Very often in polite liberal circles, there is consternation when it is claimed that Hinduism is the religion of the Vedas

The immediate counter is:

"No! That's a brahminical right wing view. Hinduism is extremely diverse, disorganized motley collection of South Asian faiths"
I contend however that this fashionable view is very inaccurate. In my view much of the theological and philosophical beliefs of the Hindus actually stems from the Vedas.
Also there is a case to be made that Hinduism is actually an extremely well organized belief system with a standardized canon, and a well defined philosophical framework, housing considerable variety within that framework
The representatives on the so-called “Hindu Right” often underplay the “organization” of Hinduism in their eagerness to distinguish themselves from the “Abrahamic” faiths
“Organized religion” has become a dirty word of sorts for both the Left and Right in India. So for many on the Right, Hinduism is “special” because it is not an organized religion

But the fact is Hinduism is extremely well organized. And the Right is stupid to deny this
Before one gets to the organization of Hinduism, let’s first examine the claim that modern Hinduism bears little resemblance to Vedic religion

This view is articulated by Michael Witzel & Stephanie Jamison in their 1992 work “Vedic Hinduism”- admittedly a well written work
Here’s what they say

“Vedic Hinduism" is a contradiction in terminus since Vedic religion is very
different from what we generally call "Hindu religion", - at least as much Old
Hebrew religion is from medieval and modern Christian religion”
This claim by Witzel and Stephanie is problematic in a number of ways. Firstly the claim is so very opposed to the belief of most traditional Hindus who see themselves as part of the grand Vedic religious tradition to this day
But why is that? Why do academics of religion hold a view so v opposed to that of the practitioners on the ground?

The most important reason lies in the very different understanding of the term “Veda” on both sides
Typically when academics refer to the “Vedic religion” they usually refer to the “Samhita” portion of the Vedas - the religion of mantras and sacrifices and elaborate rituals, which they believe is non-existent in modern Hinduism
But the traditional understanding of the term “Veda” is very different. When a traditionalist uses the term, he uses it in a catholic sense. Referring not merely to the Samhitas, but also the Upanisads (the knowledge portion of the Vedas)
And not just the Upanisads, but the entire corpus of secondary literature inspired by the Upanisads
This literature would include the Sutra literature of different philosophical schools, the Bhagavad Gita itself, the numerous commentaries on the Sutra literature (known in Indian parlance as “Bhashyas”) and the theological / literary traditions inspired by these commentators
The Vedic religion is ALL of the above. And not merely the sacrificial rites described in the earliest layer (which may technically be obsolete)
Also the Hindu religion does not view the Samhitas as obsolete (though specific rituals might be)

The ritualistic spirit of the Samhitas (captured by later “Purva Mimamsa”) is very much a part of modern Hindu religion. Though the rituals themselves may have changed in character
While the typical western academic sees the Samhitas and Upanisads as being at loggerheads with each other, the Indian mind does not see the latter as a revolt against the former.
In fact a traditionalist would claim that much of the philosophical inquiry found in Upanisads can be traced back to the Samhitas

Two examples being Nasadiya Sukta (the idea of an “Agnostic God”) and “Purusha Sukta” (the germs of later Hindu ideas of division of labor)
The other argument of many indologists concerns theology. There is often the view that Vedic gods like Indra, Varuna, Soma are no longer worshipped in India today

Modern Hinduism’s theology derives mainly from Itihaasas & Puranas, and hence bears no connection to Vedic religion
But then this view downplays a few inconvenient facts

a) Firstly the major modern Hindu deities - be it Vishnu or Shiva - are very much Vedic Gods. And fairly major ones at that
b) Many Vaishnavites to this day chant Purusha Suktam, as they regard the Primeval Cosmic being described in it as “Narayana” or Vishnu

Worth reminding ourselves that this Sukta is very much a part of Samhita portion of Vedas - the part viewed as most remote from modern HInduism
c) The Shri-Rudram hymn (also known as Śatarudrīya) found in the Taittareya rescission of the Yajur Veda Samhita, is chanted by devout Shaivites to this day, in just about every other Shiva temple.
Several indologists regard the “Vedic Rudra” as merely a proto-Shiva, and not Shiva himself.

