World Religions

Hinduism

Hinduism {Sanskrit/Hindi - Hindu- Dharma, also known as Sana-tana (eternal) Dharma, and Vaidika (of the Vedas) Dharma} is a religion originating in the Indian subcontinent, based on the Vedas and the beliefs of other people of India. It is one of the oldest religious traditions still practiced today. The term Hinduism is heterogenous, as Hinduism consists of several schools of thought. It encompasses many religious rituals that widely vary in practice, as well as many diverse sects and philosophies. Hindus venerate an array of deities, or consider them as manifestations of the one Supreme monistic Cosmic Spirit Brahman, while others focus on a singular concept of God, such as in Vaishnavism, Saivism and Shaktism.
Hinduism is the third largest religion in the world with approximately 970 million adherents (2005 figure), approximately 900 million of whom live in India
The Himalayan kingdom of Nepal is the only nation in the world with Hinduism as its state religion.

Origin of Hinduism

The roots of Hinduism date from around 15001300 BCE, though the beliefs and practices of this era are more accurately termed, "Vedism." Fully-formed Hinduism did not emerge until these Vedic traditions interacted with the shramanical movements of Buddhism and Jainism. The synthesis of Vedic ritual and pantheon with the non-violent and gnostic traditions of the shramanas yeilded the complex we know today as "Hinduism."
From the perspective of a believing Hindu, however, the Sana-tana Dharma propounds eternal and universal principles with no beginning or end. The Pura-n.as place Lord Kr.is.hn.as birth at around 3100 BCE. Kr.is.hn.as incarnation was preceded by Lord Ra-mas, sometimes dated at over 56000 BCE, or even more than a million years ago in the Treta- Yuga according to the Ra-ma-yan.a Epic. Many Hindus believe that their religious tradition was fully formed by the time of Lord Ra-ma, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vis.hn.u. Modern Indology dates the roots of Hinduism to about 1500-1300 BCE, based on linguistic and literary data from the Rig Veda, believed to be composed around a similar period, though it is accepted that they were transmitted orally from at least 1800-1500 BCE. These dates are based on the Indo-Aryan migration hypothesis, which posits an influx of Sanskrit-speaking Indo-Aryan peoples and or culture into North India in the early 2nd millennium BCE.
The origin of collective Hindu thought cannot be ascribed to any single founder (though most of its later schools of philosophy and belief can be), or associated with a specific time or a single place of foundation. The Vedas, the earliest Hindu scriptures, are the compilation of spiritual laws and truths binding upon all of creation. It is believed that each Veda was revealed to enlightened sages, called R.is.his, over a long period of time. Hinduism, along with Buddhism and Jainism, is regarded to be an A-rya Dharma, meaning, a noble religion.

Gods of Hinduism

The Vedas depict Brahman as the Ultimate Reality, the Absolute or Universal Soul (Parama-tman). It is the ultimate principle who is without a beginning, without an end, who is hidden in all and who is the cause, source, material and effect of all creation known, unknown and yet to happen in the entire universe. Brahman (not to be confused with the deity Brahma-) is seen as the unique panentheistic Cosmic Spirit. Brahman may be viewed as bereft of personal attributes Nirgun.a Brahman (except the qualities of infinite truth, infinite consciousness and infinite bliss), or with auspicious manifestable attributes Sagun.a Brahman. The former view is called Parabrahman and the latter view is called Aparabrahman.
Perhaps the best word in Hinduism to represent the concept of God is I-shvara (literally, the Supreme Lord) . In Advaita Veda-nta philosophy, I-shvara is simply the manifested form of Brahman upon human mind. According to Sma-rta views, the Supreme Being can be with attributes, Sagun.a Brahman, and also be viewed with whatever attributes, (e.g., a goddess) a devotee conceives. For the Hindus, I-shvara, who is one and only one, is full of innumerable auspicious qualities; He is omniscient, omnipotent, perfect, just, merciful, glorious, mysterious, and yet full of love. He is the Creator, the Ruler and the Destroyer of this universe. Some believe Him to be infinite and incorporeal. In Vaishnavism and Shaivism, Sagun.a Brahman is viewed solely as Vis.hn.u or Shivaso their followers may attribute an anthropomorphic form to I-shvara. is also called as Bhagava-n in modern Hindi. Note that gender is not a distinguishing attribute: I-shvara is neither male nor female, neither "with gender" nor "without" (although grammatically masculine). Brahman is grammatically neutar.


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