World Religions – Dharmic Religions – Hinduism
Table of Contents
Hinduism is one of the major world religions, originating in India, and consists of many diverse traditions and denominations. Hinduism is described by many of its followers as more of a philosophy or point of view rather than being understood as a systematic or traditional ‘religion’ in the western sense of the word.
Hindu Symbols & Representations – AUM (OM)
The AUM is the symbol for Hinduism. Hindus believe that as the universe or creation began, it took the form of a sound or vibration, manifested as ‘AUM.’ Before the creation of the universe, it was the emptiness of void.
The Aum or Om is also said to represent the primary or highest name for god as described in the Vedas. The symbol combines the letters A-U-M which refer to all the different attributes of god and embodies the essence of the entire universe;
- A that refer to Viraat, Agri, and Vishwa.
- U refers to Hiranyagarbh, Vaayu, and Tejas
- M refers to Ishwar, Aditya, and Praana
The word Hindu originally comes from the Persian geographical term for “the people who lived beyond the river Indus,” and was not used as a religious term. By roughly the 13th century Hindustan became an alternative for the country India, known as the ‘land of the Hindus.” The term Hindu was introduced in the English language during the 19th century to refer to the religious and cultural traditions of the people of India.
No one specific person is attributed as the founder of Hinduism, but is rather a collage of various traditions and cultures of the Indian people.
Dating back as early as 1100 b.c. various people groups, such as the Indo-Aryan and Harappan cultures and civilizations, began to produce a bases for the Hindu belief system, as many religious oral traditions had already began to spread. Hindu cultures began to absorb other influences during the 5-2nd century b.c. from Buddhist, Jainian and Shramanic traditions.
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 – Supreme Court of India
Hinduism does not have a unified system of beliefs or doctrines, but rather is composed of the various religious ideologies of the people of India. Hinduism does not worship any one particular God, nor does it have a specific method of salvation.
Hinduism grants absolute and complete freedom of beliefs and worship, as they conceive of the whole world as a single family that deifies the one truth. It accepts all forms of belief as another road to the truth, and therefore has no concept of false or inaccurate teachings.
Hinduism contains many different traditions, each with their own variations of the overall belief system, the 4 major branches of Hinduism are:
- Shaivism- focuses on the god Shiva
- Vaishnavism -focuses on the god Vishnu (the three images or trinity)
- Smartism – Based on the recognition of Brahma as the highest principle
- Shaktism – focuses on the goddess Shakti or Devi, the divine mother. They believe the supreme Brahman and all other forms of divinity are just her man diverse manifestations.
Gods – Pantheon
Most hindu traditions are henotheistic, meaning they primarily devote themselves to one god, while accepting others. However, Hindus, because of their open belief system, accept the viewpoints on monotheistic, polytheistic, atheistic, etc.
The entire Hindu belief system does have its own pantheon with vast varieties if gods and goddess. They do have a generally accepted order of supreme to lesser deities in their pantheon.
Brahma – Not to be confused with Brahman, the unchanging reality. Brahma is the creator deity, one of the Trimurti. He is also the god of speech and sound.
Vishnu – One of the trimurti. Vishnu is the god who maintains all things. He is believed to sustain, support, preserves and governs all existence.
Shiva – One of the trimurti. Shiva is the god of destruction, or is known as the transformer. Shiva is believed to be limitless, transcendent, unchanging and formless.
Devi – Devi or Shaki is believed to be the great divine mother, responsible for all creation and is the agent of change. The primordial cosmic energy.
[Comprehensive list of Pantheon deities at the end of article]
Devas & Avatars
Hindu scripts refer to celestial beings known as Devas, literally meaning “shining ones.” An avatar is the incarnation of a god taking on mortal form. The purpose of an avatar was typically to restore Dharama to human society.
The supreme Brahma is infinite. The unchanging reality beyond the world, cannot exactly be defined, the highest reality. A liberated human will realize themselves as a part of Brahma. In Vedic Sanskrit, it is defined as the great cosmic spirit. It is identified with the Atman, the human soul or self.
Hinduism emphasizes the belief in reincarnation after death, that all living creature, after death are reincarnated into a new or different body.
Breaking this cycle of reincarnation is often referred to by Hindus as their version of salvation. They see reincarnation similar to changing clothes, on the soul changes bodies, entering a new one leaving the old.
