Who are Hindus

  • Hinduism, or Sanātana Dharma, is characterized by a diverse array of belief systems, practices and scriptures.
  • Hinduism is the third largest religion in the world, with approximately 900 million adherents.
  • Hinduism is the oldest known religion in the world today and has no main founder, nor a main holy city, nor a single holy book.

FUNDAMENTALS

  • Ahimsa (non-violence) is a central tenet of Hinduism, as the essential spark of Brahman (the Divine) is considered to be in all living beings.
  • Samsāra, the cycle of births and deaths, is a central tenet of Hinduism, and the ultimate goal in life is moksha  liberation from this cycle through conquering māyā (illusion) and ahamkāra (ego).
  • Hinduism describes karma (action) as the entire cycle of cause and effect, through which samskāra, the essence of one’s actions, effects prārabdha, the circumstances one encounters due to one’s past actions.

SCRIPTURES

  • The original scriptures of Hinduism were the four Vedas, the Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda, and Atharvaveda. These names are derived from the Sanskrit. rk (poetry), sāman (song), yajus (prayer), and atharvan (a kind of priest).
  • Hindu scriptures are divided into shruti (that which is heard) and smriti (that which is remembered). The shruti, which includes the Vedas and the Upanishads, are held to be the highest authority; the smriti, which includes the epic Mahābhārata and Rāmāyana, reflect the values in the Vedas.
  • The Bhagavad Gītā, the part of the Mahābhārata described as the essence of the Vedas, contains the philosophical discussion between Sri Krishna and Arjun on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.
  • Hindu scriptures describe four yogas or paths to enlightenment: karma (selfless action),  jnana (knowledge),  bhakti (devotional service), and raja (meditation).
  • \ ”Aum” is the sacred symbol of Hinduism, and its three sounds represent the Trimurti: Brahmā the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer.
  • The respective consorts of the Trimurti are considered to be their Shakti (strength): Saraswatī, goddess of wisdom; Lakshmī, goddess of prosperity; Pārvatī, all-encompassing devī.
  • Hinduism has respect for other religions:  Truth is One, but sages call it by many names. [Rigveda
  • Hindu society was traditionally been divided into four classes based on work profession, namely brāhmanas: teachers and priests; kshatriyas: warriors, kings and administrators; vaishyas: farmers and merchants; and shūdras: servants and labourers.
  • Hinduism promotes balance in life with four purushārthas or pursuits: moksha (liberation), dharma (righteousness), artha (wealth), and kāma (desire).
  • Hinduism promotes responsibility at each stage in life through adherence in spirit to the four āshramas: the brahmacharya (student), grihastha (householder), vānaprastha (forest-dweller: detachment from the material world), and sanyāsa (total renunciation).
  • In Hindu philosophy, the cycle of evolution of life is divided into four yugs or eras: satya yuga, tretā yuga, dvāpara yuga, and kali yuga. The traditional virtues accorded highest value in the four yugs are respectively: dhyāna (meditation), yajna (sacrifice), archana (worship), and dāna (gifts/charity giving).
  • Hinduism itself includes a wide variety of practices and sects which, often focusing on different aspects of Brahman (the Devine), are considered equally valid.
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