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Transcript of Hinduism
Unlike most religions, Hinduism has no single founder, no single scripture, and no commonly agreed set of teachings.
There are key figures, philosophies and holy books
Think of Hinduism as a "way of life"
What Does Hindu Mean?
The term Hindu derives from the Sindhu River (Indus River)
Sanskirt word meaning river or ocean
The word Hindu was used by the inhabitants of the region as well as later migrants and invaders to describe the land and its people.
primary liturgical language of Hinduism
liturgical language- language cultivated for religious reasons by people who speak another language in daily life
Hinduism orginated around the Indus Valley near the Indus River in modern day Pakistan
80% of the Indian population are Hindu
Hindus believe the existence is a cycle of birth, death reincarnation governed by KARMA
Hindus believe that the soul passes through successes of lives and its next incarnation is dependent on how the previous life was lived
The main Hindu texts are the Vedas and its supplements
*Most Hindus believe in a supreme God, whose qualities and forms are represented by a multitude of deitie
Key Hindu Concepts
Eternal self or soul
The true essence that underlies our existence
The understanding of the self as eternal supports the idea reincarnation in that the same eternal being can occupy several/temporary bodies
In this world- a spiritual being, the atman, has a human experience rather than a human being having a spiritual experience
Duty, virtue, morality
Refers to the power that maintains society-makes us moral people and gives humans the opportunity to act virtuously
Each person has their own dharma=sva-dharma
Acting virtuously does not mean the same thing for everyone-different people have different obligations and duties according of age, sex, and social class
The importance of sva-dharma is illustrated well by the Bhagavad Gita. This text, set before the great battle of the Mahabharata, depicts the hero Arjuna riding in his chariot driven by his charioteer Krishna between the great armies. The warrior Arjuna questions Krishna about why he should fight in the battle. Surely, he asks, killing one's relatives and teachers is wrong and so he refuses to fight.
Krishna assures him that this particular battle is righteous and he must fight as his duty or dharma as a warrior. Arjuna's sva-dharma was to fight in the battle because he was a warrior, but he must fight with detachment from the results of his actions and within the rules of the warriors' dharma. Indeed, not to act according to one's own dharma is wrong and called adharma.
Sva dharma in the Bhagavad Gita
Dharma refers to a person's responsibility according to class (varna) and stage of life (ashrama)= varnashrama dharma
Caste System in India
Brahmans or Brahmins -
the intellectuals and the priestly class who perform religious rituals
Kshatriya (nobles or warriors)
- who traditionally had power
Vaishyas (commoners or merchants)
- ordinary people who produce, farm, trade and earn a living
- who traditionally served the higher classes, including laborers, artists, musicians, and clerks
Different classes in Rajasthan, India
People in the top 3 classes who undergo a spiritual rebirth and initiation in adolescence
stages of life
Those who are "twice born" go through 4 stages of life
- 'celibate student' stage in which males learned the Veda
'householder' in which the twice born male can experience the human purposes (purushartha) of responsibility, wealth, and sexual pleasure
'hermit' or 'wilderness dweller' in which the twice born male retires from life in the world to take up pilgrimage and religious observances along with his wife-retirement
'renunciation' in which the twice born gives up the world to seek moksha
The top three varnas have a status that excludes the fourth; this is the status of being "Twice-born."
The designation "twice-born" refers to the rite of initiation that the members of this caste go through upon reaching maturity.
This rite brings them into the religion; they are reborn as a Hindu and not just as a caste member.
The shudras, therefore, are excluded from worship in the Vedic religion, and are not even permitted to hear the Vedas read outloud. They therefore have their own priests and religious rites.
The initiation ceremony (upanayana) invests the male caste members with a sacred thread, a loop worn next to the skin over the left shoulder and across the right hip.
The position of women in the dvija system is anomalous. Although clearly marked by caste, high-caste women are not considered eligible for Vedic study according to traditional canons. Since the 19th century, however, increasing numbers of such women have challenged the traditional view. They have become students of Sanskrit and Vedic subjects, notably in India’s public institutions of higher learning, have chanted Vedic verses, and have even offered their services as specialists in Brahmanical rituals.
