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Term paper on The Hindu Religion

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Term paper on The Hindu Religion

Post  PapersQueen on Sat Jan 23, 2010 7:51 am

'Sanatana Dharma' or wrongly called as Hinduism by English colonialists is one of the oldest religions in the history of mankind. It is also one of those religions that has been able to hold itself against repeated onslaughts by other religious fanatics who have tried to destroy it from time to time. Perhaps the reason why Hinduism has been able to hold itself together for so many years and is still one of the major religions in the world is the fact that it is more a way of life than a restrictive and organized religion. In fact, the essence of Hinduism is imbued in the psyche of the Indian society, and permeates in the every day life of the conservative as well as liberal Hindu.


The sacred elements that characterize Hindu religious traditions, and their sublime meanings

It would be difficult to completely list all the sacred elements that make up the Hindu religious traditions because of the sheer vastness and depth of the Hindu culture and traditions that have evolved through thousands of years. Some of the salient features of the Hindu religion are mentioned below.

The Hindu Philosophy
Hinduism stresses on the importance of the absolute truth. According to Hindu philosophy, God is the absolute reality and the universe is the manifestation of the single Supreme Being alternatively called as the supreme consciousness. Many Hindu philosophers equate the Hindu Brahman (the Supreme Being) to pure consciousness, which according to Hindu traditions have no beginning or end. The ultimate reality is blocked from the perception of the mundane man by Maya or delusion that makes him think that the ephemeral world is real. The objective of each man and woman is therefore, to go beyond this Maya and find his true nature. In fact, Hinduism stresses on the fact that every living organism is a manifestation of the ultimate truth and so in essence every being is the Lord himself.

The Hindu philosophy believes that the Brahman: the Supreme Being, takes the form of earthly creatures. Hence the Brahman that is localized in the earthly creatures is called the Atman. The Atman due to the influence of the mind is deluded, and thinks that the world is real and final by identifying with the sense objects (the atman may also be called as the ego). Liberation comes only when the Atman understands that its nature is Brahman. Until this happens, the atman taken on successive births as different animals and plants according to his karma, or past actions.

The Hindu religion
The Hindu religion is strongly dependent on the Hindu philosophy and in addition, has inculcated a lot of rituals and practices. The Hindu religion has 333 million gods; perhaps the largest number of Gods in any religion. This is because the Hindu philosophy believes that every human being is God himself. This acceptance of the multiplicity of the Supreme Being in many forms is the hallmark of the Hindu religion. The Hindu religion is also very assimilative and has accepted many faiths into it. In fact in many parts of India, the distinction between Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and Hinduism is very thin and inconspicuous. The Hindu religion also allows religious freedom and does not enforce the edicts of the religion on anyone. In fact, Hinduism teaches that a person, in order to attain liberation from the worldly bondage, must select the religion that he is comfortable in. Hence, it accepts the existence of all other religions as a means to realize God.

The Hindu religion like other religions also believes in the battle between the good and the evil although at a lower level of existence. The religion preaches that man must advance himself through successive levels of knowledge in his quest for the final truth. Hence, the concept of the Devas, or the good deities and the Asuras, the demoniac characters are very important in the Hindu traditions. Many folklores revolve around the battles between the Devas and the Asuras. The important Godheads in the Hindu tradition are Brahma, Vishnu and Siva who correspond with the three 'Gunas' or qualities of Satva (pureness), Rajas(action), and Tamas(darkness and inactivity). Man is a mixture of the three gunas and the inherent nature of a person will depend on the predominance of the three gunas in him.

The Hindu religion has over the years become very ritualistic. The Hindu religion offers many ways to realize God. Hence there is the Tantra way of attaining liberation in which the practitioner has to undergo severe austerities and penance to understand the Lord. The rituals that are performed in the Temples in India are in fact, the reflection of the Tantra traditions. Rituals are performed by Brahmins, the priest class who use mantras or specific sound syllables that are believed to have specific powers.

The Hindu Social Life
The Hindu social life is caste based, which was originally devised for the division of labor. Hence the Hindu society has the Brahmins, the highest class who performs rituals and is supposed to be the most educated in terms of religion. Then comes the Kshatriyas who are the warrior and ruling class. Following them in importance comes the Vaishyas, who are the business class. Last comes the Shudras who serve the upper class. People who do not come in these four classes were previously classified as the untouchables who had to do menial jobs in the society and were looked down upon. Women were given important position in the family even though her importance in public affairs was greatly curtailed during the later years of Hindu history.

The Hindu way of life has many beliefs that was perhaps a means that offered social balance in the society. For example, the norm of sacrifice and the mandatory rules on feeding others helped to provide food for the needy. Similarly, the social practices were seen as the physical manifestations of the philosophical edicts that Hinduism preached. For example the practice of sacrifice to the fire is a physical manifestation of the philosophic ritual of giving up everything for the sake of understanding the truth. Similarly, the belief that the confluence of the three rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswathi is holy, is due to the Tantric belief that the meeting point of the three nerve centers in the body awakens the Kundalini, which is the seat of power in the human body.

Hindu Literature
The Hindu Religious literature is very vast. The main foundations of the Hindu literature are the four Vedas, which is thought to have been provided by the Gods themselves to the benefit of mankind. The Vedas have many subcategories of hymns that explain diverse aspects of human life like rituals, social norms, way of living, dharma or the social codes of righteousness etc. There are many other associated literature likes the Shashtras, Puranas etc that goes into specific subjects of interest. Three works of religious literature that have similar importance to the Vedas and are widely read in the Indian subcontinent are The Ramayanam, The Mahabharatam and the Bhagavatam. All the three books are philosophic in nature and explains how a man must conduct himself in the society, how to attain liberation and how to balance between personal life and a life that would ultimately lead him to understand the Supreme Being.

Hindu Science
The Hindu religion has given rise to many scientific branches that are very important. For example Astrology, Astronomy, Ayurveda (Hindu medicine), Economics, Politics, Geology etc are very important scientific branches that were very important in the ancient Hindu society and is still relevant.


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