The Hindu Faith: A Primer


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The Hindu Faith: A Primer

  1. 1. The Hindu “way of Living”: Food for the Soul• Very ancient. More than 5000 years.• Hindus believe it is without beginning or end, & is a continuous process preceding the existence of earth and many other worlds - Sanaatan Dharam, “Eternal faith”• Name ‘Hindu’ given by foreigners to people who lived on the River Sindhu (Indus), by mispronunciation. And the faith they followed was called by foreigners, ‘Hinduism’• Very vast. Very complex. Yet simple too.• Very flexible, very open outlook & free thinking. A Polytheist, a Monotheist, a Pantheist, an Agnostic, even an Atheist can be a Hindu. Readily absorbs from the faith of others.• BETTER UNDERSTOOD IF DEFINED AS “A WAY OF LIFE AND LIVING” RATHER THAN A RELIGION.
  2. 2. The Hindu Way of Life• Few “do’s” and “don’ts”. Makes it simple.• Has many signposts showing different spiritual paths available to different types of people. Makes it complex.• It recognizes that there are varying intellectual and spiritual levels in each one of us and all cannot therefore take the same path, although the goal may be the same.• It offers different approaches to persons of different aptitudes, depending on whether he is a philosopher, a poet, a mystic, a man of action, an intellectual, or a simple man of faith.• It permits the greatest freedom of worship & insists that each person must be guided by ones own individual spiritual experience. It does not accept dictatorship in religious guidance.• Tremendous tolerance of other religious faiths & beliefs. Does not force others to follow it & allows other faiths to peacefully co-exist.• Unique: Allows a Hindu to worship in a Church, Mosque, Gurudwara (Sikh temple), Buddhist or a Jain temple. (The latter three are offshoots of Hinduism)• Practical enough to permit social change & scientific progress (it has deep scientific & logical foundations), yet highly philosophical & sublime, aiming at ethical perfection.
  3. 3. The State of Hinduism today• Young people are not aware what Hinduism is, as parents have no time to spare to teach the fundamental beliefs of the faith.• Often the young pick up superstitions that have nothing to with its precepts.• And parents perform rites & rituals without understanding their symbolism or even the meaning of the mantras (prayer chants) that go with them.• The freedom permitted by this faith, which does not even ask for a weekly visit to the temple, has been misused, leading to widespread ignorance of what it stands for.
  4. 4. Hinduism & its land of birth, described poeticallyIt is as brilliant as the sunrises of the great land,its scriptures as poetic as its sunsets,its faith as tolerant as the gentle smile of this beautiful earth.It has always welcomed the visitor,sending him back the wiser for his visit,even while partaking of the wisdom that he brings with him to itsshores.
  5. 5. The Scriptures of the Hindus The Shrutis: The first set of books• The Shrutis: The first set of books. Primary authority or the very soul of Hinduism. Shruti means that which has been heard or revealed.• These Shrutis are known as “Vedas”. ‘Ved’ is derived from the word vid, to know. (Vidya, means knowledge). The Vedas are holy or spiritual knowledge of the Eternal Truth.• The Rishis (derived from ‘drish’, to see) were the Seers or Sages to whom the Vedas were revealed by Divine intervention & in whose hearts & minds they were heard.• The Vedas are apaurusheya (not of man, of divine origin), & are unchangeable & eternal. They teach the highest truths ever known to man, and are valid for all time & all ages.
  6. 6. The Vedas• According to Hinduism, Creation is eternal, with no beginning & no end. At the end of each day of Brahma, the Creator, (one day of Brahma equals 4320 million years), the Universe is destroyed & exists in a subtle form in God, from whence a new Universe is created each time. After the last destruction, Brahma meditated, and the Great God appeared in the form of the sound of OM (AUM) . OM therefore is the symbol of the Absolute, and is the most sacred symbol of Hinduism.• Brahma prayed to Him for knowledge to create a new Universe. The Lord conceived the four Vedas from the vibrations of the sound of OM, and taught these four Vedas to Brahma, who created our present universe, with this supreme knowledge. In other words, the Vedas existed even before the creation of our universe.• Sage Ved Vyas codified the four Vedas. His disciples taught them to their disciples, and so on. This is how Vedas have come to us through thousands of years. Through disciplic tradition.
