Home » 5 Reasons Why Hinduism is a Religion, and 5 Reasons Why it’s not

5 Reasons Why Hinduism is a Religion, and 5 Reasons Why it’s not

by Anubhav Bakshi
Is Hinduism a Religion or a Way of Life

Any search for true meaning for Hinduism begins with one question. What is Hinduism? 
That’s a simple one. Hinduism is a Religion. 
But is it that simple? Can we define Hinduism simply as a Religion? 
Why not? After all, it is a religion that millions follow. 
Then what about the theories about Hinduism being a ‘Way of Life.’ The proponents of that theory flatly refuse to acknowledge Hinduism as a religion. For them, Hinduism is a guide that shows how to free the Soul from the shackles of the mortal world.
So, what is the truth? Is Hinduism a Religion? Or is it a ‘Way of Life?’
Here is a video where Mr. Jay Lakhani, considered one of the leading experts on Hinduism, explains why Hinduism should not be called a way of life.’

However, to get a conclusive answer to this question, let us evaluate Hinduism from both angles.

Here are some reasons that point towards Hinduism being a Religion. And these will be followed by some reasons that point in the other direction. So, let’s start our evaluation:

5 Reasons Why Hinduism A Religion

Before we start our evaluation of Hinduism as a religion, let’s see what the definition of the word Religion is according to Dictionary.com, one of the leading online dictionaries.
Dictionary.com describes Religion as:

A set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as a creation of superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

Does this definition fit Hinduism? Let us evaluate.

1. A set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe

Almost all the religions of the words today have one thing in common. They all believe in a supernatural being who is the creator of this universe. Even the foundation of Hinduism is standing on the belief that everything in this universe is part of supreme power. 
Hindus strongly believe that everyone in this world exists for a reason. We think of ourselves as small pieces in a jigsaw puzzle called the universe. And someone beyond our comprehension is playing this game.

They believe in a formless “Parabraham,” or the Supreme Consciousness, who is the seed from which this universe tree has erupted. 
In addition to that, the concept of Soul that is inherent to Hinduism is a proof of belief in a purpose-based existence. Hindus strongly believe that Soul is immortal, and it changes the bodies like we change clothes. Every Soul has a journey, and the is to be one with that formless “Parabraham. And until they have achieved that purpose, they’ll keep coming back.
It proves that Hinduism has a set of beliefs about the nature and purpose of the universe. And hence this part of the definition holds for Hinduism.

2. A Supreme/Supernatural Being

There is no doubt about this part of the definition when it comes to Hinduism. Hinduism has one of the longest lists of Gods and Supernatural beings who are mentioned in its texts and are a part of its folklore.
Our temples where we offer our prayers to our Gods are the proof of our belief in them. Hindus believe that there is someone who takes care of everything and who writes everyone’s destiny. 
In Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, we have the Creator, Preserver and Destroyer of the Universe (You should read the story ‘Tridev‘ under the Stories Category). And apart from these three, there are numerous other Gods and Goddesses who are responsible for the working of this Universe.

The Holy Trinity of Hindus. Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, and Shiva the Destroyer

The only difference between Hinduism and most modern-day religions is that instead of an all-powerful supreme God, responsible for everything, Hinduism has different Gods performing specific tasks. Hindus believe that all these Gods are the different forms of the formless Parabrahm.
And for this reason, the existence of a Supreme/Supernatural Being also holds for Hinduism.

