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Facts About Hinduism


  1. Adherents Of Hinduism: 900 Million

  2. Hinduism Founded: 1500 B.C.

  3. Hindu Theology: Pantheistic - Brahman - All Things Constitue god

  4. Founders of Hinduism: Baltic Aryan nomads

    1. Joined two religious systems: ancient civilization (animist) in the Indus River Valley (3000 BC) and their own polytheistic religious beliefs as they began to invade northern India approximately 2000 BC.

    2. Aryans also settled much of the area of modern day Greece which, perhaps, laid the foundation for Greek polytheism (mythology - Zeus, Aphrodite, Apollo, etc) which would then later serve as the basis for Roman polytheism (Jupiter, Saturn, Pluto, etc).

  5. Hindu Writings

    1. The Vedas (knowledge or wisdom) 1400 BC - 500 AD  comprised of:

      1. Mantras (hymns of praise)

      2. Brahmanas (guide for ritual rites)

        1. Contains: law books, Ramayana & Maabharata,  Puranas, aqamas, sultras,and the bhakti (devotions to gods)

        2. 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

        3. Describes a number of deities who are mostly personifications of natural phenomena: storms, fire, etc. (c.f. animism)

    2. The Upanishads (secret teaching) 800-600 BC

      1. Teachings on religious truth or doctrine within Hinduism

      2. The “later” Vedas which reflect the development of Pantheism: Brahman also the concept of “Atman is Brahman”; and maya the creation of the unreal.

      3. Spoke of a multitude of gods

    3. Bhagavad Gita

      1. Inspired but of lesser authority because it is smriti (text based on remembrance of tradition) and not sruti (primary sacred texts - one of three main sources of Dharma)

      2. 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.

        1. This was a new development for Hinduism at the time because prior to this, Hinduism was more a mix of Animism and Polytheism whereby a pantheon of gods may have been worshipped by each Hindu practitioner.

        2. The Bhagavad Gita began to teach a doctrine of "pick your favorite" and honor that god above the other gods that you worship, which gave it a sort of Shintoist flavor whereby each house began to have its own "god" above other gods.


  6. Hindu Religious Practices

    1. Ahisma

      1. Hindus are vigilant about the doctrine of ahimsa which means ‘non-injury’ to all living creatures and the protection of life in general (c.f. Mahayana Buddhism) It is for this reason that many Hindus are strictly vegetarian.

        As a side note: this eastern ethos has been propagated into western thinking through film, documentary, yoga, etc. whereby many animal activists are unknowingly acting under the influence of the Hindu religious practice of Ahisma

      2. Despite the doctrine of "ahimsa" there are extremist factions of Hinduism which attack Muslims and Christians (and Sikhs for a time) in the name of their Hindu deities. Which appears to contradict the doctrine of Ahisma's "non-injury" to all living creatures.

    2. Caste System

      1. Consists of social classes with thousands of sub-groups within each caste. Determined at birth by family, and/or by personal karma.

        1. Bahmins – are the priestly class and the highest order in the caste system.

        2. Kshatriyas – warriors or ruler class. 2nd only to the Brahmins.

        3. Vaisyas – merchant or farmer class follows the Kshatriyas

        4. Shudras – laboring class “bottom feeders”

        5. Dalits – untouchables or “outcastes” which are outside the caste system.

    3. Four goals of the Hindu

      1. Kama – pleasure/enjoyment particularly through love and sexual desire

      2. Artha – wealth and success

      3. Dharma – moral duty, renouncing personal power and pleasure to seek the common good of others brings personal fulfillment

      4. Moksha – liberation from the death and birth cycle “salvation”


  7. Who Or What Is God To The Hindu?

    1. Brahman, to the Hindu is an ultimate reality beyond our comprehension. Impersonal “force” comprised of all living things it binds the galaxies together (c.f. George Lucas' description of the New Age concept of "the Force" in his Star Wars movies. The New Age concept used by George Lucas finds its roots here in the Hindu concept of Brahman).

      1. Brahman is sometimes referred to personally as “Isvara” - generic name for "god" and a philosophical concept denoting a sort of "guardian force" over the universe. Not a specific deity per se.

