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A Religion of Tolerance

Hinduism is unique in many ways. One of the most endearing aspects of Hinduism is it’s religious tolerance. One devotee may worship Vishnu, another may worship Shiva, and yet another Krishna, while honoring the other’s choice and feeling no sense of conflict. Hinduism is a religion of tolerance that allows for different types of worship, and personal expressions of devotion. This extends beyond the religion itself to include other cultures. A Hindu is content to allow a Christian to worship Christ or a Bhuddist to revere Buddha. This tolerance goes so far as to allow Hindus to recognize Buddha or Jesus as a worshipable figure in their own right. Most Hindus believe that all religions eventually lead to the same destination and that though the means may be different the end is the same.The Webmaster Sects of Hinduism

Basic Information

Hinduism Founded: Hinduism, the world s oldest religion, has no beginning – it predates recorded history. Founder: Hinduism has no human founder. Major scriptures: The Vedas, Agamas and more. Adherents: Nearly one billion, mostly in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Malaysia, Indonesia, Indian Ocean, Africa, Europe and North and South America. Sects: There are four main denominations: Shaivism, Shaktism, Vaishnavism and Smartism. Synopsis: Hinduism is a vast and profound religion. It worships one Supreme Reality (called by many names) and teaches that all souls ultimately realize Truth. There is no eternal hell, no damnation. It accepts all genuine spiritual paths – from pure monism (God alone exists) to theistic dualism (When shall I know His Grace?). Each soul is free to find his own way, whether by devotion, austerity, meditation (yoga) or selfless service. Stress is placed on temple worship, scripture and the guru-disciple tradition. Festivals, pilgrimage, chanting of holy hymns and home worship are dynamic practices. Love, nonviolence, good conduct and the law of dharma define the Hindu path. Hinduism explains that the soul reincarnates until all karma are resolved and God Realization is attained. The magnificent holy temples, the peaceful piety of the Hindu home, the subtle metaphysics and the science of yoga all play their part. Hinduism is a mystical religion, leading the devotee to personally experience the Truth within, finally reaching the pinnacle of consciousness where man and God are one.


Hinduism is composed of four main denominations – Shaivism, Shaktism, Vaishnavism, SmartismGoals of the four Major Hindu sects: Shaivism: The primary goal of Shaivism is realizing one s identity with God Shiva, in perfect union and non-differentiation. This is termed nirvikalpa samadhi, Self Realization, and may be attained in this life, granting moksha, permanent liberation from the cycles of birth and death. A secondary goal is savikalpa samadhi, the realization of Satchidananda, a unitive experience within super consciousness in which perfect Truth, knowledge and bliss are known. The soul s final destiny is vishvagrasa, total merger in God Shiva Shaktism: The primary goal of Shaktism is moksha, defined as complete identification with God Shiva A secondary goal for the Shaktas is to perform good works selflessly so that one may go, on death, to the heaven worlds and thereafter enjoy a good birth on earth, for heaven, too, is a transitory state. For Shaktas, God is both the formless Absolute (Shiva) and the manifest Divine (Shakti), worshiped as Parvati, Durga, Kali, Amman, Rajarajeshvari, etc. Emphasis is given to the feminine manifest by which the masculine Un-manifest is ultimately reached. Vaishnavism: The primary goal of Vaishnavites is videha mukti, liberation – attainable only after death – when the small self realizes union with God Vishnu s body as a part of Him, yet maintains its pure individual personality. Lord Vishnu – all-pervasive consciousness – is the soul of the universe, distinct from the world and from the jivas, “embodied souls”, which constitute His body. His transcendent Being is a celestial form residing in the city of Vaikuntha, the home of all eternal values and perfection, where the soul joins Him upon mukti, liberation. A secondary goal – the experience of God s Grace – can be reached while yet embodied through taking refuge in Vishnu s unbounded love. By loving and serving Vishnu and meditating upon Him and His incarnations, our spiritual hunger grows and we experience His Grace flooding our whole being. Smartism: The ultimate goal of Smartas is moksha, to realize oneself as Brahman – the Absolute and only Reality – and become free from samsara, the cycles of birth and death. For this, one must conquer the state of avidya, or ignorance, which causes the world to appear as real. All illusion has vanished for the realized being, Jivanmukta, even as he lives out life in the physical body. At death, his inner and outer bodies are extinguished. Brahman alone exists. Paths of Attainment: Shaivism: The path for Shaivites is divided into four progressive stages of belief and practice called charya, kriya, yoga and jnana. The soul evolves through karma and reincarnation from the instinctive-intellectual sphere into virtuous and moral living, then into temple worship and devotion, followed by internalized worship or yoga and its meditative disciplines. Union with God Shiva comes through the grace of the satguru and culminates in the soul s maturity in the state of jnana, or wisdom. Shaivism values both bhakti and yoga, devotional and contemplative sadhanas. Shaktism: The spiritual practices in Shaktism are similar to those in Shaivism, though there is more emphasis in Shaktism on God s Power as opposed to Being, on mantras and yantras, and on embracing apparent opposites: male-female, absolute-relative, pleasure-pain, cause-effect, mind-body. Certain sects within Shaktism undertake “left-hand” tantric rites, consciously using the world of form to transmute and eventually transcend that world. The “left-hand” approach is somewhat occult in nature; it is considered a path for the few, not the many. The “right-hand” path is more conservative in nature. Vaishnavism: Most Vaishnavas believe that religion is the performance of bhakti sadhanas, and that man can communicate with and receive the grace of Lord Vishnu who manifests through the temple Deity, or idol. The path of karma yoga and jnana yoga leads to bhakti yoga. Among the highest practices of all Vaishnavas is chanting the holy names of the Avataras, Vishnu’s incarnations, such as Rama and Krishna. Through total self-surrender, called prapatti, to Lord Vishnu, liberation from samsara is attained. Smartism: Most Smarta-Liberal Hindus believe that moksha is achieved through j ana yoga alone defined as an intellectual and meditative but non-kundalini-yoga path. Jnana yoga’s progressive stages are scriptural study (Shravaa), reflection (manana) and sustained meditation (dhyana). Guided by a realized guru and avowed to the unreality of the world, the initiate meditates on himself as Brahman to break through the illusion of my. Devotees may also choose from three other non-successive paths to cultivate devotion, accrue good karma and purify the mind. These are bhakti yoga, karma yoga and raja yoga, which certain Smartas teach can also bring enlightenment. One other sect of note.BrahmismWorship of the Creator Early Indian mythological writings spoke of the Godhead as having three functions: Creation, Preservation, and Dissolution of the Cosmos. Corresponding to these three functions are three deities, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, each of which formed or form the basis of a religion. The religion of Brahma is now pretty much extinct, although it was popular during and for a while after the time of the Buddha (both Buddhist and Samkhyan metaphysics – two of the oldest of the Indian metaphysical systems – incorporate the God Brahma, the Creator, into their system, although ironically both give him a rather low office. Note that there are many other sects and subsects of notable value but are much too numerous to detail on this page.