3. Devotional and Ritual Observances (Rituals)

Rituals and devotional practices are an inherent feature of a Religion. These rituals are a way of communication of the man with the Supreme Entity. According to Religious beliefs, these rituals allow the devotees to send their requests to the almighty and they are also used to express gratitude. 
The followers of Hinduism practice several Devotional and Ritual Observances. Let me list some of them for you:
•       Observing Fasts during Navratri and many other important days throughout the year
•       Performing Hawans and poojas 
•       Making offerings to the Gods in the form of food, clothing, jewellery and money 
•       Going on Pilgrimage 
•       Taking dip in the holy rivers 
•       Satsang or being in the company of enlightened beings. Listening to and singing the stories and praises of their Gods. 
These are just some of the rituals that Hindus perform. Hinduism has a plethora of ritualistic practices that are prescribed as a remedy to cleanse oneself of all the sin and to get what the heart desired.
Hindus strongly believe that performing these and many other rituals would connect them with their Gods. But these rituals are not always practised asking for something. They are also a way of offering thanks to the Gods for the good fortune bestowed upon them. 
These Rituals and Devotional Practices are inscribed in the hearts of Hindus. They are an important part of life for millions of people. It is a way for them to express their faith in their Gods. For them, these rituals are like a line of communication with their creator, and their faith rests on it.

4. Moral Code governing the conduct of Human Affairs

A Moral Code is the most important aspect of any Religion. It forms the basis for its existence, and that ensures a permanent following. It is a Code by which all the followers conduct their affairs. 
In the absence of such a code, it would just be a Cult because the discipline of the Religion would be missing from it.
When it comes to Hinduism, its texts lay down the codes of conduct according to which everyone should live his life. The Varna system is nothing else but a code of conduct. Vedas and Puranas describe in detail how every man should behave in each phase of his life. They even describe the daily rituals that a person should perform to ensure obedience to Dharma.
Even today, when the Varna system has been diluted and corrupted to the core, that code of conduct is still intact and forms the basis of Hindu society. 

5. A Sanctified place of worship

This is the easiest pointer towards proving that Hinduism is a Religion. For centuries, long before the birth of many other modern-day religions, Hindus built temples to honour their deities. And these temples are the place of worship for the devotees. 
For a Hindu, a temple is a place where the Gods reside when they visit Earth. The devotees spend hours standing in extreme heat or heavy rain just to get a glimpse of their God.
Another form of a sanctified place of worship for the Hindus is their pilgrimage to places where they still experience the presence of their Gods. These places have become holy for Hindus, and millions go there to pay their obedience to their Gods. 
Hindus believe that a person who undertakes ‘Char Dham Yatra,’ the four holiest places for them, frees himself from the cycle of births. Such is the conviction of Hindus in their places of worship.

Char Dham or the 4 Holiest Places for Hindus. From Top Left Badrinath, Dwarka, Rameshwaram, and Jagannath Puri

These 5 reasons mentioned above prove that Hinduism is a religion. And now since that is established, let’s look at the reasons that point towards the other direction.

5 Reasons Why Hinduism is Not a Religion

1. No single text defining the Religion

Unlike any other religion of the modern world, Hinduism does not have a single text that defines it. Sure, there is no shortage of religious texts in Hinduism. Vedas, Puranas, Upanishads are a source of immense knowledge and information. But still, they cannot be termed as the text for Hinduism as a religion. These texts are a guiding light for the entire humanity, and not just Hindus. 
These texts contain the knowledge and philosophy that can benefit the entire human race. Following and reading these texts does not make anyone a Hindu, and vice versa. 
Rather than any text, Hinduism places more importance on following a way of life to achieve the goal of Salvation. And the person is free to chart his path to achieve the end goal.
In the absence of a definitive text, it is very difficult to categorize Hinduism as a religion.

2. Dharma vs Religion

Hinduism places great importance on the concept of Dharma. In modern days the word Dharma has been loosely translated as Religion. However, this translation is incorrect.
The literal meaning of Dharma would be ‘that what is Right.’ And the definition is Religion is entirely different. From an early age, Hindus were taught to follow the path of Dharma. They were taught to focus all their Karma on the establishment and preservation of Dharma.
Of course, Religion emphasizes a moral code that seeks to govern human affairs. But these moral codes cannot be termed Dharma. A moral code can be created, tweaked, broken, and re-created to suit the times and places. But Dharma is permanent.

What is right in one time will remain right in another time too. For example, if it was the Dharma of the king to take care of his subjects in the Treta Yug, the same Dharma holds for the governments of today.
The kings and subjects can change but the Dharma remains the same. Hence, Hinduism’s focus on Dharma distinguishes it from a Religion.