Karma & Samsara
The moral law of cause and effect is the Hindus description of Karma, it is literally an act or deed. Hindus believe people receive sanskaras (impressions) from their actions which will carry ver with them to their next life.
Karma is supposed to be an impersonal, unintelligent universal, never ending concept. It binds to notions of free-will and destiny.
In Hinduism, there is no salvation from sin or evil. Instead, the think of salvation as being released from the endless cycle of reincarnation.
It is believed that after several reincarnation, the spirit seeks unity with the cosmic spirit, the Brahman. The ultimate goal in life is to achieve ones unity with god, as ones realization of their eternal relationship with him. To realize the perfect unity of all existence perfect unselfishness and knowledge about the Self. To be detached from worldly desires and attain a perfect mental peace.
End of the World
In Hinduism, time consists of cycles called Kalpas. One cycle is complete every 4-8 billion years, which is a full day and night for Brahma, who will live for 311 trillion years. One Kalpa is complete with a creation at the beginning, and destruction at the end.
The current Kalpa in which we live consist of 4 part or epochs, each of the 4 epochs begin in purity and end in corruption. Hindu believe we are in the final epoch of the current Kalpa called Kali Yuga. It is believed in At the time of chaos when all the pillars of Dharma fall, except truth, the final avatar will appear on a white horse names Kalki with the eight Adityas, or solar deities. They will amass an army to reestablish Dharma, followed by the next golden age (Satya Yuga) in which the gods will rule humanity. This cycle will repeat until the next Kalpa is ready to be begin with a new universe.
World Flood & Manu
The first human being, from whom all other humans originated. He is titled the progenitor of humanity. He was believed to have saved humanity from the great flood the covered the whole world called the Great Deluge, by building a giant boat.
This legend strongly ties in with the historic account of Noah’s Ark. Manu is recorded to have built a boat to save his family, all the different types of animals on the earth and various types of seed.
The Hindu scriptures are very large and where written sometime between 1400-500b.c. all written in Sanskrit and over time written in other Indian languages. It is a very large collection of writings by various authors. The scriptures where originally transmitted orally, until many centuries later before they were written down.
“That which is revealed”
Which mostly refers to the Vedas, it is the oldest collection of Hindu scriptures.
The oldest Sanskrit scriptures and are regarded as not of human origin. They are believed to have been directly revealed from Brahma. It is organized in 4 canon collections.
- Rigveda (1700-1100 b.c.) – Collection of Hymn for the head priests
- Yajurveda (1700 b.c.) – Contains formulas to recite by the priests
- Samaveda (1400 – 1000 b.c.) – Contains formulas to be sung by the chanting priests
- Atharvaveda (1000 b.c.) – Contains the spells, charms and incantations
The Upanishads are a collection of Veda texts with some of the earliest religious concepts, daitng back to 600 b.c. It is believed to reveal truths about the nature of the ultimate reality, the Brahma. Over 200 Upanishads exist.
- Rig Veda – Aitareya
- Sama Veda – Chandogya
- Yajur Veda – Katha, Taittiriya, Svetasvatara, Maitrayani, Isha, Brhadaranyaka
- Athava – Manduya, Mundaka, Prashna Upanishad
the collection of commentaries on the Veda texts, mostly describing the proper performance for rituals.
“Limbs of the Vedas,” are six disciplinary traditions dedicated to the study of the Veds:
- Shiksha – study of phonetics
- Kalpa – study of ritual
- Vyakarana – study of grammar
- Nirukta – study of etymology
- Chandas – study of poetry
- Jyotisha – study of astronomy
“That which is learned”
Hindu texts other then the Shruti are contained in the Smiriti. These are the epic stories, songs, yoga techniques, tantras and other popular Hindu texts.
The Purunas are the Hindu texts that explain the details concerning the various deities. It also contains narratives of the history of the creation of the universe to its destruction, genealogies of kings and heroes, sages, demigods, Hindu philosophy, cosmology and geography.
- The Mahapurunas- Of the Purunas, these texts contain 18 groups that describe various gods and contains information about them and prayers to them.
These are the epic stories of Hindu events that happened in the past. The narrative seems to be a unique winding of both myth with historic events.
