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Can I still be a Hindu, if I do not believe in any form of rituals or prayers to god?

Can I still be a Hindu if I have no knowledge of Vedic scriptures and Sanskrit?

So , basically my point is did I become a Hindu just because my parents are Hindu?

Note: I do not follow any Abrahamic faith.

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    You maybe interested in this post on meta. Feb 2, 2018 at 16:26
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    Your note is the answer: "I do not follow any Abrahamic faith." - this alone is enough to qualify you as a Hindu (even if you are an atheist)! Abrahamic faith - Judaism, Islam and Christianity, do not believe in rebirth; this is a very big difference compared to Hinduism, which strongly believes in rebirth. Next important distinction is the role of karma; while this is the core tenant of Hinduism, so much so that even some atheists believe in universal principle of karma, a completely self-running system independent of deity, hence comes the term "[Hindu Atheism](en.wikipedia.org/wiki Aug 19, 2021 at 16:50
  • Does this answer your question? Who is considered Hindu?
    – Vivikta
    May 22 at 2:04

3 Answers 3

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Sindu River, became Hindu river and people who lived on the other side were called Hindus by people who were west of India.

The same Sindu river became called as Indus which gave the country the name Indian.

So when you say Hindu you actually are using an etymological equivalent of India

Hindu = Indian, literally.

When referred to the religion and philosophy, Hinduism technically speaking is a group of relgio-philosophies that originated and developed in Indian subcontinent.

You can be a Hindu atheist called Charvakas amd Lokayatas who are materialists who believe in Science and Logic. And don't have any supernatural beliefs. These are Hindu Atheists. These are materialists.


The rest are spiritualists.

Three simple things are common in all of them.

  1. Beleif in Reincarnation
  2. Beleif in Karma, or consequences for your action, either in this birth or in the next.
  3. Belief in Dharma, or cosmic law which guards Law of Karma.

If you believe these you can be called as a Spiritual Hindu. This seems to be the bare minimum.


Then you can be a Heterodox Hindu, who are not often called Hindus, but are still Hindus technically speaking.

Spiritual Atheism

  1. Buddhists - No belief in God or in Soul
  2. Jains - No belief in God but believe in Soul

Then there is classical Orthodox Hinduism, who are generally called Hindus.There are six philosophies based classifications of them. They go in pairs. These are largely. Theistic, can be Agnostic.

  1. Nyaya and Vaisheshika - Accepts Vedas but stresses on logic.

  2. Sankhya and Yoga - Partial acceptance of Vedas. Goes by Sutras and Karikas of different Saints like Kapila Maharishi and Patanjali Maharishi etc.

  3. Purva Mimamsa and Uttara Mimamsa - Ultimate authortiy of Vedas. Accepts Smritis which do not contradict Vedas.

Purva Mimamsa is more ritualistic and believed that Vedas are metaphorical and unauthored. This was practiced by Kumarila Bhatta - Followers called Bhattas and Prabhakara - Followers called Prabhakaras. These have largely gone extinct.

As of today, all others have gone extinct apart from Uttara Mimamsa which has incorporated some parts of Yoga and Purva Mimamsa.

Then this Uttara Mimamsa itself practiced differently by different people lead by different Acharyas. Most Hindu today knowingly or unknowingly belong to these traditions. Uttara Mimamsa stresses on Vedanta or Upanishads as containing summary and true intent of Vedas. Along with Bhagavat Gita and Brahma Sutra of Shri Veda Vyasa they form what is known as Prastanatrayi. The Smritis and Puranas and Ramayana and Mahabharata all are considered and believed.

There are different forms

  1. Shri Adi Shankaaracharya - Advaita
  2. Shri Ramanujacharya - Vishistadvaita
  3. Shri Madhwacharya - Dvaita
  4. Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu - Achintya Bhedabheda etc

These are all classical Hindu forms philosophocally, there are other classical Hindu forms which won't fit neatly into these category of six philosophies. They can be categorized by the God they worship

  1. Shaivism believes in Shaiva agamas. Different forms exist like Veerashaivaism-Lingayatism, Kashmirishaivism, Pashupata, Maheshwara, Tamil Siddha - Shaivism, The Nayanars etc

  2. Vaishnava believes in Pancharatra, Bhagavata and Vaikhanasa Vaishnava agamas. Different forms exist like Vaishnavism and Shri Vaishnavism, Gaudiya Vaishnavism, Bhakti tradition, The Alwars etc

  3. Shaktism beleives in Shakta Agamas. There are many schools and tantric branches.

There are others which won't fit easily and have traits of many philosophies and sects like Nath Tradition and Siddha tradition.