Law that every action has an equal reaction either immediately or sometime in the future
Good or virtuous actions, actions in harmony with dharma, will have good reactions or responses and bad actions, actions against dharma, will have the opposite effect.
In Hinduism, Karma operates across lifetimes- so the consequence of your action, whether it is good or bad, may be lived out in our next life
process of reincarnation
This process of reincarnation is called samsara, a continuous cycle in which the soul is reborn over and over again according to the law of action and reaction.
At death many Hindus believe the soul is carried by a subtle body into a new physical body which can be a human or non-human form (an animal or divine being).
The goal of liberation (moksha) is to make us free from this cycle of action and reaction, and from rebirth.
salvation-"freedom from samsara"
Liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth (samsara)
Achieved after overcoming ignorance and desires
Can be achieved both in this life and after death
Paradox-can be achieved after one stops desiring moksha itself
What happens after death?
It is preferable for a Hindu to die at home. Traditionally a candle is lit by the head of the deceased. The body is then placed in the entranceway of the house with the head facing south. The body is bathed, anointed with sandalwood, shaved (if male) and wrapped in cloth. It is preferable for cremation to take place on the day of death. The body is then carried to the funeral pyre by the male relatives and prayers are said to Yama, the god of death. Sometimes the name of God (Ram) is chanted. While doing this the pyre is circled three times anti-clockwise. This is usually done by the male relatives of the family, lead by the chief mourner.
On the funeral pyre the feet of the body are positioned pointing south in the direction of the realm of Yama and the head positioned north towards the realm of Kubera, the god of wealth. Traditionally it is the chief mourner who sets light to the pyre. This is done by accepting flaming kusha twigs from the Doms' who are part of the Untouchable Hindu caste responsible for tending to funeral pyres. The body is now an offering to Agni, the god of fire.
Water is sacred
After cremation the ashes are collected and usually scattered in water. The River Ganges is considered the most sacred place to scatter ashes. Similarly, Benares (the home of Siva, Lord of destruction) is a preferred place of death because it takes the pollution out of death and makes it a positive event. Anyone who dies here breaks the cycle of life and achieves moksha (enlightenment or release).
The Vedas (sacred knowledge) are Hinduism's oldest and most sacred texts, composed between 1500 BCE and 600 BCE, and compiled by Vyasa Krishna Dwaipayana.
The texts are collections of hymns and ritual instructions used to perform Vedic ceremonies, and the theology and philosophy they contain form the foundation of the indigenous religious systems of India which today we call Hinduism.
"goals of a person" or "human goals"
Human's have different goals according to their stage of life and position
duty and virtuous living
- Wealth, profit, worldly success
pleasure, aesthetic and sexual
Release or liberation
4 Goals of Life
Dharma is doing what best fits your individual aptitude in the context of your familial and societal responsibilities. Dharma comes from a Sanskrit root that means ‘to establish’ and hence is the
path through life that establishes an individual as a stable, productive, satisfied human being.
Artha stands for resources or more commonly wealth.
It includes all our intentions around the acquisition of adequate means for self-support to live life fully.
Both money and knowledge when used for self-support falls under Artha.
Kama is the innate urge to relate to others. Commonly interpreted as lust, Kama is actually much broader than that and relates to how we build and nurture relationships with other human beings.
Lastly Moksha or freedom is the quality of being able to
free oneself from the mirage that dharma, artha and kama are able to provide enduring satisfaction.
Desires that fall within Dharma:
Seek a career change.
Start a family
Have a child
Have a second/third child
Run a marathon
Desires that fall within Artha:
Find a job
Start a business
Do a degree
Take an exam
Improve my financial prospects Investing in property, shares etc
Desires that fall within Kama:
Get married or seek a long term relationship with someone
Get a promotion
Get voted into office.
Make new friends.
Engage with Government policies activities
Desires that fall within Moksha:
Be more proactive.
Adopt positive thinking.
Give to charity.
Provide free service.
Develop one’s spiritual strength
power which upholds and supports everything
Brahman is the common essence-the ground existence and source of the universe
Brahman is beyond the reach of human perception and thought
It resides under the surface of all things and forms the essence of all things
doctrine that all reality is ultimately one reality
Example- all rivers, droplets of water, lakes etc. share the same essence. They all originate from the ocean and will all eventually return to it.