This work contains both the Bhagavah Gita and the Rishyasringa.
- Bhagavad Gita – whic his the story of Damayanti, the princess of Vidarbha Kingdom
- Rishyasringa – The story of a boy with the horns of a deer who became a seer.
The creation of the Ramayana is ascribed to the Hindu sage Valmiki. It explains the duties of relationships and the ideal characteristics we should carry in our lives in regard to our parents, children, spouses, dignitaries, etc.
The texts referring to the Hindu religious and legal duty pertaining to their belief in Dharma. There are hundreds of texts and many more commentaries in the overall texts of the Dharmasatra.
The classical Hindu belief on the purpose of human life is known as the Purushathas, which means “that which is sought by man.” It refers to the goal or aim of human existence. There are four Purusarthas;
- Dharma – Law and religious duty
- Artha – Prosperity
- Kama – Pleasure
- Moksa – Spiritual Liberation
Dharma – The universal law or principle of order. it acts as the regulatory moral principle in the universe. Hindus view Dharma as their way of living, and signifies that they uphold their religious beliefs.
Artha – is the pursuit of wealth for livelihood and obligations. It signifies material well being.
Kama – means personal desire, passion or hopes and dreams. It is the pleasure of the senses and the aesthetic joy of affection, love, etc.
Moksa – This is the final goal for the life of a person, the liberation from suffering in the world, and the involvement in the continuous cycle of reincarnation.
The Hindu definition of yoga is the practice and disciple of attaining a peaceful state of mind and experiencing ones true self. Hindus believe it is the act of changing ones mind, or to be in union with the divine. It is a series of physical exercises and mental concentrations, many practices will chant or perform a mantra. Even though Yoga can vary in many aspects from form of practice to representations and philosophy, Hindu texts have names a few specific paths that can be followed while practicing yoga:
- The path of love and devotion – Bhakti Yoga
- The path of right action – Karma Yoga
- The path of meditation – Raja Yoga
- The path of wisdom – Jnana Yoga
Mantras are invocations, praise, prayers that Hindus use as their act of worship towards the deities. They chant and devote their mind on thoughts towards their deity of choice. These acts of worship along with other practices help them think about their deity on a daily bases, practicing their daily devotion.
Worship sessions are performed daily and on various holidays, and in various locations, often in temples, alters or aesthetic places in nature.
Hindus perform rituals on a daily basis. reciting religious scriptures, singing devotionals, meditating, chanting mantras, etc. Religious rituals make strong notice of the difference between pollutions and purity. Practitioners must be purified before a ritual, typically with water.
Hindus devotees make several different types of pilgrimages to various places in India. Even though it is no mandatory, Hindus still hold high regard for their value.
Festivals & Holidays
Hindus celebrate many festivals throughout the year. Each festival celebrates some event form their mythology, often performed during a change in season.
Criticism and Apologetics
The Oldest Religion
Hinduism is referred to some as the world’s oldest religion, based on the dates of its earliest writings. However, historic accuracy and archaeological facts points out that the true, oldest world religion that still exists today is Judaism.
Judaism actually predates Hinduism by a few hundred years based on the historical records of Abraham, whom was the first believer of the Abrahamic faiths, from which Judaism and its belief systems derive.
Religious Disarray & the True God
The Hindu religion has been a literal melting pot of traditions, cultures and religious ideologies brought from all over the Asian continent throughout the centuries. The original belief system has admittedly been changed and continually transitioned from one state to another.
When examined objectively, it is obvious that Hinduism was not a direct influence from the supernatural to mankind, but is rather a mixture of various human made traditions in attempt to understand the supernatural.
Even through various claims of belief the Hindu scriptures came from Brahma, who is to say they did not come from mankind, or from some spiritual deceiver? The test would be accuracy. Only the true God can give 100% accurate truth to history, and future prophecy.
Hinduism Claims all Religions Are True
Logically, if you had to be sure of your choice and you saw the following answers to life’s test:
A.) All of these statements are true
B.) This statement is true
Which one would you pick? Logically and rationally, we can see that both answers are pointing in one direction. This little logical test directly correlates to Hinduism and Christianity, the Bible tells us who the one true God is, while Hinduism, while leaving all options open, believe all directions are correct.