Worship and Puja

Some important rituals, beliefs and traditions keep the religion vital and hold all the sects of Hinduism together. These are puja, or daily worship; dharma, religious duties pertaining to family and society; samkara, rites of passage; samsara, beliefs in the reincarnation or reappearance of the soul in succeeding generations; and moksha, or final release from material existence. Each day, Hindus worship the divine– either a high god or a family deity. To do this they perform puja in a sacred corner in a worship room of the home. The puja ritual keeps Hindus aware of their gods and mindful of their duties as individuals..

Nine Essential Hindu Beliefs

1. I believe in the divinity of the Vedas, the world s most ancient scripture, and venerate the Agamas as equally revealed. These primordial hymns are God s word and the bedrock of Sanatana Dharma, the eternal religion which has neither beginning nor end. 2. I believe in a one, all-pervasive Supreme Being who is both immanent and transcendent, both Creator and Un-manifest Reality. 3. I believe that the universe undergoes endless cycles of creation, preservation and dissolution. 4. I believe in karma, the law of cause and effect by which each individual creates his own destiny by his thoughts, words and deeds. 5. I believe that the soul reincarnates, evolving through many births until all karma have been resolved, and moksha, spiritual knowledge and liberation from the cycle of rebirth, is attained. Not a single soul will be eternally deprived of this destiny. 6. I believe that divine beings exist in unseen worlds and that temple worship, rituals, sacraments as well as personal devotionals create a communion with these devas and Gods. 7. I believe that a spiritually awakened master, or satguru, is essential to know the Transcendent Absolute, as are personal discipline, good conduct, purification, pilgrimage, self-inquiry and meditation. 8. I believe that all life is sacred, to be loved and revered, and therefore practice ahimsa, noninjury. 9. I believe that no particular religion teaches the only way to salvation above all others, but that all genuine religious paths are facets of God s Pure Love and Light, deserving tolerance and understanding.

Some page content from various websitesPlease visit the following sites for more information.http://www.HinduismToday.kauai.hi.ushttp://www.hindu.org

Hinduism in America

Welcome to “Hinduism in America.” This study was conceived as a final project for an American Civilization course at Brown University, entitled “The Pacific Rim in American History.” Basically this study started with the question, “How does life change once someone moves to America?” Do we find immigrants embracing the ideals of their new land, or do they retreat to the ideals with which they grew up? What happens to the immigrants’ children?

(see also Authors’ rationale )

These are broad questions to tackle. Hence, we decided to focus on Hinduism in South Asian Americans and see what kind of changes we could document over the generations. Specifically, we chose the medium-sized community of South Asians located in South Jersey. Our project focused on immigrants who came to the US post 1960 (see Contextualizing this study ), and their children between the ages of 17 and 25.

What follows are the results of our project. We are placing an in-depth discussion of our results online , as well as two very interesting family case studies. The complete store of information we compiled during this study is available from the Data Center .

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