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Religions and Religious Thoughts of India

||Hinduism|| ||Jainism|| ||Buddhism || ||Sikhism|| ||Islam|| ||Christianity|| ||Zoroastrianism|| ||Judaism || ||Bahai Faith||
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||Hindu Doctrines|| || Hindu Philosophies|| ||Hindu Scriptures|| ||Evolution of Hindu Dharma|| ||Hindu Renaissance||

||Caste Movements||


Hinduism is also referred as Vaidika Dharma, meaning "religion of the Vedas," in the ancient Hindu scriptures. Hinduism is not strictly a religion. It is based on the practice of Dharma, the code of life. The original name of Hindu Dharma is Sanatana Dharma, or "universal religion." The underlying tenets of Hinduism cannot be easily defined. Unlike other religions, Hindu Dharma did not originate from a single person, a single book, or at a single point in time. The foundations of this oldest surviving religion were laid by ancient rishis (sages), who taught their disciples the eternal principles of life they had discovered through their meditations. Hindu Dharma is essentially a religion of principles rather than persons. Since Hinduism has no founder, anyone who practices Dharma can call himself a Hindu. Statistically, there are over 700 million Hindus, concentrated mainly in India and Nepal.


Hindu religious thought is based upon the belief in the Ultimate Reality (Brahman of the Upanishads), faith in the reality of the spirit (atman), and faith in the spiritual order of the world. The Rig Veda, the oldest Hindu scripture says: "Ekam sat vipraha, bahudha vadanti", meaning "Truth is one, the wise call it by various names." This doctrine recognizes that the Ultimate Reality possesses infinite potential, power and intelligence, and therefore cannot be limited by a single name or form. Thus, Hindus view the Ultimate Reality as having two aspects: impersonal and personal. The impersonal aspect of the Ultimate Reality is called Nirguna Brahman in Hindu scriptures. Nirguna Brahman has no attributes and, as such, is not an object of prayer but of meditation and knowledge. This aspect of the Ultimate Reality is beyond conception, beyond reasoning and beyond thought. The personal aspect of the Ultimate Reality is known as Saguna Brahman, that is Brahman with attributes. Saguna Brahman is the creator, sustainer and controller of the universe. Saguna Brahman cannot be limited by one form and is therefore worshipped by Hindus in both male and female forms. As the male aspect, Saguna Brahman is called by various Sanskrit names, such as Ishvara, Parameshvara, Paramãtma, Maheshvara and Purusha. These Sanskrit names represent more or less the same concept as the word God in other religions. As the female aspect, Hindus refer to Saguna Brahman by various names, such as Divine Mother, Durga and Kali. Hindus further worship the male and female aspects of Saguna Brahman in many forms, called deities.

Hindu scriptures teach that an individual is essentially atman clothed in a physical body. The Sanskrit word atman, meaning "God within," is usually translated as soul, self or spirit. In a human body atman is the source of the mind, intellect and ego sense. Hindu scriptures declare that atman is immortal and divine. In Hindu view, therefore, an individual is potentially divine and eternally perfect. There are two states of existence associated with atman, the bound state and the liberated state. In the bound state, atman is associated with a physical body. As a result of this association, atman is subject to maya, which causes it to forget its true divine nature and commit evil deeds in the world. In the liberated state, atman is said to have attained moksha (spiritual perfection) and consequently enjoys union with God.

Hindus declare that there is only one Supreme Being and He is the God of all religions. Hindus view cosmic activity of the Supreme Being as comprised of three tasks: creation, preservation, and dissolution and recreation. Hindus associate these three cosmic tasks with the three deities, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Lord Brahma brings forth the creation and represents the creative principle of the Supreme Being. Lord Vishnu maintains the universe and represents the eternal principle of preservation. Lord Shiva represents the principle of dissolution and recreation. These three deities together form the Hindu Trinity. One must clearly understand that Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are not three independent deities. They represent the same power (the Supreme Being), but in three different aspects. "The oneness of the three gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva is brought out by the mystic symbol AUM (OM) where 'A' represents Vishnu, 'U' Shiva and 'M' Brahma." The Supreme Being or God, the personal form of the Ultimate Reality, is conceived by Hindus as having various aspects. A Hindu deity represents a particular aspect of the Supreme Being. The Hindu worship of deities can be described as monotheistic polytheism and not simple polytheism.

There are many ways of conceiving the Supreme Reality (Brahman) and numerous ways of approaching it. God is the source of goodness and truth. Man's goal in life is to seek union with Him. This union can be sought in many ways, all requiring sincerity of purpose, self-sacrifice and discipline. The highest religious experience is the one in which an individual transcends the intellect and realizes God immediately. There is natural order (rita) inherent in the natural world. There must be moral order (dharma) inherent in human life. Everyone must be responsible for one's actions and their consequences (karma). Individual responsibility and one's ethics are a foundation for individual happiness and social stability. The universe is a wheel of sacrifice (yajna). At the beginning the Supreme Lord performed self-sacrifice to create the universe and set the wheel in motion. There is no intrinsic evil in Nature nor is there any evil force in the world which opposes God. Man commits evil only due to his own ignorance (maya).


||Hindu Doctrines|| || Hindu Philosophies|| ||Hindu Scriptures|| ||Evolution of Hindu Dharma|| ||Hindu Renaissance|| ||Caste Movements|| ||Hinduism|| ||Jainism|| ||Buddhism || ||Sikhism|| ||Islam|| ||Christianity|| ||Zoroastrianism|| ||Judaism || ||Bahai Faith||  ||Other Faiths|| ||Pilgrimages|| ||Famous Religious Personalities||



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