How my religion shaped me since I was young, and how it brings peace of mind to others
By Ishwar Haridh
From my early childhood Hinduism has influenced my life and my outlook on the world. It’s structured my personal beliefs and shaped attitudes. I always found flexibility in its practices, and there were often alternative paths and practices within it available to me, should I look for them. It is this variety which allows Hinduism to be practiced in a personal way. Ideally these practices are done with sincerity and conviction, adhering to the fundamental themes that Hindu traditions detail.
For me, Hinduism developed my ability to empathize and treat others with respect, due to the fundamental idea of God, the Divine, being present in everything. Not only did I learn to treat other people with respect, but this care then extended to animals, nature, books, food—everything that I was surrounded with. It was our core Hindu teachings that shaped my ability to respect and admire the world around me. This is just one example of how Hinduism, and the beliefs and attitudes that come with it, are instrumental in shaping the daily lives of those that adhere to it.
Respect for all life forms and all pursuits of knowledge are recurring themes in Hinduism. It places much emphasis on the omnipresent, transcendent spirituality that resides in all things. Thus, devout Hindus go about daily life treating everything around them with that respect, knowing that the path to a righteous or dharmic life is dependent on this trait.
As measured by the Pew Research Center in 2016, religion is shown to increase happiness, with 40% of highly religious adults describing themselves as “very happy” compared to nonreligious adults, of whom less than 30% reported such levels of happiness. As evident in this same study, religious devotion provides many with a sense of purpose in life, aiming to achieve whatever goal may be set in their respective traditions. The Pew Research Center also found that 65% of religious adults regularly engage in acts of service through donation, compared to 40% of those that are not religious.
In Hinduism, acts of seva (service) are crucial to fulfilling one’s religious duties, resulting in devotees’ efforts to serve selflessly. These acts directly tie into one’s duties as a human. Religion additionally provides a shared sense of community due to a common set of core values and beliefs. Such groups tend to have strong social support structures. Fundamentally, having such faith allows for perseverance in daily life. During times of duress and stress, fully surrendering oneself to the perfection in all and placing faith in one’s karmic balance, eases anxieties in worrying about things out of one’s control. This further promotes moral and righteous acts in everyday life. Our religion helps us make sense of our purpose in life, providing comfort and helping in the journey for peace of mind.
Finally, many Hindu philosophical concepts require deep study to even begin to understand them. Concepts like advaita, dvaita and vishishtadvaita or the comprehension of concepts like karma and dharma are deep continual studies. Understandings gained from these inquiries can alter one’s core outlook on life. Many interpretations on these subjects exist, but they are bound by an underlying set of beliefs. Sometimes this variety can seem overwhelming, but thankfully there are also some basic concepts that we can hold to in daily life. Concepts such as bhakti (devotion) and seva can be applied easily to most activities.
Hinduism is tremendously instrumental in shaping one’s way of daily life, beliefs and attitudes, regardless of what stage of understanding one is in. It helps me by infusing my life with respect, service, devotion and self-discovery.
Ishwar Haridh, 17, is a high school senior in Georgia, US. He enjoys travel, economics, philosophy, sports and computer science.