In fact, Hindus consider their religion not as a form of religion per se, but spirituality in general. Selvanayagam (2005) discussed the Hindu concept of spirituality, which takes into account all possible ways or manner in which enlightenment can be achieved. In India, wherein the Hindu religion is the dominant and an integral part of people's lives, Hinduism is considered more than a religion -- it is also a political state. Because of the unorthodox nature of Hinduism, India is a secular state, according to Selvanayagam, wherein 'all the interests of religious communities are safeguarded without bias' (114). More specifically, the Hindu religion paved the way for individuals to achieve enlightenment independently (114-115):
Allied with the comparative study of religion that finds 'faith' or a transcendental dimension as a common core in humanity, the movement of interfaith dialogue across the world, particularly in the ecumenical movement, has helped to maintain religious commitment and secular life in balance. Countering 'secular idolatry' and rediscovering the soul, in dialogue with people of other faiths
It is through the religion's unorthodox nature that Hinduism's discriminating nature is tolerated and supported by the society (specifically the Indian society). Because Hinduism posits that enlightenment can be achieved in numerous ways, it is generally accepted that members of the caste system can also be achieved in numerous ways as well. That is, members of each level of the caste system can achieve enlightenment according to his experience as a member of that particular caste group (and inevitably, socio-economic class the individual belongs to).
This is an important insight because most of the Hindus are members of the lower caste group of peasants, and members of the lower caste group are usually illiterate, therefore they are not able to practice Hinduism in the orthodox way through the Vedic texts. Therefore, majority of the Hindus practice the religion in an unorthodox manner, giving birth to its unique concept of enlightenment (Elgood, 2004:327).
Christians would look at Hinduism at two perspectives. The first perspective shows how Christianity is the same as Hinduism when it comes to its political views. Like Hinduism, Christianity aims to create a balance between its religious teachings and its application to the people's realities. Thus, Hindus being secular because of the multi-faceted nature of their religion, Christians have similarly tried to achieve secularism as an integral and inevitable part of what is called the 'dialogue in Christology' (Bhakiaraj, 2006:280).
However, the existence of the caste system in Hindu society is a facet of Hinduism that contradicts the Christian teaching of achieving egalitarianism in human society. Concern and compassion for the welfare of others is a teaching that is universally accepted in all world religions; however, in the case of Hinduism, welfare for others is caste group-specific -- that is, people are given privileges or chances in accordance to their status in life. The caste system-based Hinduism, then, becomes more in sync with Judaism rather than Christianity when it comes to its discriminating nature. Because Jews are historically known as "the Chosen" people of God, it is similar to Hinduism's caste system when applied in the context of privileges granted to each religion's followers when the day of salvation comes.
Islam and Hinduism share similar teachings when it comes to describing the concept of self-realization, called "jnana" in the Sanskrit language. Like the Islam objective of achieving self-realization by discovering the truth in human existence, which is through the establishment of a society wherein the political structure is guided by the teachings of Islam and thoroughly learning the teachings of the prophet Muhammad (Shahi, 2006:16). Like Islam, self-realization is achieved through jnana, although this state is metaphysical in nature, unlike Islam's more concrete vision of a society composed of enlightened individuals/Muslims. Like Hinduism, Islam is discriminating to the extent that it considers Muslims as the privileged individuals who will have the opportunity to know the 'truth' in human existence. Within the religious society, there are also stratifications that prevail mainly because the Qur'an states or teaches this particular stratification (e.g., subordination of women to men, among others).
Islam is one of the most popular religions subsisted to by African-Americans, next to Christianity. Its popularity stems to as early as the civil rights movement in the latter part of the 20th century, through the civil rights leader Malcolm X, a member of the Nation of Islam. The Nation of Islam is the group that is popularly known among African-Americans in the U.S., and because of the similarities between Islam and Hinduism, it can be posited then, that the African-American male of 17-30 years, of whatever socio-economic status, would be receptive to its (Hinduism's) teachings, despite the in-group discrimination based on one's social status.
In this section, Taoism is analyzed as a religion that more or less embodies the pluralist's view on the world's religions. That is, Taoism (or Daoism) as a religion promotes living a simple life, living harmoniously with nature -- unifying humankind with nature.
These are religious aspirations that are generally considered aspirations of humankind in general. That is why Taoism is considered the embodiment of pluralism, because the religion seeks not to influence the individual to convert and subsist to Taoist philosophy, but simply to adhere to a lifestyle that unifies the individual with nature. Combs' (2004) analysis of Taoism as a form of spirituality rather than a religion takes its root from the fact that the religion does not possess external realities or states, such as Buddhism's enlightenment, Christianity's concept of soul, or Islam's version of self-realization. Combs describes Taoism as follows (59):
In Daoism, there is one world, and it alone constitutes reality. There is no independent or external agent, such as a god, grand design, or determinative principle to provide order and life. There are no essences that define, stabilize, and make unique the entities of reality...Order in the universe is the natural consequence of the dynamic interaction of all life forms -- "the many making one."
Given this description of Taoism, it is evident that the religion is indeed an achievement of a universal state wherein humanity is united with nature. Basically, subsistence to the religion is like returning humanity back to its roots: humans maintaining a cooperative relationship nature, as it was during the early periods of human existence.
Comparing Taoism with other religions, such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, it is apparent that Taoism is a religion that directly contrasts the characteristics of the early world religions. All three early world religions believed in the existence of a deity that governs the world and humankind, while Taoism simply believes in the existence of humankind and nature. Moreover, the three religions have philosophies that are mainly abstract and aspirational in nature, necessitating the use of a belief and value system (i.e., orthodox philosophy and teachings). Taoism does not subsist to ideas that are abstract and metaphysical in form and nature, simply believing in concrete and the physical existence of elements in the world, particularly the nature and humankind.
Thus, because of its simplistic nature, the African-American male, like any other individual open to the lifestyle subscribed to by Taoism, can easily be receptive to the religion itself. Taoism is flexible in that it accepts the individual whatever his value and belief systems are, whatever the culture and society the individual belongs to.
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Shahi, B. (2006). "Piercing the veil of Maya the creator of…