An Overview of
Hinduism
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An Overview of Hinduism
by Grady L. Davis, MDiv, PhD
and Rickard (ari) Levitt-Sawyer,ThM, ThD, DMin  [SOURCE]

See also:The Vocabulary of Hinduism

“Every Man is a God”

Hindu01.gif (2639 bytes)Of all the world’s great religions, Hinduism is the most difficult to define. It did not have any one founder. It has many “scriptures” which are authoritative but none that is exclusively so. Hinduism is more like a tree that has grown gradually than like a building that has been erected by some great architect at some definite point in time.

Hindus themselves refer to their religion as the “eternal system,” or sanatana dharma. The term “Hindu” was coined by the Persians after the “Indus” or “Sindu” River.

Estimates put the origin of the Hindu sacred scriptures, the Vedas, meaning “wisdom” or “knowledge,” as the first of the Hindu writings. The simple worship of the Vedic gods was transformed into an elaborate sacrificial ritual which benefits the worshiper only if the intricate ritual is followed exactly. It is from this direction of worship that the priestly class of Hinduism, the Brahmins, arose.

In their philosophy, they believe in pantheism, the idea that all is “god” and “god” is all, and monism, the idea that the universe is essentially one in substance or being. They agree with atheists in denying a personal or active God.

Hindu02.gif (1577 bytes)The Upanishads are the concluding portions of the Vedas and contain the developed essence of Vedic teaching. They teach that any man can who strives for it reach a divine state. The individual personality is denied, being considered part of the world of illusion, or maya, the merging and the obliteration of the self in the sea of the “One Reality,” or “god.” They teach that every aspect of the universe, both animate and inanimate, shares the same essentially divine nature. Approximately 700 BCE a system for interpreting the Vedas, called Vedanta, was established, and it remains the leading school of Hindu philosophy in India today.

Karma operates as an inexorable law of retributive justice. It is an internal law of nature, independent of the decrees of the gods. According to the law of karma, a man is the result of his own past. Whatever a man sows, he will also reap. If one does good, he will escape the human condition (which is illusion), and return to the divine state. If a man does bad, he will remain in bondage to the human condition, being born again and again until he has worked out his bad karma. This belief in the rebirth, or the transmigration of the soul, which many call reincarnation[1], is known in Hinduism as samsara. Not only men, but also all animals, are engaged in the wheel of samsara, passing from one level of life to another.

The formation of the Bhagavad-Gita marked a turning point in Hinduism. It is the philosophical basis of popular Hinduism. The book was probably written around 203 BCE and reached its present form around 200 CE. During this period the concept of the avatar, or incarnation of deity, was introduced and became very popular. The avatars are the warrior gods who triumph over sin and evil by becoming what could be termed redeemers within the evil world of maya.

There are three major paths to salvation discussed in the Gita and recognized generally by all Hindus today. These methods of attaining salvation are karma marga (method), which is the way of disinterested action; bhakti marga the way of devotion; and jnana marga, which is the path of knowledge or mystical insight. Those who hold to the monistic philosophy of Vedanta use jnana as a means of achieving their self-realization through intuitive awareness. Those who are theistic (or henotheistic) and believe that God is a personal being (albeit one with the universe), follow the path of bhakti (devotion) in hopes of freeing themselves of their bad karma. The old school of ritualistic Hinduism is concerned with karma marga.


The Hindu Trinity
Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva

While Vedanta has been the most influential philosophy among the intellectuals of India, the majority of common Hindu men and women are henotheistic or theistic, and worship incarnations of gods and local deities. There are three basic groups into which the various Hindu sects can be classified:

   1. The abstract monists, who are followers of Advaita monism, and are few in number; they refuse to personify Brahma.

  2. The Vishnuites, or Vaishnavas, who are devoted to the god Vishnu.

  3. The Shivaites, or Shaivas, who are devoted to the god Shiva.

Vaishnavas consider Vishnu to have incarnated in the form of his avatars, or manifestations in the flesh. Chief among these are Rama and Krishna.

As we shall see in our later discussions, Transactional Meditation can be loosely aligned with the Advaita monism and ISKCON with the Vishnuites.

The three primary Hindu gods form what is sometimes referred to as the “Hindu trinity:”

• Brahma is “the Creator”

• Shiva is “the Destroyer”

• Vishnu is “the Preserver”


Kali/Shakti
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larger image

Rama, Krishna, Buddha, Kalkin, and Jesus are all considered avatars or incarnations of Vishnu. In chapter 10 of the Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna declares, “I am the prince of demons.” The Bible identifies the “prince of demons” as HaSatan, or Satan. Thus we see that the Hare Krishna cult, along with all of the other forms of Hinduism, is in reality the worship of Satan.

Shiva’s consort Shakti is manifest as Kali, who is depicted in Hindu idolatry as standing on a beheaded body, wearing a necklace of human skulls. It is estimated by authorities in India that even today there are approximately 100 reported human sacrifices to Kali every year, as one might expect from Satan-worship.

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   1. The ideas of transmigration and reincarnation are slightly different, in that reincarnation is generally associated only with humans, whereas transmigration includes all living things. When Westerners become involved in the Eastern religions, most find past and future human lives as acceptable, but are repulsed by the idea that they may be forced to return to earth as a cockroach or even as a toadstool. Thus they choose to profess a belief in reincarnation rather than the philosophy of transmigration as it is actually taught in the religions the seek to embrace. [RETURN]

Page last updated on Wednesday, 03 August 2016 11:19 AM
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