Hinduism is a religion practiced mainly in South Asia, predominantly in India. It has at least one billion followers, third from Christianity and Islam. Hinduism is a combination of concepts, rituals, pilgrimage, and denominations. It is considered a way of life and philosophy, which is unlike other mainstream religions (Doniger 13). It has been labeled one of the oldest religions in the world and originated from Nepal, India. It is regarded as a fusion of various cultures and Indian traditions. The religion has no specific founder. Culturally, it is very rich and contains deep doctrines and roots. Hinduism, just like Christianity, has various denominations. The only difference is that the denominations in Hindu have different gods and goddesses, whereas all Christians believe in one God. The four denominations in Hindu include Smartism, Shaivism, Vaishnavism, and Shaktism. Smartism is simply Smarta tradition, with their principal doctrine being man’s oneness with God. Moreover, it recognizes God as the Supreme Being. Shaivism refers to God as Shiva and believes he is everything; the creator and destroyer of anything that exists. Vaishnavism venerates Vishnu, as their Supreme Deity and his ten avatars. In Shaktism, they believe and worship Shakti, who is considered their Divine Mother. Shaktism is almost similar to Shaivism. However, the only difference is that the deities belong to different genders. All these denominations form the Hindu religion, coupled with various cultures and practices (Russell 21). Generally, Hinduism ascribes to various religious and cultural concepts that will be discussed in this paper.
The core of Hinduism is based on four major concepts. They are discussed below.
Atman (The soul and real self)
The word means the soul or inner self. Hindu philosophy is based on the essence of an individual. It is based on the teachings that, for a man to be liberated, he must have knowledge of self, which means they must be able to recognize his/her true self. Man’s true self is in the likeness of Brahman. It is from this concept that the phenomenon of reincarnation is based. Atman teaches that the consciousness of the body is an indication of the soul. The soul is considered a spirit, which is different from inert matter. People who lack religious knowledge cannot see inside their souls. A soul can leave a body and enter another. The concept of reincarnation is grounded on this belief. In the Bhagavad 2.17, it is written that whatever pervades a body cannot be destroyed (Bhawuk 56).
Karma refers to the theory of cause and effects. Hindu scriptures teach that whatever will happen in the future is because of the past and present. It also happens because of the human will. It only occurs in human life and determines the destiny of a soul. Karma can be both good and bad, depending on the original event. Hindus believe that any misfortune encountered by a human being is because of their past misdeeds.
The word Moksha refers to life’s main goal. In Hinduism, the goal is to realize one’s union with God, the relationship, and the knowledge of the self-having detached from worldly pleasures. This enlightenment translates to liberation and freedom from Samsara. Samsara is the cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth (Williams 254). Attaining Moksha means achieving unity with God. However, different schools of thought theorize about Moksha. For instance, in Vedanta, a Hindu school of thought, Moksha is viewed as having knowledge of the soul and identifies man with Brahman (God). However, those who believe in the Dvaita school of thought trust that Moksha is the knowledge of the soul, it is important, and the soul is different from Brahman. The soul in this state is very close to God, and they believe that after reaching Moksha, it will live to eternity in heaven; referred to as Loka.
In Hinduism, Prakriti means nature and is composed of three elements (gunas). The three elements are controlled by the three deities, Vishnu, Brahma, and Shiva. Everything is made of matter and has three forms of existence and characteristics. They include rajas, which means passion, sattva, that is the goodness that sustains, and tamas, that which destroys. All matter in nature can be metaphorically explained using gunas. Humans who possess rajas will stay on earth, those who possess sattva will be taken to heaven, and those who possess tamas will be destroyed and deluded.
As revealed, Hinduism is a way of
life and is based on philosophies and various religious beliefs. Hinduism does
not have a single specific deity like there is in other religions. However, Hindus believe in Supernatural beings. Discussed are some of the many concepts in
Hinduism that support their belief systems. There are various schools of thought,
which present different perspectives on some of these concepts. Hindu
denominations are rooted deeply in these concepts and therefore, there is barely any
significant difference in the subcultures
within the religion. Hinduism is rich in culture and doctrines and is
considered more as a way of life than a religion.
Bhawuk, Dharm P. S. Spirituality and Indian psychology. New York: Springer, 2011. Print.
Doniger, Wendy. The Hindus. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. Print.
Russell, Jesse. Shaktism. Book on Demand Ltd, 2013. Print.
Williams, George M. Handbook of Hindu mythology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print.
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