      2. Brahman is he whom speech cannot express and from whom the mind, unable to reach him, comes away baffled – Taittiriya Upanishad (c.f. Taoism)

      3. A philosophic concept to be meditated on, not to be adored or worshiped.

      4. Maya is the way by which Brahman chose to create the material world. It is a type of “relative” reality.

        1. 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)

    2. Brahma - Doctrinally the preeminent of the 33 million Hindu gods - Brahma is considered the creator of the world.

    3. Vishnu - Doctrinally is the second highest god of the 33 million gods of Hinduism - Vishnu is called the "preserver" – he is said to have had10 creature incarnations over time called Avatars

      1. Matsya - Vishnu as a giant fish which supposedly saved the first man from a great flood - one of many worldwide references to a great flood which threatened the very existence of man (see Christianity's Biblical account of the great flood)

      2. Kurma - Vishnu as a great turtle saved a mountain from sinking

      3. Varaha - Vishnu as a giant boar - saved the earth from primordial waters and married it (her) after her rescue

      4. Narasimha - Vishnu as half-man half-lion to save his son from an angry demon who could not be defeated by any previously created beings. It is considered the manifestation of divine anger.

      5. Vamana - Vishnu as a little man - the dwarf avatar - played a "3 foot" trick on an evil king whereby all heaven, earth, and the king's neck became the dwarfed Vishnu's

      6. Parashurama - Vishnu as a human guru to Bishma, Drona, and Karna of the Mahabharata - said to be the founder of Kalaripayattu - the Indian martial art.

      7. Rama - Vishnu as the perfect man who saved his wife from an evil demon. Along with Krishna, this is one of the most familiar avatars of Vishnu known to the west.

      8. Krishna - Vishnu as a god-like man who delivered the Bhagavad Gita which supposedly holds the key to escaping reincarnation and achieving moksha (see descriptions above) It is this avatar which spawned the cult-like Hindu sect known as the "Hare Krishnas" who believe that chanting the name of this avatar will make one's life "sublime".

      9. Buddha - Thought by many Hindus to be the "Ninth Avatar" or manifestation of Vishnu (strangely enough those same Hindus don't follow his teachings although they believe him to be a manifestation of the god Vishnu). Buddha's name was Siddhartha Guatama a young Hindu who achieved "enlightenment" whilst sitting under the Bo tree. He left Hinduism thereafter due to the improprieties he observed within the religion.

      10. Kalki - The last avatar or manifestation of Vishnu - He is to come in the last age (which many Hindus believe we are living in before the world is "reset") Vishnu as Kalki will ride a white horse and carry a blazing sword to destroy darkness.

        Interesting note: Muslims await their "last Imam" who will accomplish much of the same things as the Hindu "last Avatar" and Judaism awaits the arrival of a "Messiah" who, to them, will be a powerful and influential politician which will orchestrate world peace. Christians believe that a man will come to supposedly fulfill all of the qualifications of the last Avatar, last Imam, and Jewish Messiah in that he will usher in a "world peace" of sorts. He will be loved by all the world but he, along with his followers and supporters, will ultimately hate Christians who reject him as the Antichrist.

    4. Shiva (the destroyer) – is really THE primary god worshiped due to the overwhelming fear of his wrath among Hindus. He has many temples built for him11and in the many times I visited India, I witnessed more worship and incense burned to Shiva than any of the other 33 million gods of Hinduism. Shiva has a wife goddess named “Kali” who is also an angry destroyer like her husband-god Shiva. She currently has a large, violent, cult-like following in India that has been known, along with other militant Hindu groups, to persecute Indian Christians for their belief.

    5. The Cow is god to the Hindu: atharava veda – “The Cow is heaven, the Cow is earth, the Cow is "Vishnu, Lord of life”. (Even though the cow is not listed among the 10 avatars of Vishnu the vedas of Hinduism declare this creature to be an incarnation of Vishnu). The cow is permitted to have full reign moving around major cities in India and eating as it wishes.

Hindu World View:

  1. Polytheistic - Millions of gods are worshipped within Hinduism - Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, Kali, Cows, Human Gurus, etc.

  2. Pantheistic - All things seen and unseen (including the millions and millions of gods) all make up Brahman (god above all)

  3. 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. (ref. "Death of A Guru")

Problem of Evil:

  1. 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.

    1. The present is determined by the past, however the present, if acted out properly can determine the future.

    2. 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.

