Hinduism

Hinduism Hinduism Presented by Eve April 6, 2000 Dr. Colwell, Professor Religion 110 Hinduism Hinduism is the name given to one of the most ancient relioon practices in India. Vedanta is the true name of this religion. When british began to populate India this ancient religion evolved into what is known today as Hinduism. Hinduism constitutes an extremely intricate religion upon which a single definition cannot be composed.

The premier feature of this religion is the huge difference of beliefs and rituals among its practitioners. Hinduism was created through the mixing of two distinct cultures involving the Aryans and the Indus Valley civilization. At about 1500 BC, the Aryan invaded India and imposed their religious themes on the Indian natives. Ultimately, the Aryan religion absorbed the rituals of the natives and was eventually transformed into Hinduism. Most Hindus are Indians or of Indian decent. However, as Hinduism spread throughout southeast Asia and Indonesia, other ethnic groups adopted Hinduism and added their own ethnic characteristics.

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The major teachings of Hinduism state that salvation is achieved through a spiritual oneness of the soul, atman, with the ultimate reality of the universe, Brahma. To achieve this goal, the soul must obtain moksha, or liberation from the samsara, the endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Different sects of Hinduism teach different paths to moksha. As a result of these basic teachings, come Hindu beliefs in reincarnation, karma (material actions resulting from the consequences of previous actions), and the religious justification of the caste system. As Hinduism evolved, later texts came into prominence such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

The major text of the Vaishnavas is a portion of the Mahabharata known as the Bhagavad Gita. The two largest sects of Hinduism are the Shivaite and the Vaishnavite sects, based upon the recognition of Shiva and Vishnu as the ultimate manifestations of Brahma. Vaishnavas constitute approximately 70% of all Hindus. The major holy days are The Kumbha Mela festival that is held four times a year, and the Dusserah farming festival in honor of Kali is held at the end of October. Also Ramanavani (Lord Rama’s birthday), Rathayatra (pilgrimage of the Chariot at Jagannath), Jhulanayatra (Swinging the Lord Krishna), Rakshabandhana (Tying on Lucky Threads), Janamashtami (birthday of Lord Krishna), Navaratri (festival of Nine Nights), Lakshmi-puja (homage to the goddess Lakshmi), Diwali or Dipavali (String of Lights), Maha-Sivaratri (Great nigh of Lord Shiva), and Holi (the festival of fire, a spring festival dedicated to Krishna).

There are several principals of Hinduism. The theme of spiritual oneness between the one ultimate reality, known as Brahma, and the soul, or atman, is mandated. In accordance, everything in the world is an illusion, merely a part of Brahma, praised as Creator (Clarke, p. 132). Brahma is considered the creator of all entities of the world, including Gods.

The ultimate goal of all Hindus is to achieve pure reality through unification of the soul with Brahma. However, as mandated, each soul must first achieve liberation, or moksha, from the cycle of life known as samsara. This prompts the Hindu theme of reincarnation. Upon death each person is reborn as an animal, human being, or heavenly body. The status of a person’s next life is determined by the deeds committed in the previous life.

This principle is referred to as karma. The status of lives within the life cycle prompted the establishment of the caste system. This system exhibits significant social and economic implications on the Hindu population. It dictates choice of occupation, marriage partners, foods consumed, and other issues. Classes were originally based on an individual’s natural qualities and functions evolved into rigid divisions over time. In modern times, the primary characterization of the caste system is based on occupations that are assessed by the amount of pollutants, such as blood and waste water involved in the job.

This has prompted Hindus of higher status to refrain from eating animal meat and practice vegetarianism (Clarke, pp. 125-128). In general, strict divisions have traditionally been imposed by the Hindu community between all castes. Because a person is perceived to have been born into a caste, no transferability is permitted between members of different castes. Additionally, a non-Hindu cannot enter a caste nor is marriage permitted outside of a caste (Brown, p. 209).

The resulting segregation based on caste theology has remained persistent in India throughout history. Hindus of higher castes have traditionally feared pollution by lower caste members through such actions as closeness, consuming foods cooked by lower castes, and drinking from the same water source (Clarke, p. 128). Through political movements in the mid-1900’s, caste barriers have been relaxed to some extent. The movement to remove discrimination against the lower castes was spearheaded by Mahatma M. K.

