A beginner’s guide to Hinduism
Welcome to one of the most ancient religions in the world. You might know part and parcel of it as the law of Karma, yoga, and chakras; all these have been co-opted by white people and made them the new craze while excluding the fact that they come from a religion that is still alive and thriving today. Hinduism is at least 5000 years old, and its roots can be traced back to the Indus valley region. Come along with us on this journey to learn more about Hinduism.
Where does it come from?
It is one of the world’s major religions and originates in the Indian subcontinent, and it comprises of a variety of philosophies, rituals, and beliefs. Though the term Hinduism is a relatively new term that was coined by the British in the early 1800s, it usually refers to the rich cumulative tradition of texts and practices. Some of this dates as far back as the 2nd millennium. It is considered by many scholars to be the oldest living religion in the world. Fun fact that most of you probably aren’t aware of, Buddhism is an offshoot of Hinduism. Buddha or Gautama Buddha is the 9th avatar of Lord Vishnu. This shows the reach that this religious practice has. Many of its sacred texts, like the Bhagavata Gita and the Ramayana, were originally in Sanskrit and were later translated to the other vernaculars of the subcontinent. It has nearly one billion followers, 80% of whom are found in India and is the third-largest religion after Christianity and Islam.
These are the things you need to know about it.
1. Unlike popular belief, Hinduism is a monotheistic or rather henotheistic religion; they worship a single deity with several forms and names, this being Lord Brahman, who is known as the eternal and supreme being, all lifeforms stemmed out of Him. Most Hindus view individual Gods and Goddesses as the personification of an omniscient and omnipresent ultimate being. According to the scripture, He can’t be known by mere mortals or even the Gods themselves. The holy trinity of Hinduism or the Trimurti is Brahma, the creator of the Universe, Vishnu, the preserver of the Universe, and Shiva the Destroyer.
2. They have numerous holy scripture, unlike in Christianity. Hinduism is made up of several important scriptures known as the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas, the Ramayana, and even the Bhagavad Gita. The Vedas are a collection of verses and hymns that are written in Sanskrit and that contain revelations received by ancient sages and they highlight the important phases of one’s life like the birth, the naming ceremony or even the postmortem rituals. The Upanishads provide us with Indian philosophies like Dharma (action/duty), Maya (illusion), and Karma.
3. There are four goals that all Hindus must pursue. These 4 goals are:
- Dharma- behave in ways that are conducive to spiritual advancement; that is, we must do what we were born to do and mustn’t stay inactive.
- Artha- the pursuit of material prosperity
- Karma- the enjoyment of the material world
- Moksha- liberation from all worldly attachments and material- it liberates us from the cycle of birth and death once achieved.
In essence, Hindus consider Dharma more important than Artha and Karma, but we are after Moksha because a Hindu’s goal in life should be Moksha.
4. The sacred texts also highlight a way toward liberation and experience Moksha. Unlike the Bible or other religious beliefs, there is no hell in Hinduism; it is believed that we are born and reborn until we get rid of all our karmic molecules; it is only then that we attain liberation. The four primary paths are:
- Karma Yogi- performing one’s duties selflessly
- Bhakti Yogi- Love and praise for Brahman in terms of services and devotion
- Jnana Yogi- the study and contemplation of the holy scriptures
- Raja Yogi- deep introspection and mediation of both the body and the soul.
5. There is no concept of sin in Hinduism. The religion believes that everyone is possible of both good and evil deeds, and both of these have their consequences, and it is known as the law of Karma. It refers to the rule that every action, whether good or bad, has an equal reaction that is either immediate or at a later point in the future and may even haunt you in future life.
Remember, in Hinduism, the body we have now is illusory; it is mortal. It is easily damaged, but our soul or Atman is immortal and cannot perish and is rebirth until we attain liberation. Remember, you can be atheistic and attain liberation according to Hindu scriptures. Sound off in the comment section below if you learnt anything new about Hinduism today.