Hinduism and Universality in Religion


  • Kusumita Pedersen




The essay first considers the terms “Hindu†and “Hinduism†with their continuing ambivalence as meaning both the ethnic or national and the “religious.†It then takes up the problem of definition and whether one may speak of a single “Hinduism.†The term “religion†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 “universality†as empirical and normative are explained. Brereton’s general characterization of Hinduism is held up; drawing on Lorenzen, Nicholson and others it is noted that a self-conscious identity of “Hindu dharma†emerged centuries before the colonial period. The essay then turns to Swami VivekÄnanda’s constructive exposition of universal dimensions of “Hinduism†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 “absolute†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.





How to Cite

Pedersen, K. (2018). Hinduism and Universality in Religion. American Journal of Indic Studies, 1(1), 17-37. https://doi.org/10.12794/journals.ind.vol1iss1pp17-37