Day: 1 November 2020

The Hindu Temple Society of Canada: Teachings of Hinduism

The Hindu Temple Society of Canada: Teachings of Hinduism

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: 

  1. Non-systematic Hindu Philosophy that is anchored in the teachings of Vedas.
  2. Established systematic Hindu Philosophy
  3. 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

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.

Dharma

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. 

Polytheism 

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
  • Yajurveda
  • Atharvaveda
  • 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)
Hinduism 101 with Hindu Temple Society of Canada

Hinduism 101 with Hindu Temple Society of Canada

Hinduism 101 with Hindu Temple Society of Canada

Hinduism is considered by many scholars to be the oldest religion in the world. It’s rich history and traditions can be traced back for thousands of years. Some experts may argue that in a stricter sense, this religion was only officially established during modern times, however, it is also factual that its practices and teachings are ancient. 

The Hindu Temple Society of Canada believes that the rich story behind Hinduism’s story and teachings are more important than debating whether the religion is ancient or not. Even the most respected Brahmins cannot tell you when exactly everything started. 

Hinduism and its roots

As was said before, Hinduism has no established starting point because of its cyclical view of time. For the rest of the world, time seems to move on, leaving everything behind in its wake. With the Hindu faith, time is seen as eternal and boundless. 

Hinduism is more than a religion; it is a culture with its way of life. Unlike some religions across the world, Hinduism has no historical founder. Everything that devotees follow came from sacred texts that guided them for thousands of years. 

Various beliefs and traditions from ancient civilisations cultivated the Hinduism practices that you know today. Scholars often say that the sacred teachings of this religion came from the fusion of beliefs by different customs and philosophies across different periods. 

Religious timeline of Hinduism

Even though there is no specific date when Hinduism was founded, the Hindu Temple Society of Canada has compiled a general timeline of the religion’s history. Knowing the context of its rich history will help in understanding your faith better. Devotees need to know the roots of their cultural beliefs because it strengthens your spirituality and general disposition in life. 

Indus Valley Civilisation (2000 BCE)

This civilisation was located on the basin of Indus River which can be seen today in modern-day Pakistan. The way the culture developed in this place is similar to that of Mesopotamia, the first recorded human civilisation. The cities of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa kept this old civilisation alive and thriving. Historians believe that the people who lived during that time had high standards of living because there is evidence of sophisticated water systems, drainage, wells, and other cultural advancements. 

There are no solid pieces of evidence that can point to the specific religion that the people in this valley practice but scholars believe that they practice various temple rituals and spiritual bathing. People during this time often do ritual bathing in the great bath of Mohenjo-Daro. 

Terracotta figurines have been uncovered by archaeologists and they believe that these may be images of gods and goddesses they worship. Some think that these religious figures are the early depictions of the Hindu god, Shiva. 

Many of the cultural pieces of evidence uncovered in this prehistoric civilisation are linked to the beginnings of Hinduism. 

Vedic Period (1500 to 500 BCE)

Scholars believe that the early development of South Asian traditions began from the Aryans when they migrated from the Indus Valley to the Indian subcontinent. This supports the idea that the religion of the early Indus Valley civilisation led to the development of early Hinduism.

During this period, the famous Sanskrit texts of the Vedas were composed. This is the oldest book known to the Hindu religion. The Vedic Period’s rituals centred on the sacrificial offering to their gods. Archaeologists believe that the people during this time preferred sacrificing horses than other animals in the land. 

Many of the Vedic rituals are still practised by Hindu devotees until today. Majority of the influential gods and goddesses that the Hindus worship are traced back to this period. Here are the following Devas or gods divided into their hierarchical realms:

  • Sky
    • Dyaus lord of the sky 
    • Varuna lord of the cosmic law
    • Vishnu the pervader
  • Atmosphere
    • Indra the warrior
    • Vayu the wind
    • Maruts the storm gods
    • Rudra the terrible
  • Earth
    • Soma (plant god)
    • Agni (fire god)
    • Brhaspati (god of priestly power) 

Epic, Puranic and Classical Age (500 BCE to 500 CE)

This era in ancient history led to the discovery of more sacred literature that solidified Hinduism as a religion and culture. These Hindu texts are still influential, not only among the devotees but also in the university curriculum. 

