Hinduism and Universality in Religion
The essay first considers the terms â€œHinduâ€ and â€œHinduismâ€ with their continuing ambivalence as meaning both the ethnic or national and the â€œreligious.â€ It then takes up the problem of definition and whether one may speak of a single â€œHinduism.â€ The term â€œreligionâ€ and critiques of it as Western are discussed and an account of religion as worldview, ethics and practice, following Geertz and Smart, is proposed as viable and applicable to Hinduism as well as other traditions. Two senses of â€œuniversalityâ€ as empirical and normative are explained. Breretonâ€™s general characterization of Hinduism is held up; drawing on Lorenzen, Nicholson and others it is noted that a self-conscious identity of â€œHindu dharmaâ€ emerged centuries before the colonial period. The essay then turns to Swami VivekÄnandaâ€™s constructive exposition of universal dimensions of â€œHinduismâ€ in the context of modern religious plurality. He holds that the human aspiration to know God is universal, as are moral norms, and that this can be shown from the evidence but at the same time variation is an inherent pattern of the universe. Many religious truth-claims thus inevitably emerge as differing expressions of the search for the one transcendent Source of existence. These are complementary, not mutually exclusive, and an â€œabsoluteâ€ truth is the sum total of all the variations. Moreover religion is evolving, so that revelation is open-ended and many more religions will appear. Vivekananda offers an inclusive pluralism rooted in VedÄntic ontology and the theologically normative view that religion is at its core a quest for union with one sacred ultimate reality variously apprehended.
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