Hindu Temple Society of Canada: Teachings of Hinduism
As the oldest religion in the world, Hinduism evolved from thousands of years of devotion and servitude from its worshippers. It is a diverse religion that continues to change depending on socio-political events that affect its people.
Billions of followers still subscribe to the Sanskrit teachings of Hinduism up to this day. The Hindu Temple Society of Canada shares in this responsibility of educating its devotees of these sacred teachings that survived wars and religious suppression.
The core beliefs of Hinduism
The Hindu philosophy cannot be pinned down to a definite doctrine because its main characteristic is resisting definitive identification. As the oldest recorded religion of humankind, no one is old or knowledgeable enough to put the whole essence of Hinduism into simple comprehensible words.
These are the general beliefs that Hindu devotees subscribe to in a nutshell:
- The belief in the different gods of the cosmic realms. These gods are seen as the manifestation of the unity of the universe and its natural processes.
- Even if a devotee has a preference to a single deity, the Hindu belief does not exclude the other lower deities in worship.
- The universal law of cause and effect called karma is held in high regard in everyday life. Your karma will affect your standing when reincarnation in the next life comes.
- Believing in the possibility that moksha, your liberation and release from the cycle of life and death called samsara, will be resolved by way of faith.
To better understand this as devotees, you must understand that the Hindu philosophy is roughly divided into three general categories that overlap over the centuries. These stages are the following:
- Non-systematic Hindu Philosophy that is anchored in the teachings of Vedas.
- Established systematic Hindu Philosophy
- Neo-Hindu Philosophy of modern times
Hinduism and its teachings
Hinduism is continuously evolving as the world enters one millennium to another. In fact, these traditions can be traced back to the first civilisations of the world. Indeed, the teachings evolve naturally through time and a lot more will happen in its eternal existence.
Karma is one of the most important teachings of Hinduism because it helps devotees to evaluate their actions. Although it is pivotal in the lives of Hindi devotees, this does not encompass everything about Hinduism and its traditions.
Your karma will determine the moral, psychological, spiritual and physical consequences of your decisions in life and this will determine what you will be in your next life. Grave consequences are given by the cosmic deities to those who do not take their faith seriously. This belief is not exclusive to Hinduism because other religions have their version of karmic faith.
The most important teaching in Hinduism that every devotee should pattern his or her life to is the philosophy of Dharma. This is defined as a religious duty and the moral order of the universe. Each devotee should embody the fundamental principles of Hinduism law, religion and duty that dictates your reality.
This central concept is shared among other religious sects that the Indians practice but it still is vital in the Hindu life. This also defines your karmic standing in your reincarnation that is why most Hindus believe in this philosophy.
This is a distinctive feature of Hinduism, worshipping various deities that represent the different cosmic realms of the universe. There are hierarchies among the gods and goddesses worshipped in Hinduism because of their designated power in the cosmos.
The main deities:
- Brahma – He is the creator of the entire cosmic universe and is viewed as Prajapati’s equivalent in the Vedan scriptures. In the triad of great Hindu deities, he reigned supreme. Because of his elevated status, he isn’t as involved in human affairs as the other deities. He isn’t worshipped as much in modern Hinduism.
- Devi – Best known as Mahadevi, she is the great all-embracing mother goddess that was first worshipped in prehistoric times. She represents the female energy of her husband, Shiva. Some believers also refer to her as Sakti which means female power.
- Shiva – The third god of the Hindu triumvirate, Shiva is responsible for the destruction of the whole universe to recreate it in a vicious cycle. He is the god of chaos but the Hindus believe that his power is used to destroy the illusions of the world. His extreme behaviour can either be passionate or severe abstinence from pleasure. The Shaivism sect of Hinduism worships Shiva in their powerful temples.
- Vishnu – Known preserver and protector of the universe, Vishnu is the second god of the Hindu triumvirate. He is tasked to return to earth in times of trouble because he is the only one who can restore the balance between good and evil. In the ancient Vedan texts, he is associated with light especially the symbolism of the sun. There is a Hinduism sect of monotheistic worship of Vishnu called Vaishnavism.
- Krishna – He is the avatar of Vishnu, but he is considered more as the original Godhead rather than the former. Some devotees interchange Vishnu and Krishna since he is the eighth incarnation of Vishnu. He is most beloved by Hindus because of his adventures in Mahabharata and Bhagavad Gita.
- Rama – Considered as the ideal monarch, Rama is the seventh avatar of Vishnu. He is popularly known as the slayer of the demon king Ravana told in Mahabharata and Ramayana. Hindus revere him because he is the most virtuous hero in the sacred texts.
The other deities:
- Hanuman – the monkey warrior
- Lakshmi – goddess of wealth and fortune; she is also the consort of Vishnu
- Saraswati – consort of Brahma, she is the goddess of learning and the arts
- Ganesh – the son of Shiva, he is the remover of obstacles; also known as Ganapati
- Skanda – he is the commander in chief of the devas and is Shiva’s son
- Surya – the sun god of the administrative gods; sometimes considered by the Hindus as Vishnu’s counterpart
- Indra – king of heaven and the god of rain
- Agni – the deity of fire
- Yama – a deity that presides over death
- Surya – the presiding deity of the blazing sun
- Varuna – the presiding deity of water
- Kuvera – treasurer for the demigods; the god of wealth
- Vayu – the presiding deity of air
- Soma – may also be referred to as Chandra; the presiding deity of the moon
The other higher beings:
- The Asuras (demons)
- The Devas (demigods)
- The Apsaras (celestial nymphs)
- The Nagas (celestial serpents)
- The Gandharvas (heavenly singers)
- The Rakshasas (man-eaters)
- The Prajapatis (forebears of mankind)
Religious Hindi texts
For a culture as old as Hinduism with roots tracing back to the Indus Valley, the religious texts are also considered as one of the oldest pieces of literature of humankind. Unlike other religions such as Catholicism, Judaism and others that have a singular text of doctrines, Hinduism is not tied down to just one body of scripture.
There are a lot of sacred teachings that were written throughout the thousands of years that Hinduism existed. You may have read a few of the following books at least once in your life:
- The Vedas – Considered as the primary text for Hinduism, most devotees seek these teachings as a guide for a peaceful life. These teachings transcend all time without any beginning or end.
There are four Vedas that are important to the Hindu teachings:
- Rig Veda
- Sama Veda
- Upanishads – These sacred texts are a continuation of the Vedic philosophy. Part of the teachings of these texts is the exploration of how the soul can be reunited with Brahman or the ultimate truth through contemplation and meditation.
The karmic doctrine is explored through these texts:
- The Upanishads Part I and II
- Thirty Minor Upanishads
- From the Upanishads
- Puranas – Post-Vedic texts that contain the complete historical narrative of the universe from beginning to end. There are 17 canonical Puranas that are divided into categories which are:
- The Vishnu Purana
- The Garuda Purana
- The S’rimad Devî Bhâgawatam
- The Devî Gita
- The Prem Sagur
- The Transmigration of the Seven Brahmans
- Kundalini: The Mother of the Universe
- The national epics of India – Most scholars consider these epics as Hindu mythology but there are sacred texts that are embedded in the Mahabharata and Ramayana. These stories are based on centuries of oral traditions that were written down from 540 to 300 BCE.
Other primary Hindu texts:
- The Laws of Manu
- The Sacred Laws of the Aryas, Part I and II
- The Institutes of Vishnu
- The Minor Law Books (SBE 33)