Hinduism is fundamentally an Indian phenomenon. This is the dominant faith of India, practised by over 80% of the population. As religion is a way of life in India, Hinduism forms an integral part of the whole Indian tradition.

Hinduism is the major religion of South Asia, and is considered by several to be the oldest living major religion. It arose through the Vedic religion of Iron Age India, along with customs tracing as far back as 1700 BC. Since there is no single founder of Hinduism, several branches and traditions exist, ranging from small cults to movements along millions of adherents. Most of Hindus believe that the soul or spirit is eternal. In Hinduism Themes include a continuing cycle of, life birth, death, and rebirth; and Karma, that is a universal principle of cause and effect. Hinduism conceives the entire world as a single family. Along with more than one billion adherents, it is the third most famous religion in the world.

It is not simple to define Hinduism, for it is much more than religion in Western sense. By according of some scholars, Hinduism is not precisely a religion. Also known to practitioners as Sanatana Dharma, that means everlasting or eternal religion / truth / rule, Hinduism can best be described as a way of life depends on the teachings of ancient sages and scriptures such as the Upanishads and Vedas. The word 'dharma' connotes "that which supports the universe" and efficiently means any path of spiritual discipline that leads to God.

As one scholar analogizes, Hindu Dharma can be compared to a fruit tree, with its roots (A) representing the Vedantas and Vedas, the thick trunk (B) symbolizing the holy experiences of many sages, gurus and saints, its branches (C) representing several theological traditions, and the fruit itself, in distinct shapes and sizes (D), symbolizing several sects and subsects. However, the concept of Hinduism describes a definite definition due to its uniqueness.

How is Hinduism unique from other religions?

Hinduism can be carefully slotted to any specific belief system. Unlike any other religions, Hinduism is a way of life, a Dharma, that is to say, the law that governs all of the action. It has its own beliefs, advanced system of ethics, traditions, meaningful rituals, philosophy & theology. The religious tradition of Hinduism is exclusively responsible for the formation of such original concepts and practices as, Ayurveda, Yoga ,Vastu, ,Yajna, Jyotish,  Puja, Vedanta, Tantra,  Karma, etc.

How and when did Hinduism originate?

Hinduism has its birth in such remote past that it can’t be traced to any one individual. Some of the scholars believe that Hinduism should have existed even in circa 10000 B.C. & that the earliest of Hindu scriptures  ,The Rig Veda  was formed well before 6500 B.C. The term "Hinduism" is not to be found anywhere in the scriptures, and the term "Hindu" was introduced by foreigners who referred to people living across the River Sindhu and Indus, in the north of India, around which the Vedic religion is believed to contain originated.

Hindu Beliefs:

It is hard to assign a dogmatic orthodoxy to Hinduism.  Several variations have developed from Hinduism over the years, and numerous non-Hindu cults & religious movements gained their mortification from Hinduism.  Even today in India, the most orthodox divisions of Hinduism have modified significantly over the last three thousand years.

One of the oldest aspects of Hinduism is as social as religious, and that is the caste system.  It is significant to understand the caste system before delving to Hindu religious beliefs.  According to Hindu teaching, there are four basic castes, or social classes.  Each of the  caste has its own rules and compulsion for living.  The elite caste is the Brahman, or priest caste.  Second one is the Kshatriyas, or rulers or warriors.  Third are the Vaisyas, or merchants and farmers.  Lastly, the fourth caste is the Shudras, or laborers.  Outside the caste system are the untouchables.  The untouchables are the outcasts of Hindu society.  Though outlawed in India in the year of 1940s, the untouchables are yet a very real part of Indian society.  One does not get decide his / her caste – that matter is decided while one is born into a particular caste.

As previously stated, there is not a strict orthodoxy in Hinduism.  However, there are several principles which share a commonality among the several sects.  Virtually all of teh Hindus believe in:

  • The three-in-one god known as “Brahman,” that is composed of: Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the Preserver), and Shiva (the Destroyer).
  • The Caste System.
  • Karma.  The law that good begets good, and bad begets bad.  All action, thought, or decision one makes has consequences good or bad that will return to each of person in the present life, or in one yet to come.
  • Reincarnation.  Also known as “samsara.” Or “transmigration of souls,”   It is a journey on the “circle of life,” where each of the person experiences as series of physical births, deaths, & rebirths.  Through good karma, a person may be reborn into a higher caste, or even to godhood.  Bad karma can demote one to a lower caste, or even to life as an animal in their subsequently life.
  • Nirvana.  It is the goal of the Hindu.  Nirvana is the release of the soul from the apparently endless cycle of rebirths.