Gandhi, who taught that the removal of this blot and curse upon Hinduism was essential to Indian independence (Gandhi, p. 8). This relaxation has been particularly noticed in urban areas. All Hindus are now eligible to obtain an education that has prompted equal employment opportunities. Social intermixing in urban areas between members of different castes has become more tolerated. Furthermore, discrimination based on caste status was politically declared illegal in 1950.

In general, these sects were particularly popular among the lower castes. During the Bhakti Movement, numerous lower caste members converted to Islam to improve their religious position. However, the Hindu sects often provided another option to lower caste members in improving their religious status without completely abandoning the Hindu religion (Clarke, p. 138). Traditionally, those Hindus retaining the original Vedic religion have mostly been those of the higher castes, primarily the Brahmins (Faquhar, p. 360).

Many of the teachings foundational to the modern observance of Vaishnavism began approximately 500 years ago when Lord Caitanya taught that the form of the godhead to be worshipped in this, the Kali Yuga (era), is the person of Krishna, the supreme manifestation of Vishnu. His followers today now recognize Lord Caitanya as the avatar of Krishna for our age–the representative of God with the specific message for our time. As a result of the often austere regulations required of Vaishnavas, the practice is seen as purification and a restoration of the true Vedic religion, providing the path necessary to survive the destruction of this present age. For Vaishnavas, the path to moksha is to be found in devotion, especially devotion to Krishna. Scattered in many sects today, Vaishnavas are found throughout India.

As a result of the dedicated missionary efforts of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, as well as a handful of other swamis, Vaishnavism has now spread throughout the West. Srila Prabhupada founded the largest Vaishnava organization, ISKCON or the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (most popularly known as the Hare Krishnas). ISKCON is sometimes seen as heretical by other Hindus (and they sometimes reject the label Hindu). Hinduism has traditionally been contained in the place of its origin.

Throughout most of history, Hindu practitioners remained in South Asia, particularly in India. This was significantly prompted by the enduring belief that Hinduism could only be practiced in India. It was believed that adherents who crossed the black ocean became impure and were no longer Hindu. Only recently has this barrier dissipated. As a result, over the past 100 years Hindus have migrated to other regions of the world, mostly with the intention of pursuing economic motives.

Areas that have acquired notable Hindu populations include Great Britain, Canada, eastern Africa, Australia, and the northeastern portion of South America (Clarke, p. 125). The countries with the highest concentration of Hindu population include India, Nepal, Malaysia, and Guyana. With the exception of a few regions, most of the countries throughout the world have concentrations of less than 100 Hindus per 100,000 persons. Some areas that have moderate concentrations of Hindus (between 100 and 30,000 Hindus per 100,000) include Canada, Great Britain, Suriname, Pakistan, Indonesia, Australia, and a string of countries from South Africa to Kenya in Africa.

The distribution of Hindus throughout the world has been extremely selective and dispersed. Pilgrimages have traditionally been an important aspect of Hinduism. Within India, there are seemingly an infinite number of places designated as sacred sites. These sacred places are commonly located where physical features converge such as the convergence of land and water. In accordance, sites of pilgrimage destination are frequently located on riverbanks, coastal areas, piedmont areas at near mountains, and even where two or more rivers converge. Furthermore, places in India are deemed sacred sites based on historical events including those portrayed in the numerous Hindu epics.

Highly regarded sites include the Ganges River and the sacred cities of Varanasi and Hardwar. Varanasi is where Shiva was believed to have manifested himself. There are particular times throughout the year that Hindus embark on pilgrimages to these sites of India. These include the Hindu festivals celebrated throughout the year such as the Kumbha Mela festival held four times a year and the Dusserah farming festival. Another interesting feature of Hindu pilgrimages is that the caste of a pilgrim is temporarily disregarded for the duration of the voyage.

At locations such as the sacred waters of the Ganges River, all Hindus, even of lower castes, temporarily receive complete purification (Clarke, p. 140). The spirituality and effectiveness of a pilgrimage are assessed by several factors. The ultimate criteria entails the distance traveled and the method of transportation. Longer distances and traveling on foot substantially optimize the spiritual fulfillment of the pilgrimage.

