A religion, or more accurately, an loose coalition of belief systems that share continuity with each other and probably very little else. It is the native religious system of India together with a bunch of philosophy that ranges from materialism and atheism to polytheism to monotheism to monism. As it is a native religion, it has no well-defined beginning, founder, or any other organized source of authority, except maybe the Vedas which practically nobody knows or understands.

I'm sure there are people here more versed in Hinduism than I am, but it seems this is relatively un-noded. The fundamental idea governing the Hindu view of the world is the idea of a cyclic universe. The universe is created by the God of Creation, Brahma. It is then sustained for a time by the God of Sustenance, Vishnu. Finally, the universe is destroyed by, who else, the God of Destruction, Shiva, only to be created again by Brahma. The cycle continues on for eternity.

Compared to religions like Christianity and Islam, Hindus are a bunch of pretty laid-back dudes. The idea of spiritual oneness with all of creation is very important to the devout Hindu, and they only way to achieve true bliss* and escape the cycle of reincarnation (also a fundamental concept in Hinduism) is to realize this kinship with the universe and embrace it with your entire being.

*A mild disclaimer: The term "bliss" may actually apply specifically to Buddhism. My memory is a little fuzzy on the terminology, but suffice it to say that getting out of reincarnation is a pretty good thing, as your soul becomes re-incorporated into the a sort of "sea of creation" from which all souls are derived.

Hinduism is not technically one religion at all, at least not in the same way that Roman Catholicism is one religion, but the loose association of a myriad different yet similar belief systems found priamarily in and around the Indian subcontinent. Hinduism lacks a known founder, with an unclear history that goes as far back as 4000 BC, depending on who you ask, and to this day it has no central leadership to speak of.

The fundamental idea governing the Hindu worldview is the concept of brahman, the essence of the universe. Atman, the self or the individual, is actually equivalent to brahman. (Be sure not to confuse brahman with Brahma the god, or with my username!) So, each individual is a part of the whole. It is easy to see how a version of the Golden Rule manifests itself here, since from a Hindu perspective, anything you do to another you do directly to yourself, since you are him and he is you.

In concert with this central unity exists a vast array of gods and goddesses, with some counts numbering them in the neighborhood of 300 million! How can this be, if everything is one? I think perhaps a good comparison is with the Christian Trinity. The many deities can be understood as different aspects of the central oneness, or however else you would like really, since Hinduism tends to be inclusive of different, even seemingly contradictory interpretations, as opposed to exclusionary.

The three main gods of Hinduism are Brahma, the creator; Vishnu, the sustainer; and Shiva, the destroyer. These three are associated clearly with the wheel of rebirth known as samsara. Most Hindus focus their worship primarily on either Vishnu or Shiva. Another popular god is Ganesha (you know, with the elephant head). Also significant are avatars, or incarnations, of the gods, primarily Krishna, an incarnation of Vishnu. The conversation between Krishna and Arjuna forms the basis for one of the most popular Hindu sacred texts, the Bhagavad Gita.

It is often said that a central tenet of Hinduism is reincarnation. This can be true. The atman, with associated karma, is said to leave a body as it dies and inhabit the body of a newborn (newly conceived, whatever) baby. (Note that this baby is not neccessarily human.) Some would say that this is no more reincarnation than is the movement of a soul from your body now to your body a second from now. It is not the same body, really, and yet you find continuity of person in this slighty different body. In a longer time frame, your body now is as dissimilar to your body at birth as it is to that of any other human baby.

The body your atman inhabits in your "next life" is determined by your karma. Similar to the karma of slashdot, it records how good or bad you have been, so to speak. It is determined by your actions in relation to your dharma. Dharma, in turn, is the rules of how you should act and what you should do. It is determined by your age, your sex, and your caste. The caste system of India, which was made officially illegal around 1950, is based on the concept that you are born to a life that you deserve. There are four major divisions of caste, plus the immediately recognizable untouchables.

And of course, no writeup on Hinduism would be complete without a reference to Gandhi!

Hinduism differs from most western religions in that it does not have one founder or one moral or theological system.

Hinduism is the world's third largest religion, after Christianity and Islam. About 762 million people are followers - about 13% of the world's population. It is the dominant religion in India (Bharat), Nepal, and Sri Lanka. There are about 1.1 million Hindus in the United States, and about 157,015 in Canada.

Hinduism is one of the worlds most tolerant religions, accepting most beliefs, including the belief that Jesus is the son of God (an incarnation). However, during the past few years, a Hindu nationalistic political party has controlled the government of India, and the linking of religion and politics has caused less tolerance.

Hinduism is referred to as Sanatana Dharma, the eternal faith. Hinduism is not strictly a religion. It is based on the practice of Dharma, the code of life. Since Hinduism has no founder, you can't follow anyone specific, so anyone who practises Dharma can call themselves "Hindu".

Hinduism is also the oldest religion. But despite this, the truth realized by the seekers prove that the Truth and path provided by Hinduism transcends time. While religion means "to bind", Dharma means "to hold". One isn't bound to any system. By reading the scriptures (Itihaasas, PuraaNas, Agamas, Vedanta-sutras, and Vedas) provide the foundation for seeking the path and Truth.

info and stats from www.religioustolerance.org

How to become a Hindu

Before we begin, I think it's necessary to state that in mainstream, that is, orthodox Hinduism, you can't convert. If you're born outside Hinduism, you're screwed, no hope for you. The best you can do is follow the path of dharma as much as possible and hope that in your next life you are born as a Hindu. This is how to become a "real" Hindu. However, there are to my knowledge at least two "flavors" of Hinduism that will accept converts. Beware: most "real" Hindus (particularly those within India) will not accept you as a real Hindu, and look upon you with mild (but generally benevolent) amusement. The two flavors that accept converts are the Arya Samaj and the Hare Krishnas (Oolong informs me that while Hare Krishnas are in most aspects Hindu, some do not consider themselves to be; notably, Swami Prabhupada disliked the word and did not consider the movement Hindu).

The Hare Krishnas' method of conversion seems to be fairly simple: love Krishna, chant the maha mantra, and follow the path of dharma (vegetarianism, ahimsa or non-violence, abstinence from drugs, gambling, sex except for procreation, etc.) The website (http://www.iskcon.org) doesn't say any more than this; however, I have seen Hare Krishna converts in the past wearing the janiwara, the thread that Hindus of certain Gotras (thanks rischi) wear after going through their upanayana (coming of age ceremony), when they are taught to do japa and pooja, so it is reasonable to assume that part of the complete conversion process is in fact going through an upanayana of sorts. Update: nine9 informs me that "yes, all Hare Krsnas eventually go through the upanayana, but as well as getting brahma-gayatri, which young boys get, we then get the other mantras for deity worship."

I have no idea about the Arya Samaj, as their website (http://www.aryasamaj.org) is in Hindi and I can't read it, so if anyone knows, write below. It is reasonable to assume that the Arya Samaj also require one to go through the upanayana.

The fact of the matter remains, however, that your best bet for attaining moksha (nirvana) is not to attach yourself to a group that contravenes vedic dogma, but to simple follow the path of dharma, accumulate good karma and pray that you will be born a Hindu in your next life.



Hindu Scriptures:





Hindu Mythology:


This node was derived from the Everything Religion node. Its creation and maintenence is a collaboration of the e2religion group. Please /msg nine9 or any editor with additions or questions, or contact another member of e2religion.

Hin"doo*ism, Hin"du*ism (?), n.

The religious doctrines and rites of the Hindoos; Brahmanism.


© Webster 1913.

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