HinduismAdherents: 900 Million
Founded: 1500 B.C.
Founder: Aryan nomads from the Baltic regions
a. Joined two religious systems: ancient civilization (animist) in the Indus River Valley (3000 BC) and their own religious beliefs as they began to invade northern India appx. 2000 BC.
b. Aryans also settled much of the area of modern day Greece.
- The Vedas (knowledge or wisdom) 1400 BC - 500 AD comprised of:
- Mantras (hymns of praise)
- Brahmanas (guide for ritual rites)
- Upanishads (teachings on religious truth or doctrine).
- Contains: law books, Ramayana & Maabharata, Puranas, aqamas, sultras,and the bhakti (devotions to gods)
- Describes the religion of the Aryans via the writings of “Holy men” or rishis (seers). sruti: all that is heard; smriti: all that is remembered
- Describes a number of deities who are mostly personifications of natural phenomena: storms, fire, etc. (c.f. animism)
- The Upanishads (secret teaching) 800-600 BC
- The “later” Vedas which reflect the development of Pantheism: Brahman also the concept of “Atman is Brahman”; and maya the creation of the unreal.
- Spoke of a multitude of gods
- Bhagavad Gita - inspired but of lesser authority because it is smriti and not sruti
- The “New Testament” of Hinduism which records a conversation between the prince Arjuna and his charioteer Krishna (the incarnation of the god Vishnu) condoning personal devotion to deity.
Hindu Religious Practices
Caste System – Consists of social classes with thousands of sub-groups within each caste. Determined at birth by family, and/or by personal karma.
Kshatriyas – warriors or ruler class. 2nd only to the Brahmins.
Vaisyas – merchant or farmer class follows the Kshatriyas
Shudras – laboring class “bottom feeders”
Dalits – untouchables or “outcastes” which are outside the caste system.
Four goals of the Hindu
Artha – wealth and success
Dharma – moral duty, renouncing personal power and pleasure to seek the common good of others brings personal fulfillment
Moksha – liberation from the death and birth cycle “salvation”
Hindu TheologyHindus are are considered Pantheistic in belief.
1. Who or what is God to the Hindu? 330 million gods within Hinduism
a. Brahman – an ultimate reality beyond our comprehension. Impersonal “force”
comprised of all living things it binds the galaxies together. Is sometimes
referred to personally as “Isvara”.
i. Brahman is he whom speech cannot express and from whom the mind,
unable to reach him, comes away baffled – Taittiriya Upanishad (c.f. Taoism)
ii. A philosophic concept to be meditated on, not to be adored or worshiped.
b. Maya is the way by which Brahman chose to create the material world.
It is a type of “relative” reality.
i. Huston Smith – compared the concept of maya to the question posed “are
dreams real?”. They are real in the sense that we have them but not in the sense
that the events depicted in them actually take place. Maya is the concept that
the world that the mind sees is real to the mind in its present state but it is not
real as it truly is. 13(cf. agnosticism; Christianity)
c. Primary gods
i. Brahma (the creator)
ii. Vishnu (the preserver) – has had10 incarnations over time called Avatars
iii. Shiva (the destroyer) – is really THE primary god worshiped due to the
overwhelming fear of his wrath. Has many temples built for him11
Shiva’s wife “Kali” is also an angry goddess that has a large cult-revival.
d. The Cow is god: atharava veda – “The Cow is heaven, the Cow is earth,
the Cow is Vishnu, Lord of life” – permitted to have full reign eating as it wishes.
Hindu World View:
Pantheistic - All things seen and unseen (including the millions and millions of gods) all make up Brahman (god above all)
Metaphysical - Nature of Man - Hinduism embraces the idea of evolution in that they feel that it coincides with their core beliefs that man is progressing steadily over time. This, despite the fact that rape and violence are on an ever-increasing climb within Hindu society, and have been for thousands of years.
Problem of Evil:
- Karma – action The process by which an individual is either rewarded for his/her good deeds and also the process by which they are punished for their bad deeds. This karma is usually expected to be carried out in the individual’s next incarnation, however, it seems there is a tendency among Hindus to believe that karma can be effected in this life as well.
- The present is determined by the past, however the present, if acted out properly can determine the future.
- Karma is ultimately a perpetuation of evil and doesn’t solve it. In order for an individual to get their “evil” karma worked off, evil things must be carried out against them in this or the next life, which in turn requires that THAT individual’s karma must ALSO be worked off by someone ELSE and so on and so on.
- Rabi Maharaj, a former Hindu Brahman priest, points out that ultimately, Hindu society is supposed to be progressing and getting better after thousands of years of this karma practice. However, he notes that it only seems to be getting worse!11
- Karma is responsible for widespread neglect and needless suffering in India in that a Hindu believes that if they help a person in pain, trouble, etc. they are inhibiting that person’s necessary karma and will force that person to have to relive it all over again to work it off properly.
- The Caste System - social classes with thousands of sub-groups in each caste. and the laws of karma make social reform or improvement nearly Determined at birth by family, and/or by personal karma.
- Bahmins – are the priestly class and the highest order in the caste system.
- Kshatriyas – warriors or ruler class. 2nd only to the Brahmins.
- Vaisyas – merchant or farmer class follows the Kshatriyas
- Shudras – laboring class “bottom feeders”
- Dalits – untouchables or “outcastes” which are outside the caste system.
Samsara or “reincarnation” is the method by which bad karma is worked off and good karma rewarded. The more the Hindu overcomes evil in his/her own life, the better chance of being reincarnated in a higher caste and eventually achieving enlightenment – the knowledge that there is no ‘self’ just ‘brahman’.
jnana yoga – The way of knowledge. Overcomes the avidyya or ‘ignorance’ that brings on the bondage of rebirth cycles. Achieved via deep meditation, a state of consciousness that we are one with Brahman. Selfhood is an illusion, there is only one reality: Brahman (cf Buddhism)
bhakti yoga – The way of devotion. Personal devotion to deity is considered (in the Bhagavad Gita) as a way of salvation for all classes of people. It is the most popular in Hinduism due to its emphasis on personal relationship to a god or many gods. The acts of worship at the temples is called puja which seeks the aid of a god to help one escape samsura.
Brahman - Until Moksha is attained there is no afterlife…just “life after life after life”. Once Moksha is attained, the Hindu goes into a being non-being state of oneness with all the universe (Brahman) or it is believed that the Hindu has a closer and more personal relationship to a particular god.
Of note: Yazdanism - Kurdish form of polytheism/pantheism which is VERY similar to Hinduism in its infrastructure of multiple deities vs multiple bad deities. What makes it unique is that it incorporates Christian, Islamic, and ancient near east polytheism.
Is Hinduism compatible with Christianity? Here is what the Christian writings say regarding the belief system of Hinduism:
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