Posted by: Submitter | February 17, 2008

Hinduism

HINDUISM

Founder

It is sometimes referred to by practitioners as Sanatana Dharma, the Eternal Religion, or Vaidika Dharma, the Religion of the Veda Scriptures. But most of us in the West would be most familiar with the word Hinduism. Of all the different false religions today, it is Hinduism that has shocked many critics by its’ staying power. Its’ uncompromising polytheism and deification of nature were thought to have been the main things that would signal the death knell for this religion. But instead of being seen off the world stage, this religion has undergone an incredible renaissance, due in part to the activities and tireless efforts of such Hindu fundamentalist movements as the Society for Krishna Consciousness as well as the export of Indian movies throughout Central Asia, United Kingdom, Canada and the United States.

These circumstances have kept the breathe of life in Hinduism and as the Western countries go further into the abyss of absolute secularism, many in this new age are shopping for their own religion, a type of ‘religion without religion.’ People would like to feel that they are involved in something spiritual, revolutionary or eccentric, without being bound by any obligations or moral restrictions other than those made by themselves.

It is here that the religion of the Indo-Aryans falls into place. But what is Hinduism? How did it start? When did it start? Who is the founder or organiser for a set of beliefs that are held by the third most populous country on Earth?

There is not one human being that founded Hinduism, but rather Hinduism is a syncretism of many different forms of false religion that have become the amalgam known as Hinduism. It is believed that this process went on for many years before finishing the final phase of the formation of the religion in 1500 BC, where the Vedas, religious literature of the Hindus which is atleast 3,000 years old, were put to paper.

In the Vedic literature, which is voluminous, there are certain moral precepts laid down, but there are no specific doctrines or clear cut theological principles given. A rather blurry picture is presented of a supreme being, but one who is utterly so exalted and unconcerned with what he has taken part in to create that he is remote and unknowable. It is due to this doctrinal fluidity in the Hindu religion that many religions have actually sprung from this melting pot of idolatry and became world religions in their own right. Two examples of this would be Jainism and Buddhism, the founders of both religions having begun as devout Hindu noblemen. The same can also be said of the Sikh religion, although some elements of Islam have been mixed into the rich tapestry of the religion.

It is as if Hinduism is a type of ancient wet nurse, bringing into the world and nourishing numerous other religions that preach self-salvation and moral rectitude based on being a good person and serving the gods (whether they be internal or projected onto the world). However it is the Veda scriptures that have kept Hinduism from melting and liquefying into a myriad of religions yet again, the very process that it emerged from in the first place. The Brahmin priesthood has sought to impose a type of loose orthodoxy through the ages so that followers might be connected through a common heritage. This has succeeded in part, but local customs may dictate which gods are worshipped, how many and for which locale. Many villages in Hinduism have their own gods and for regions there are gods that hold sway and finally there are some times provincial gods. This type of divine hierarchy has also been imitated by Hindus themselves, which has caused them to divide their very people into four main classes. This is the caste system that many of us are familiar with today.

If not for Hinduism, many of us would not know of the varna (caste), in which the dark skinned people are the lowest of the populous. Sometimes referred to as the ‘untouchables,’ they are pollution if they should even touch anyone from a higher caste. It is possible for someone of a higher caste to marry down and decrease, but for an ‘untouchable’ to marry to a higher caste and increase is nearly unheard of in history. As Hindus have moved West, they have tried to adapt their religion and ignore their horrific and unsavoury past. Although not a missionary religion by nature, the people dedicated to this faith have evangelised the world through Indian movies and music, dancing as well as clothing.

Key beliefs

As Hinduism has no set theological format, it is at times difficult to define the religion in systematic terms. However, we can try to stick to what everyone believes in and attempt to phase out inter-denominational preferences and differences.

1. The Lord is a triune godhead, one in monad but plural in Essence. This is known as the Triad, which is composed of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva (sometimes spelled Shiva). These three are one. Krishna, which is an incarnation of Vishnu, entered the world so that the people might know who Brahma truly is and revere him (those who are Christians may notice similarities).

2. All things are of God, thus for one to worship Fire is no harm to faith as these things are mere Attributes of His and manifestations of His Presence.

3. All holy men, gurus, buddhas, prophets and the like are avatars or incarnations of the same spirit throughout history. It has been seen that many Hindus have worshipped Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) in one instance, Buddha in another and Hanuman in another and see no contradiction in their religion and still hold themselves to be adherents to Hinduism. Again, this has to do with the belief in syncretism.

4. Reincarnation is real. The cycle continues on until one has reached enlightenment through strenuous endeavour, at which time the cycle is broken.

5. There is no Paradise in the form of a place, but it is a state of being for one having reached enlightenment.

6. There is no such place as the Great Fire, but it is a state of being for the one still trapped in the cycle of transmigration and rebirth.

7. Salvation is attained through the yogic practices, self mortification and self-less sacrifice and service to others. When all of these are combined in one person, that one is saved and no longer will endure the suffering of the wheel of reincarnation.

8. The universe (they intend by that all of creation) is eternal, expanding and contracting through the eons like the womb of a woman. Thus as spring comes every beginning of the year, so the universe makes all things new when it ends and begins.

Extent

The Hindu religion enjoys the devotion of between 760-800 million adherents in the world today, which means that 13% of the world’s population is lost in the sin of idolatry and infanticide present in Hinduism.

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