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A Primer On Hinduism

 
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07 July 2010 01:49
 

I started feeling sorry for the Hindu category, since very few post anything here.  So I decided to give everyone a primer on Hinduism.  Since I’ve been to India three times for a total of approximately one month, that automatically makes me an expert. So I used my expertise to find a site that summarized the beliefs of Hindus.  Here it is:

“It is difficult to assign a dogmatic orthodoxy to Hinduism.  Many variations have developed from Hinduism over the years, and many non-Hindu cults and religious movements gained their inspiration from Hinduism.  Even in India today, the most orthodox divisions of Hinduism have changed significantly over the last three thousand years.

One of the oldest aspects of Hinduism is as much social as religious, and that is the caste system.  It is important to understand the caste system before delving into Hindu religious beliefs.  According to Hindu teaching, there are four basic castes, or social classes.  Each caste has its own rules and obligation for living.  The elite caste is the Brahman, or priest caste.  Second are the Kshatriyas, or warriors and rulers.  Third are the Vaisyas, or merchants and farmers.  Finally, the fourth caste is the Shudras, or laborers.  Outside the caste system are the untouchables.  The untouchables are the outcasts of Hindu society.  Though outlawed in India in the 1940s, the untouchables are still a very real part of Indian society.  One does not get decide his or her caste – that matter is decided when one is born into a particular caste.

As previously stated, there is not a strict orthodoxy in Hinduism.  There are however, several principles that share a commonality among the various sects.  Virtually all Hindus believe in:

  * The three-in-one god known as “Brahman,” which is composed of: Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the Preserver), and Shiva (the Destroyer).
  * The Caste System.
  * Karma.  The law that good begets good, and bad begets bad.  Every action, thought, or decision one makes has consequences – good or bad – that will return to each person in the present life, or in one yet to come.
  * Reincarnation.  Also known as “transmigration of souls,” or “samsara.”  This is a journey on the “circle of life,” where each person experiences as series of physical births, deaths, and rebirths.  With good karma, a person can be reborn into a higher caste, or even to godhood.  Bad karma can relegate one to a lower caste, or even to life as an animal in their next life.
  * Nirvana.  This is the goal of the Hindu.  Nirvana is the release of the soul from the seemingly endless cycle of rebirths.

Hinduism is both polytheistic, and pantheistic.  There are three gods that compose Brahman – Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.  Hindus also worship the “wives” of Shiva, such as Kali, or one of Vishnu’s ten incarnations (avatars).  This is only the beginning.  There are literally millions of Hindu gods and goddesses – by some counts, as many as 330 million!

At the same time, Hinduism teaches that all living things are Brahman in their core.  In other words, all living things are Brahman, or god.  Enlightenment is attained by becoming tuned in to the Brahman within.  Only then can one reach Nirvana.  The release from the wheel of life that allows access to Nirvana is known as “moksha.”

Hindus recognize three possible paths to moksha, or salvation.  The first is the way of works or karma yoga.  This is a very popular way of salvation and lays emphasis on the idea that liberation may be obtained by fulfilling one’s familial and social duties thereby overcoming the weight of bad karma one has accrued.

The second way of salvation is the way of knowledge, or jnana yoga.  The basic premise of the way of knowledge is that the cause of our bondage to the cycle of rebirths in this world is ignorance.  According to the predominant view among those committed to this way, our ignorance consists of the mistaken belief that we are individual selves, and not one with the ultimate divine reality – Brahman.  It is this same ignorance that gives rise to our bad actions, which result in bad karma.  Salvation is achieved through attaining a state of consciousness in which we realize our identity with Brahman.  This is achieved through deep meditation, often as a part of the discipline of yoga.

The third way of salvation is the way of devotion, or bhakti yoga.  This is the way most favored by the common people of India.  It satisfies the longing for a more emotional and personal approach to religion.  It involves the self-surrender to one of the many personal gods and goddesses of Hinduism.  Such devotion is expressed through acts of worship, temple rituals, and pilgrimages.  Some Hindus conceive of ultimate salvation as absorption into the one divine reality, with all loss of individual existence.  Others conceive of it as heavenly existence in adoration of the personal God.”

Did you learn anything?  I learned that if I am going to convert to Hinduism, I’m going to start out in the Brahman class.  They seem to have it pretty good.  Then just keep that karma going and you can stay there for a few regenerations until you reach Nirvana.  That seems like the strategy.

 
GAD
 
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07 July 2010 15:16
 

Thanks, Bruce. That was a nice and informative little write up.