Hindus believe that all forms of reality (gods, goddesses, plants, animals, and material universe humans etc. share a common essence.
A theory or doctrine that denies the existence of a distinction or duality in some sphere, such as that between God and the world
Brahman is Atman
Brahman=world soul or cosmic soul
The individual soul is the world soul
Every individual soul is made up of the same reality as the world soul
All living things are divine in their deepest self (soul)
-the divine self may be hidden or covered by hatred, envy, fear or any other negative characteristic
Everyone and everything share the same essence
330 million deities or gods
Most Hindus believe in a supreme God whose qualities and forms are represented by a multitude of deities which emanate from him.
God, being unlimited, can have unlimited forms and expressions
Each person can relate to God in a particular form
All different deities are aspects of a single, transcendent power
Desired form of God or main deity
3 most popular Hindu denominations
*These paramparas are defined by their attraction to a particular form of God
focus on Vishnu and his incarnations or avatars
focus on Shiva
focus on the Goddess in her gentle forms
Focused on the veneration of Vishnu and all 10 of his incarnations
Dashavatara- refers to the 10 major incarnations of Vishnu
Who is Vishnu
Hindu Triumvirate or Trinity
Consists of the three gods who are responsible for the creation, upkeep and destruction of the world
Creator of the universe
Destroyer of the universe
Preserver and protector of the universe
Role of Vishnu- return to the earth in troubled times and restore the balance of good and evil.
So far, he has been incarnated 9 times but Hindus believe that he will be reincarnated one last time to close the end of the world
Vaishnava (Vishnu's worshippers) consider him the greatest god
What Vishnu looks like
Blue skin-like the sky, he is everywhere
Four arms-4 stages of life
Hands always are holding 4 objects
garland made of 5 rows of flowers-5 senses
gem on his chest-consciousness
lock of hair from Lakshmi-devotion
sleeps on the serpent on the ocean of consciousness
when he is awake, he rides a chariot
1. The Conch-
reminds followers to destroy ignorance and evil in their lives
2. The Chakra or Discus-
symbolizes time, creation and death
3. The Lotus Flower
- symbol of purity
4. The mace-
represents mental and physical strength, what Vishnu uses against enemies
Vishnu- represented in 2 positions
1. Standing upright on a lotus flower with Lakshimi- his consort close by him
2. Reclining on the coils of a serpent with Lakshimi massaging his feet surrounded by the milky ocean
: Pig or Boar
Turtle- churning of the ocean
half lion half man-vanquished a demon who gained immunity from attacks from man, beast or god
dwarf sage with the ability to grow
fierce man or hunter with an ax-Vishnu rids the earth of irreligious and sinful monarchs
greatest warrior or ideal man, hero of Ramayana
mentally advanced man, flutist, herdsman- hero of the Mahabharata, an epic poem. Also delivered his famous message, the Baghavad Gita
the enlightened one
expected towards the end of this present age, judge and savior
Goddess of wealth and prosperity
Hindus believe that anyone who worships Lakshmi in sincerity and not in greed will be blessed with success and fortune
Daughter of Siva and Parvati
Wife of Vishnu
She resides in places of hard work, virtue and bravery
Characteristics of Shiva
Shaivas focus on Shiva, whose role is to destroy the universe in order to recreate it.
Shaivism has many different schools reflecting both regional and temporal variations and differences in philosophy
What Shiva stands for
Shiva's powers to destroy and recreate the universe are used to destroy the imperfections of this universe, paving the way for beneficial change
A source of both good and evil
Known to have untamed passions
His wife, Parvati, brings him balance
A third eye-
The extra eye represents the wisdom and insight that Shiva has. It is also believed to be the source of his untamed energy.
A cobra necklace-
his signifies Shiva's power over the most dangerous creatures in the world. Some traditions also say that the snake represents Shiva's power of destruction and recreation. The snake sheds its skin to make way for new, smooth skin.
The vibhuti are three lines drawn horizontally across the forehead in white ash. They represent Shiva's all-pervading nature, his superhuman power and wealth. Also, they cover up his powerful third eye. Members of Shaivism often draw vibhuti lines across their forehead.
The three-pronged trident represents the three functions of the Hindu triumvirate.
