Various influences on Hinduism

by V.A.Ponmelil (All rights reserved by the author)

Influence of Sri Adi Shankaracharya on Hinduism

The influence of Sri Adi Shankaracharya on Hinduism is remarkable. During his short but active life, he traveled all over the country, refuting atheistic and materialistic systems of thought, writing commentaries on the Upanisads, on the Brahma Sutra and on the Gita. He not only interpreted these scriptures and built up his thesis with wonderful clarity and depth of exposition but also restructured Indian thought and destroyed many dogmas through his Advaita doctrine. He established several mathas in India to propagate the Vedantic or Advaita doctrine. He wrote several poems dedicated to Narsimha, Sri Krishna, Lakshmi, and Annapurna. His most popular work on Parvati or Durga is the Saundaryalahari.

Influence of Bhakti Cult on Hinduism

The great reformers of the Bhakti Cult are Ramananda, Kabir, Nanak, Mirabai, Vallabhacharya, Chaitanya, Tulasidasa, and Tukaram. Ramananda and Kabir stressed on the belief in a supreme deity and recognized no caste distinctions. Nanak founded the religion of the Sikhs under the influence of Hinduism and Islam. Mirabai composed Bhajans with devotion to Lord Krishna. Vallabhacharya was influential for the spread of Vaishnavism in northern parts of India. Chaitanya formed his own Bhakti cult. TulasiDas wrote Ramayana and other works. Saint Tukaram composed devotional songs.  All these reformers popularized the spirit of devotion.

Influence of The Brahmo Samaj on Hinduism

In 18th century, the Hinduism suffered a serious decline mainly because the impact of a completely different civilization. The English destroyed the isolation of Indians. There were movements started for the renaissance of Hindu life and thought. Raja Ram Mohan Roy was the most outstanding pioneer of these movements. He emphasized on the universalism in tune with the spirit of the Upanishads. He started a controversy with the Christian missionaries and founded the Brahmo Samaj on the basis of theism. The Brahmo Samaj had no faith in any scripture as an authority and no faith in avatars. It denounced polytheism and idol worships. It was completely against caste restrictions.

Influence of The Arya Samaj on Hinduism

The Arya Samaj was founded by Swami Dayanand Saraswati. It attacked the Brahmo Samaj for its pro-European and pro-Christian attitude. Being a great Sanskrit scholar and a believer in the doctrines of Karma and Rebirth, Swami Dayanand revived the Vedic ideals and laid stress on Brahmacharya and Sannyasa. He believed implicitly in the ancient scriptures, disavowing Puranic Hinduism in favour of Vedic Hinduism. One of its main activities was Suddhi, a purification ceremony, by which non-Hindus are converted to Hinduism. It also reclaimed many Hindus who had been converted to Islam and Christianity.

Influence of The Theosophical Society on Hinduism

The Theosophical Society, founded in 1875 by Col. Olcott and Madame Blavatsky, co-operated with the Arya Samaj in organizing the life of Hindus by checking the activities of Christian missionaries. Dr. Annie Besant joined this Society. Claiming that she had been a Hindu in her former birth, Annie Besant worked throughout her life for the regeneration of Hindu thought and Hindu life. She popularized the Hindu ideals through her numerous publications and eloquent speeches. With guidance of Dr. Annie Besant, the Theosophical Society was able to spread the fundamental principles of the Hindu religion such as the Karma, the Reincarnation, the Yoga and the spiritual evolution.

Influence of Sri Ramakrishna and Vivekananda on Hinduism

Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa, a great devotee having a broad outlook of universalism accepted the discipline of Yoga and Tantric Sadhana. He underwent the discipline of the Vaisnava, the Christian and the Islamic ways of life. In order to rouse the religious feelings in the worldly minded people, he trained a devoted group of students and the most outstanding of them was Swami Vivekananda. Sri Ramakrishna brought old truths to light through parables and images. He stressed on the fact that realization is the essence of the religion and all the religions are the paths leading to the same goal. Swami Vivekananda started Ramakrishna Mission and movement to preach the essence of the truths of Hinduism. He emphasized on the essential features of Hinduism such as universality, impersonality, rationality, catholicity and optimism. His great contribution to Hinduism was in applying the Hindu creed to the elevation of the masses and abolishing India's isolation from the world in many aspects of social life. His great and worldwide organization, the Ramakrishna Mission worked for the spiritual welfare and multiform amelioration of the living conditions of the people of India and other countries.

Influence of Sri Aurobindo on Hinduism

Sri Aurobindo Ghosh gave new interpretations of the Vedas and the Vedanta. In his essay on the Gita he expounded on the integral view of life. His great work, The Life Divine contains his philosophy of the descent of the divine into matter. His mission concentrated on the restatements of old ideals and explained the true methods of Yoga apart from mere asceticism and illusionism.


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