On Hinduism: Hindu people look at their religious life as a continuous and eternal existence rather than just a religion; a way of life. It contains a collection of obligations and customs known as dharma which exceed the recent Christian and Western secularist tendency to see religion as a system of beliefs. It has a wide range of concepts including; karma, methods to attain salvation, and spiritual release.
*I do not claim to be an expert on this subject, however, this guide is going to be completely factual so if anyone messages me regarding me being discriminatory or something the message will get deleted. Though, if you feel I could have added more information please let me know.
The English coined the word “Hinduism” at the beginning of the nineteenth century, however, the name “Hindu” has existed in the language ever since Greek times. Some Hindus prefer the ancient name Vedic over Hinduism. The Vedic texts are known as the Vedas and provide the one and only textual source for comprehending ancient India’s religious life. “Veda” means “sacred knowledge” or “learning” in Sanskrit which is the oldest written language in India. The Vedas were first compromised of 1,000 hymns which serve the priestly families. Then, followed the Veda of Chants with performance of sacred songs. Over times, Vedic rites became extremely complicated and had tons of rules that only highly trained priests could read the texts explaining them. From this background, Hinduism evolved.
Textbooks on Hinduism were composed in the early twentieth century were written by Hindus to explain the faith so it could be taught to their young. Hinduism is constantly celebrating it’s breadth and depth of its complex and multileveled spectrum of beliefs. It encompasses all forms of belief and worship. It is said that no religious idea in India ever dies; it only combines with the new ideas that arise in response to it. The Vendanta philosophy consists of three propositions. The first is that real nature is divine, the second is that the aim of human life is to realize this divine nature, and the third is that all religions are essentially in agreement. Hinduism has no beginning, no founder, no central authority, no hierarchy, and no organization.
Hindus do not worship one ultimate God but rather believe in a supreme being who has unlimited forms. Vishnu and Lakshmi have the full powers of a god but Brahm and Sarasvati have only partial godlike aspects. The search for the worship of the “One that is All” is made through a favorite divinity, of which there are many. But there is no exclusivity in the choice of the divinity to worship during the search. Hindu teachings revolve around what might seem to be a vast series of interlocking narratives, rather like actions in a play. That is how some of them are presented. To play out a narrative, a deity enters this world as an avatar - a deity who descends and is manifest in a bodily form.
A Sanskrit word, moksha, reflects the ultimate spiritual goal to get out of he endless cycle of reincarnation. If the individual is hampered by bad karma, moksha will not occur. If the individual, however, has achieved moksha, then the atman is free to reunite with Brahman, concluding the cycle of suffering. The people who do not accept that their being is identical with Brahman are thought to be deluded. The only possible solution is to come to the realization that the core human personality (atman) really is Brahman.
The Caste System:
Brahmans were the priests; Kshatriyas were the warriors; Vaishyas were the merchants; and Shudras were the craftspeople. These divisions were the beginning of the caste system. As it progressed into Indian society, the castes multiplied. They encompassed a vast range of occupations, rules, and traditions. A person’s caste and station in life determines their dharma. Members of one caste would not socialize or trade with another; certain professions were limited ti certain castes; intermarriage between members of different castes was not permitted.
The sacred scriptures of Hindus are the Vedas. They were written in the ancient language of India, Sanskrit and are considered to be the creation of neither human nor god.
- Upanishads: Record the wisdom of Hindu teachers and sages who were active as far back as 1000 B.C.E. They form the basis of Indian philosophy. Their philosophical thrust is discerning the nature of reality. Other concepts dealt with include equating atman (the self) with Brahman (ultimate reality), which is fundamental to all Hindu thought the nature of morality and eternal life; and the themes of transmigration of souls and causality in creation.
- The Bhagavad-Gita: It’s Sanskrit title has been interpreted as “Song of the Lord” which is a poem in the form of dialogue. It is considered to be the sixth book in the Mahabharata which is the longest great Indian war epic poem and contains mythological stories and philosophical discussions. One of it’s main storylines is the conflict between Yudhishthira, the hero, and his fut or dharma. It’s structure is in the form of dialogue between two characters - Arjuna, the hero preparing for battle, and Krishna, his charioteer. Krishna, however, is not what he seems. Ajruna is not characterized by his physical prowess but by his spiritual prowess which involve a mystical friendship with Krishna. From the beginning, Arjuna knows that his charioteer is no mere mortal. The power that Krishna’s divinity holds gradually unfolds in all of its glory and Arjuna sees himself mirrored in the divine. It offers a philosophy of karma when Krishna counsels Arjuna to do his duty as a warrior, as Arjuna hesitates at the thought of killing members of his own family on the battlefield.
