The Pitfalls of calling Hinduism a “way of life”

via B.N.Hebbar published on July 19, 2007

It  became  hip  and  fashionable  among  some  Hindus  a  few  decades  ago  to  say  that  Hinduism  is  a  way  of  life  and  not  a  religion.  And  this  has  been  parroted  by  many  without  thinking,  ever  since.  Unfortunately,  religions  that  do  not  wish  the  Hindus  well  have  used  this  to  its  detriment  by  saying  “So,  Hinduism  is  a  way  of  life.  This  means  you  Hindus  don’t  have  a  religion.  Your  religion  then  can  be  our  religion.  Why  don’t  you  adopt  ours.  You  may  keep  your  way  of  life.”


It  is  thus  important  to  insist  that  Hinduism  is  a  religion,  philosophy  and  way  of  life,  all  rolled  into  one.  These  three  are  not  mutually  exclusive  categories.  A  tradition  can  be  all  three  at  once  as  it  is  in  the  case  of  Taoism  [Dao-de  jiao  as  the  Chinese  call  it]  in  China  and  Shintoism  [Kami-no-michi  as  the  Japanese  call  it]  in  Japan.  Usually,  nationally  based  religions  tend  to  be  all  three  at  once  than  missionary  religions.


Why  are  some  Hindus  hesitant  to  call  Hinduism  as  a  religion  when  it  has  all  the  elements  that  characterize  a  religion?  Let’s  check  each  of  these.


1.  Deities: Hinduism has  them. 

2.  Piety  and  worship:  Hinduism  has  them.

3.  Prayers  and  liturgy:  Hinduism  has  them

4.  Scriptures:  Hinduism has  them.

5.  Doctrines:  Hinduism has  them.

6.  Sacred Space:  sanctified places  of  worship  and  pilgrimage.  Hinduism  has  them.

7.  Sacred  Time:  feasts  and  fasts.  Hinduism has  them.

8.  Sacred Persons:  priests and monastic.  Hinduism has  them.

9.  Rituals:  Hinduism has them.

10.  Sacraments:  sanctification of  the  important  stages  of  life.  Hinduism has  them.

11.  Miracles and Mysticism:  Hinduism  has  it.

12.  Code of Ethics:  Hinduism  has  it.

13.  Contemplative practices:  Hinduism has  them

14.  Humanism:  Hinduism has  it.


The  cultural  part  makes  Hinduism  more  than  a  religion.  It  is  here  that  it  is  also  a  way  of  life.  One need not exclude the other.  Hindus  should  [as  the  Taoists  and  Shintoists  have]  celebrate  their  faith  as  all  three  [religion,  philosophy  and  way  of  life]  rolled  into  one.

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  1. Yachendra Rastogi Reply

    July 19, 2007 at 7:38 am

    Re: The Pitfalls of calling Hinduism a “way of life” only
    Hinduism is undoubtedly the ONLY greatest religion. It is also the ONLY religion available to scientific scrutiny with regard it’s scriptural core that forms the basis of Hinduism. No cult in the world passing off in the guise of ‘religion’ can withstand such scrunity and their proponents will have to scurry for cover. Hinduism reverberates with truth, truth and only truth. Others are mere fakes cashing on human weaknesses. It is timeless, eternal even as others fade into obivilion. 5

  2. Vishnu Reply

    July 19, 2007 at 10:48 pm

    Re: The Pitfalls of calling Hinduism a “way of life”
    Hinduism is a Dharma and not a “religion”. The concept “religion” is alien to the Eastern people until they encountered the Semitic faiths. Thus mirroring Hinduism in the same lens as Christianity and Islam by calling it as “religion” is actually undermining it own nature. Pls read about the comparison about Dharma and Religion from this site… 5

  3. shivaraman Reply

    July 22, 2007 at 10:51 am

    Re: The Pitfalls of calling Hinduism a “way of life”
    The definition of the word Religion needs be clarified first – If used in the restricted sense as the Semitic religions use then Hinduism is more than a Religion (in that sense it is not only a religion) which in an expabded vocabulary is a way of life which includes, historym tradition antiquity, languages, culture beliefs, wthics, morality and religion some of which some of the other religions also have. 5

  4. P.K.Venkatachalam Reply

    July 31, 2007 at 3:07 am

    Re: The Pitfalls of calling Hinduism a “way of life”
    HINDUISM is called SANATANA DHARMA, meaning Way of Life. Hinduism is universal and applicable to all religions including Hindu Religion. We Hindus have our own religion based mostly on the tenets of Hinduism (Sanatana Dharma). Many other religions have sprung up from Hinduism and has many of the tenets given in Hinduism. Thus, though Hindus have their own religion, HINDUISM is not Hindu Relkigion. Based on Hinduism, our great seers have given us a Religion which is known as Hindu Religion – separeate from Hinduism. Hence Hinduism is called Sanatana Dharma or Way of Life applicable to all religions.

    Achalam 5

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