Hinduism – A way of Life Prescribes

The Eternal Duties — Honesty, -Patience, Forbearance, Self-restraint, and Compassion

                                                                                                                                                                                    Anup K.Gupta

 

Hinduism is a religion, or more clearly a way of life, where  Hindus have to follow, regardless of class, caste, or sect, such as honesty, refraining from injuring living beings, purity, goodwill, mercy, patience, forbearance, self-restraint, generosity

Hinduism has been called the “oldest religion in the world.   Some practitioners and scholars refer it as Sanātana Dharma, “the eternal law” or the “eternal way” beyond human origins. Scholars regard Hinduism as a synthesis of various Indian cultures and traditions, with diverse roots and no founder This “Hindu synthesis” started to develop between 500 BCE and 300 CE, following the Vedic period (1500 BCE to 500 BCE). Hinduism is the world’s third most popular religion, with around 75mllion followers. The followers  are found most notably in India and Nepal.

Although Hinduism contains a broad range of philosophies, it is linked by shared concepts, recognizable rituals, cosmology, shared and pilgrimage to sacred sitesHindu texts are classified into Shruti (“heard”) and Smriti(“remembered”). These texts discuss theologyphilosophymythologyVedic yajna Yoga and agamic rituals and temple building, among other topics.

Major scriptures include the Vedas and Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Agamas. Sources of authority and eternal truths in its texts play an important role, but there is also a strong Hindu tradition of the questioning of this authority, to deepen the understanding of these truths and to further develop the tradition.

Prominent themes in Hindu beliefs include the four Puruṣārthas, the proper goals or aims of human life. These are namely Dharma(ethics/duties), Artha (prosperity/work), Kama (desires/passions) and Moksha (liberation/freedom); karma (action, intent and consequences), samsara (cycle of rebirth), and the various Yogas (paths or practices to attain Moksha. Hindu practices include rituals such as puja (worship) and recitations, meditation, family-oriented rites of passage, annual festivals and occasional pilgrimages. Some Hindus leave their social world and material possessions, then engage in lifelong Sannyasa(monastic practices) to achieve Moksha. Hinduism prescribes the eternal duties, such as honesty, refraining from injuring living beings (ahimsa), patience, forbearance, self-restraint, and compassion, among others.

The word Hindu is derived from the Indo-Aryan/Sanskrit word Sindhu, the Indo-Aryan name for the Indus River in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent , “The actual term ‘Hindu’ first occurs as a Persian geographical term for the people who lived beyond the river Indus “,

Hinduism includes a diversity of ideas on spirituality and traditions, but has no ecclesiastical order, no unquestionable religious authorities, no governing body, no prophet(s) nor any binding holy book.

Sanātana Dharma also: Sanātanī

Sanātana Dharma refers to the “eternal” duties all Hindus have to follow, regardless of class, caste, or sect, such as honesty, refraining from injuring living beings, purity, goodwill, mercy, patience, forbearance, self-restraint, generosity, and asceticism. This is contrasted with svadharma, one’s “own duty”, the duties to be followed by members of a specific caste and stage of life

Hinduism’s tolerance to variations in belief and its broad range of traditions make it difficult to define as a religion according to traditional Western conceptions

Diversity and unity —    Diversity

Hinduism does not have a “unified system of belief encoded in a declaration of faith or a creed“, but is rather an  umbrella term comprising the plurality of religious phenomena of India. ,

Unlike other religions in the World, the Hindu religion does not claim any one Prophet, it does not worship any one God, it does not believe in any one philosophic concept, it does not follow any one act of religious rites or performances; in fact, it does not satisfy the traditional features of a religion or creed. It is a way of life and nothing more

Sense of unity

Despite the differences, there is also a sense of unity. Most Hindu traditions revere a body of religious or sacred literature, the Vedas, although there are exceptions .These texts are a reminder of the ancient cultural heritage and point of pride for Hindus .

Beliefs

Prominent themes in Hindu beliefs include (but are not restricted to) ethics/duties ( Dharma), the continuing cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth (Samsāra )action, intent and consequences( , Karma ), liberation from samsara or liberation in this life  (Moksha ), and the various paths or practices ( Yogas )

 

Authority

Authority and eternal truths play an important role in Hinduism. Religious traditions and truth are believed to be is contained in its sacred texts, which are accessed and taught by sages, gurus, saints or avatars. But  there also a strong tradition of the questioning of authority, internal debate and challenging of religious texts in Hinduism. The Hindus believe that this deepens the understanding of the eternal truths and further develops the tradition. Authority “was mediated through  an intellectual culture that tended to develop ideas collaboratively, and according to the shared logic of natural reason. Narratives in the Upanishads present characters questioning persons of authority.