Rituals and Customs:
The domestic life-cycle rites are called samskara. The sacraments were designed to make a person fit for the next phase of his or her life by removing sins.
- Birth: Traditionally, this included a prenatal rite for the prospective father to affect the child to be fair or dark. It was called the impregnation rite.
- Marriage: The most important rite of all. when a suitable spouse has been found for the son or the daughter they must be approved by both sets of parents. The process of this approval may include hiring the local astrologer to draw up the couple’s horoscopes. Once the mutual agreement is achieved and once the bride’s family has paid a dowry to the groom, the ceremony can proceed. The rite includes prayers and songs of blessing. Once the ceremony ends, the bride and groom offer their right hands which are symbolically bound together with cotton thread that has been dyed with yellow turmeric. Water is sprinkled over them and they walk around a prepared sacred fire three times. The last ritual for bride and groom is to take seven steps and make a vow at each step. One represents food, the next strength, prosperity well-being, children, happy seasons, and harmony in their marriage.
- Death: The body is typically cremated. Cremation is chosen because of the Hindu belief in reincarnation so the body of a person is not necessary after death, only the atman (soul). The body is bathed, wrapped in a new cloth, and laid on a stretcher. There are different scriptures for whether the body will be taken to a river and laid on a pyre or put into a coffin and taken to the crematorium. After cremation, the ashes, flowers, and bones are collected and scattered on a body of water.
Calendar of Religious Festivals:
The Gregorian calendar for it secular life is used in the Republic of India. For its Hindu religious life, it uses the traditional Hindu calendar which is based on a year of lunar months. Each month is divided into a bright fortnight (two weeks) when the moon is waxing and a dark fortnight when it is waning.
- Mhasshivaratri: celebrates the night of the new moon every month, honoring the image of Shiva.
- Sarasvati Puja: honors the goddess Sarasvati, the patron of the arts and learning.
- Holi: celebrates the grain harvest in India and recalls the pranks Krishna played as a young man.
- Rama Naumi: celebrates the birthday of the god Rama.
- Rata Yatra: a huge image of the god Vishnu is placed on an enormous chariot and pulled through the streets.
- Raksha Bandhan: a ceremony of tying a rakhi (a thread or band, made of silk or decorated with flowers).
- Janmashtami: celebrates the birth of Krishna and his delivery from the demon Kansa.
- Navaratri: honors the most important female deity, Durga, consort of Shiva.
- Divali: the most widely celebrated festival which celebrates the return from exile of Rama and Sita.
The Four Stages Of Life:
The four goals of humanity are called purusharthas which in Hindu tradition, the four comprise a scheme or set of goals that tell what life is for.
- Artha: the first aim of life. It signifies material prosperity and achieving worldly well-being. It literally translates to “thing, object, or substance” but represents the whole range of tangible objects that can be possessed, enjoyed, and lost, and which a person requires in life for the upkeep of a household, raising a family, and discharge of religious duties.
- Kama: The second aim of life has to do with fun and pleasure. Kama is the counterpart of cupid; he is the Hindu god of love. Kama refers to the emotional being, feelings, and desires. People denied their emotional lives and fulfillment of pleasurable desires are repressed and live under a continual strain.
- Dharma: The third aim includes the sum and substance of your religious and moral duties compromising your righteousness. Indian literature contains rituals and numerous social regulations for the three upper castes; Brahman, Ksatriya, and Vaisya which are meticulously formulated according to the teaching of the Creator himself.
- Moksa: The final aim is spiritual release. The Upanishad tells us that there is nothing higher than people, but people are not mere assemblages of body, life, and mind born of and subject to physical nature. The natural half-animal being with which man confuses himself is not his whole or real being; it is the instrument for the use of spirit, which is the truth of his being. Artha, Kama, and Dharma are known as the trivarga and are the pursuits of the world; each implying its own orientation of :”life philosophy” and to each a special literature dedicated. The greatest measure of Indian thought, research, teaching, and writing has been concerned with the supreme spiritual theme of liberation from ignorance and the passions of the world’s general illusion. Moksa derives from the word Muc and means liberation. These and other terms taken together suggest something of the highest end of man as conceived by the Indian sage.