: This was a draft that I wrote in 2006 but never published it for some reason.
A dinner-table discussion that I had about a month ago suddenly veered to religion. It suddenly occurred to me that some Hindus have been having all the wrong expectations of other religions.
Some Hindus complain that while they see the same God everywhere and visit mosques, churches of every denomination and pagodas, gurudwaras, etc., their reverence is not reciprocated. We got to see the facts as they are and not get emotional and expect everyone to fall in line with an all-embracing way of thinking. People of other religions who do not bow down to Hindu deities are not bad people or do not want to take away your right to worship (except the fanatics who resort to crooked means to get their point across).
Not everybody will like you or your religion. If the holy book of some other religion prohibits idol worship, why would they ever want to be a part of your religious ceremonies even if they respect you as a human being and your right to your way of life? If their book claims that theirs is the only route to salvation, why will they ever take you as an equal?
What we need to do is delve deep into our own philosophy and pass it on to the next generation. We do not know our Vedas or Upanashids. How many have even read the Bhagavad Gita? Very few Hindus can even articulate what their faith is all about. If we are not sure about our own beliefs, how can we defend them? Hinduism today, at least the mainstream one, seems to be all about rituals, ceremonies, festivals, going to temples and maybe listening to some holy men.
But somewhere deep within, the eternal truths that have been passed down through the Puranas told to us by our grandparents, maybe even by watching Ramanand Sagar's Ramayana or Sri Krishna or B.R. Chopra's Mahabharata, have been etched into many of us. But, we really need to have a culture of theological research and discussion, like Christianity in the West.
We need not morph into an our-religion-is-always-right mode of thinking. We have made fun of our deities and even incorporated this into our sacred stories. Critical evaluation of heritage is always good for the present. At the same time, we have to learn from others to evolve into a better religion and society.