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Hinduism is the oldest practiced religion in the world and is the 3rd largest religion after Christianity and Islam. It dates back as far as 3,000 B.C., and currently has over a billion followers, 80% of which are from India. Hinduism is not only a religion but it’s also a way of life for most of its followers. Hinduism is a worth learning about religion because of its beliefs of self-fulfillment and growth, but it’s scriptures also cover knowledge in subjects like astrology and mathematics.
First, I will discuss the beginning of the Hinduism religion and how it was founded. Second, I will review the uniqueness of Hinduism. Finally, I will talk about the beliefs, scriptures, and practices of the Hindu faith.
The history of Hinduism is vast and complex because the author of its scriptures is unknown. The starting point of Hinduism is one of the most controversial topics in Indian studies. The earliest record of Hindu teaching is found in the Vedas, the oldest form of Hindu scriptures in 300 B.
C., but many scholars claim that Hinduism could be as old as the earth its self, because of its scriptures views of the universe and solar system. The word Hindu was named after the Indian River Indus, that existed 5,000 years ago. The people who lived next to the river the Vedic people are credited to be the writers of much of Hindu scriptures. The people took traditions and rituals from many religions throughout India to create Hinduisms ancient texts.
Hinduism is a culture, not an organized religion like Christianity so there is no Pope or hierarchy what so ever. The secret to Hinduisms growing popularity is because of the diversity in the teachings of the religion, because all teachings of the Hindus are perceived and taught in many ways throughout India.
The differences in beliefs between Hindus are as great as the differences between Hinduism and Christianity. So many Hindus have completely different beliefs from each other and this is allowed in the religion. A Hindu may be believe in whatever he/she wishes because what makes him/her Hindu are the prayers and rituals he/she performs. The Hindu faith stresses equality and unity a lot in its scriptures as expressed in the famous ancient hymn: No one is superior, none inferior. All are brothers marching forward to prosperity. The Hindu faith realizes that every being has varying likes and dislikes, with unique personalities, and different cultures, and embraces this diversity by teaching that there is more than one path of believing. In the book A Survey of Hinduism by Klaus Klostermaier, he states that the Hinduism faith can’t be put into words simply. He explains that for those who practice Hinduism, they learn how meaningful life and the world is.
The religion provides them with an outline to follow to better themselves in all aspects of life, and most importantly fulfills their aspirations for supreme freedom and salvation. The belief of Hinduism is that there are many gods and deities, but all come together to make the spirt, Brahman. Brahman has three main aspects called the triumvirate. The triumvirate consists of three gods: Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva who are responsible for the creation, preservation, and destruction of the world. Brahman contains everything: creation and destruction, male and female, and good and evil. Most Hindus believe that Brahman is present in every person as the eternal spirit or soul, called the atman. For a person to realize his/her atman they need to identify the reason for why they are on this earth, and thrive to fulfill these reasons These reasons or objectives in the Hinduism faith are called Purusharthas, which means an induvial pursuit or objective. The four Purusharthas are: Moksha meaning liberation, Artha meaning wealth, Kama meaning a desire, and Dharama which means righteousness.
Another important belief in Hinduism is reincarnation, which is the rebirth of the soul after death. The Hindu faith also believes that the conditions of one’s present life is due to the decisions made in a past life, this belief is called karma. Hinduism contains an extensive collection of ancient scriptures. These scriptures are split into two categories: Shruti and Smriti. The word Shruti meaning what is heard, and consists of what Hindus believe to be natural law. These scriptures contain the methods of understanding God and the nature of the world. The second category of scripture is Smriti meaning what is remembered, these scriptures contain history and stories of the ancient Hindu deities and gods. The Hindu faith is filled with many unique rituals and customs. Hindu practices are called the puja, it includes chants, meditation, worship, festivals, and pilgrimages. Not all practices are mandatory in the Hindu faith, but all Hindus must go to temples to worship and mediated on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturday which are called the Holy days.
Hindus are not allowed to consume alcohol or wear shoes inside the temples, and they are also required to go on religious pilgrimages at least once a year. The Irish scholar Anne Benstead studied and practiced the rituals of Hinduism for research for her book. She states that “After a study of some forty years and more of the great religions of the world, I find none so perfect, none so scientific, none so philosophical and none so spiritual than the great religion known by the name of Hinduism.” She said the rituals to be self-healing and peaceful. I myself do not practice Hinduism, but I do believe the religion to be unique and its belief system to be enlightening. Hindus study both self-fulfillment and academic studies, which better them intellectually and spiritually. Because of this equilibrium of knowledge, I believe that Hinduism popularity will only grow, and after a matter of time will become the most practiced religion in the world.
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