Other factors of assessment include the holiness of the site and the purpose of the pilgrimage Clarke, p. 141). Today, an all Indian pilgrimage is frequently conducted by Hindu practitioners. The route of this journey, established by a train route, consistently follows the pattern of sacred sites recognized by the major sects of Vishnu and Shiva around India. The all India pilgrimage takes about ten weeks to complete depending on the amount of time spent at each place Clarke, p. 140-141).

In its true essence Hinduism can be described best by the verse Ekam Sadvipra Bahudha Vadanti (written in sanskrit, the holy language of the Aryans-Hindus), which means truth is one. Bibliography References A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, His Divine Grace, The Bhagavad-gita As It Is. New York: Collier MacMillan Publishers, 1972. Brown, W. Norman, Hinduism.

Encyclopedia Americana, 1995. Clarke, Peter B., The World’s Religions: Understanding the Living Faiths. Marshall Editions Developments Limited, 1993. Faquhar, J.N., The Crown of Hinduism. New Delhi: Oriental Books Reprint Corporation, 1971. Markham, Ian S., (Editor), A World Religions Reader. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 1996. Wm.

B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Eerdmans’ Handbook to the World’s Religions. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1982 Religion.

Hinduism

2700 Words on Hinduism. History and perspectives
Hinduism
History and Perspectives
Jason M. Howard
594-50-1457
ASH 3100–Dr. Singh
Hinduism is easily the oldest major world religion that is still in use today. It has not only survived countless attacks but has also thrived and has changed little to none in the last 2500-3000 years. Hinduism has been able to accomplish this through a variety of traits that it possesses. One such trait is that Hinduism is inclusive. By inclusive I mean that practicing Hindus never try to convert a Christian, Jew, or Muslim to their exact manner of theological thought. Instead they see other religious practitioners as Hindus themselves; Hindus that are praying to one of many other gods. This leads to another reason that Hinduism has conquered adversity. That is Hinduism’s tremendous variety in ways and means of worship. A third reason that Hinduism has been so popular is that it is more than just a religion, it is an entire way of life. For these and many other reasons, Hinduism has overcome millennia and will overcome even more.

Hinduism came to be roughly what we know it as today between 1500-500 B.C.E. When the Aryans came through the Khyber Pass and pushed out the Harappan culture, they found themselves among great riches in beautiful, fertile lands. With these lands the Aryans were able to lead a more relaxed and introspective life. Undoubtedly not all of the Harappans were pushed south to the Dravidian culture, so soon the Harappan belief in reincarnation began to reemerge.
The Aryan gods of fire, Agni and the god of war, Indra merged with the gods of the Harappan and Dravidian culture to produce one great, unreachable god named Brahma and his two lieutenants named Shiva and Vishnu. This shows the ultimate realism that the Hindu culture possesses over many other religions. The god Vishnu is the creator, and Shiva is the destroyer. One is not looked upon as better than the other. Hindus realize that you cannot have one without an equal part of the other.

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These are not the only gods in Hindu culture. There are many others, all having special skills and talents. The gods themselves also give birth to the idea of avatars, or the form of the god when he or she comes to earth. A hand carved statue of Krishna, one of the avatars of Vishnu, was found in the ruins of an ancient Dravidian city. This proves that there were indigenous ideas for the Aryans to use in their worship.

The Aryans began to write down their ideas and methods of worship that were originally orally passed. These writings began what we know today as the Vedas. In order to pass these lengthy stories orally, they had been put into rhymes and hymns. The first book of the Vedas, the Rgveda, consists of 128 hymns to various deities. These deities were more of Aryan descent since they were warlike and patriarchal. However the Rgveda did already show signs of polytheism.

Other books began to join the Rgveda in the set of the Vedas. Books such as Samaveda, Yajurveda, and Athauuaveda showed that the Aryan culture was changing the way that it viewed its gods, as well as the way that they viewed themselves. The final addition to the Vedas in the classical period, the Upanishad, was added around 800 B.C.E. This is where terms like samsara, moksha, dharma, and kharma first emerged in writing. Hinduism could now be more easily passed and taught with its own jargon for communication.