Different sacred literature was written during this time and they are as follows:

  • Dharma Sutras
  • Shastras
  • Mahabharata
  • Ramayana
  • Puranas
  • Bhagavad Gita

These texts, especially the Dharma Sutras and Shastras gave rise to the teachings of Dharma that focus on law, duty and truth. This is central to the teachings of Hinduism that we know and live by today. 

There are three sources of Dharma:

  • Revelation or the Veda
  • Tradition or smrti
  • Good custom

During this period, the rise of the Gupta Empire was influential to the following Hindu traditions:

  • Vaishnavism – the worship of the god Vishnu
  • Shaivism – focused on worshipping Shiva
  • Shaktism – the worship of Devi

Sacrificial rituals are lessened during this time because the devotional worship called Puja was introduced to the masses. These rituals enabled the Hindus to pray in front of the images of their deities in sacred temples. Traditions and sacred teachings that were developed during this time are still practised today.

Medieval Period (500 – 1500 CE)

The collapse of the Gupta Empire during this period led to the development of regional kingdoms that followed different religions. Temples in these regions are powerful and influential to their people. These great temples are centres of religious and political power and they include the following:

  • Jagganatha Puri in Orissa
  • Shiva Temple in Tanjavur and Taminaldu 

Not only did the sacred Sanskrit teachings thrive during this time but devotional sentiments made by poet-saints and gurus became widespread. These scholars formulated new theologies that garnered attention from devotees. 

The prominent poet-saints and gurus of the time are:

  • Andal the female poet-saint
  • The sixty-three Shaiva Nayanars
  • Shankara

Vaishnavism and Shaivism also gained influence during this time because of disciples and philosophers that propagated the religions’ teachings. The Tantra texts became influential and were revered by people because they supported Veda teachings. 

Spiritual commentaries were shared by these philosophers:

  • Ramanuja
  • Madhva
  • Abhinavagupta

British Period (1757 to 1947)

The end of the Mughul Empire during the Battle of Plassey in 1757 led to the British occupancy in the Indian subcontinent. During the first few years, the Hindus were given the freedom to practice religion until the Christian missionaries came. 

These missionaries wanted the Hindus to convert to Christianity and westernize their culture during the time, which led to their unrest. Various resistant movements wanted to free India from the British colonial rule and Hindu became a word heavily charged with socio-political meaning. 

As the 19th century approached, the Hindu Renaissance was born, motivating a lot of Indian devotees to push for reform. These Hindu reformers sacrificed a lot of things in the name of freedom and religion. Many of Hindus today revere the following reformers:

  • Dayananda Sarasvati
  • Ram Mohan Roy
  • Paramahamsa Ramakrishna
  • Mahatma Gandhi

There are also different cultural organisations during this time that fought for Hinduism:

  • Rashtriya Svayam-Sevak Sangh
  • Vishva Hindu Parishad
  • Bharatiya Janata Party

After the British occupation 

When India was given its freedom, the country was split into two. Not everyone agreed that the motherland should be a solely Hindu nation. This resulted in communal violence that continues today. The Hindus are still suffering because other religious sectors insist that they convert.

This led to the Hindu diaspora and their subsequent identity crisis. The post-war Hindu movements had no choice but to migrate to western countries to be at peace. Different gurus established Hindu communities in their areas and taught them Sanskrit teachings. 

Hindu Migration and the Temple Society of Canada

Hindu communities established themselves in the west after the diaspora. Many of the immigrants wanted to practice Hinduism in their new homeland. That is why the Hindu Temple Society of Canada was established by the board of trustees because of the rising need for a place of worship among the community. 

For decades, this became a safe space for local devotees in Canada to worship. We are also proud to be the largest Hindu temple in North America that welcomes Hindus with open arms. Be part of our growing community and learn more about the ways of Hinduism. 

Contact The Hindu Temple Society of Canada Today!

Please coordinate with the administrative officer and our chief priest for your inquiries about scheduled rituals and prayers. We ask that you call during the day, preferably on business hours so that we can accommodate your inquiry. 

One of our staff will be attending your inquiry once you contact us through our channels. Call us on the following numbers: 

  • Phone: 905- 883 9109
  • Fax: 905- 883 9834
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