Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Hinduism 101

From Eastern Mennonite University, 1200 Park Rd, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
Suraya Sadeed
photo by Jon Styer
[Note: The fifth and final post in the "Religions 101" series comes from Suraya Sadeed, who wrote our post on Islam. All four of us had to read this is a chapter from Prothero's God Is Not One, so this summary is much shorter than the others. As a closing editorial note, I'm very grateful to my fellow classmates in my small group, for allowing me to make public our "insider-only" reflections on this book. Thanks!  -bg]

Hinduism started from Indus Valley as early as 2500 to 1500 B.C.E., a civilization that may have stretched from the Himalayas to the Arabian Sea.    It is the third largest religion in the world with over 900 million followers.  Hindus practice  their religion in various forms, but they all believe in Brahman as the supreme force.  According to Hindu scriptures, humans are trapped in the cycle of endless death and reincarnation “samsara” and their ultimate goal is to liberate “moksha” themselves from the cycle of death and rebirth.

Hindus believe that Shiva is the creator, maintainer, and destroyer of life and everything is a constant interaction between male and female, light and dark, and hot and cold. Hinduism is a way of life that includes family, politics, art, society, and health.  The practice of yoga (literally, "discipline") is a well-known aspect of Hinduism.

Hindus belief that karma (the law of cause and effect by which each individual creates his own destiny by his/her thoughts, words and deeds) determines who that person is going to be in the next life.  Hindus are divided into four socioeconomic groups based on their occupations:  Brahmins (priests), Kshatriyas (nobles & warriors), Vaishyas (commoners) and Sudras (servants).   Veda (knowledge) is Hindus’ holy book.  There are four main denominations in Hinduism: Saivism, Shaktism, Vaishnavism and Smartism.

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