These terms, when viewed separately may be difficult to grasp. However, when they are brought together they make perfect sense. The idea of samsara is roughly that of reincarnation. All souls are stuck in a cycle of life, death, and rebirth. The goal of each of these souls is to escape the cycle of samsara and obtain moksha. Moksha is a reincarnation with a god. In recent Hinduism the moksha that you obtain is with the god of your choice, or whomever you worshipped as your patron deity. The terms of dharma and kharma are the tools that we must use in order to obtain moksha and escape samsara.

Dharma is what we must do to behave properly. It can

Hinduism

Hinduism hinduism The term Hinduism refers to the civilization of the Hindus (originally, the inhabitants of the land of the Indus River). Introduced in about 1830 by British writers, it properly denotes the Indian civilization of approximately the last 2,000 years, which evolved from Vedism the religion of the Indo-European peoples who settled in India in the last centuries of the 2nd millennium BC. The spectrum that ranges from the level of popular Hindu belief to that of elaborate ritual technique and philosophical speculation is very broad and is attended by many stages of transition and varieties of coexistence. Magic rites, animal worship, and belief in demons are often combined with the worship of more or less personal gods or with mysticism, asceticism, and abstract and profound theological systems or esoteric doctrines. The worship of local deities does not exclude the belief in pan-Indian higher gods or even in a single high God. Such local deities are also frequently looked down upon as manifestations of a high God. In principle, Hinduism incorporates all forms of belief and worship without necessitating the selection or elimination of any.

It is axiomatic that no religious idea in India ever dies or is superseded-it is merely combined with the new ideas that arise in response to it. Hindus are inclined to revere the divine in every manifestation, whatever it may be, and are doctrinally tolerant, allowing others – including both Hindus and non-Hindus – whatever beliefs suit them best. A Hindu may embrace a non-Hindu religion without ceasing to be a Hindu, and because Hindus are disposed to think synthetically and to regard other forms of worship, strange gods, and divergent doctrines as inadequate rather than wrong or objectionable, they tend to believe that the highest divine powers are complement one another. Few religious ideas are considered to be irreconcilable. The core of religion does not depend on the existence or nonexistence of God or on whether there is one god or many.

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Because religious truth is said to transcend all verbal definition, it is not conceived in dogmatic terms. Moreover, the tendency of Hindus to distinguish themselves from others on the basis of practice rather than doctrine further de-emphasizes doctrinal differences. Hinduism is both a civilization and a congregation of religions; it has neither a beginning or founder, nor a central authority, hierarchy, or organization. Hindus believe in an uncreated, eternal, infinite, transcendent, and all-embracing principle, which, comprising in itself being and non-being, is the sole reality, the ultimate cause and foundation, source, and goal of all existence. This ultimate reality is called Brahman. As the All, Brahman causes the universe and all beings to emanate from itself, transforms itself into the universe, or assumes it’s appearance.

Brahman is in all things and is the Self (atman) of all living beings. Brahman is the creator, preserver, or transformer and reabsorber of everything. Although it is Being in itself, without attributes and qualities and hence impersonal, it may also be conceived of as a personal high God, usually as Vishnu (Visnu) or Siva. This fundamental belief in and the essentially religious search for ultimate reality – that is, the One is the All – have continued almost unaltered for more than 30 centuries and has been the central focus of India’s spiritual life. In some perceptions, Hinduism has been called ‘atheistic’. In other perceptions, and this is perhaps the more common one, it is labeled ‘polytheistic’.

The term ‘polytheism’ acknowledges the presence of a God-figure in a religious system, but in the plural. Thus it is said that Hindus worship many such beings we call God. But obviously this implies a very profound difference in the understanding of what such a ‘God’ could be. It is often said that Hindus worship three gods and they are in fact called the ‘Hindu Trinity’. The gods involved are: Brahma, Visnu and Siva.

The first is supposed to create the world (at the beginning of each cosmic cycle), the second to maintain it in being, and Siva, at the end of a cosmic cycle, to destroy it again. But then a further idea is added which is ignored by the proponents of the theory of a Hindu Trinity. What is added invariably implies that, over and above these three figures lies a single reality. This ‘one above the three’ controls the activities of the creation etc. Brahma and the others, who carry out these functions, are merely manifestations of that highest being, or they relate to it in some other, equally secondary, form. This concept of a single, all powerful, eternal, personal and loving God, is the concept of Bhagavan. But who is this Hindu Bhagavan? At least to us the outside observers he is not one, but many.

