Hinduism – One of the Oldest of all Living Religions

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It originated almost four thousand years ago (1500 BC). Hinduism got its name from Aryans, who lived on the eastern bank of river Indus. They introduced the first elaborative concept.

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Hinduism does not have one single, historical founder or a particular date of origin. As mentioned in ‘The World’s Wisdom’ by Philip Novak, they believe that Vedas, the most authoritative primary sacred texts of this religion, are the oldest in the world and are a revelation from god. Later came the Upanishads. They are chronologically the last portion and spiritually the highest teachings of Vedas and are also known as Vedanta. The Upanishadic period is believed to be the most creative period of Indian philosophy, because it gave us new concepts regarding karma and reincarnation. Hinduism, being one of the oldest religion of time discusses about major aspects of this religion, it focuses on worshipping many deities, ideology and they also have rich holy scriptures which has a great influence on the world.

Hindus worship different deities for different purposes. Like they worship Kuber for wealth, Goddess Sarasvati for Knowledge, Vishnu for prosperity and so on. They also believe in one supreme god which is the Atman, stated by Philip Novak. He is supreme, one, eternal, omnipotent which has all power and all doer, omniscient. He is full of divine virtues and devoid of Maya. He also takes birth in a human and other forms on earth to liberate souls and destroy evil, and he is worshipped in many manifestations like Rama, Krishna, Shiva and others. There is also a belief that he is formless. They also worship the life supporting elements of nature like the sun, earth, fire, and moon. The Purans mentions that there are 330 million devas. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are the supreme gods. This triumvirate is believed for, Brahma as the creator, Vishnu as the preserver and Shiva as the destroyer in order to create it again. Shiva is also known as a form of OM, which is a sound of the real, mentioned by Philip Novak.

Hinduism consists of very rich scriptures, namely Vedas, Upanishads, The Bhagwat Gita, The Ramayana and The Mahabharata. The Mahabharata is considered as one of the longest epic in the world which is in form of poems. It consists of 1.8 million words, which makes it half as compared to the Ramayana. Mahabharata is based on the Kurukshetra war between Kauravas and Pandava. In this war, Arjuna, one of the Pandava was reluctant to fight as he was fighting against his cousins, grandfather and many relatives. He gets overwhelmed with grief and decides not to fight against them. His chariot was driven by Lord Krishna. When Krishna came to know that Arjuna does not want to fight he comes in his divine form to tell Arjuna that in the battle ground you have to do your duty, even if you are fighting against your own people. There is nothing wrong to kill them as a soul is never born and it never dies, and he should let go his feelings and give his duty a priority. The commentary between Arjuna and Lord Krishna is being discussed in The Bhagwat Gita. Being the oldest scripture, it is not a religion or set of rules for people, instead it shows how our day to day life can become a spiritual practice and how one can lead his life free with sorrow, misery and guilt, how to live life in harmony with nature and in peace with others. It has been said that one can find answers regarding any question they have for god. In ‘The World’s Religion book by Huston Smith, there is a brief saying about Bhagwat Gita that whatever you do, do it without any attachment and selfishness. As claimed by Philip Novak, karma is the central teaching of Gita. Another great Indian epic was The Ramayana. Ramayana was written by priest Valmiki, it narrates the story of the struggle king Ram faced to rescue his wife Sita, who was kidnapped by a demon Ravana. King Rama was told to live in forest for 14 years by his father Dasharatha. Ram followed his decision. But his wife Sita did not wanted him to go alone, thus accompanied him for 14 years of living in a forest. One day Rama went out in search of food, meanwhile Sita got kidnapped by a demon Ravana. Ravana always liked Sita before she got married to Rama. On coming back to that place Rama did not find Sita and got worried. In time being he got to know that she was with a demon who lived across a river. Rama being a god, made a bridge and along with his whole bunch of people went to rescue Sita. Ravana was ten head demon, he was very powerful but in the war Rama won and rescued Sita. The main idea of this episode is that good always triumphs, no matter how powerful bad is. One should always be good and true to his self. Ramayana and Mahabharat both are rich example of Hindu philosophy. They both teaches us different aspects which are very useful in our day to day life. Hindus had a caste system from the Vedic period. It is a social classification system determined on the Karmas of people. The four classes consisted of the priests or teachers, rulers and protectors, merchants, businessman and farmers, and servants. You are what you are born in the caste. Whereas in caste system there is no scope for moving from one caste to another because it is birth-based. Hindu have a concept of four endeavors of life. As in ‘The World’s Wisdom’, namely they are Dharma (righteousness), Artha (wealth acquired through right ways), Kama (fulfilling one’s worldly desires within disciplines of dharma), Moksha (liberation from material desires and cycle of births and deaths) which is the ultimate goals for Hindu Incarnation.

Hinduism is a religion which does not stand by any authority figure, instead the ultimate source of authority for Hindus is Vedas. Yet there are some inspirational figures which have left a huge contribution to the Hindus. Some of them are Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda. Out of which. Swami Vivekananda, a Hindu monk, a social worker, a patriotic saint, and also known as a disciple of Ramakrishna, was the most influential person in India as well as United States. He introduced yoga and Indian philosophical Vedas to modern India. Philip Novak, tells us the importance of yoga and methods and benefits yoga does. He was the first to attend and present Hinduism to the world at The Parliament of religions held in Chicago in 1893. He left Hindus with some teachings and quotes such as, you can not believe in god until you believe in yourself. This quote makes us think that the power is within us and nowhere outside. So believe in god who is within you in form of Atman.

Hindu rituals are mainly associated with mandir, festivals, auspicious occasions and ceremonies. Some of them have deep spiritual meaning. Some of them are Holi, Diwali, Kumbhmela, Navratri and so on. Holi is known as festival of colors. They celebrate it with an idea that all colors when mixed together forms a different color and that is of peace and unity. Same way all of the people should be united and there will be peace in the world. Diwali is the new year for Hindus. They celebrate it with all family members and relatives by greeting each other a happy new year. Kumbhmela is a huge ceremony, where thousands of people gather and dive into a holy mother river called Ganga. They do worship Ganga as mother goddess. They feel purified, and a bliss of liberation after diving in the river. Many monks perform chants of holy words on the banks of river Ganga. The vibration of this festival is so holy and positive, that everyone feels connect to god in some way. They chant OM in this occasion. It is used as a universal symbol of Hinduism. The mantra OM consists of A, U, M. The three letters symbolizes three states, waking consciousness, dreaming consciousness and sleeping consciousness, which is also described by Philip Novak. The entire essence of the Vedas is enshrined in OM. It has been scientifically proven that regular chanting of OM improves breathing, calms the mind and elevates one spiritually.

Hindus believe in reincarnation (transmigration of souls) (by Philip Novak) and Moksha. The concept of Karma was introduced by Hindus. Karma means whatever action we do or think. They think our past karmas are responsible for our present existence and our present existence will shape our future existence. If the person succeeds in doing good karma throughout his life, she/he can get liberated, which means they get freedom from the cycle of births and deaths. Rebirth is necessary for the soul’s spiritual elevation. If perfection or self-realization may not be achieved in one birth. They believe that soul is never born and never dies. It just transfers from one body to another by reincarnation.

Hinduism is originated from India and it is been performed by majority of the people in India. It is the ancient religion. This religion is blessed with rich scriptures such as Vedas and Upanishads. They celebrate festivals with great enthusiasm and happiness with an aim of having unity amongst the people. Hinduism also contributed with the concept of Karma, Yoga and Reincarnation, to the world. In conclusion, Hinduism has affected in a good way to the people and the place where it is performed.

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