Hinduism is polytheistic, and pantheistic both.  There are three gods which compose Brahman – Brahma, Vishnu, & Shiva.  Hindus also worship the “wives” of Shiva, as Kali, or one of Vishnu’s ten incarnations (avatars).  It is only the beginning.  There are accurately millions of Hindu gods and goddesses – by some counts, as several as 330 million!

At the similar time, Hinduism teaches that all of the living things are Brahman in their core.  In other terms, all of living things are Brahman, or god.  Enlightenment is received by becoming tuned in to the Brahman within.  Only then can one attain Nirvana.  The release from the wheel of life that let access to Nirvana is known as “moksha.”

Hindus distinguish three possible paths to moksha, or salvation.  The primary is the way of works or karma yoga.  It is a very popular way of salvation and lays emphasis on the idea that liberation might be obtain by fulfilling one’s familial & social duties thus overcoming the weight of bad karma one has accrue.

The second way of salvation is the way of knowledge, or yoga.  The fundamental premise of the way of knowledge is that the cause of our bondage to the cycle of rebirths in this world is ignorance.  According to the predominant view amongst those committed to this way, our ignorance contains the mistaken belief that we are individual selves, and not one along with the ultimate divine reality: Brahman.  This is this similar ignorance that gives go up to our bad actions that result in bad karma.  Salvation is received through attaining a state of consciousness wherein we realize our identity along with Brahman.  It is acquired through deep meditation, frequently as a part of the discipline of yoga.

The third way of salvation is the way of bhakti yoga or devotion.  It is the way most favored by the common people of India.  This satisfies longing for a more emotional & personal approach to religion.  This involves the self-surrender to one of the several personal gods and goddesses of Hinduism.  Such devotion is expressed throughout acts of, temple rituals, worship and pilgrimages.  Some of the Hindus conceive of final salvation as absorption into the one divine reality, along with all loss of individual existence.  Others conceive of it as existence heavenly in adoration of the personal God.

What are the basic tenets of Hinduism?

There is no “one Hinduism”, and thus it lacks any unified system of and ideas and beliefs. Hinduism is a conglomerate of diverse beliefs & traditions, wherein the prominent themes include:

•    Samsara (rebirth)
•    Dharma (ethics and duties)
•    Karma (right action)
•    Moksha (liberation from the cycle of Samsara)

It also believes in honesty, truth, non-violence, cleanliness, celibacy, prayers, austerity, contentment, penance, perseverance, and pious company.

What are the key Hindu scriptures?

The essential scriptures of Hinduism that is jointly referred to as “Shastras” are fundamentally a collection of spiritual laws searched by distinct saints and sages at distinct points in its long history. The Two kind of sacred writings comprise the Hindu scriptures: and "Smriti" (memorized) and "Shruti" (heard). They were passed out on from generation to generation orally for centuries before they were written in the Sanskrit language mostly.

The Hindu scriptures are massive, and written among 1400 B.C. and A.D. 500.  The oldest of the Hindu scriptures is the Veda that literally means or “knowledge.” or “wisdom”. The Vedas consists of prayers, hymns and ritual texts formed from about 1400 to 400 B.C.

The Upanishads are a set of writings composed among 800-600 B.C.  Over one hundred of them yet exist.  These writings marked an exact change from the sacrificial humans & magic formulas in the Vedas, to the mystical ideas regarding man & the universe – particularly the Brahman, and the atman (the self or soul).  The Upanishads had a vast influence on Buddha, Gautama the founder of Buddhism.

The Ramayana is one of the two main epic tales of India, the other is Mahabharata.  A sage-poet name Valmiki wrote down the Ramayana. The work contains 24,000 couplets based upon the life of Rama, a virtuous king who was apparently an incarnation of the God Vishnu.  The Mahabharata is the second epic.  This is an the story of the deeds of Aryan clans, and have some 100,000 verses and was composed on an 800-year period beginning regarding 400 B.C. Contained in this work is a huge classic, the Bhagavad Gita, or the "Song of the Blessed Lord."

The Bhagavad Gita is not only the most holy book of the Hindus, however it is also the best known and the most read of all of the Indian works in the whole world, in spite of the fact it was added late to the Mahabharata, sometime in the first century A.D.  The story revolves about man's duty, which, if carried out, will bring nothing however sorrow. The significance of  this story has on Hindu belief is its endorsement of bhakti, or attachment to a particular god, as a means of salvation, since Arjuna, the story's chief character, decides to put his devotion to Vishnu above his own personal wish. The Gita ends with Arjuna loyal to Vishnu and ready to kill his relatives in battle.

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