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HINDUISM

Introduction

Hinduism is the oldest formal religion still practiced today. The beginnings of this religion date back 3,000 years or more. Hinduism heritage is believed to come from the Vedic religion, brought with the Aryan invaders from the Russian Steps. These are the same peoples who are considered the originators of the Indo/European family of languages that spread to Europe and then South, Central, and Southwest Asia. The Hinduism is hard to define today, because it has a wide variety of sources from the Vedic religion and includes a wide variety of local religions. Through the ages it has been influenced by Islam and Christianity. This discussion will include the basic evolution of the religion and its main practices and deities from which most of the primary gods and concepts are derived.

 

god symbol

god symbol
Hinduism
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The Upanishads introduced the following basic principles of Hinduism:

1. Samsara – the circular concept of life, death and rebirth

2. Karma – the accumulation of your deeds which determines your present and future lives

3. Nirvana – the escape from Samsara and the suffering of life (Nirvana is hard to define in western terms but basically is nonexistence rather than heaven.)
This placed the sole responsibility upon the individual for their destiny. Asceticism became the highest form of religious life that would eventually lead to Nirvana. Both Buddhism and Jainism developed in about 500 BCE and included these principles.


Although there are many gods in the Hindu religion there are three main gods or goddess from which all others derive, including local gods.

 

Vishmu god
Vishnu god

Vishnu – considered the supreme deity of solar origin and is wholly benevolent. Vishnu lies asleep on the primeval waters and from his naval grows a lotus bearing Brahma, who creates the world. (Notice, the creation story includes primeval waters and the lotus blossom that are part of many of the Mesopotamian, Egyptian and Judaic religions.)
Shiva (Rudra, found in the Riga Veda) – The god of storms who sends lightning (similar to the Geek god Zeus). He has sovereignty over disease and healing herbs. Later, he becomes a cult god represented by a stone phallus and even later indulging in wine, eating meat and illicit sexual intercourse.
Shiva god
Shiva god
Shatki god
Shatki god
Shakti the Great Goddess – As with most gods she has both a pacific and a terrifying aspect. She is a fertility goddess and the partner of Shiva. In some identities she demands animal (or even human) sacrifices. She is the patron saint of robbers.

As with all religions or cultures, these gods have taken on many forms over time and today include the characteristics of many lesser gods.
Modern Hinduism
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Modern Hinduism

Buddhism, the third largest religious group in the world, has gradually been absorbed into Hinduism in India although there are some adherents and temples still active there. Its spread to eastern Asia including South East Asia, China, Japan and others accounts for the large number of adherents. Hinduism being polytheistic is not necessarily that concerned with the inclusion of another god or religious practice into the pantheon.

The Hinduism of today has been influenced by Islam and Christianity but is reviving many of its old text and practices. The Islamic jjjjinvasion of the Indian continent started in the 11th century and continued through the 15th century. In the 15th century the Sultanate of Delphi conquered most of the subcontinent but Muslims were mostly isolated from the native Indian population. However, about 20% of the population converted to Islam.

Christianity arrived in India with the occupation by the British in 1858 through 1947. By 1947 the British had been weekend by WWII and the uprising of the Indian people, mostly via Gandhi, that made the exodus necessary. The freedom from British rule left behind the strife between the Hindus and the Muslims, much to the displeasure of Gandhi, ending in the creation of Pakistan for the Muslims and India proper for the Hindus. The split was not that simple with many Muslims choosing to stay in India.
Both Islam and Christianity brought the monotheistic ides to India which affected some of the practices of Hinduism. Hinduism has largely recovered as a primary religious system and its prospects of its survival are good. Two modern trends will tend to change things. These are the elimination of the cast system that is taking place in the urban areas and the introduction of agnostic humanism.

Thus, Hinduism is evolving due to the influences of modern life, as are all religious systems, but it remains and will continue to be a significant religious tradition in the future.

Gayatri Mantra
Peaceful Chants

 


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