Hinduism Characteristics Essay
The following nine facts, though not exhaustive, offer a simple summary of Hindu spirituality or about Hinduism.
1 Hindus believe in a one, all-pervasive Supreme Being who is both immanent and transcendent, both Creator and Unmanifest Reality. 2 Hindus believe in the divinity of the four Vedas, the world’s most ancient scripture, and venerate the Agamas as equally revealed. These primordial hymns are God’s word and the bedrock of Sanatana Dharma, the eternal religion. 3 Hindus believe that the universe undergoes endless cycles of creation, preservation and dissolution. 4 Hindus believe in karma, the law of cause and effect by which each individual creates his own destiny by his thoughts, words and deeds. 5 Hindus believe that the soul reincarnates, evolving through many births until all karmas have been resolved, and moksha, liberation from the cycle of rebirth, is attained. Not a single soul will be deprived of this destiny.
6 Hindus believe that divine beings exist in unseen worlds and that temple worship, rituals, sacraments and personal devotionals create a communion with these devas (divine beings) and God. 7 Hindus believe that an enlightened master, or satguru, is essential to know the Transcendent Absolute, as are personal discipline, good conduct, purification, pilgrimage, self-inquiry, meditation and surrender in God. 8 Hindus believe that all life is sacred, to be loved and revered, and therefore practice ahimsa, noninjury, in thought, word and deed. 9 Hindus believe that no religion teaches the only way to salvation above all others, but that all genuine paths are facets of God’s Light, deserving tolerance and understanding.
GOD AND LORDS IN HINDUISM
God is a one being, yet we understand Him in three perfections: Absolute Reality, Pure Consciousness and Primal Soul. As Absolute Reality, God is unmanifest, unchanging and transcendent, the Self God, timeless, formless and spaceless. As Pure Consciousness, God is the manifest primal substance, pure divine love and light flowing through all form, existing everywhere in time and space as infinite intelligence and power. God is all and in all, great beyond our conception, a sacred mystery that can be known in direct communion.
Hindus believe in one Supreme Being. In the Hindu pantheon there are said to be three hundred and thirty-three million Lords(divine beings). The plurality of Lords are perceived as divine creations of that one Being. So, Hinduism has one supreme God, but it has an extensive hierarchy of Lords. Hinduism views existence as composed of three worlds. The First World is the physical universe; the Second World is the subtle astral or mental plane of existence in which the devas, angels and spirits live; and the Third World is the spiritual universe of the Mahadevas, “great shining beings,” our Hindu Lords. Hinduism is the harmonious working together of these three worlds.
Hinduism is a family of four main denominations – Saivism, Shaktism, Vaishnavism, Smartism – under a divine hierarchy of Mahadevas. These intelligent beings have evolved through eons of time and are able to help mankind without themselves having to live in a physical body. These great Mahadevas, with their multitudes of angelic devas, live and work constantly and tirelessly for the people of our religion, protecting and guiding them, opening new doors and closing unused ones.
TEMPLE WORSHIP IN HINDUISM
It is in the Hindu temple that the three worlds meet and devotees invoke the Lords of our religion. The temple is built as a palace in which these Lords live. It is the home of the God and Lords, a sacred place unlike every other place on the earth. The Hindu must associate himself with these divine beings in a very sensitive way when he approaches the temple. Though the devotee rarely has the psychic vision of the Deity, he is aware of the God’s divine presence. As he approaches the sanctum sanctorum, the Hindu is fully aware that an intelligent being, greater and more evolved than himself, is there. This Lord is intently aware of him, safeguarding him, fully knowing his inmost thought, fully capable of coping with any situation the devotee may mentally lay at his Holy Feet. It is important that we approach the Deity in this way – conscious and confident that our needs are known in the inner spiritual worlds.
The physical representation of the God, be it a stone or metal image other sacred form, simply marks the place that the Lord will manifest in or hover over in his etheric body. It can be conceived as an antenna to receive the divine rays of the Lord or as the material body in or through which the Lord manifests in this First World. When we perform puja, a religious ritual, we are attracting the attention of the devas and Mahadevas in the inner worlds.