Yet the Rudram hymn’s description of Shiva is very much in line with later Puranic conception of the lord.
Some of the adjectives used to describe Rudra in the Satarudriya include -

Shiva (auspicious)

Triambaka (Three eyed one)

Tripurantaka (the destroyer of the three cities)

Mahadeva (the great deity)

Neelakanta (the blue throated one)

Neelagreeva (the blue necked one)
These are not alien to us. The Vedic description of the lord is v v consistent with that of Shiva today.
So the point to be noted is that even if we were to use the highly restricted definition of the term “Veda” by considering only the Samhitas, there are still very very strong commonalities between the religious ideas in the Samhitas and modern Hindu religious ideas
Now let’s look at the Upanisads. These are a highly influential body of philosophical texts, viewed by every Hindu as v much Vedic. Now why are these texts important? Because they lay out the basic philosophical framework / verbiage leveraged by all Indian belief systems
How closely are these Upanisads connected to modern Hindu religious practice? Very closely.
In fact the two foundational texts of modern Hinduism -

a) Badarayana’s Brahma Sutras
b) Bhagavad Gita -

can both be regarded as texts that systematize the teachings in the Upanisads
In fact Upanisads along with Brahma Sutras and Gita, are together regarded as “Prasthana trayi” - the three indispensable texts in Hinduism
The massive sectarian diversity in India stems from the difference in interpretation of Brahma Sutras and Gita, which in turn are influenced by the Upanisads

It is often stated that there can be no new sect founded in India that does not begin with a fresh take on Brahma Sutras
That’s actually not a very exaggerated comment. There are five broad interpretations of the Brahma Sutras that are still extant today.

And these five broadly encompass nearly all the Hindu sects that exist today
The five are -

Adi Sankara Sampradaya (Monism)

Ramanuja (Qualified Monism)

Madhwa (Strict Dualism)

Nimbarka (Dualistic Non dualism)

Vallabha (Pure Non dualism)

Every Hindu sect can be bucketed under the philosophical framework expounded by one of these five streams
All these 5 traditions emerged from commentaries written by philosophers who lived between the 8th and the 15th c.

And these commentaries were on Brahma Sutra - a "Vedic age" text - the very religious epoch that is regarded by many academics as being remote from modern Hinduism
The other argument worth making is that the dichotomy between Vedic literature and Puranic / Itihaasa literature that is often drawn in academia, is not accepted by traditional Hindus.

To devout Hindus, there is no distinction between Puranic Hinduism and Vedic Hinduism.
For eg: The Gita itself can be viewed as an Upanisadic text, while being part of an Itihaasa. Its author is arguably Veda Vyasa, who is also credited with having authored Brahma Sutras as well as having arranged the Vedas. Vyasa is also credited as author of the important Puranas
While it may seem crazy to attribute so many important texts to a single individual, it is less crazy than it sounds. Many scholars have pointed out the similarities that exist between the Gita and the Brahma Sutras
Both texts reference each other! And they both discuss Sankhya and other rival philosophies at length. So it is plausible that tradition may be right here that a single dominant figure had a hand in the current rescission of both texts
So to conclude here are some takeaways from this discussion

a) Hinduism is more organized than most people think, with a remarkable intellectual continuity, much of which is by design and not accident
b) The sectarian diversity in Hinduism (which is held as evidence of it being disorganized) actually stems from a difference of opinion on the same set of fundamental texts - which are Vedic in origin
c) Modern Hindu theology is not disconnected or remote from Vedic theology, but in fact descends from the latter, as illustrated in the example of Satarudriya hymn
To position Vedic religion as a predecessor or a relative of modern Hinduism is simply not accurate

Regardless of one’s ideological or political affiliation, the unity of the two needs to be acknowledged more often by more people

Hinduism is very much the religion of the Vedas!
Post Script : Twitter's auto-correct or some feature caused the typo of "rescension" as "rescission". I apologize for that. Hope that's not viewed as indicative of my poor writing skills :)
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