Hinduism is a collective term applied to the many philosophical and religious traditions native to India. Hinduism has neither a specific moment of origin nor a specific founder. Rather, the tradition understands itself
to be timeless, having always existed. Indeed, its collection of sacred texts is known, as a whole, as Sanatana Dharma, The Eternal Teaching. It is thus a complex tradition that encompasses numerous interrelated religious
doctrines and practices that have some common characteristics but which lack any unified system of beliefs and practices. Hinduism encompasses a number of major sects, as well as countless subsects with local or regional
variations. On one level, it is possible to view these sects as distinct religious traditions, with often very specific theologies and ritual traditions; on another level, however, they often understand themselves to be different
means to reach a common end.
The Hindu worldview is grounded in the doctrines of samsara (the cycle of
rebirth) and karma (the universal law of cause and effect), and fundamentally holds that one’s actions (including one’s thoughts) directly determine one’s life, both one’s current life and one’s future lives. Many, but not all, Hindus hold that the cosmos is populated by numerous deities and spiritual being-gods and goddesses, or devaswho actively influence the world and who interact with humans. The tradition is typically divided into four major sects: Shaiva (devotees of the god Shiva), Vaishnava (devotees of the god Vishnu), Shakta (devotees of the goddess), and Smarta (those who understand the ultimate form of the divine to be abstract and all
encompassing, Brahman). Hinduism has traditionally held that there are certain times and days that are better to hold or to begin important events, such as marriage, particular religious rituals, even business ventures. The
times and days for all major religious events are determined by careful consultation of the calendars by priests.
On a more mundane level, many Hindus will consult a priest or other religious figure to determine the proper day for a marriage, For each person, there are more and less auspicious times, based on the day and time of their birth, the movements of the planets and stars, and a number of other factors. Many Hindus have their own astrological charts made-sometimes by parents shortly after the birth of a child-that they will consult and have interpreted by priests throughout their lives. Hindu gods and goddesses are understood to be active forces in the world. Through a variety of rituals, they are made present to their devotees. Temples are sacred because they are where the gods and goddesses live, and where humans have access to them. Temples are also where many, although by no means all, Hindu rituals are performed.
These various approaches are regarded as equally valid, and in fact are formally recognized as three paths (margas) to liberation: bhaktimarga (the path of devotion), jnanamarga (the path of knowledge or philosophy),
and karmamarga (the path of works and action). Hindu religious practices center on the importance of fulfilling the duties associated both with one’s social position and one’s stage of life. With regard to the latter, traditional
Hindus are expected to pass through four stages (ashramas) over the course of their life:
• Brahmacharya, which takes place during the school years, is focused on acquiring knowledge and developing character;
• Grastha, the middle years, is focused on worldly pursuits and pleasures such as marriage, family and career;
• Vanaprastha, when one’s children reach adulthood, is a time of increased focus on spiritual things; and
• Sannyasa, in the last years of life, one may abandon the world entirely for a life of contemplation.
Every Hindu does not expect to be able to complete all four stages during every birth-cycle but many aim is to do so or to complete as much as possible, for example, reaching the retirement stage. Ideally, as merit accrues, one will be reborn into circumstances that enable one to complete all four cycles and to achieve moksha during the fourth stage.
(A). The Four Goals of Life: Another major aspect of Hindu religion that is common to practically all Hindus is that of purushartha, the four goals of life. They are kama, artha, dharma, and moksha. It is said that all humans seek kama (pleasure, physical or emotional) and artha (power, fame, and wealth), but soon, with maturity, learn to govern these legitimate desires within a higher, pragmatic framework of dharma, or moral harmony in all. The only goal that is truly infinite, whose attainment results in absolute happiness, is moksha (liberation), (a.k.a. Mukti, Samadhi, Nirvana, etc.) from Samsara, the material existence.
(B). Beliefs in Hinduism: Survey after survey reveals that more than 95 percent of Hindus believe in the existence of God. A broad set of beliefs stem from that most basic of beliefs, and they include the following.
• Belief in the Supreme Soul.
• Belief that Truth is the goal of life.
• Belief in the authority of the Vedas.
• Belief in the idea that time is circular and not linear.
• Belief in karma and karmic consequences.
• Belief in the concept of dharma.
• Belief in tolerance as the core value.
(C). Some Facts about Hinduism: There are following important facts about Hinduism.
• Hinduism is the dominant religion of India, about 85% of the over one billion persons living in India are
known to the world as Hindus.
• Hinduism is often thought of not as a single religion, but as a family of religions.
• About 95% of all Hindus in the world live in India. Most of the remaining five percent live in areas immediately adjacent to India. Approximately 18 million Hindus live in the kingdom of Nepal, which is the only nation where Hinduism is the state religion.
• Although Indians are perhaps the most religious people on earth, India is officially a secular nation and it prides itself of being the world’s largest democracy.
• There are about 15 million Hindus living in the Muslim states of Pakistan and Bangladesh, which were part of India prior to its independence of Great Britain.
• At the end of 20th century, the Hindu population in the United States and Europe were estimated at 2 million. The vast majority of these were Indian immigrants. These facts make apparent the importance of the Indian subcontinent for Hinduism. Unlike other great religions like Christianity, Islam and Buddhism; Hinduism has not as yet taken root in a natural way outside the land of its origins.
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