Other representation of Shiva
Lord of the Dance- The rhythm of dance is a metaphor for the balance in the universe which Shiva is believed to hold
Half female, half male-
Shiva and his wife, Parvati
Focus on the Goddesses in her gentle form and in her ferocious form
*Varna has two meanings- color and veil
It does not refer to the color of skin but rather to the qualities of energies in human nature. Veil refers to the 4 different ways the divine self is hidden in human beings
Sometimes called "shruti" which means hearing because they were passed down orally for thousands of years
*Contents of the Vedas- made up of 4 compositions which each have 4 parts
1. The Samhitas
are the most ancient part of the Vedas, consisting of hymns of praise to God.
are rituals and prayers to guide the priests in their duties.
3. The Aranyakas
concern worship and meditation.
consist of the mystical and philosophical teachings of Hinduism
1. Rig-Veda Samhita
(c. 1200 BCE) is the oldest of the four vedas and consists of 1028 hymns praising the ancient gods.
Veda Samhita is used as a handbook by priests performing the vedic sacrifices.
Veda Samhita consists of chants and tunes for singing at the sacrifices.
Veda Samhita (c. 900 BCE) preserves many traditions which pre-date the Aryan influence and consists of spells, charms and magical formulae.
Quotes from Samhitas
“One should strongly resent miserliness
and indulge in charity
because one can acquire the never-ending wealth
of immortality by doing so.”
-The Rig Veda
“Truth can not be suppressed and always is the ultimate victor."
-the Yajur Veda
ye bring health and bliss:
ye help us to energy.
That we may look on great delight!
-the Sama Veda (9:2:10)
"Strive to move away from untruth towards truth.
-the Atharva Veda
These were written between 1000 and 700 BCE.
Contain the explanation of the mythology and the significance behind the Vedic rituals of the Samhitas.
They include information about the performance of rituals and the meaning of the rituals.
The Aranyakas is also known as the "forest books" and were composed in about 700 BC.
The content of the Aranyakas is similar to the content of the Brahamanas.
Emphasis on worship and meditation
These texts are used by those who left society to reside in the forest to gain spiritual knowledge.
The word "Upanishad" means the inner or mystic teaching.
The Upanishads are philosophical works that contain ideas about self-realization, yoga, meditation, karma and reincarnation.
The main message of the Upanishads is to escape from rebirth through knowledge of the underlying reality of the universe.
More than 200 Upanishads are known
Sruti and Smriti
In Hinduism, the term
sruti or shruti means "that which is heard directly" and refers to scriptures which have been directly revealed to humans by the gods.
Examples of shruti include the Upanishads and the Veda.
The term smriti means "that which is remembered"
memories of wisdom that sages have passed down to their disciples
It is not divine in nature or origin
2 major epics in Sanskrit
Epic narrative of the Kurukshetra War
Bharata was an early ancestor of both the Pandavas and Kauravas who fight each other in the great war
Composed of 100,000 2 line stanzas
3 times the size of the Bible
Work is divided in 18 books-18 day war between 18 armies
"Great story of the Bharatas"
"song of the Lord"
Part of the 6th book of the Mahabarata
Arjuna is a warrior, about to join his brothers in a war between two branches of a royal family which would involve killing many of his friends and relatives
He wants to withdraw from the battle but Krishna teaches him that he, Arjuna, must do his duty in accordance with his class and he argues that death does not destroy the soul
Krishna points out that knowledge, work and devotion are all paths to salvation and that the central value in life is that of loyalty to God.
Relationship between Krishna and Arjuna is the ideal relationship for all of mankind-Man guided by God
(God guiding a mortal facing a moral crisis)
Tells the story of Prince Rama, avatar of Vishnu, who was sent into exile in the forest with his wife, Sita, and his brother, Lakshamana.
Sita was abducted by the evil demon Ravana but ultimately rescued by Prince Rama with the help of the Monkey God, Hanuman.
The story is written in 24,000 couplets in 7 books.
The symbolism of the story has been widely interpreted but basically is the story of good overcoming evil. Many people have said that it is a story about dharma or duty.
