(Last Updated on : 03/02/2011)
India takes pride and tries to live by the different theories and principles showed by the Hindu Religious Leaders. In Hinduism
, Hindu Religious Leaders have played a vital role to verbalize the importance of the religion. Through the work of Ram Mohan Roy
and later of Swami Vivekananda
and his followers, Hinduism has become a world religion which has had a deep impact both on India and on the West at all cultural levels. There has also developed a Hindu political nationalism which connects Hinduism with the nation-state of India. Hinduism contains within it profound resources for peace and reconciliation - forces which demand expression, and which may contribute to finding solutions to the global problems.
Among these Hindu religious leaders, Adi Sankaracharya
was an Indian philosopher whose great work was combining the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta
, a sub-school of Vedanta. Another most important religious figure whose contribution marks the Hindu philosophy is Ramanujacharya
who was a theologian, philosopher, and scriptural exegete. He was the expounder of Visistadvaita, which is one of the classical interpretations of the dominant Vedanta school of Hindu philosophy
. Madhva charya is also considered to be famous among the Hindu Religious Leaders in India who was the chief proponent of Tattva Vada.
Another most eminent figure who was involved in ushering a new way of belief and credence is Dayananda Saraswati. He advocated a return to a purer form of Vedic religion whose focus is an eternal, omnipotent, impersonal God. Ramakrishna Paramhamsa was known to be one of the notable spiritual and religious leaders of Hinduism. His disciple, Swami Vivekananda is a figure of great importance in the development of a modern Hindu self-understanding and in formulating the West's view of Hinduism. Among Hindu teachers to attract a wide western following is Aurobindo Ghose who was involved with the Indian independence movement and jailed for terrorist activities as a result. The Tamil mystic Ramana Maharshi
taught pure Advaita and advocated a simple lifestyle.
Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada, who brought the Hare Krishna movement to the West in 1965; Swami Muktananda who founded Siddha Yoga; and Bhagavan Shree Rajneesh, who radically reinterpreted the traditional Hindu understanding of renunciation, calling his followers Sanyasis, and who fused eastern meditation with western psychotherapies. Other teachers who have had an influence on the West have remained in India, such as Anandamayi, regarded as a living deity and identified with the Goddess Durga
; Sathya Sai Baba
, who commands a large following in India and abroad, famous for his magical powers of producing images and sacred ash from his fingertips; and Swami Shivananda from Rishikesh, who taught the Neo-Vedanta formulated by Vivekananda. Some of Shivananda's disciples, such as Swami Chinmayananda
, have started centres throughout the world and have taught further swamis to carry on their Neo-Vedanta teachings. This great influx of Hindu teachers and ideas to the West during the 1960s and 1970s has contributed to Global Hinduism
. These teachings are not homogenous and there are great differences between the various teachers.
It will be increasingly difficult, or desirable, to separate out the more recent manifestations of Hinduism in the teachings of the gurus who have come to the West from more traditional understandings of the diaspora communities. Indeed the new religious movements loosely referred to as 'New Age', many of whose ideas are derived from Hinduism via Theosophy, may also contribute to Global Hinduism in the future.