American Institute of Vedic Studies

India owes its tolerance to Hindu dharma

This article by Dr David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri) was first published by DailyO.

India has been primarily Hindu in terms of culture and religion for many centuries, extending to thousands of years. Hinduism has endured remarkably through long periods of foreign invasion and hostile rule, though other ancient religions have long since perished.

We find this vast spiritual and cultural tradition comprehensively explained as early as the Mahabharata, and synthesised philosophically in the Bhagavad Gita more than 2,000 years ago. The Mahabharata describes the geography of the entire subcontinent of India relative to the worship of Krishna, Rama, Vishnu, Shiva and Durga, explaining the main deity forms and yogic teachings of later Hinduism, as well as delineating the rule of kings. Other important dharmic traditions, notably Buddhism and Jainism, share a common culture, values and practices with the Hindu.

Christianity arrived in India at an early period but was a minor influence until the colonial period. Islam began inroads in the eighth century and become a strong force after the thirteenth century. Yet these religions, in spite of great efforts, could not replace Hinduism as the dominant cultural tradition.

Composite culture and cultural continuity

Culture has an identity and continuity that evolves over time. In this regard, we can speak of an Indian culture and identity that is predominantly Hindu, just as we can speak of a European culture and identity that is predominantly Judeo-Christian, or a Middle Eastern culture that is predominantly Islamic.

There is certainly much beautiful art, profound philosophy, transformative yoga practices and deep experiential spirituality in Hindu and related dharmic traditions. This ancient dharmic culture spread to East Asia, Indochina and Indonesia, but also to Central Asia and influenced West Asia and Europe.

Yet Hindu dharma has not been frozen in time and continues to assimilate not only other religions, but also science, democracy and other modern trends, without losing its identity as promoting the spiritual quest above outer forms or dogmas.

It is crucial that India recognises its past, which has a strong Hindu component, in order to understand its cultural heritage. There may be aspects of older traditions that are not politically or scientifically correct in terms of current standards or may need reform, just as is the case with older cultures of the world. But there is much of tremendous value that should not be forgotten.

The fear of Hindu majoritarianism

There is a fear in India that highlighting its Hindu past may alienate non-Hindus or make Hindus intolerant today. There is a fear of Hindu majoritarianism in India, just as there isa fear of Christian majoritarianism in the West, or Islamic majoritarianism in the Middle East.

Yet Hinduism has never had a single book, church, or religious law, nor any single savior or religious leader. It recognises that the Divine dwells in the hearts of all beings as the very power of consciousness. Its views of religion and culture are pluralistic and synthetic, not exclusivist or monolithic. Hinduism has not been an aggressive religion, but one often under siege owing to its emphasis on inner spiritual practice over seeking power in the external world.

The British tried to eradicate pride in India’s past through denigrating Hindu teachings starting with the Vedas. Though they preserved certain Sanskrit texts, their interpretations were condescending and inaccurate. Marxist and Freudian scholars have continued with demeaning interpretations of Hinduism and miss its sublime art and spirituality.

The great gurus of modern India since Vivekananda have kept the teachings alive and expanding in spite of such concerted efforts that have even targeted them personally.

India’s characteristic culture and yogic spirituality that the world honours owes a great deal to its Hindu background. India has more peace and tolerance today than Pakistan and Bangladesh that have rejected their Hindu past and where the percentage of Hindus in the country has been radically reduced. Muslims have greater religious freedom in India than in Pakistan, with Islamic groups like Shias and Ahmadiyyas that are often attacked in Pakistan able to operate freely in India.

Mahatma Gandhi referred to himself as a “proud Hindu”. Yet such a term will rarely be found repeated in media and academic circles in the country today.

Hindu dharma has supported the timeless spirit of India and should be respected for its role. Hinduism remains one of the greatest cultural, religious and spiritual traditions in the world. An India without Hindu dharma would not be India.

Latest Articles
Articles on Vedic Counseling

Embodied Mind and Transcendent Consciousness

We human beings are embodied creatures defined by our birth in a particular physical body as indicating our real identity and the focus of our lives. Our minds are not only located in the body but ruled by an entire set of bodily needs, imperatives, appearances and actions and their

Read More »
Articles by Yogini Shambhavi

Kali as the Yuga Shakti: the Power to Create a New World Age

By Yogini Shambhavi   As the great power of time, Kali’s Shakti creates the different Yugas or world ages that humanity passes through during the long cycles of cosmic evolution. Kali is the Goddess of eternity watching over all our temporal changes and facilitating those which promote our inner growth.