Contraditions in Hindu Sacred Texts
Contradictions: False Prophecy of The Promised One
On the day Bhagwan Krishna ascended to His Holy Abode, at the age of 126 lunar years. In Vishnu Puran it is also stated that so long as Bhagwan Shri Krishna was touching this earth with His Lotus Feet, Kali Yug could not put it’s foot on the earth. – Vishnu Puran, Part IV, Chapter 24, Versus 109 and 113
The Hindu scriptures teach that in the year 1844 AD the promised one of Hinduism is due to appear.
Contradictions: Astronomy – Distance Between Astral Bodies
The Vishnu Purana says the sun is 800,000 miles away and the moon is 2,200,000 miles away. Astronomy today have proven that the moon is 240,000 miles away and the sun is 93,000,000 miles away.
Contradictions: Astronomy – Area of the Earth
The Markandeya Purana says that the earth has an area of 4 Billion sq. miles, but today we know it is approx 190,000,000 sq. miles.
Contradiction: Geology – Mt.Meru
The Arya texts contain the description in a fictional Vedic Mt.Meru on Earth. It is supposed to be 100,000 x higher than Mt.Everest.
“It [Mt Meru] is golden and shining like fire. The colour of the eastern side is white like the colour of Brahmans, that of the northern side is red like the that of Kshatriyas, the southern is yellow like that of Vaishyas, the western is black like the colour of Sudras. It is 86000 yojana high, and 16000 of these lie in the earth. Each of the 4 sids has 34000yojanas … There are beautiful golden houses inhabited by spiritual beings,the Devas, by the singers the Gandharvas and their harlots the Apsaras. Also Asuas, Daityas and Rakshasas are living in it. ” — [ Matsya Puruna quoted in al-B. – Albbleruni’s India, tr. Sachau i.247]
1 yojana is equal to 8 miles. Therefore it would be a total of over 700,000 miles high, in comparison, Mt. Everest is only 6 miles high. No such place has ever existed.
Contradiction: Geology – World Elephants
The Hindu scriptures allude to the support of the earth being conducted by literal giant elephants. The Amarakosha and Ramayana 1.41 list the names of these 8 elephants. They are supposed to be guarding the earth at compass point of each direction and their moving bodies cause the earth to shake.
No such animal exists, and we know the mechanisms that control the placement and movement of the earth are far more intricate.
These claims are made by a people who had no knowledge of the scientific workings of the earth, in a time when no scientific models could be produced to verify such claims.
Hindu cosmology also reference world turtles and world serpents.
Jesus was Taught by Hindu Teachers
Many Hindu teachers will attempt to say that Jesus between the ages of 18-30 was in India learning from Hindu Guru’s. They base this off similitude’s of Jesus teaching of loving and helping others with specific Hindu teachings.
First of all there is absolutely no historic bases for this. Second of all, it is easy for any worldwide religion, including Hinduism, to begin with the desire for good will towards other people, it is evidence that God has put inside all men the desire for good. Jesus teaching is radically different from all other teachings of the world, during His time, other than Judaism. It was directly in line with Judaism because He was the fulfillment of the Hebrew law.
Hinduism Has Benefited Society
This beneficial fact that cannot be argued. Many civilizations, especially ancient ones bring through the ages the trial and error of human ambitions, scientific discoveries, and medications. Vegetarianism and yoga is very beneficial for human health, however this does not validate the entire Hindu religion. Using a civilizations abilities to develop useful technology over time, does not validate its spiritual beliefs.
The influence and beliefs in Hinduism where originated by various peoples that continued to mix their ideas and beliefs together to create the synergetic compilation.
Witnessing to Hindus
When sharing the gospel with those of the Hindu faith, it can be difficult at first because they will easily accept Jesus of the Bible and put a picture of him on their mantle along with all the other gods of Hinduism.
Don’t assume that each Hindu believes the same thing, however, they all typically believe in the central truths of Hinduism. Many argue that god (Brahma) is inside all of us and we don’t need to look specifically at any one god for help, rather look for the god that is in you. They teach all you need to do is do good and live your life not troubling anything else.
It is the knowledge of sin that brings a person to God, and it will be through the law of God that they see sin for what it is and that they are in need of the Savior
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Hindu culture, custom, and ceremony, Brojendra Nath Banerjee, Agam, 1978,