1) Myth -Hindu’s Worship many Gods
Fact - It is a misconception amongst non-Hindus that Hindus worship millions of Gods. The truth is that according to Hinduism nothing but that one and only one ‘God’ (called Brahm by Hindus) exists. There can be millions and billions of manifestations of that God and during ‘His’ cosmic dance that ‘one self’ observes ‘His’ infinite manifestations. In simple words Hindus consider everything ‘living’ and ‘non-living’ as manifestation of ‘God’ and are therefore free to worship ‘God’ in any form. A Hindu can thus worship God in any of ‘His’ infinite manifestations (Sakara Brahm) or can worship a formless God (Nirakar Brahm).
2) Myth – All Hindus are vegetarian
Fact -Hindus teach vegetarianism as a way to live with a minimum of hurt to other beings. But in today's world not all Hindus are vegetarians. The rationale behind a vegetarian diet is to promote a physically, mentally and spiritually healthy lifestyle. However, there are no rigid rules concerning vegetarianism.
Vegetarians are more numerous in the South of India than in the North. This is because of the North's cooler climactic conditions and past Islamic influence. Priests and religious leaders are definitely vegetarian, so as to maintain a high level of purity and spiritual consciousness to fulfill their responsibilities, and to awaken the refined areas of their nature
3) Myth – Hindus are Idol Worshippers
Fact -Hindus do not worship a stone or metal "idol" as God. We worship God through the image. We invoke the presence of God from the higher, unseen worlds, into the image so that we can commune with Him and receive His blessings.
The stone or metal deity images in Hindu temples and shrines are not mere symbols of the Gods. They are the form through which their love, power and blessings flood forth into this world.
We may liken this mystery to our ability to communicate with others through the telephone. We do not talk to the telephone; rather we use it as a means of communication with another person.
Without the telephone, we could not converse across long distances; and without the sanctified icon in the temple, we cannot easily commune with the Deity. Divinity can also be invoked and felt in a sacred fire, or in a tree, or in the enlightened person of a satguru. In our temples, God is invoked in the sanctum by highly trained priests. Through the practice of yoga, or meditation, we invoke God inside ourself. Yoga means to yoke oneself to God within. The image or icon of worship is a focus for our prayers and devotions.
4) Myth –Hindus Practice Caste System
Fact -The present day caste system is one of the evils that had crept into Hindu society. It is more of a social problem then a religious. Caste system has no place in Hindu philosophy because as mentioned before this philosophy believes that nothing but that Brahm (God) exists. Everything including human being is manifestation of Brahm (God). And God can never have a lower or higher caste.
But since caste system is a reality of Indian society let us just examine how it came into existence:
Rig Veda recognizes that every human being has different capability. Some people are better in academics, other are good warriors, some are better in commerce and economics and still others are good craftsmen or manual workers. Any modern day scientist will testify that every individual has a different genetic makeup. This does not prevent a person born to athletic parents from becoming a doctor or a scientist. So according to Rig Veda people should recognize their capabilities and chose a profession according to that. An academician (Brahmin) is in no way superior to an artesian or manual laborer (Sudra). They are just different in their working capability. Caste was meant to be a guideline for people to choose their profession and was not meant to be a stigma attached to a person due to his birth. The present day caste system came into practice much later.
Just two examples should be sufficient to show that caste was not an evil stigma in ancient Hindu society as it is today in modern India –
1) Lord Krishna who is considered an incarnation of God by Hindus, was born in Yadu Vansha (considered a ‘backward caste’ now days). During his life Krishna was revered by all including so called ‘superior Brahmins and Kshatriyas’. He is worshipped in modern day India by all the castes.
2) Ramayana considered to be amongst the holiest of all holy books in Hindu religion was written by – Sage Valmiki. Valmiki was born in what is now day known as schedule caste family (lower caste). Ramayana occupies a place of prime importance in every Hindu family and all Hindus revere Sage Valmiki.
Needless to say that modern day leaders of Independent India have increased the divisions in Hindu society for their own political gains.
5) Myth – To become a Hindu, you have to be born as a Hindu.
Fact -Hinduism is a way of life, there is no formal conversion process. Anyone can become a Hindu, because to be a Hindu one has to just follow the Hindu way of life.
6) Myth – Hindu Women are suppressed
Fact -The role of women in Hinduism is often misunderstood. In Vedic times women and men were equal as far as education and religion was concerned. In ancient India, women occupied a very important position, in fact in some ways, a superior position to men. It is a culture whose only words for strength and power are feminine -”Shakti” means “power” and “strength.” All male power comes from the feminine.
7) Myth –Hinduism has lot many Rituals and superstition
Fact -Hinduism runs on value education and some rituals. These rituals are added from time to time and changeable. But these rituals convey a lot of meaning when deeply thought and understood. They are not compulsory for Hinduism; some follow, some don’t.
Lastly to summarize, How Hinduism differs from other religions
• It is not based upon one particular founder.
• It is not based upon one particular book.
• It is not controlled by a central institution or authority such as a church or an association.
• It is not averse to examine and assimilate fundamentally diverse thoughts and beliefs into its system.
• It accepts other religions as various paths to salvation and does not favor organized attempts to convert people.
• It has been evolving continuously, through internal reforms and as a reaction to the threats and challenges.
• Hinduism is a way of life, more than a religion
• An attitude of understanding and tolerance is taught within the religion, where all religious teachings are not to be looked down upon and that no one way of worship should be considered better than another.