Brief introduction to Hinduism

With more than a billion followers, Hinduism is one of the world’s oldest existing religions. It originated in India thousands of years before the birth of Christ, and is currently the world’s third largest religion. Hinduism is composed of religious, philosophical, and cultural ideals and practices. It remains to be the dominant religion practiced in India and Nepal today.

The influence of Hinduism can be seen all over the world today. They are not only strong in India and Nepal, but even in the west as well. For instance, one of the leading temples known in the world is the Hindu Temple Society of Canada. Read on to learn basic knowledge about Hinduism.

Definition

Hindus view their religion as an all-encompassing lifestyle. It is a complex system of beliefs and traditions with a system of ethics, meaningful rituals, philosophy, and theology. The center of Hinduism is the belief in reincarnation called Samsara. 

It also places high importance in major beliefs like one absolute being with multiple manifestations and related deities; law of cause and effect called Karma; path of righteousness by participating in spiritual practices and prayers; and the aspiration for liberation from the cycle of birth and rebirth.

Origins 

In contrast to Islam or Christianity, the origins of Hinduism cannot be traced to a single individual. Rig Veda is one of the earliest Hindu scriptures. It was composed long before 6500 B.C. The roots of the religion itself can be traced as far back as 10,000 B.C.

The term Hinduism itself is not found in any scriptures. Hindu as a term was introduced by foreigners as a way to refer to people living across the River Indus or Sindhu. These places were in North India, and the Vedic religion is believed to have originated around such areas.

Basic Tenets

At the core of Hinduism, it teaches its followers four Purusarthas or goals of human life. They are as follows:

Dharma – ethics and duties

Artha – work and prosperity

Kama – passion and desires

Moksha – liberation from the cycle of samsara

For Hindus, Dharma is most important among these goals for day-to-day life. This is because Dharma is what leads to Moksha in the end. If one were to neglect Dharma over material pursuits of Artha and Kama, life becomes chaotic. Thus Moksha cannot be attained.

Major Deities

Hindus believe that there is only one supreme Absolute called Brahman. However, it is important to remember that Hinduism does not advocate the worship of any one particular deity. The gods and goddesses in Hinduism number in the thousands or even millions, which all represent the many aspects of Brahman.

Among the immense number of deities, the fundamental ones are the following. You may be familiar with them if you attend temples such as Hindu Temple Society of Canada.

Divine trinity of Brahma – the creator

Vishnu – the preserver

Shiva – the destroyer

Besides them, Hindus also worship spirits, trees, animals, and planets. 

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