  7. 7. The Four Vedas•Rig Veda: mostly hymns in praise of the Divine•Yajur Veda: mainly hymns used in religious rituals and rites•Sam Veda: verses from Rig Veda set to music•Atharva Veda: guide for man in his material and daily living
  8. 8. The Vedas contd..•Vedas have several parts –Mantras (hymns) –Brahmana: explanatory treatises for using mantras in rituals –Aranyaka: mystical interpretations of hymns & rituals –Upanishads: 108 of them. 12 most important. They contain the essence of the philosophy of the Vedas
  9. 9. The Upvedas or the Subsidiary Vedas• Ayurveda: science of extending life & maintaining good health. Highly developed in ancient India, this science of Indian medicine is in use to this day.• Dhanurveda: science of archery & use of weapons• Gandharva Veda: science of music & dance• Arthashastra: treatise on polity, state administration & the conduct of commerce
  10. 10. The Vedangas, the explanatory limbs of the Vedas• Siksha: science of phonetics, pronunciation & accent.• Vyakarna: science of grammar• Nirukta: science of etymology & linguistics• Chandas Shastra: versification & use of meters in prose & poetry• Kalpa Shastra: science of rituals & ceremonials in religious rites• Jyotisha: science of astronomy & astrology
  11. 11. The Scriptures of the Hindus The Smritis: the second set• The Smritis: the second set, meaning that which is remembered. 18 Smritis in all• Smritis are human compositions which regulate and guide individuals in their daily conduct and list the codes and rules governing the actions of the individual, the community, society and the nation. Also known as Dharma Shastra, the laws of righteous conduct.• Hinduism accepts that rules of society change with every age. Therefore the laws, or Dharma Shastra must change from time to time. It accepts that laws governing the conduct of man and society are man-made laws, which have to be flexible and dynamic and subject to change.• This has made it possible for laws relating to Hindu society to be further changed by legislation in modern times.
  12. 12. The Scriptures of the Hindus The Epics: the third set•The Epics: serve the purpose of presenting the profound philosophy of the Upanishads in parables and stories for guidance of the common people. They teach the greatest of truths in an easy friendly way using simple language.• Ramayana, Mahabharata, Yogavasistha & Harivamsa
  13. 13. The Scriptures of the Hindus The Puranas: the fourth set•The Puranas: 18 of them. Bhagavat, Vishnu andMarkandeya Puranas, most popular.•18 Uppuranas or subsidiaries.•Consist of tales and short stories which convey the truthsof Vedas and Dharma Shastras
  14. 14. To recap... thus far...• Four sets of books. –The Shrutis or the Vedas: of divine origin, the very soul of Hinduism. Eternal, unchangeable. –The Smritis or Dharma Shastras: written by humans. Can be changed from time to time, from age to age. –The Epics and the Puranas: convey the truths of the Shrutis & Smritis to the ordinary people in simple language and short stories, that appeals to their hearts and imagination.
  15. 15. The Scriptures of the Hindus The Agamas: the fifth set• The Agamas: These lay down the separate theological disciplines and doctrines for the worship of particular deities.• Three main sects: –Shaiva Agama: Supreme God is worshipped under the different names and forms of Shiva –Vaishnava Agama: glorifies Vishnu –Shakta Agama: glorifies Devi (Shakti), the consort of Shiva• Each Agama has 4 sections; – Philosophy and spiritual knowledge behind the worship of the deity. – Yoga and mental discipline required for each school of worship – Rules for constructing temples, sculpting or carving figures of deities – Rules for observing religious rites and rituals at home and community, and observing religious festivals.
  16. 16. The Scriptures of the Hindus The Darshanas: the sixth and the last set• The Darshanas: meaning vision, are schools of philosophy for intellectuals and scholars.• Six of them- –Nyaya: pure logic and reasoning –Vaiseshika: universe consists of countless atoms each with its own particular quality –Sankhya: universe consists of two elements, spirit and matter. Also emphasizes logic and inference –Yoga: system of mind control to attain Godhead –Mimamsa: emphasis on Vedic rituals and sacrifices –Vedanta: based upon Upanishads. Considered the most valid for the times we live in. Insists on strict adherence to truth with tireless investigation. It holds that the path of knowledge is all-important.
