Considering that Hinduism lacks a uniting belief system, what makes up the Hindu religion? “One big societal element is that India is one of the last bastions of the ancient world’s culture. Its population practices scores of diverse religious tradition. “Hinduism” is actually an umbrella term referring to the people living “on the other side of the Sindhu River.” The actual name is the “Santayana Dharma” or Universal Truth or Way. One of “Hinduism’s” greatest strengths is its ability to unite the diverse beliefs and practices of its people in ways that are absolutely necessary for India to continue as it historically has. This is one reason why the government of India is so aggressive in its opposition to Christian and Muslim missionaries. Religious like Christianity or Islam demand a degree of doctrinal uniformity that would not work well for the Indians because they destroy the historic traditions and beliefs of those who come under their dogmas. India’s incredibly rich traditions are their nation’s greatest riches. As evidence, consider the differences between modern India and Pakistan (formerly part of India, separated by Islam). India allows Muslims to live in peace, for the most part, while Pakistan makes it all but impossible for Hindus to live there.
Hinduism’s demand of vegetarianism reflects an important reality. Ancient India’s lifeblood was its cattle. This is still largely true today in the villages. The bulls plow the fields so that food can be grown.
Cows give milk, an important ingredient in many Indian foods and a vital source of protein. Cow dung is used for making cooking and heating fires as well as some Ayurveda medicines. “Ahimsa,” non violence, maintains a civility that otherwise would not exists considering the religious and political differences in the region.
The caste system (the “varnashram dharma”) is much maligned, but in its original form this system was very effective and made sure that Indians worked together in an organized fashion. The system eventually was abused and became a racist system (barman’s typically have the lightest sin color and mudhas or untouchable have the darkest, the others darken in color as one goes to the lower castes). In past times, this system was socially positive and enabled Indian’s to co-exist.
Hinduism’s greatest strength remains its diversity and its ability to incorporate all beliefs systems. Indeed, one can literally argue that Christianity, Islam and all other religious systems are part of the Santayana Dharma or Universal Way of spiritual practice. India would be an utterly different place without the Hindu dharma and it fits the region wonderfully. Hinduism, which is actually known as the Santayana Dharma or Eternal Truth, has many uniting belief systems and contexts. These include the conviction that Truth is knowable and can be directly experienced. Hinduism is an umbrella term for many different traditions.
Each of these traditions employs different means for enlightenment and views things a bit differently. What practically all Hindu sects accept however, is the famous statement of the Rg Veda: Truth is One; the sages call it by different names. There is therefore an underlying unity to the Hindu belief system. It also has deeply shared sense of morality and ethics. The teaching of ahimsa or non-violence is one such conviction. The belief in transmigration is another as is the belief in karma (actions and reaction), dharma (Truth) and marga (destiny). These teachings show how all life is interconnected and are “part and pacel” of the Whole.
Hinduism is the oldest religion on the planet. It culture and traditions date back far into antiquity. Those who grow up in Hindu families are steeped in ancient traditions and beliefs from infancy on and they are much more alike than dissimilar. Therefore it has a profound influence on cultural Hindus as well as on those who convert into it. Those Hindus who enter into serious discussions with other religionists, as well as those of us from other cultures who are drawn to the Hindu Dharma, soon discover that Hinduism is an extremely logical and inspirational religious system that offers experiential results to those who practice its various forms. In all ways the Hindu Dharma is at least comparable to any other religion on earth. What “makes up” the Hindu religion is the fact that it works and that it is able to exist within such internal and external diversity.” (~John of All Faith; Prakasa, Jagannatha)