Hinduism; organized religion or compilation of smaller belief systems? Some would argue that Hinduism is a combination of both of those terms and much more. What encompasses the Hindu religion? Why do people of today, even in modern America still practice a faith that some may even consider paganism? In comparison to the dominant monotheistic religion of Christianity, where does the Hindu religion rank? Although Hinduism is not the world’s leading religion, there are still large numbers of followers today. Hinduism is ranked as the number four world religion with approximately 900 million followers (Adherents. om, 2007). According to the Ontario Consultants for Religious Tolerance (2006), “Hinduism is generally regarded as the world’s oldest organized religion”. Hinduism does not have a particular founder, no Hindu orthodoxy, dogma, or even a distinct system of morality. Hinduism is actually a set of beliefs and practices that have developed gradually over time. Hinduism the beginning The traditional theory as to the genesis of Hinduism traces the root of the religion to the Indus Valley. The development of Hinduism has been influenced by numerous invasions over the years.
The greatest influence is said to have been the nomadic Aryan indo European tribes invaded North India approximately 1500BCE (Ontario Consultants for Religious Tolerance, 2006). According to the Ontario Consultants for Religious Tolerance (2006), “These beliefs mingled with the more advanced, indigenous Indian native beliefs, often called the “Indus valley culture”. Never the less numerous archeologist and religious historians now reject this theory, because the origin of the theory was based on the prior belief about the age of the earth and the biblical story of Noah’s Ark (Ontario Consultants for Religious Tolerance, 2006).
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It is believed that the book of Genesis places the creation of earth at 4,000BCE and the Noah’s flood at 2,500 BCE, which contradicts the date of the Aryan invasion (Ontario Consultants for Religious Tolerance, 2006). Despite the original and emerging theories as to the origin of the Hindu religion, Hinduism has developed into a religion of its own rites. Hinduism, monotheistic, polytheistic, or something else? Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma is a henotheistic religion; it can also be viewed as polytheistic and monotheistic. It all depends on one’s view and perspective about how the Hindus worship their god.
Hinduism recognizes a single deity and views other deities as a manifestation of that supreme god. This is a part of the central theme or fundamental of Hinduism belief in the Absolute, Supreme Reality, called Brahman and its identification with Aatman (individual soul). It is said that Brahman, which is formless, infinite, and impersonal in nature, can manifest in many forms, thus the worship of many gods/goddesses, some are even human. For the sake of making the worship more personal, the gods/goddesses had been personified and given different attributes.
However, of all the deities that are worshipped by Hindu’s, the most worshipped are Shiva, Vishnu and Shakthi (Fisher, 2005). Hinduism is sometimes believed as the Trinitarian because Brahman is often seem as a triad???one god with three persons (Ontario Consultants for Religious Tolerance, 2007). The Trinitarian includes Brahman who is the creator; Vishnu is the preserver or the one who sustains, and Shiva the destroyer who can also be seen as compassionate. Hindu belief about life and death Hindus believe that all creatures go through the cycle of birth and rebirth called reincarnation.
The principle of karma, which means action, and the consequences of action, follow from lifetime to lifetime, determines the status of each being’s birth. To escape from the cycle of birth, death, or rebirth (samsara) lead by karma is to achieve moksha. According to Fisher (2005), “To escape from samsara is to achieve moksha, or liberation from the limitations of space, time, and matter through realization of the immortal Absolute. Many lifetimes of upward-striving incarnations are required to reach this transcendence of earthly miseries” (p. 75). Hindu sacred and religious text
There are many scripts and text in the Hindu religion; among the most sacred are the Vedas and Upanishad, which is often referred to as the foundation of the Sanatana Dharma. In Hindu Philosophy, there are six orthodox schools. They are Nyaya, Vaishseshika, Samkhya, Yoga, Purva Mimamsa, Vedanta (Fisher, 2005). Hindu ethics and religious practices Hindus organize their lives around the Four Aims of Hinduism often referred to as the “doctrine of the fourfold end of life” (Ontario Consultants for Religious Tolerance, 2006). The first is dharma, which is righteousness in their religious life.