That is the purpose of a puja; it is a form of communication. To enhance this communication we establish an altar in the temple or in the home. This becomes charged or magnetized through our devotional thoughts and feelings which radiate out and affect the surrounding environment. You can feel the presence of these divine beings, and this radiation from them is known as shakti. It is a communication more real than the communication of language that you experience each day.
Finally, it must be clearly understood that God and the Lords are not a psychological product of the Hindu religious mind. They are far older than the universe and are the fountainheads of its galactic energies, shining stars and sunlit planets. They are loving overseers and custodians of the cosmos, earth and mankind. The Hindu cosmological terrain envelopes all of humanity.
HINDU HOLY BOOK
The Veda is the Hindu holy book. The four books of the Vedas—Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva—include over 100,000 verses. The knowledge imparted by the Vedas ranges from earthy devotion to high philosophy. Their words and wisdom permeate Hindu thought, ritual and meditation.
The Vedas are the ultimate scriptural authority for Hindus. Their oldest portions are said by some to date back as far as 6,000 bce, orally transmitted for most of history and written down in Sanskrit in the last few millennia, making them the world’s longest and most ancient scripture. The Vedas open a rare window into ancient Indian society, proclaiming life’s sacredness and the way to oneness with God.
For untold centuries unto today, the Vedas have remained the sustaining force and authoritative doctrine, guiding followers in ways of worship, duty and enlightenment. The Vedas are the meditative and philosophical focus for millions of monks and a billion seekers. Their stanzas are chanted from memory by priests and laymen daily as liturgy in temple worship and domestic ritual. All Hindus wholeheartedly accept the Vedas, yet each draws selectively, interprets freely and amplifies abundantly. Over time, this tolerant allegiance has woven the varied tapestry of Indian Hindu Dharma. Each of the four Vedas has four sections: Samhitas (hymn collections), Brahmanas (priestly manuals), Aranyakas (forest treatises) and Upanishads (enlightened discourses).
The Samhitas and Brahmanas affirm that God is immanent and transcendent and prescribe ritual worship, mantra and devotional hymns to establish communication with the spiritual worlds. The hymns are invocations to the One Divine and to the Divinities of nature, such as the Sun, the Rain, the Wind, the Fire and the Dawn— as well as prayers for matrimony, progeny, prosperity, concord, protection, domestic rites and more. The Aranyakas and Upanishads outline the soul’s evolutionary journey, provide yogic philosophical training and propound realization of man’s oneness with God as the destiny of all souls. Today, the Vedas are published in Sanskrit, English, French, German and other languages. But it is the popular, metaphysical Upanishads that have been most amply and ably translated.
KARMA AND REINCARNATION IN HINDUISM
Karma literally means “deed or act,” but more broadly describes the principle of cause and effect. Simply stated, karma is the law of action and reaction which governs consciousness. In physics-the study of energy and matter-Sir Isaac Newton postulated that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Push against a wall. Its material is molecularly pushing back with a force exactly equal to yours. In metaphysics, karma is the law that states that every mental, emotional and physical act, no matter how insignificant, is projected out into the psychic mind substance and eventually returns to the individual with equal impact.
The akashic memory in our higher chakras faithfully records the soul’s impressions during its series of earthly lives, and in the astral/mental worlds in-between earth existences. Ancient yogis, in psychically studying the time line of cause/effect, assigned three categories to karma. The first is sanchita, the sum total of past karma yet to be resolved. The second category is prarabdha, that portion of sanchita karma being experienced in the present life. Kriyamana, the third type, is karma you are presently creating. However, it must be understood that your past negative karma can be altered into a smoother, easier state through the loving, heart-chakra nature, through dharma and sadhana. That is the key of karmic wisdom. Live religiously well and you will create positive karma for the future and soften negative karma of the past.