Hindus and the notion of time
In general, Hindus believe that time is cyclical much like the 4 seasons
Time is eternal rather than linear
Texts refer to successive ages (yuga), designated respectively as golden, silver, copper and iron.
Hindus and the notion of time
During the golden age people were pious and adhered to dharma (law, duty, truth) but its power diminishes over time until it has to be reinvigorated through divine intervention.
With each successive age, good qualities diminish, until we reach the current iron or dark age (kali yuga) marked by cruelty, hypocrisy, materialism and so on.
Such ideas challenge the widespread, linear view that humans are inevitably progressing.
Main Historical Periods
Before 2000 BCE:
The Indus Valley Civilization
The Vedic Period
500 BCE–500 CE:
The Epic, Puranic and Classical Age
500 CE–1500 CE:
the present: Independent India
How Hinduism differs from Christianity, Islam and Judaism
HINDUISM DOES NOT HAVE...
a single founder,
a specific theological system,
a single concept of deity,
a single holy text,
a single system of morality,
a central religious authority,
the concept of a prophet.
Hinduism is generally regarded as the world's oldest organized religion.
It consists of "thousands of different religious groups that have evolved in India since 1500 BCE."
Because of the wide variety of Hindu traditions, freedom of belief and practice are notable features of Hinduism.
Approximately 80% of Indian population in Hindu
950 million-1 billion Hindus in the world
Universe undergoes long periods of creation and destruction. It repeats itself endlessly
Who is God in Hinduism?
God, universe, humans and everything else is essentially 1 thing-it's all divine
The word "swastika" is Sanskrit in origin, and means a lucky or auspicious object, and denotes good luck.
1.3 million Hindus in the US
Hinduism has commonly been viewed in the west as a polytheistic religion - one which worships multiple deities: gods and goddesses. Although a widespread belief, this is not particularly accurate.
Some have viewed it as a monotheistic religion, because it recognizes only one supreme God: the panentheistic principle of Brahman, that all reality is a unity. The entire universe is seen as one divine entity who is simultaneously at one with the universe and who transcends it as well.
Monotheistic of Polytheistic?
Panentheism considers God and the world to be inter-related with the world being in God and God being in the world.
*Ultimate goal for Hindus
Lord Brahma- Created the entire universe
-sacred knowledge of 4 Vedas/sees everything that is going on
(possessed all the knowledge of creation)
-4 aspects of human personality: mind, intellect, ego, empirical self/4 points of the compass
cosmic energy by which Brahma brings the universe into existence
essence of supreme reality
Lord Shiva-God of Destruction
Vishnu and Shiva are worshiped more than any other deities
watches over the realms of existence
His responsibility to preserve law and order as well as balance and harmony
Hindus believe Vishnu has come to earth several times to protect it from danger
10 avatars-forms in which Vishnu appears
2 important avatars are Rama and Krishna (Ramayana and Bhagavad Gita)
Consort-Lakshmi, goddess of fortune and misfortune
She has been reborn with Vishnu is all of his incarnations
Gods and Goddesses serve to transform the lives of those who worship them, to instruct and to inspire
Help guide worshipers to nirvana-the experience of God
How Brahma came to be
Born as a golden egg or golden fire that emerged from primal waters
Split into 2 parts-heaven and earth with blue sky in between
Brahma created himself and then Sarasvati or earth
Sarasvati hides from Brahma and becomes a cow. He finds her, becomes a bull and then procreate-creating all creatures
Kalki-Vishnu's last appearance. He will ride a white horse and judge people according to their deeds
Contradictory nature-creates new things to replace what he has destroyed
Associated with spirits, ghosts, vampires
Easy to please
Known by more than 1,001 names- describing all his aspects
Usually known as Lord of the Dance or Natraja
His dance provides energy and keeps the earth moving
Natraja is often time portrayed dancing on a demon encircled by flames which symbolizes the destruction and creation of the world
Has 3 eyes-can look at past, present, future/represent sun, moon and fire which are the 3 sources of light
Tiger skin-victory over everything
Nandi- his bull
Companion of Rama
Known for his strength-Ramayana
Son of Vaya, Lord of the Winds and Arijana, a female monkey who Vaya seduced
When he was young, he saw the rising son and thought it was ripe fruit-so he swallowed it
All the gods and goddesses prayer for him to spit it out fearing that the whole world would perish, so he did
Saved the world from complete darkness
The Black One
Goddess of dissolution and destruction
Called The Black One because she is like the darkest night
Frightening appearance-crazy eyes, tongue that hangs out of her mouth, dreadful teeth
Famous battle against demon Raktabija-every drop of his blood that touched the ground who create another demon
Rode into battle on her lion and Raktabija became scared for the first time in his life
Spread her tongue over the battlefield preventing any blood to drop from falling on the group and order gods to attack
Drunk on his blood, Kali ran across the universe killing anyone who got in her way until Kali threw calmed her down
Daughter of the Mountain
Daughter of Himavan, god of the Himalayas
Wife of Shiva-caring wife and affectionate wife
Her aim is to lure Shiva into world of marriage, sex and children
Their relationship represents the tension between a householder and an ascetic
These four denominations share rituals, beliefs, and traditions, but each denomination has a different philosophy on how to achieve life's ultimate goal (moksha, liberation).
