very ancient religion of the world, has its origin in a progressive
way unlike other religions. The religion imbibed its basics
far before million centuries, from the then Harappa and Indus
valley civilizations. Hinduism provides a vast body of scriptures.
It is impossible to define the principles and theories of
Hinduism as it consists of both thesis and anti-thesis, both
having the same importance. While the Dvaita (dualist theory)
points out the existence of both God and human soul, the theories
like Advaita (non-dualist theory) say both are same. The
early Sanyasis and Gurus handled both spiritual and science
theorems simultaneously. These scriptures expose a vast range
of theology, philosophy, and myth providing spiritual insights
along with guidance on the practice of dharma (religious living).
Among such texts,
Hindus reckon the Vedas along with the Upanishads as
being among the foremost in authority and antiquity. Other
important scriptures include the Tantras, Puranas and the
epics: the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. The Bhagavad-Gita,
a deeply profound conversation excerpted from the Mahabharata,
is widely seen as summarizing the spiritual teachings of the
Brahman and Atman
the Advaita theologies of Hinduism, Brahman (the greater Self
or God) is in the highest sense and non differentiated from
the world and its beings. Brahman is also sometimes seen as
synonymous with the concept of Paramatma (Supreme Spirit),
whereas, Atman is deemed as one’s true ‘inner self’.
Advaita philosophy declares that ultimately Brahman is beyond
mere intellectual description and can be understood only through
direct spiritual experience, where the 'knower' and the
'known' are subsumed into the act of 'knowing'. The goal
is to "wake up" and realize that one's atman, or
soul, is really identical to Brahman, the upper soul.
On the other
hand, Dvaita Vedanta and related devotional schools,
understand Brahman as a Supreme Being who possesses personality.
In these conceptions, Brahman is associated with Vishnu, Shiva
or Shakti depending on the sect. Brahman is seen as fundamentally
separate from its reliant souls so, in achieving liberation,
individual beings experience God as an independent being.
the Advaita school of philosophy, the individual self and
greater Self are not fundamentally distinct. They argue that
the "Self" of every individual person is identical
with the greater Spirit. The Upanishads say, whoever gains
insight into the depths of his own nature and becomes fully
aware of the atman as the innermost core of his own Self will
realize his identity with Brahman and will thereby reach Moksha.
According to the Dvaita school, the atman is not identical
with Brahman, which is seen as being God with personality
and the atman is dependent on God. Moksha depends on the
cultivation of love for God and on God's grace.
Samsara and Moksha
literally as action, work or deed and is often described as
the "moral law of cause and effect". According
to the Upanishads, an individual, known as the jiva-atma,
develops samskaras (impressions) from actions, whether physical
or mental. This cycle of action, reaction, birth, death,
and rebirth is a continuum called samsara. The notion
of reincarnation and karma is a strong premise in much of
Hindu thought. The Bhagavad Gita states that “As a
person puts on new clothes, discarding old and torn clothes,
similarly an embodied soul enters new material bodies, leaving
the old bodies”. Samsara provides ephemeral pleasures, which
lead people to desire rebirth to enjoy the pleasures of a
perishable body. It is thought that after several reincarnations,
an atman eventually seeks unity with the cosmic spirit –Brahman.
The ultimate goal of life, referred to as moksha, nirvana
or samadhi, is described as the realization of one's union
with God; realization of one's eternal relationship with God;
realization of the unity of all existence; perfect unselfishness
and knowledge of the Self; liberation from ignorance; attainment
of perfect mental peace; or detachment from worldly desires.
Such a realization liberates one from samsara and ends the
cycle of rebirth.
While they have
not been dated with much certainty, even the most conservative
estimates date their origin to 1200 BC or earlier. Hindus
revere the Vedas as eternal truths. There are four Vedas
(called Rig, Sama- Yajus and Atharva).
is the first and the most important Veda. Each Veda is divided
into four parts: the primary one, Samhita, contains sacred
mantras in verse. The other three parts form commentaries,
usually in prose, which are historically believed to be slightly
later in age than the Samhita. These are: Brahmanyas, Aranyakas,
and the Upanishads. The Upanishads focus on spiritual insight
and philosophy whereas the Vedas focus on rituals. The Upanishads
discuss Brahman and reincarnation.
Purana describes the mechanics of the cosmos. Ithihas
include Mahabharatha and Ramayana. Bhagavad-Gita is an integral
part of the epic Mahabharata and one of the most popular sacred
texts of Hinduism and it is described as the essence of the
known are the Puranas, which illustrate Vedic ideas through
vivid narratives dealing with deities, and their interactions
with humans. A more controversial text, the Manusmriti
or "Code of Manu", is a prescriptive lawbook
which instructs the society codes and defines caste-system.
and the Caste System
Hindus and scholars
debate whether the caste system is an integral part of Hinduism
sanctioned by the scriptures or an outdated social custom.
Although the scriptures contain passages that can be interpreted
to sanction the Varna system, they contain indications that
the caste system is not an essential part of the religion,
and both sides in the debate can find scriptural support for
their views. The oldest scriptures, the Vedas, place little
emphasis on the caste system, mentioning it rarely and in
a cursory manner.
has traditionally been categorized into four classes,
called Varnas. It is argued that in ancient times, the Varnas
were merely labels based upon occupation. The Varnas were
Brahmins: teachers and priests; Kshatriyas: warriors and
kings; Vaishyas: farmers, merchants, and businessmen; and
Shudras: servants and labourers.
In the Vedic
Era, there was no prohibition against the Shudras (which later
on became the low-castes) listening to the Vedas or participating
in any religious rite the case. But later caste-system become
a prominent allegation from the cultural reformers, when it
turned to be considering Shudras as lowest class and they
denied of social justice.
Dharmic Religions Contd : Buddhism,