What Everyone Should Know About Hinduism!
in every six people in this world as a Hindu by virtue of their birth yet all
around the world, people of all nations are becoming Hindu because it offers a
lifestyle where life is celebrated and not controlled.
Hinduism offers freedom and a way of living that generates happiness from
within, a happiness and joy that is not dependent on any external factors. It
could described as the art of happiness and joy which arises when one's life is
aligned with the nature of existence.
As a lifestyle, Hinduism is about living with nature, understanding the cycles
and seasons and learning to adapt. But for years Hinduism has been grossly
misrepresented and even today there are powers at work trying to destroy the
cultural identity of India and Hinduism.
In today's modern world that seems bent on its own destruction, Hinduism
represents a ray of light and a hope for the salvation of humanity and life on
earth. While Hinduism as it's called represents a pantheon of gods and deities,
Buddha's and saints, yoga and mysticism, Sanatana Dharma is based on a real
science and technology of what it means to be human and as such, the purest form
Why I Became a Hindu / a Krishna Bhakta
by Stephen Knapp
1. The terms Hindu and Hinduism are not present in any sacred book, these terms
are inventions of foreigners.
When Foreigners came to visit combined India, they used to pronounce Sindhu as
Hindu. So, anyone living beyond "Sindhu" (South and East of the Indus River in
Pakistan) was called as Hindu and their spiritual practices came to be called
Because most foreigners couldn't understand the nature of Sanatana Dharma and
the reverence for all life, they labelled all Hindu spiritual ideology under the
umbrella term of 'Huinduism'. A more correct term for Hindu's would be people of
Sanatana Dharma - people who are respectful of and seek to know life.
2. Hinduism's core principle is pluralism.
Hindus acknowledge the potential existence of multiple, legitimate religious and
spiritual paths, and the idea that the path best suited for one person may not
be the same for another. The Rig Veda, one of Hinduism's sacred texts, states Ekam sat vipraha bahudha vadanti, or
"The Truth is one, the wise call It by many names."
As a result of this pluralistic outlook, Hinduism has never sanctioned
proselytism and asserts that it is harmful to society's well being to insist
one's own path to God is the only true way. Hindus consider the whole world as
one extended family, and Hindu prayers often end with the repetition of shanti -
or peace for all of existence.
3. Caste-based discrimination is not intrinsic to Hinduism.
Caste-based discrimination and "untouchability" are social evils not accepted or
recognized anywhere in the Hindu scriptural tradition as they were in Confusionist China and the British class system that still exists. The word
"caste" is derived from the Portuguese "casta" - meaning lineage, breed, or
race. As such, there is no exact equivalent for "caste" in Indian society, but
what exists is the dual concept of varna and jāti.
Sacred texts describe varna not as four rigid, societal classes, but as a
metaphysical framework detailing four distinctive qualities which are manifest,
in varying degrees, in all individuals. Jāti refers to the occupation-based,
social units with which people actually identified.
There are four varnas and countless jātis. In theory, the numerous jātis loosely
belonged to one of the four varnas, but were not limited to the traditional
profession of the varna in ancient India. Over time, however, varna and jati
became conflated and birth-based.
The four varnas - and the most common professions belonging to each - were:
teachers, scholars, physicians, judges, and priests (brahmanas)
kings, soldiers, administrators, city planners (kshatriyas)
businessmen, traders, bankers, agricultural, and dairy farmers (vaishyas)
labourers, artisans, blacksmiths, and farmers (including wealthy landowners) (sudras).
A subsequent fifth category, now known as the "untouchables," emerged more than
2,000 years after the Rig Veda (the first Veda) to categorize those jātis which,
for various reasons, did not fit into the four-fold varna structure.
Many of these jātis performed tasks considered ritually impure, physically
defiling, or involving violence, such as preparing and eating animal products.
However, no sacred text or book of social law ever prescribes this fifth
category. Rather, Hindu scripture emphasizes equality of all mankind.
Ajyesthaso akanishthaso ete sambhrataro vahaduhu saubhagaya
No one is superior, none inferior. All are brothers marching forward to
prosperity and liberation.
The term "caste" in modern India is primarily understood to mean jāti rather
than varna and is a feature across all religious communities. Discrimination on
the basis of caste is also outlawed. Generally, neither varna nor jāti have
bearing on one's occupation in modern India, but may still influence lifestyle,
certain socio-cultural practices, and marriage.
4. Karma is more than just "what goes around comes around."
Karma is the universal law of cause and effect: each action and thought has a
reaction, and this cycle is endless until one is able to perform virtuous action
without expecting rewards.
The Bhagavad Gita, III.19 and III.20 expounds on this:
Tasmad asakta satatam
Karyam karma samacara
Asakto hy acaran karma
Param apnoti purusah
Sampasyan kartum arhasi
Therefore, without attachment
Perform always the work that has to be done
For man attains to the highest
By doing work without attachment
Likewise you should perform with a view to guide others
And for the sake of benefiting the welfare of the world
Belief in karma goes hand in hand with belief in reincarnation, where the
immortal soul, on its path of spiritual evolution, takes birth in various
physical bodies through the cycle of life and death. Though karma can be
immediate, it often spans over lifetimes and is one explanation to the commonly
asked question, "Why do bad things happen good people?" or visa versa.
5. Hindus recognize and worship the feminine Divine.
Hinduism is the only major religion that worships God in female form. Hindus
revere God's energy, or Shakti, through its personification in a Goddess. Shakti
is seen to be complementary and not in competition with divine masculine powers
which manifest as God(s).
