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Hinduism: A Brief Description
Hinduism is a religion that originated in India in or around 1500 BC. It is a major world religion with more than 700 million followers. It is a very flexible religion with its extraordinary tendency to absorb new ideas and concepts into it s already vast array of beliefs and morals. Because of this, the religion has been divided into two pasts or sections. They are described as: 1) those people who seek the sacred and profane rewards in the world, and 2) those people who seek release from the world. These two separations will be elaborated upon later in the paper.
The word Hinduism means righteousness forever of that which has neither beginning nor an end. The religion preaches about the relentless pursuit of truth for self and for others, and therefore, it is considered to go on forever. It is said that all humans are living to find the one absolute truth or God-realization. Hinduismpreaches that even non-followers will find it even if they do not believe it. The Bhagvat Gita states Whatever and whichever way men approach Me, even so do I accept them; whatever paths they may choose finally lead to me, Oh Arjuna! It clearly translates that there are many different paths and the different religions in the world portray these paths.
Gods and their Roles
There aren t many practices or beliefs shared by all Hindus, but most Hindus worship Brahma (the God of Creation), Vishnu (the God of Preservation), and Shiva (the God of Annihilation). Together, these three are known as the Trinity. Their wives are also goddesses: Saraswathi (the Goddess of Intelligence), Lakshmi (the Goddess of Prosperity), and Parvati (the Goddess of Power), respectively. When the Trinity gods take human form, it is known as an Avatar.Some popular Avatars are Ram and Krishna. They took during the two popular epics: The Mahabharata and The Ramayana. There are many other minor deities, but these are the most common among all Hindus.
Because each god has their own power, Hinduism has many different religious days to honor each god. For example, Deepawali, or Diwali, better known as the Hindu New Year isa holiday mainly focused upon Lakshmi (the Goddess of Prosperity). All Hindus wish each other good fortune and prosperity during Deepawali for the coming year.
The Hindu scriptures are classified into two groups: Sruti (that which is heard) and the Smitri (that which is remembered). The foremost sacred books in Hinduism are the Vedas. They are divided into four: The Rig Veda, The Yajur Veda, The Sama Veda and The Atharva Veda. The Vedas consist of hymns, charts, rituals, and spiritual truth.
Also very sacred is the Hindu holy bible, the Bhagvat Gita. This book consists of 18 chapters and about 700 verses. The Gita has the answer to every problem that a man may have. Its also deals with in-depth ways of attaining God realization. It gives suggestions to problems, but never advises one choice over another. The final decision is left for the individual. There is nowhere in the Gita in which a line should begin Thou shalt not. Because of it s you make the decision format, many Hindus feel that whatever decision they make on any subject is correct because they have reviewed it in the Gita and they feel the decision they have made is the correct one. The Gita lso describes about attaining oneness and uniqueness with one s self.
The Two Legendary Epics
The two most famous epics written in Hinduism today are the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. These two epics were recorded by Sage Veda Vyasa and his son Sage Parasara.
The Ramayana story is very complicated, but a shortened explanation would probably be tat Sita was kidnapped and Lord Rama would have to go through numerous obstacles to rescue his beloved wife. Many smaller gods were a part of the Ramayana like Lord Ganesha (the Elephant God) and Lord Hanuman (the Monkey God).
The Mahabharata story is even longer than the Ramayana. The epic plays almost all of the Hindu gods. This is also a very complicated story, but a shortened explanation might be that there was a battle over power and five brothers led by Lord Krishna (the Avatar of Vishnu) were victorious over Duryadhan and his massive army.
Both of these epics taught lessons indirectly in philosophy, law, geography, and political science. The dates of these two epics are unclear, but they seem to have been fought before 5000 BC. Today, there are many books and movies depicting these epics. They have been translated from the ancient language of Sanskrit to Hindi.
Hinduism Belief: After Life
Hindus believe that time is cyclic and degenerative. They believe that the world progresses through periods of flourishment and decline. They also believe that the human life is cyclic. After death, the soul leaves the body and is reborn in another body. This endless process is known as samsara. The samsara is determined by the karma, which is the accumulated good and bad merits during a lifetime. For example, Hindus believe that if a person was a bank robber during one of his lives, after his death, his soul would have no choice but to be reborn in an animal which would have a difficult time to live, like an insect. The lifestyle would be very vulnerable to death. It would take many thousands of years for that soul to reach human status again. This is also true in a case of suicide. The soul would remain in a standstill condition for thousands of years as punishment.
Another reason the reincarnation is believed to be true is that Hinduism is based on finding the truth and it is believed that it will take numerous lifetimes to realize our true identity. It is said that eventually the soul will merge with God and that salvation will be attained.
The Caste System
The caste system is an ancient yet complicated system used to class Hindus in the world. There are four classes: the Brahmanas, the Kshatriyas, the Vaishyas, and the Shudras. The Brahmans are at the top of the list. They are the high class and are priestly. The Kshatriyas are the fighters and warriors. The Vaishyas are the business class or the common people. The final group, the Shudras, is mainly used to help upper class people in their duties. These four separations are thought to be created by Lord Brahma. They were created from various body parts: his face, arms, thighs, and his feet, respectively. A fifth group has been created over time and is known as the Untouchables. They are thought to be outcastes. Today, these castes are still evident, but in some cases, marriages have mixed them.
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