s worship Vishnu (usually as Krishna or Rama)
worship Shiva (often in the form of the linga)
worship Shakti, also known as Devi (especially Parvati, Durga, Kali)
worship five deities i.e. Vishnu, Shiva, Devi, Ganesh, and Surya
Devotion to the God Vishnu
Largest Hindu denomination
Worship God under the name Vishnu
Main focus of veneration=Krishna and Rama (avatars of Vishnu)
Bhagavad Gita and the Ramayana
Vaishnavites recognize the importance of meditation in religious practice.
Vaishnavas generally emphasize religious devotion, religious feeling and morality over doctrine and contemplation-focus on the heart
Tilaka or Tilak
Vaishnavas mark their foreheads with tilaka, either as a daily ritual, or on special occasions.
The general tilaka pattern is of a parabolic shape resembling the letter U or two or more connected vertical lines on and another optional line on the nose resembling the letter Y, which usually represents the foot of Vishnu and the lotus flower
Worship of Devi-Hindu Divine Mother or Female Aspect of the Divine
Shaktism-all major female deities but generally Parvati, Durga, Kali
Shaktism and Shaivism are complementary-Shiva embodies the male principle and Shakti embodies the female principle
Comes from Sanskrit word "smriti"
Worship-Vishnu, Shiva, Durga (Devi), Ganesha, and Surya
"Smarta" comes from Sanskrit world "Shruti"-what is remembered
Bindi-tilak worn my women
symbolic mark worn by both Hindu men and women
Traditionally worn of the forehead of married Hindu women
Symbolizes female energy and is thought to protect women and their husbands
Bindi is also a way to accentuate a third eye-where attention is focus during meditation
Can be a decorative accessory and do not necessarily have to be worn by just married women
The Ganges River
“Man becomes pure by the touch of the water, or by consuming it, or by expressing its name,” Lord Vishnu, the four-armed “All Pervading One”, proclaimed in the Ramayana, the Sanscrit epic poem composed four centuries before Christ.
Every 12 years up to 80 million people travel to Allahabad, India to bathe in the Genges
(festival is held every four years at 4 different destinations)
Allahabad-Persian for "settled by god"
Genges=the most sacred river to Hindus
World's largest religious gathering
Hindus believe they are washing away their sins
Drops of nectar dropped from the god's Kumbh or pitcher
Sewage, toxic waste, decreased water levels and overpopulation had led to major pollution problems
The Sacred Cow
Source of food, symbol of life and may never be killed
In ancient India, bulls and oxen were slaughtered but killing milking cows was prohibited. However ,even when mean eating was permitted, the Vedic texts encouraged vegetarianism
Later in the spiritually fertile age, Hindus stopped eating meat for spiritual and political reasons
Scholars think the tradition came to Hinduism through strictly vegetarian Jainism Cow products-milk, browned butter for lamps and fuel from died dung
Overtime, the cow became the appropriate gift to the brahman and eventually killing a cow was equivalent to killing a brahman
Today, cows are protected animals in India and Hindus do not eat beefMost rural families have at least one dairy cow that is often treated as a member of the family
1. Differentiate between 4 major denominations in Hinduism
2. Identify the roles of the cow and the Ganges River in Hinduism