There are others which are Theistic, but seem to be non-Vedic, like Lingayatism - Shakti Vishistadvaita, etc.

Also there are many sub religions which are formed around local avatars of God. You can find such local sub religions, where they have a main religion and one local avatar of God or a Yogi or a Guru and have a sub religion.

All these sects believe in selected relavant Puranas and Upanishads. Also philosophy based classifications and God based classifications have common sects in them. Like permutation and combination of them.

And then there is Sikhism, which many people think is different than Hinduism. But has many similarities and contains same ideas. They believe in Guru Granth Sahib and their Guru's words.

These are all classical form of Hindusim. But as you can see it is very diverse. The list I have given is very brief. Different sects believe in different things.


An average Hindu normally doesn't know what he or she practices. He or She kind of practices a superficial version of many things mixed at once. This led to neo Hindu-Yogic tradition and many modern amd contemporary schools came up. Often some divine person is born and he starts off a particular sub religion and acts as Guru. There are so many

Some of the prominent ones are

  1. Sai baba
  2. Ramakrishna Mission - incorporates Jesus and Abrahamic faith
  3. Ramana Maharishi
  4. Paramhamsa Yogananda - Kriya Yoga tradition - incorporates Jesus Christ and Abrahamic faith, has a translation and interpretation of New Testament.
  5. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Tradition
  6. Aurobindo
  7. Kashmir Shaivism - Lakshman Joo
  8. Inchegeri Sampradaya - Nisarga Dutta Maharaj
  9. Osho
  10. Sadhguru etc

There are so many others.

You will see that these philosophies, sects, practices etc are all intertwined, constantly interacting, absorbing each other. That it becomes so hard to categorize and to define who exactly is a Hindu and what he or she believes in. So a Hindu normally believes in the first three things I mentioned and then can pick anyone of the above which he or she finds comfortable with and start following and practicising.

You can go for classical, semi classical, modern, freestyle whatever you are comfortable.

But beware of doing window shopping and jumping here and there without seriously working on any path. Shri Ramakrishna compared such people to a man who digs multiple shallow wells and doesn't find any water, instead of digging a well in one place and finding water. He just wastes time and effort.

This is a very flexible and accommodating religion. Believed to follow eternal dharma, hence the name Sanatana Dharma.

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The do's and don't's for a follower of Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma do not exist in canonical scripture - so the answer has to be based on personal experience. A born Hindu cannot be excommunicated - at the most he/she might lose caste status.

Westerners attending South Indian weddings are often shocked that practically nobody pays any attention to the elaborate Sanskrit mantras being chanted by the officiating priests.

Does Hindu Scripture say that only mantras of Karma Kanda need to be pronounced exactly?

A learned person and an ordinary person both worship Vishnu. The learned person worships using the grammatically correct vishNave namaH. The ordinary person knows only Sanskrit noun declensions for nouns ending in 'a'. So he worships Vishnu using the grammatically incorrect vishNAya namaH (borrowed from rAmAya namaH). But both of them get good merit (both are blessed by Vishnu), because Janardhana (Vishnu) only takes the essential intention behind the worship (and not the grammar etc). If the intention is good and worship is done with devotion, the worshipper is blessed.

The above examples show how enormously elastic hinduism can be.

Barring conversion to other religions - anybody who is born into a Hindu family and is immersed in a Hindu mileau is a Hindu. A subset of temple worship, puja at home, pilgrimages, getting samskaras performed, attending religious discourses etc. helps, but is not necessary. Charvakas, who deny samskaras like the sharaddha ceremony are as much Hindu as devout theists.

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From my experience of reading a fair amount of shāstras, a Hindu is defined as a person who

  • believes in the existence of an all-powerful, omnipresent, omnipotent, genderless, incomprehensible Supreme Being called Paramātman (whom the lay people commonly ascribe the English name of God) who is beyond limitations imposed by human description, is formless but can assume form at the same time
  • believes in the existence of the individual soul called jīvātman that leads a completely separate existence independent of the human body
  • believes in the law of karma
  • believes in the cycle of reincarnation
  • derives religious understanding from the Vaidika corpus of texts, any valid interpretation of the Vedanta philosophy, the Itihāsa texts, the Paurānika & Tāntrika corpus of literature
  • derives the understanding of society through the above-mentioned texts & the Smriti corpus of literature to some extent
  • believes that the ultimate goal of human life is to forge a close-relationship or identity of the jīvātman with respect to Paramātman over mundane matters of life

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