The second is Artha, which means success in their economic life. The third is Kama, which is the gratification of the senses to include sexual, sensual, and pleasure. The fourth is Moksha, which is the liberation from samsara and the ultimate goal for humanity (Ontario Consultants for Religious Tolerance, 2006). Hindus practice yoga, which is a part of meditation. Included in their daily lives is the practice of puja, which is the ceremonial act of showing reverence to a god or goddess through prayer, devotion, rituals (Padmini Light, 2007). Hinduism versus Christianity
Christianity is the World’s leading religion with 2. 1 billion followers (Adherents. com, 2007). With so many followers, one would think that there is very little in common with the Hindu religion. However, there are similarities along with many differences. Hinduism has no specific founder, nor is it based on the life or teachings of anyone (Fisher, 2005). Christianity is based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ (Fisher, 2005). According to All About Religion. org (2002-2007), “Hinduism is not exclusive and accepts all religions as valid. Christianity, however, teaches that Christ is the only way to God”.
Christianity has an uncompromising view towards other religions when it comes to the infallibility of the bible and Jesus Christ. According to Hindu belief, the path to god are many and in whatever way we worship him, he will respond sincerely (Jayaram, 2000-2006). The Hindu religion advocates many forms of worship. In Christianity, any form of worship that is not approved by the bible is an anathema to Christianity In Christianity, the main source of principles and morals is the bible. In Hinduism, there are many to include the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Agamas, and the Bhagavad-Gita (Jayaram, 2000-2006).
Hindus organize their lives around the Four Aims of Hinduism and Christians organize their lives around the Ten Commandments. However, though different, both the Four Aims and Ten Commandments serve as a moral guide on how to live life. Hinduism and Christianity have played significant roles, one in the Eastern world and one in the Western world. Hinduism has played a significant role in East in the emergence of other religions to include Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism (Jayaram, 2000-2006). Christianity has played a significant role in the West, helping to shape Judaism and Islam.
Both religions view their God in the form of a trinity. Christians believe in the Holy Trinity, which is God the father, the son and the Holy Spirit, three “persons” within the one divine being. Hindus believe in the Trinitarian, which is Brahman the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer. Christians and Hindus have very different beliefs about life and death. Hindus believe one can have many lives, and they believe in the cycle of birth and rebirth. The only way to escape from the cycle of birth, death, or rebirth is to obtain moksha. Christians do not believe in reincarnation.
Christians are taught that individuals have only one life on earth and after death, an everlasting life waits in either heaven or hell depending on how one lived one’s life. Conclusion Hinduism has been viewed as the world’s oldest religion; however, it continues to evolve. For a religion that has existed so long, its sustainability is remarkable even by today’s standards. Even in a small town of Mount Holly, New Jersey, there are still devoted followers of this old religion. This brings up the poignant reminder that religion is like a tree. From a small seed many branches are formed.
However, the root remains the same. So, what is the root of religion? The root of religion is hope, and it is the collected beliefs in a higher being who addresses the human need to seek divine guidance. References Adherents. com (2007, April 19). Major Religions of the World Ranked by Number. Retrieved July 18, 2007, from http://www. adherents. com/Religions_BY_Adherents. html All About Religion. org (2002-2007). Comparison Christianity and Hinduism. Retrieved July 24, 2007, from http://www. allaboutreligion. org/comparison-christianity-and-hinduism-faq. htm Fisher, M. P. 2005). Living religions (6th ed. ). New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc. Jayaram, V. (2000-2006). Hinduism and Christianity. Retrieved July 26, 2007, from http://hinduwebsite. com/hinduism/h_christianity. asp Ontario Consultants for Religious Tolerance (2006, November 21). Hinduism. Retrieved July 23, 2007, from http://www. religioustolerance. org/hinduism. htm Padmini Light (2007). What is Puja. Retrieved July 26, 2007, from http://www. padminilight. com/puja/what_ispuja. htm Thakur, R. (2007). Aarti. Retrieved July 24, 2007, from htt://www. dalsabzi. com/Mantras/jagdeesh_aarti. htm