Truths and Myths About Karma
Karma operates not only individually, but also in ever-enlarging circles of group karma where we participate in the sum karma of multiple souls. This includes family, community, nation, race and religion, even planetary group karma. So if we, individually or collectively, unconditionally love and give, we will be loved and given to. The individuals or groups who act soulfully or maliciously toward us are the vehicle of our own karmic creation. The people who manifest your karma are also living through past karma and simultaneously creating future karma. For example, if their karmic pattern did not include miserliness, they would not be involved in your karma of selfishness. Another person may express some generosity toward you, fulfilling the gifting karma of your past experience. Imagine how intricately interconnected all the cycles of karma are for our planet’s life forms.
The soul functions with complete continuity in its astral/mental bodies. It is with these sensitive vehicles that we experience dream or “astral” worlds during sleep every night. The astral world is equally as solid and beautiful, as varied and comprehensive as the earth dimension-if not much more so. Spiritual growth, psychic development, guidance in matters of governance and commerce, artistic cultivation, inventions and discoveries of medicine, science and technology all continue by astral people who are “in-between” earthly lives. Many of the Veda hymns entreat the assistance of devas: advanced astral or mental people. Yet, also in the grey, lower regions of this vast, invisible dimension exist astral people whose present pursuits are base, selfish, even sadistic. Where the person goes in the astral plane at sleep or death is dependent upon his earthly pursuits and the quality of his mind.
Because certain seed karmas can only be resolved in earth consciousness and because the soul’s initial realizations of Absolute Reality are only achieved in a physical body, our soul joyously enters another biological body. At the right time, it is reborn into a flesh body that will best fulfill its karmic pattern. In this process, the current astral body-which is a duplicate of the last physical form-is sluffed off as a lifeless shell that in due course disintegrates, and a new astral body develops as the new physical body grows.
This entering into another body is called reincarnation: “re-occupying the flesh.” During our thousands of earth lives, a remarkable variety of life patterns are experienced. We exist as male and female, often switching back and forth from life to life as the nature becomes more harmonized into a person exhibiting both feminine nurturing and masculine intrepidness. We come to earth as princesses and presidents, as paupers and pirates, as tribals and scientists, as murderers and healers, as atheists and, ultimately, God-Realized sages. We take bodies of every race and live the many religions, faiths and philosophies as the soul gains more knowledge and evolutionary experience.
Therefore, the Hindu knows that the belief in a single life on earth, followed by eternal joy or pain is utterly wrong and causes great anxiety, confusion and fear. Hindus know that all souls reincarnate, take one body and then another, evolving through experience over long periods of time. Like the caterpillar’s metamorphosis into the butterfly, death doesn’t end our existence but frees us to pursue an even greater development.
Dharma yields Heaven’s honor and Earth’s wealth. What is there then that is more fruitful for a man? There is nothing more rewarding than dharma, nor anything more ruinous than its neglect.
When God created the universe, He endowed it with order, with the laws to govern creation. Dharma is God’s divine law prevailing on every level of existence, from the sustaining cosmic order to religious and moral laws which bind us in harmony with that order. Related to the soul, dharma is the mode of conduct most conducive to spiritual advancement, the right and righteous path. It is piety and ethical practice, duty and ob ligation. When we follow dharma, we are in conformity with the Truth that inheres and instructs the universe, and we naturally abide in closeness to God. Adharma is opposition to divine law. Dharma is to the individual what its normal development is to a seed–the orderly fulfillment of an inherent nature and destiny.
SIGNIFICANCE OF HINDUISM
Hinduism is unique among the world’s religions. I boldly proclaim it the oldest religion in the world. To begin with, it is mankind’s oldest spiritual declaration, the very fountainhead of faith on the planet. Hinduism’s venerable age has seasoned it to maturity. It is the only religion, to my knowledge, which is not founded in a single historic event or prophet, but which itself proceeds recorded history.
Hinduism has been called the “cradle of spirituality,” and the “mother of all religions,” partially because it has influenced virtually every major religion and partly because it can absorb all other religions, honor and embraces their scriptures, their saints, and their philosophy. This is possible because Hinduism looks compassionately on all genuine spiritual effort and knows unmistakably that all souls are evolving toward union with the Divine, and all are destined, without exception, to achieve spiritual enlightenment and liberation in this or a future life. Please visit, if you wish to seek further