The Vedas are replete with hymns extolling the equality and complementary roles
of men and women in the spiritual, social, and educational realms. Hinduism
remains one of a few major religions in which women have occupied and continue
to occupy some of the most respected positions in the spiritual leadership -
including Sharda Devi, The Mother, Anandamayi, Amritanandmayi Devi or Ammachi,
Shree Maa, Anandi Ma, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda and Ma Yoga Shakti.
Hindu society has, over the ages and in modern times, seen tremendous
contributions made by women in nearly every aspect of life. So respect for women
and the worship of the divine feminine actualises support for creation and the
creative process of life.
6. Hindu iconography is replete with symbolism.
Just as we see the endless sky and oceans as blue, we are reminded of the
Divine's infiniteness through the blue-toned depiction of some Hindu Gods.
Because Hinduism teaches that all of nature is Divine, Hindus believe that God
manifests in the various forms that are found in nature.
For example, the ever-popular Ganesha is depicted with an elephant head,
symbolizing wisdom, as elephants are recognized to be among the wisest of
animals. Hanuman, worshipped as the perfect devotee and depicted as a monkey,
symbolizes the individual's ability to quiet the ever-racing human mind through
loving devotion to God and selfless service, or seva.
7. Hinduism is actually a family of six major schools of thoughts, one of which
Over the ages, various schools of theology developed in Hinduism through a
dynamic tradition of philosophical inquiry and debate. Six schools of thought,
or darshanas, are recognized as the most influential:
Vaisheshika: considered one of the most ancient atomic theories founded by Sage
Kanada. Sage Kanada held that all matter is made up of atoms and these atoms are
activated through Divine intervention. Vaisheshika and Nyaya eventually merged.
Nyaya: a system of logic proving the existence of the Divine as well as other
core Hindu concepts such as karma. Nyaya insists that nothing is acceptable
unless it is in accordance with reason and experience. The thoroughness of Nyaya
logic and epistemology greatly influenced succeeding orthodox and unorthodox
schools of thought.
Sankhya: considered one of the oldest schools of thought. Sankhya divides all of
existence into two categories - Purusha (divine consciousness) and prakriti
(matter). Very little Sankhya literature survives today, and there is some
controversy over whether or not the system is dualistic because it propounds the
existence of these two categories.
Mimamsa or Purva Mimamsa: interprets the rules of Vedic ritual, proffering
perfection in ritual as a path towards moksha.
Yoga: more aptly Raja Yoga focuses on quieting the mind through an eight-limb
system (Ashtanga yoga) as described in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras for a balanced
life and ultimately moksha.
Vedanta: arguably the most influential on modern Hinduism, this theology relies
primarily on transcending one's identification with the physical body for
liberation. The means by which an individual can transcend one's self-identity
is through right knowledge, meditation, devotion, selfless service, good works,
and other religious and spiritual disciplines. Major sub-schools of Vedanta
include Advaita, Dvaita, and Visishtaadvaita.
8. Hindus understand the Divine resides in all beings.
By accepting the divinity in all beings and all of nature, Hinduism views the
universe as a family or, in Sanskrit, vasudhaiva kutumbakam. All beings, from
the smallest organism to man, are considered manifestations of God.
Mankind carries a special responsibility, as it is believed to be the most
spiritually evolved with the capacity to not only tolerate, but honour the
underlying equality and unity of all beings. In line with this idea is the
commonly heard Hindu greeting of Namaste, which means "The Divine in me bows to
the Divine in you."
9. Hindus worship God, or Brahman, in various forms.
Most Hindus believe in one, all-pervasive Divine Reality that is formless
(Brahman) or manifests and is worshipped in different forms (Ishvara or
God/Goddess). A Hindu may choose to worship God in the form(s) of Shiva, Ganesha,
Lakshmi, or any form that personally speaks to her.
Hindus will freely worship multiple forms of God and participate in the many
religious festivals throughout the year that honour the different forms of the
Divine (i.e. Shivaratri pays homage to Shiva, Janmashtami pays homage to
The reason Hinduism depicts God with form is based on an acknowledgement that
the average human mind finds it near impossible to mediate upon or develop a
personal relationship with a Divine that is formless.
10. Hinduism is a global faith - not a religion.
Thousands of years ago, language, numbers, the sciences and spiritual
understanding flowed out from India and it's influence can be found on every
continent. Although the majority of the world's Hindus reside in India, there
are substantial Hindu populations across the globe. Hindus form sizeable
minorities in North America, the UK, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, Fiji, and
Malaysia with increasing numbers of Westerners embracing Hinduism.
In the recent past, sizeable Hindu populations existed in Bhutan, Pakistan, and
Bangladesh, but those have diminished considerably due to human rights
violations and lack of religious freedom.
11. Hinduism and Sanatana Dharma are synonymous.
The term Sanatana Dharma, loosely translated as "Eternal Law or Way," is
self-referential. The term "Hindu," however, is a twelfth-century Persian
abstraction referring to the Indic civilization they found espousing certain
beliefs, practices, and a way of life on the banks of the Indus (therefore
Over the centuries, the diverse followers of Sanatana Dharma have adopted the
references of Hindus and Hinduism. Other terms used to refer to Hinduism include
Vedic, Sanskritic, Yogic, Indic, and Ancient Indian.
The final fact about Hinduism which is perhaps the most important is that
Sanatana Dharma is a way of living that provides every individual with the
freedom to transcend mere belief to acquire first-hand knowledge of the
scientific nature of existence and a meaningful and joyous life.
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