    3. 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

    4. 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.

    1. Bahmins – are the priestly class and the highest order in the caste system.

    2. Kshatriyas – warriors or ruler class. 2nd only to the Brahmins.

    3. Vaisyas – merchant or farmer class follows the Kshatriyas

    4. Shudras – laboring class “bottom feeders”

    5. Dalits – untouchables or “outcastes” which are outside the caste system.

    The caste system and the laws of karma make social reform or improvement nearly impossible. One can’t help a person in need for fear of jacking their karma. One cannot improve his/her social position because it is contrary to the caste system. Whatever caste you were born into  is the one you die in.

  2. 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’.

Afterlife:

  1. Moksha - The process by which a Hindu achieves true salvation - escaping the cycle of reincarnation and becoming “one with all things seen and unseen” (Brahman). This has also been referred to by some Hindus as “Nirvana” (c.f. Buddhism). Three possible paths to moksha:
    1. Karma Yoga – The way of works. moksha may be obtained by fulfilling one’s familial and social duties and ultimately overcoming bad karma accrued. The rules are listed the “code of Manu”

    2. Inana 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)

    3. 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.

  2. Brahman - Until Moksha is attained there is no afterlife…just “life after life after life”. Once Moksha is attained, the Hindu believes he 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.
Sects:

  1. Saivism - Worship Siva (Shiva) the god of destruction and seek to be one with him by disciplined philosophy via following a Saivist guru or "satguru" practicing yoga and worshipping in a Saivist temple.

  2. Shaktism - Worship Shakti - the "supreme mother" or Divine Mother by way of chants, magic, diagrams, yoga and religious rituals to summon the kundalini power within one's body. This is deceptively masked within many yoga practices particularly in Southern California. Many participants in yoga have no idea whatsover that they are partaking in Shaktism in addition to their "yoga workout".

  3. Vaishnavism - Worship VIshnu as supreme god along with his avatars (see above) or incarnations. The primary avatars for Vaishnavists are Krishna and Rama. They worship in temples, attempt to adhere closely to Hindu scriptures but maintain a dualistic worldview (spirit is good and the material is evil and both are completely separate at all times)

  4. Smartism - worship six of the 33 million Hindu gods as supreme. Those six are Ganesha, Siva, Sakti, Vishnu, Surya, and Skanda. This group is quite different from the other main sects of Hinduism in that they accept all major Hindu gods and reject sectarianism. They are very similar to Confucianists in that they emphasize a meditative, philosophical pathway to achieving oneness with god. Understanding Hindu gods, man, life, afterlife, etc is the chief pursuit of the Smartist Hindu


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:


Bibliography
1. Johnstone, Patrick Operation World 2001
2. www.adherents.com: created circa January 2000. Last modified 28 August 2005.
3. Mcdowell, Josh & Don Stewart Handbook of Today’s Religions 1983
4. Geisler, Norman Christian Apologetics 1983
5. Lehmann, Arthur C. and James E. Myers, Magic, Witchcraft, and Religion: An Anthropological Study 1993
6. Tylor, Edward Burnett Primitive Culture 1871
7. Hefner, Alan G. & Virgilio Guimaraes Article: Animism www.themystica.com
8. Bird-David, Nurit. Animism Revisited: Personhood, environment, and relational epistemology” 1991
9. Hallowell, A. Irving Culture in History 1960
10. Frazer, James G. The Golden Bough 1922
11. Maharaj, Rabi Death of a Guru 1984
12. Rood, Rick article: Hinduism, A Christian Perspective Probe Ministries & www.leaderu.com
13. Smith, Huston The Religions of Man 1958 as reprinted in Handbook of Today’s Religions
14. Offner, Clark B. The World’s Religions 1976 as reprinted in Handbook of Today’s Religions
15. Noss, John B. Man’s Religions 1969 as reprinted in Handbook of Today’s Religions
16. Hume, Robert E. The World’s Living Religions 1959 as reprinted in Handbook of Today’s Religions
17. Singh, Parveen article: Islam Probe Ministries & www.leaderu.com
18. Diller, Daniel C. The Middle East 1994 as reprinted in the article “Islam” by Parveen Singh
19. Shelley, Bruce L. Church History in Plain Language 1995