What is Hinduism?

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Hinduism is a polytheistic religion that originated in India. Devotees strive to experience the truth from within and then finally reach a pinnacle of consciousness where man and God are one. Today it is the world’s third largest religion. It is a conglomerate of diverse beliefs and traditions, the most prominent themes include:

ν Dharma (ethics and duties)
ν Samsara (rebirth)
ν Karma (right action)
ν Moksha (liberation from the cycle of Samsara)

Hindus believe that there is only one supreme Absolute called Brahman. However, they do not advocate the worship of any one particular deity. The gods and goddesses of Hinduism amount to thousands or even millions, all representing the many aspects of Brahman. The most fundamental of Hindu deities is the Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva – creator, preserver and destroyer respectively.

Hindus also worship spirits, trees, animals and even planets. They believe in reincarnation and accepting Samsara (the law of karma). All individuals accumulate karma over the course of a lifetime. Good actions create good karma and evil actions create negative karma. A God doesn’t regulate karma, rather its earned by an individual and passed down through subsequent lives. While good karma can eventually earn a person in a higher place in the caste system for a future life, the ultimate goal is moksha. This is the salvation from samsara.

For religious rituals, followers gather in a temple or in their own homes. Most Hindu homes usually have a small shrine or ‘puja room’ for daily prayers. Temples are used during religious festivals and joyous occasions, but not always in marriages and funerals.

There are 10 commitments that Hindus follow. They include:

1. Ahimsa – do no harm
2. Satya – do not lie
3. Asteya – do not steal
4. Brahmacharya – do not overindulge
5. Aparigraha – do not be greedy
6. Saucha – be clean
7. Santosha – be content
8. Tapas – be self-disciplined
9. Svadhyaya – study
10. Ishvara Pranidhana – surrender to God

Sacred texts were written in Sanskrit, the language of ancient India. These texts include:

The Vedas are the oldest, about 3000 years old. They are a collection of hymns, prayers, and magic spells.
The Upanishads are stories and parables told by gurus (teachers) to their students.
The Mahabharata is a story of a war between two royal families.
The Bhagavad Gita is a very popular part of this text.
The Ramayana is a story of the god Rama and the rescue of his wife Sita from Ravana, the evil demon king.