Hinduism can attract you in many ways. There are enough rituals, philosophy, and interesting doctrines to draw most anyone in. For those who enjoy the subtle pleasures of metaphysics, there is the philosophy of monism — that all things, however varied, are Brahman. Those drawn to lasting moral and political ideas can trace a continuous thread from the nonviolence that runs from the fifth-century B.C.E. Jains — who believed that no living thing should be harmed — all the way to Mohan-das K. Gandhi — who was inspired by the Jains and embraced a philosophy of ahimsa, or nonviolence.
For more than 2,000 years, Yoga has taught concentration and meditation techniques as a means to know God. Hinduism created offshoots such as Jainism and Buddhism, which prescribed their own dharma, or set of duties, for living a proper life.
In all of the ages of Hindu thought there are kernels of insight. Consider this one: The great king Yudhishthira once said that the most wonderful and truly startling thing in life is that every moment we see people dying around us, and yet we think we shall never die.
For those seeking common ground between Eastern and Western thought, you need only look at the Hindu emphasis on a reality beyond the world of our senses. The following passage is from the ancient Katha Upanishad(3.3–7, 10–14). The metaphor of the chariot here also makes an appearance in Plato as he discusses the virtue of self-control.
Think of the soul as the master of a chariot. The body is the chariot itself, the faculty of reason is the rider, and the mind is the reins. The senses are the horses, and desires are the roads on which they travel.
When the master of a chariot has full control of the chariot, the rider, the reins, and the horses, then the chariot moves swiftly and smoothly. In the same way, when the soul controls the body, the mind, and the senses, life is joyful and happy. But when the master lacks control, the horses run wild. In the same way, when the body, the mind, and the senses are not controlled by the soul, there is misery and pain.
The objects of desire guide the senses. The senses supply information to the mind, and so influence what the mind thinks. The thoughts of the mind are ordered by the faculty of reason. And reason only operates successfully when it is guided by the soul. Reason and the mind can be trained to hear the guidance of the soul, and obey it. The training takes the form of meditation, by which the reason and the mind rise to a higher level of consciousness.
So wake up, rise to your feet, and seek a teacher who can train you.
Plato and the Upanishads started in two different places but arrived at the same truth: Genuine happiness can only be attained when reason steers the desires, not the other way around. The idea is more than 2,500 years old.