 
 
SkepticX
 
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07 July 2010 15:21
 
Ecurb Noselrub - 06 July 2010 11:49 PM

Hinduism is both polytheistic, and pantheistic.  There are three gods that compose Brahman – Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.  Hindus also worship the “wives” of Shiva, such as Kali, or one of Vishnu’s ten incarnations (avatars).  This is only the beginning.  There are literally millions of Hindu gods and goddesses – by some counts, as many as 330 million!

At the same time, Hinduism teaches that all living things are Brahman in their core.  In other words, all living things are Brahman, or god.


Which is why it’s questionable if Hinduism is actually polytheistic or not.

3 and 330,000,000 are just two forms of more than one. If a trinity can count as one god, then there’s no reason 330,000,000 can’t also, which is more or less what at least many Hindus believe.

 
 
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07 July 2010 15:37
 
SkepticX - 07 July 2010 01:21 PM
Ecurb Noselrub - 06 July 2010 11:49 PM

Hinduism is both polytheistic, and pantheistic.  There are three gods that compose Brahman – Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.  Hindus also worship the “wives” of Shiva, such as Kali, or one of Vishnu’s ten incarnations (avatars).  This is only the beginning.  There are literally millions of Hindu gods and goddesses – by some counts, as many as 330 million!

At the same time, Hinduism teaches that all living things are Brahman in their core.  In other words, all living things are Brahman, or god.


Which is why it’s questionable if Hinduism is actually polytheistic or not.

3 and 330,000,000 are just two forms of more than one. If a trinity can count as one god, then there’s no reason 330,000,000 can’t also, which is more or less what at least many Hindus believe.

So Christians (not Jews) have a trinity, the Greeks at philosophical trinity and Hinduism has a prime trinity, and water has three states, coincidence?

 
 
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07 July 2010 16:59
 
GAD - 07 July 2010 01:37 PM

So Christians (not Jews) have a trinity, the Greeks at philosophical trinity and Hinduism has a prime trinity, and water has three states, coincidence?

Exactly. God is speaking to you in every language.  He’s also speaking to you every time you get a drink of water (which is sort of like communion), chew an ice cube, or get some steam.

But for the Jewish trinity, look at Genesis 1:  God creates heaven and hearth, the Spirit of God hovers over the waters, and God says (Word) “let there be light”.  So you have Father, Spirit and Son (the Word), and then they say “Let us make man in our image.” There you go.

 
saralynn
 
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08 July 2010 13:59
 

I believe Hinduism is the oldest religion, so the people have had more time to corrupt the original teachings than even the Christians have had.  I suspect the caste system is one of those corruptions, although I’m not really sure.

I’m a great fan of Gandhi & Ramakrishna, so if they were represent the highest form of Hinduism, then I’m all for it.  Neither of them struck me as Brahmins.  They walked around in loin cloths and ate gruel.

 
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08 July 2010 14:15
 
saralynn - 08 July 2010 11:59 AM

I believe Hinduism is the oldest religion, so the people have had more time to corrupt the original teachings than even the Christians have had.  I suspect the caste system is one of those corruptions, although I’m not really sure.

I’m a great fan of Gandhi & Ramakrishna, so if they were represent the highest form of Hinduism, then I’m all for it.  Neither of them struck me as Brahmins.  They walked around in loin cloths and ate gruel.

Why do you believe that all religions started good and then got corrupted, maybe they all start as really big, ignorant, superstitious piles of shit that have to be corrupted to remain useful over time.

 
 
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08 July 2010 14:32
 
GAD - 08 July 2010 12:15 PM

Why do you believe that all religions started good and then got corrupted, maybe they all start as really big, ignorant, superstitious piles of shit that have to be corrupted to remain useful over time.


Oh comeon!

You know that’s one of the key subroutines of the OS we all come loaded with!

 
 
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08 July 2010 14:56
 
saralynn - 08 July 2010 11:59 AM

I’m a great fan of Gandhi & Ramakrishna…. They walked around in loin cloths and ate gruel.

I’m a great fan of Paraguayan cheerleaders walking around in loin clothes.

 
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08 July 2010 15:10
 

GAD: Why do you believe that all religions started good and then got corrupted, maybe they all start as really big, ignorant, superstitious piles of shit that have to be corrupted to remain useful over time.

You’re right.  That may be an assumption on my part.  I guess I have it because when people have “enlightenment” experiences, it is usually accompanied by a feeling of love, clarity, and an appreciation of beauty.  Even if these experiences are self-induced, they are usually benevolent in nature.