3. No Rigid Structure

Hinduism has not constrained itself in the boundaries of a structure like any other religion of the world. Let me explain with an example:
Suppose there is a family of four, comprising Parents, a daughter, and a son. The Father worships lord Shiva, the mother worships Goddess Durga, The Daughter worships Tulsi (Holy Basil) plant, and the Son doesn’t worship at all. But all four of them can be considered Hindus.
Can they all be clubbed under the umbrella of any other religion? Does any religion with its rigid structure of dos and don’ts offer such freedom to its followers?
No, for a Religion it is not possible to survive if everyone is allowed to practice their form of rituals. The entire structure will collapse as this rigidity is the glue that binds a religion together.
But this freedom to choose one’s God is central to Hinduism. You may worship a rock, a tree, a river but still, you are a Hindu. Even if one does not believe in Gods, he can be called a Hindu. And not only whom they worship, but Hindus are also free to choose the way they worship.
This lack of a rigid structure differentiates Hinduism from any other religion in the world and in a way, point that it cannot be called a religion.

4. Role of God

In Hinduism God is not the destination, he is just an aide that helps to achieve the final goal. And that goal is Salvation. In most modern-day religions, God is the central figure and every task, every ritual revolves around him. But in Hinduism, God is a way towards achieving a bigger goal.
Hindus believe in the cycle of rebirths. And this entire concept of Rebirth is focused on Salvation.  The liberation of the Soul from this cycle, and its merger with Universal Energy, the Parabrahm. Even the concepts of Heaven and Hell are temporary in Hinduism.
To achieve this goal of salvation, a Hindu is free to chart his course. He can choose the path of Karma, he can choose the path of devotion, he can even choose the path of meditation. 
In Hinduism, God is more of a medium than a goal. And that excludes Hinduism from being termed as a Religion. 

The Cycle of Rebirths. The purpose of Soul is to attain Moksha.
The Cycle of Re-Birth

The final goal of the Soul is to attain Salvation or Moksha and free itself from this cycle of re-births.

5. There is no Final Judgement

Most modern-day religions in the world believe in the concept of ‘final judgement,’ when God will come to the Earth, and the dead will rise. And that day the God will decide the fate of all according to their deeds. The dead will either be sent to Heaven or Hell.
However, there is no such concept of final judgement in Hinduism. Heaven and Hell are temporary stops for Hindus. According to Hinduism, a man will go to Heaven or Hell based on his deeds. But he will only stay there till the credit of his deeds last. After that, the soul must again come back to earth to finish its journey.
As mentioned earlier, for Hindus the destination is salvation or Moksha. And everything else is just a minor stop. This journey of the soul goes through repeated cycles of Birth-Death-Heaven/Hell-Birth, till it has sanctified itself enough to merge with the cosmic energy or Parabrahm.
So once again this journey of Soul leads us to believe that Hinduism is not a religion, but a way of life, a journey.


Hinduism certainly has the attributes that force us to look at it in the form of a Religion. The presence of beliefs, Gods, rituals, temples and millions of devotees point in the direction of being one of the largest religions in the world.
However, at the same time, its focus on the concept of Dharma, lack of any rigid structure, faith in the cycle of re-births leading to Salvation tells a different story. These attributes establish the fact that Hinduism is more than a religion, it is a journey, a way of life, that opens its arms to anyone willing to accept it.
In conclusion, we can say that Hinduism can be a Religion for a Believer and a way of life for a Seeker. It is for us to decide whom do we choose to be, a Believer or a Seeker.

Whether Hinduism is a religion or a way of life that is of little consequence. What we need to focus on is the knowledge that Hinduism has to offer to the entire humanity. You can accept Hinduism in one form or other, but Hinduism accepts everyone. And that is the true form of Hinduism.

So, what does Hinduism mean to you? A Religion or A Way of Life?

Don’t forget to leave your comments below.

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