  17. 17. The Tenets and Beliefs of Hinduism• Hindus believe in One God, Brahman, the Absolute, or Universal Soul.• He is everywhere, transcending time and space. He is without shape and form, and eternal. Referred to by the pronoun Tat (meaning That).• Since the formless form is hard to comprehend, we have the Brahman with form, known as Ishwara, or One Great God.• The Trinity: Ishwara is known as Brahma, the Creator, Vishnu, the Preserver, and Shiv, the Destroyer.• The feminine aspect of: Brahma is Saraswati, Vishnu is Laxmi, and Shiv is Parvati (Shakti)
  18. 18. The Tenets and Beliefs of Hinduism• Samsara: Moksha, Nirvana, Salvation, means never to be born again by becoming one with Brahman, the Universal Soul. Till we achieve that state, we have to go through this cycle of birth, death, and rebirth (reincarnation). This is called Samsara.• Karma (Action): The inequalities of life are understandable only when we realize that they are because of our Karma or actions in our past lives, and not of God’s creation.• 3 stages of Karma: –Prabhada: The body or tenement the soul chooses is not under our control. –Samchita: accumulation of Karma of all our previous births. Changeable. By actions in our present life. –Agami: actions in present life which determine our future in this life and in the next.• Dharma (Righteous duties): To break the chain of birth and death, we should perform our righteous duties, depending upon our occupation and stage of life. Varna-ashram. This concept is fundamental to Hinduism.
  19. 19. The Caste System (Varna) The order of class of people• Brahmins: educators, philosophers, priests• Kshatriyas: administrators and warriors• Vaishyas: Business and commerce• Shudras: manual labor• NOT BASED ON BIRTH. Not rigid in ancient times. Though over time, it became so.• The Untouchables or Outcastes: Originally those who had broken certain caste rules (ex- communication). e.g., Brahmins excommunicated for some reason. Later, with Buddhist and Jain influence of the concept of Ahimsa (non violence), Hindus became vegetarians and outcasted meat eaters. (This is the time, when cow came to be considered sacred, like a mother, as it provided sustenance in an agrarian society of the times. Later, the upper castes included it in the scriptures to provide themselves with menial labor. Hindu society is at fault, not its scriptures.
  20. 20. The Four Stages of Life (Ashram)• Brahmcharya (Student): learn Dharma, Yoga, teaching of Vedas• Grihastha (Householder): raise family, provide for family by honest means, fulfill social and spiritual obligations. Follow Dharma.• Vanaprastha (ready to retire): When children are grown up and settled, detach from the jungle of worldly desires. Concentrate on philosophical study. Contemplate, meditate and spiritual pursuits.• Sanyas: retire. No wants, no needs. Spend all the time in meditation and yoga.
  21. 21. The Three Paths to Salvation or Universal Soul• Bhakti Yog (Path of Devotion): most common and easiest. Intense faith in a personal deity. Daily prayers. Different incremental stages, Apar, Par, Ekanta.• Karma Yog (Path of Action): selfless service in ones profession. Work for work’s sake, without attachment to the rewards thereof. Self discipline, self restraint and total absorption in one’s path of action with justice and compassion towards all. No work is inferior, as action is the means of attaining God, and work is the form of worship.• Jnana Yog (Path of wisdom or spiritual enlightenment): the most difficult. First, acquire knowledge of the Vedas and Upanishads, the Gita. Then practice discrimination and analysis, detachment, see all beings as being equal, and not affected by worldly joys or sorrows. Then find a Guru (teacher) to guide, and finally practice deep meditation on the Absolute.• By following any of these paths, Salvation, Nirvana, Moksha can be achieved in this life.
  22. 22. In Summary...• Hinduism is the oldest “religion”, has withstood ravages of wars and time.• It is flexible and open to change with changing times.• The spiritual process is vertical, not horizontal.• Our present life is based upon actions in the previous lives.• We control our actions in this life, upon which depends our future in this life, and future lives.• Following the path of Dharma, we can attain salvation in this life, never to be born again. And be one with the Absolute.
  23. 23. Thank You and Namaste With all the power in my hands, with all the love in my heart,and with all the intellect in my head, I bow to Thee.