Read More »
Articles on Vedic Counseling

Comparison and the Incomparable Self

Your inner Self (Atman) and true nature cannot be compared to anything. It has no name, form or action, no shape, size or color. It is beyond all elements and qualities of nature. It is beyond body and mind, time and appearance altogether. It dwells within everything yet is not

Read More »
Articles on Ayurveda

Shiva Ayurveda – The Yogic Power of Healing and Transformation

Most Ayurvedic practitioners look upon Lord Dhanvantari, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, as the deity of Ayurveda and ideal doctor. Certainly that is an important tradition worthy of following based on profound Puranic stories and symbolism. Yet in the Rigveda, the oldest Vedic text, and Shruti or book of mantric

Read More »
Articles on Vedic Astrology

Winter Solstice, Galactic Center and New Time of Troubles

I have been writing for some years about 2020 as indicating the beginning of a “New Time of Troubles” for humanity, dangerous from 2020-2028, but continuing long beyond that. This relates astronomically to the Winter Solstice point transiting the Galactic Center in the constellation of Sagittarius. It is difficult to

Read More »
Articles on Yoga

The Ancient Yoga of the Sun

For the Winter Solstice December 21, which marks the rebirth of the Sun and Agni What if the most powerful force for energizing all Yoga practices were as obvious and visible as the Sun? The fact is that it is. The Sun, properly understood not merely as an outer but

Read More »
Articles on Yoga

Yoga as Samadhi

Yoga is defined as Samadhi in the Yoga Sutras. Yet few Yoga practitioners know what Samadhi is or how to approach it. But without understanding Samadhi one cannot understand Yoga in the true sense of the term. Samadhi is complete coherence and composure of mind, the mind fully united with

Read More »
Articles on Yoga

Yoga Nidra according to Adi Shankara

Yoga Nidra is a popular topic today but seldom taken to the depth that it is presented with in the Vedantic teachings. Here we will examine it according to the views of the great teacher, Shankara.   Adi Shankara or Shankaracharya is the most lauded exponent of Advaita or non-dualistic

Read More »
Articles on Yoga

Why Sri Krishna is the Avatar of Yoga

Sri Krishna is the only human guru and incarnation of Vishnu called Yogavatara or the Avatar of Yoga, and Yogeshvara or the Lord of Yoga. The Bhagavad Gita remains the most important and foundational Yoga Shastra or definitive Yoga text. To understand Yoga one must understand Sri Krishna, his life,

Read More »

Follow Dr David Frawley on social media @

Ayurvedic Healing Course

Take a comprehensive, yet affordable distance learning program in Ayurvedic healing, providing a vast set of resources, presented with clarity and depth. It is an excellent and accessible place to start your journey into Ayurveda from wherever you may be, and yet will take you very far. Our Ayurvedic Healing course covers mind-body constitution, daily health regimens, doshic imbalances, dietary and herbal treatment, sensory therapies and internal practices of Yoga and meditation. Our course aims to bring the deeper teachings of Ayurveda to everyone at an affordable price, whether for self-healing or helping others. It is connected to the classic books on Ayurveda of Dr. David Frawley. An internationally renowned course taken by over ten thousand people worldwide over the last thirty years, the course remains one of the best ways to learn Ayurveda both at a personal level and as a foundation for deeper study. Let the wisdom of Ayurveda transform your life and broaden your awareness!

Learn more and Signup Here »

Ayurvedic Astrology Course

Learn the secrets of Vedic astrology as taught relative to the healing powers of Ayurveda. View your birth chart to determine your Ayurvedic mind-body constitution according to their planetary connections, and promote longevity yoga and Self-realization. Learn how to read Vedic charts to help others recognize and optimize their karmas to fulfill their dharma. Study the teachings Dr. David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri), a master educator in Vedic astrology and Ayurveda of worldwide renown. This course has helped pioneered Vedic astrology in the West and made it accessible to all serious students. Join in this Vedic movement to connect to the universe, the stars and planets, within you!

Learn more and Signup Here »

Yoga, Ayurveda, Mantra & Meditation Course

Take an inspiring online program on classical Yoga and traditional Ayurveda for body, mind and consciousness. Learn how to heal yourself according to a higher awareness that you can share with all! This many-sided course covers all eight limbs of Yoga according to Ayurvedic principles, from asana and pranayama to deeper practices of mantra and meditation. It teaches an Ayurvedic Yoga approach for the full unfoldment of our inner awareness. It shares the secrets of Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, the Yogas of knowledge, devotion and action, in the context of a greater Raja Yoga. Study with one of the world’s leading experts and Acharyas in the field of Yoga and Ayurveda. Dr. David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri), linking yourself with authentic traditions going back to the Vedic Seers.

Learn more and Signup Here »
Layer 1