Siva, Visnu, Krsna, Rama, Karttikeya and Ganesa may be mentioned as the most important Bhagavan figures. But to speak of many Bhagavans has nothing to do with ‘polytheism’, for in terms of Indian society, different groups have their one and only Bhagavan. In most cases a particular Bhagavan-figure may look the same as deva. By ‘looking the same’ is meant here: possessing the same external characteristics (including name) and having the same or very similar stories told by his mythical deeds. From this follows that the individual (or, in practice, far more often, the group to which he belongs, and this is more frequently by birth than by choice) makes a decision as to how to regard such a figure.

Visnu could thus be the Bhagavan for some people, a minor manifestation of Siva for others, a godling for a third group, possibly an evil demonic being for a fourth and Isvara for a fifth. But this does not mean that every single religious individual in India ends up with a Bhagavan. Although those Hindus who particularly worship either Vishnu or Shiva generally consider one or the other as their ‘favorite god’ and as the Lord and Brahman in its personal aspect, Vishnu is often regarded as a special manifestation of the preservative aspect of the Supreme and Shiva as that of the destructive function. Another deity, Brahma, the creator, remains in the background as a demiurge. These three great figures (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva) constitute the so-called Hindu Trinity (Trimuriti, the One or Whole with Three Forms). This conception attempts to synthesize and harmonize the conviction that the Supreme Power is ingular with the plurality of gods in daily religious worship. Although the concept of the Trimurti assigns a position of special importance to some great gods, it never has become a living element in the religion of the people.

Brahma, the first of the three Hindu gods, is called the Creator; he is the father of gods and men, the Vedic Prajapati, the lord of creators. The term is used for the Absolute, or the Ultimate Principle, beyond which nothing exists or has any reality. In the Upanishads, Brahma is said to be beyond all description. This universe was enveloped in darkness – unperceived, indistinguishable, undiscoverable, unknowable, as it were, entirely sunk in sleep. The irresistible self existent lord, undiscerned, creating this universe with the five elements, and all other things, was manifested dispelling the gloom.

He who is beyond the cognizance of the senses, subtile, indiscernible, eternal, who is the essence of all things, and inconceivable, himself shone forth. He, desiring, seeking to produce various creatures from his own body, first created the waters, and deposited in them a seed. This (seed) became a golden egg, resplendent as the sun, in which he himself was born as Brahma, the progenitor of all worlds. The waters are called nara, because they are the offspring of Nara; and since they were formerly the place of his movement (ayana), he is therefore called Narayana. Being formed by that First Cause, indiscernible, eternal, which is both existent and non-existent, that male is known in the world as Brahma. That lord having continued a year in the egg, divided it into two parts by his mere thought.

In the Mahabharata and some of the Puranas, Brahma is said to have issued from a lotus that sprang fromthe navel of Vishnu. In picture Brahma is represented as a red man with four heads, though in the Puranas he is said to have had originally five. He is dressed in white raiment, and rides upon a goose. In one hand he carries a staff, in the other a dish for receiving alms. A legend in the Matsya Purana, gives the following account of the formation of his numerous heads: – Brahma formed from his own immaculate substance a female who is celebrated under the names of Satarupa, Savitri, Sarasvati, Gayatri, and Brahmani.

Beholding his daughter, born from his body, Brahma became wounded with the arrows of love and exclaimed, ‘How surpassingly lovely she is !’ Satarupa turned to the right side from his gaze; but as Brahma wished to look after her, a second head issued from his body. As she passed to the left, and behind him, to avoid his amorous glances, two other heads successively appeared. At length she sprang into the sky; and as Brahma was anxious to gaze after her there, a fifth head was immediately formed. At present times Brahma is not largely worshipped by the Hindus. It is said that the universe will come to an end at the end of Brahma’s life, but Brahmas too are innumerable, and a new universe is reborn with each new Brahma. VISHNU is called the second person of the Hindu Trimuriti or Trinity: but though called second, it must not be supposed that he is regarded as in any way inferior to Brahma.

In some books Brahma is said to be the first cause of all things, in others it is as strongly asserted that Vishnu has this honor; while in others it is claimed for Siva. As Brahma’s special work is creation, that of Vishnu is preservation. In the following passage from the Padma Purana, it …

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