 
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08 July 2010 15:39
 
SkepticX - 08 July 2010 12:32 PM
GAD - 08 July 2010 12:15 PM

Why do you believe that all religions started good and then got corrupted, maybe they all start as really big, ignorant, superstitious piles of shit that have to be corrupted to remain useful over time.


Oh comeon!

You know that’s one of the key subroutines of the OS we all come loaded with!

This is why UNIX was invented.

 
 
J Kapp
 
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14 July 2010 06:36
 

Hinduism probably didn’t have a focal point centered around a single “revealer” so to speak, instead it was most likely based upon community consensus in accordance to the physical features of the Indus River and/or the Ganges River (originated in Hindustan and is at least 5000 years old).  Much of Buddhism became incorporated into Hinduism (vice versa as well, since I think rebirth was not an original Buddhist precept, but carried over from Hinduism).  Sara, I am also a major fan of Gandhi, and in fact have a quote of his on a flag smack on my door as people walk into my room (the quote: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”).  None the less, have you heard of the thuggee? It was a group of Hindus who worshiped Kali, a bloodthirsty, evil goddess, i.e. the goddess of death.  Since the 1500’s they’ve killed over 2 million people in justification of sacrifice, and one dude was convicted of over 900 deaths single handedly. A large part of East India today still sacrifice goats.

 
 
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26 November 2010 18:50
 
saralynn - 08 July 2010 11:59 AM

I believe Hinduism is the oldest religion, so the people have had more time to corrupt the original teachings than even the Christians have had.  I suspect the caste system is one of those corruptions, although I’m not really sure.

I’m a great fan of Gandhi & Ramakrishna, so if they were represent the highest form of Hinduism, then I’m all for it.  Neither of them struck me as Brahmins.  They walked around in loin cloths and ate gruel.


“Hinduism” began with the Vedas and the Brahmins. It centred around sacrifice to various gods such as Indra, agni etc. Highly ritualistic and not a form of Hinduism we would recognize today.

Then sometime later, possible in response to the rise of Buddhism, Ajivakas and Jainism, we get the development of Vedanta and the Upanishads. This is where modern “Hinduism” begins and we get the concept of karma and reincarnation, which likely were ideas outside of Hinduism that it absorbed from Jainism and Ajivakism. We also get a more definitive concept of Brahman and Atman


Then as time went on you get the atomic and logic schools of hinduism, as well as other beliefs that get absorbed into the fold


On a side note its interesting how Hinduism spreads. Instead of “converting” it tends to opt for “all is one” and incorporate other religions into it, usually redefining them. We see this today with its attitude to Buddhism and the idea that Buddha actually taught about Brahman and Atman or was an avatar of vishnu etc. Similar ideas around its attitude to jainism and sikhism as well as Christianity

[ Edited: 26 November 2010 18:56 by clw_uk]
 
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25 March 2014 16:25
 
saralynn - 08 July 2010 11:59 AM

I believe Hinduism is the oldest religion, so the people have had more time to corrupt the original teachings than even the Christians have had.  I suspect the caste system is one of those corruptions, although I’m not really sure.

Based on quotes like this and the OP, I suspect NONE of you even know that there is no single religion that can be called “Hinduism”. It is a name given in the 19th Century to the coalitions of religions that exist India. So, Hindus therefore have different beliefs systems depending on the villages and the regions they are from. To call Hinduism a religion is like calling “Abrahamic” a religion. It is not. It a group name.

Within the Indian coalition of religions called Hinduism, some movements such as Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs became separate religions. The others developed their own traditions (under the umbrella of Hinduism) without becoming so independent. It is the “individual” traditions under Hinduism are called religion. Not Hinduism.

 
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30 March 2014 01:31
 
Celal - 25 March 2014 03:25 PM

. . .  there is no single religion that can be called “Hinduism”. It is a name given in the 19th Century to the coalitions of religions that exist [in] India. So, Hindus therefore have different beliefs systems depending on the villages and the regions they are from. To call Hinduism a religion is like calling “Abrahamic” a religion. It is not. It a group name.

Within the Indian coalition of religions called Hinduism, some movements such as Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs became separate religions. The others developed their own traditions (under the umbrella of Hinduism) without becoming so independent. It is the “individual” traditions under Hinduism are called religion. Not Hinduism.

Thanks for that, Celal, I did not realise it.

 
 
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12 December 2014 05:54
 
GAD - 07 July 2010 01:37 PM

...
So Christians (not Jews) have a trinity, the Greeks at philosophical trinity and Hinduism has a prime trinity, and water has three states, coincidence?

I don’t think it’s coincidence. Humans have something of a fixation, not to say obsession, with the number 3. Take Nhoj for an example.  tongue wink

 
 
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