Hindus actually only believe in one God, Brahman, the eternal origin who is the cause and foundation of all existence. The gods of the Hindu faith represent different forms of Brahman. These gods are sent to help people find the universal God (Brahman).

Most Hindus have a personal god or goddess such as Shiva, Krishna or Lakshmi to whom they pray regularly.

The three most important Hindu gods (forms of Brahman) are: Brahma- Vishnu- Maheswar

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Brahma – known as the      Creator.   Vishnu – Known as the Preserver   Maheswar ( Shiva) -known as the Destroyer.

Other Hindu gods include: Saraswathi – Goddess of Wisdom – Wife of Lord Brahma.
Saraswathi is the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music and all the creative arts.

Lakshmi – Goddess of Wealth – Wife of Lord Vishnu.
Lakshmi is the goddess of light, beauty, good fortune and wealth.Parvati – regarded as a representation of Shakti. Parvati is the wife of Lord Shivaand the Godess of household and motherhood.(Shakti is by literal definition sacred force, power, or energy. Shakti is the personification of Brahman as feminine)

Ganesha – Son of Shiva and Parvati. The Hindu god in a human form but with the head of an
elephant

The most ancient sacred texts of the Hindu religion are written in Sanskrit and called the Vedas.

Hinduism does not just have one sacred book but several scriptures. The Vedas scriptures guide Hindus in their daily life. They also help to preserve the religious dimensions of family and society. Hindus have developed their system of worship and beliefs from the scriptures.

The following works written in the Sanskrit language:

  1. The VedasRg-Veda (Rigveda), Yajur-Veda, Sama-Veda, Atharva-Veda (see further down )
  2. The Upanisads–  – These consider the nature of the individual soul (Atman) and the universal soul (Brahman.) One of the Upanishads contains the earliest reference to the reincarnation of the soul in different bodies (transmigration) of the soul.
  3. 3.The Smrutis– (‘tradition) are the Laws of Manu (250 BC)
  4. 4.Ramayana– Contains the story of Rama and his devoted wife Sita. She is kidnapped by the demon king Ravana but is later freed by Rama with the help of the monkey god Hanuman. The poem is about how good will always triumph over evil and Rama and Sita are held up as role models for the perfect husband and wife.
  5. MahabharataAn epic poem telling the story of a war between two branches of a family. The Bhagavad-Gita forms part of this and means “The Song of God.”
  6. The Puranas– A collection of ancient tales about the different incarnations and the lives of saints.

What are the Vedas? The Vedas are the oldest religious texts in Hinduism. The word Veda means knowledge. It is believed that the Vedas were orally revealed by Brahma to certain sages, who heard them and passed them down in an oral tradition. They were not written down; in fact this was prohibited. Because of this earliest oral tradition continuing even now when the Vedas are available in the written form, the Vedas are still known to be Sruti or shruti – ‘ that which is heard ‘.

The Vedas are mainly comprised of of hymns or mantras written in the Sanskrit language. They cover various subjects, from nature to everyday life and behaviour, and form the basis of all other religious writings. The books are so special that they are often kept in glass cases.

Each Veda is divided into four sections:

  • The Samhitas – The oldest portion – Contains the mantras and hymns The Brahmanas – The ritualistic teachings – They are written in prose and explain the hymns. The Aranyakas – The meditational section
  • The Upanishads – The mystic and philosophical. They consider the nature of the individual soul (Atman) and the universal soul (Brahman.) One of the Upanishads contains the earliest reference to the reincarnation of the soul in different bodies (transmigration) of the soul.

The Vedas are the law. Most beliefs, concepts, and ceremonies are based on

The three essentials of Hinduism are belief in God, in the Vedas as revelation, in the doctrine of Karma and transmigration.

  • One point of difference between Hinduism and other religions is that in Hinduism we pass from truth to truth—from a lower truth to a higher truth—and never from error to truth.
  • There is this difference between the love taught by Christianity and that taught by Hinduism: Christianity teaches us to love our neighbours as we should wish them to love us; Hinduism asks us to love them as ourselves, in fact to see ourselves in them.

is that they have one set of rules for all. But Hindu religion is suited to all grades of religious aspiration and progress. It contains all the ideals in their perfect form. For example, the ideal of Shanta or blessedness is to be found in Vasishtha; that of love in Krishna; that of duty in Rama and Sita; and that of intellect in Shukadeva. Study the characters of these and of other ideal men. Adopt one which suits you best.

  • Individuality in universality is the plan of creation. Each cell has its part in bringing about consciousness. Man is individual and at the same time universal. It is while realising our individual nature that we realise even our national and universal nature. Each is an infinite circle whose centre is everywhere and circumference nowhere. By practice one can feel universal Selfhood which is the essence of Hinduism. He who sees in every being his own Self is a sage.

 

 

 

 

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