Aside from the fact that it has a special relationship with India, which has given it spatial and ethnic roots, Hinduism has been so inclusive that it has resisted self-definition. True, there are key ideas but none that are universal. Even though acceptance of the Vedic scripture as eternal revelation (śruti) has been used to distinguish Hinduism from other Indian religions such as Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism, there are Hindu traditions that have denied this authority and still others that are oblivious to it as in some tribal and village traditions. As the modern Indian Constitution has put it, people are Hindus in India unless they have “officially” rejected this label. “It is a peculiarly Hindu phenomenon that Hinduism may be defined as the religion of the Hindus and this definition should, however narrowly, escape tautology” (Sharma 1993, 5). The metaphor that best captures the dynamic and rich texture of Hinduism is the kaleidoscope – patterns that constantly change over time and according to context but consist of many recognizable elements. According to Arvind Sharma, “[b]ecause Hinduism lacks a standard definition, and practice tends to take precedence over theory, it is best to elicit the specific ‘Hindu’ religious life-pattern of the patient by engaging in a dialogue with him or her on this point” (Sharma 2002, 1).
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