Elacqua, Joseph, et. al. "Hindu Beliefs." Faithology.com. Faithology, 11 March 2013. Web. 19 June 2013.
Elacqua, J., et. al. (2013, Mar 11). Hindu Beliefs. Faithology.
Elacqua, Joseph, et. al. "Hindu Beliefs" Faithology, LLC. Last modified March 11, 2013.
Faithology, LLC, 2012. (Accessed Jun 19, 2013).. Hindu Beliefs.
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- Jones, Constance A. and Ryan, James D., eds., Encyclopedia of World Religions: Encyclopedia of Hinduism. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2007.
- Jones, Lindsay, ed., Encyclopedia of Religion. 2nd ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2005. 15 vols.
- Last Updated: March 11, 2013
- Originally Published: July 18, 2012
There are approximately 900,000,000 adherents to the Hindu religion today. Hinduism has existed since ancient times and is now the fourth largest religion in the world. As with all large religions, there are many differences of opinion in terms of doctrine among the various Hindu sects. Despite these differences, there are a wide variety of beliefs and practices recognized by most Hindu adherents:
With respect to Hinduism, the legitimacy of religious groups in India—Hindu or otherwise—is primarily defined by their adherence to the Hindu scriptures. To be considered part of the Hindu religion:
- The oldest Hindu scriptures, known as the Vedas, are praised above all others.
- Post-Vedic texts composed in India are also regarded as sacred.
Hindus are polytheistic
and believe in a wide variety of deities. However, every Hindu is free to whichever deities he or she so chooses. Thus, no single deity is worshiped by each Hindu . In addition, these deities do not often have the same roles from sect to sect. Some of the most deities are the following:
- Vishnu, often considered to be the deity who maintains the universe
- Shiva, often considered to be destroyer or transformer of the universe
- Brahma, often considered to be the creator of the universe
- Devi (or ), the main goddess, often worshiped as the supreme female form
- Surya, the solar deity that guides the sun across the sky
- , an elephant-headed deity, often considered the son of Shiva
- Kali, often considered to be a mother goddess of death and destruction
- In addition, the gods Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahma are frequently worshipped together due to a doctrine known as trimurti.
Many philosophical concepts also appear as crucial elements of the Hindu religion:
- The Hindu people are divided into strict castes, or social classes. This division dictates the role of all Hindus throughout the world.
- Above all, one’s dharma. The concept of dharma dictates the duty or correct action for each of the social classes. dictates his or her
- Acting in accordance with one’s dharma leads to good karma. Likewise, going against one’s dharma leads to bad karma. At its core, karma is a reflection of the good and bad deeds of mankind. Upon death, all Hindus are judged in accordance with their karma.
- When Hindus die, their life essence (or atman) takes residence in newborn beings. . This endless cycle of is known as samsara. Based on their karma, Hindus can be reincarnated in a higher social caste, a lower social caste, or as an animal.
- The goal of the Hindu religion is the attainment of moksha, or liberation from the constant cycle of reincarnation. There is no unified belief within Hinduism as to how is attained. Most frequently, moksha is described as the union of one's true inner self with a particular deity or cosmic force, such as Brahman.
- Hindus are also unified in their of the cow as a sacred animal.
Other more general practices often appear in both historical and modern Hinduism. Many of these practices are connected with Hinduism in general, though they are not practiced by every adherent.
- Asceticism is a lifestyle of self-denial through which practitioners seek some spiritual awakening or deeper understanding. Asceticism often involves a willful separation from family, domestic comforts, and secular influences. Frequently, practitioners—called ascetics—will choose to live in the wilderness in order to achieve a greater spiritual focus away from the influences of civilization.
- Many Hindus are practitioners of yoga, a discipline that incorporates physical, mental, and spiritual components in order to attain spiritual tranquility. For example, breathing techniques and other exercises are commonly utilized as part of . Male practitioners of yoga are called yogis; female practitioners are called yoginis.
Mystic implements of several types are used throughout the Hindu religious world.
- Mantras are phrases or short sentences thought to have various ritual efficacy. Mantras are frequently chanted aloud in repetition. Less frequently, they are utilized in written form.
- Mudras are ritual hand positions used throughout Indian traditions. Each mudrā has a symbolic meaning, and they are thus often used to invoke specific deities.
- Mandalas are often large circular diagrams enclosed by squares used as meditative subject or other visual aids.
- Similar to mandalas, yantras are simpler geometric figures often used as meditative aids.
- Hindu deities. is the early Indian science of architecture. From ancient times, this science has been used to construct cities, houses, and temples. Vastu is closely related to , various techniques of Indian craftsmanship. These techniques involve carpentry and some architectural methods, but also include specifics (measurements, materials, etc.) regarding the construction of sculptures of