Summary on Hinduism
Hinduism is a religion that is predominantly professed by the Indians and the Indian subcontinent. The history indicates that today, Hinduism is the oldest living religion in the world. It is also the third largest religion in the world after Christianity and Islam with an approximately one billion staunch followers all over the world. The religion originates from, and believably, its rudiments appeared in India in the third millennium. Its name originates from the name of the river Indus. The name Hindu means that it was practiced by the people living around the Indus river valley. Unlike other religions, Hinduism has no fixed system of beliefs, practices and traditions. It is made up of myriads of set of beliefs and practices. It lacks several basic tenets that characterize other existing world religions. Specifically, Hinduism does not have the following traits found in the other religions (Sharma, 1995).
Hinduism Distinguished from Other Religions
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Hindus do not have a holy book. Christians use the Bible as their holy book, and it acts as a manual in their day to day living. Muslims are guided and refer to Koran for their spiritual nourishment. However, Hinduism has several texts that guide them and that act as a basis of their faith. The Hindu religion is also not characterized by a single founder. In contrast, it is well known that the Islam religion was founded by the prophet Mohammed while Apostle Paul can be considered the founder of Christianity. Hinduism also lacks a single theological system unlike all other religions. It is characterized by various philosophical and theological statements and propositions. Other religions are led by a single system of philosophy that their followers are supposed to stick to, which leads to what is known as the religious dogma where the followers are supposed to follow what is stipulated in their religious books without questioning anything. Hinduism also lacks a system of a single spiritual authority. Christians believe that Jesus is their role model, and that their behavior should be a replica of that of Jesus Christ when he was living here on earth; thus, the name Christianity means living like Christ. Islamic religion believes in Mohammed, and Muslims live and behave in accordance with his teachings and wishes. Hinduism also does not have a system; Hindus believe in existence of prophets which act as middlemen between their central spiritual leader and the followers (Sharma, 1995).
In the introductory part of his book, Arvind Sharma depicts Hinduism as contradictive religion which is hard to understand. For example, in the case of killing Mahatma Gandhi, the assassin Bowes appears before him in an apparent act of reverence, and Mahatma Gandhi forgives his killer. This clearly brings out Hinduism as a religion that embraces the two extreme actions while it is highly condemned in all other religions to kill somebody. This brings out Hinduism as a very dynamic, flexible and philosophical religion. It has proven difficult to describe Hinduism in a single specific definition, thus.
First, Hinduism is highly associated with the Indian subcontinent. They believe that their gods originated from India; their entire religion is seen generally as an Indian concept and is associated with natural resources and physical features that are typical for India. For instance, they have a special reverence for the river Indus. Every year millions of Indians throng to river Indus to bath in its waters as they believe it will wash away their sins. This year alone, more than six million Indians went to that river to bath in its waters. They also believe that Rama who is their revered god existed in India, and for this reason, they have special reverence for the Indian peninsula as far as Hindu religion is concerned.
The author also depicts the followers of Hinduism as religiously tolerant. In the book, Sharma explains that Hindus never discriminate the followers of other religions that exist in India today, such as Buddhism, Sikhs and Jains. Religious intolerance is the major question of concern in the world, especially when it comes to the issue of sustainable peace and stability in the world. Hindus are believed to be absolutely tolerant towards other religions all across India in spite of the fact that the Hindu religion is deeply entrenched in India, and a significant percentage of the country which population almost comprises a billion of people profess it. This explains why Hinduism is so dynamic and open, and why it is led by a system of stable beliefs and philosophy that takes into account the macro factors such as peace and stability of the world, as well as the sanctity of human life and the universal rights to belief of all human being (Sharma, 1995).
God: Hindus’ Concept of God
The concept of god is very tricky and difficult to explain as far as the Hindu religion is concerned. Taking in consideration the above, Hinduism is a system of diverse beliefs and philosophies, and literally speaking, it is not anchored on one central divine figure as their god. Hindus worship a single god in their day to day life, but they concede the probable existence of other gods, which proves that Hinduism is phenomenally tolerant towards other religions that are practiced in India. Hindus believe in absolute freedom of worship, life and conscience. There are multiple beliefs and religious practices that advance the same truth.
Over the years, Hinduism has been seen as a way of life rather than a religion. Basically, a religion is characterized by a system of fixed beliefs and philosophies. This, however, does not define Hinduism. Hinduism is the religion that is fuelled by flexible and floating system of beliefs and traditions. To be more exact, Hinduism is seen as a tolerant religion that furthers the concept of thinking for oneself. Moreover, it is not limited by stipulated rules and regulations that put mental barriers in people’s minds. Hindus believe that the truth should not and cannot be enshrined in a single text and dictated to rational human beings at any cost. They believe that knowledge and truth are not a preserve, but it is the continuous process that takes into account the contributions of all regardless of their social, cultural and political affiliation. According to Hinduism, to know well is to do good, and in this regard, it revers religious tolerance as basic ingredient of peace and good coexistence of all the creatures in the world. Nobody can claim that their religion is better than that of others because religion is a user manual that its followers and believers look up to as their guiding ray in life. There is no religion that delimits the beliefs and customs of other religions in the world. Hindus do not have a single concept of god; instead, they believe that each person should seek to find his purpose in life without being confined in a singular belief. Each individual has the right to believe in whatever philosophy he or she chooses to follow.
It is also worth noting that though there is no single philosophy or system of beliefs that is followed by the Hinduism religion, there are some typical elements that explain the Hindu religion. These features have been developed over the time in the history of the Hindu religion. These five strands include the doctrine, devotion, society, practice and story. The following paragraphs will shed light in each of them.
Doctrines refer to practices, traditions and systems of beliefs that are practiced by the members of a religious group. In understanding a doctrine, various essential issues or questions can be raised. The first is the concern over the relationship between the god and the world. Hindus believe that it is the intention and wish of god that people promote peaceful coexistence in the world and care about the world’s prosperity. Everybody in the world has a space for divinity in his or her life. It also focuses on the destiny of the believers in Hinduism and their attachment to their society in general in respect of their fellow creatures, friends and families. They widely believe that people’s destiny can be determined by the way they treat each other and relate with each other in the society. Regardless of what and who people believe, it is the duty of human beings to treat others in a humane manner full of love, care and tenderness. This is because Hindus believe that doing good is a basis of their religion since it is impossible to disregard others in the society and expect to make gods happy. All people have a duty to help others to carry their burdens in life if they want god to help them in their lives.
Practices refer to the acts and deeds that Hindus exercise in order to connect their souls with the supernatural beings they believe in. The practices have a form of rituals which they perform in their homes and temples. For example, it is commonly accepted to make a sacrifice with the help of priests. These sacrifices are meant to thank god for his grace and continue providence in their lives. The offerings are also performed via the icons and sculptures installed in their homes and places of worship. In the temples, the priests make offerings to the gods by means of food and give the remains to the worshipers. This ritual can me compared with the one when guests come in a house, and the hosts offer them some meals in order to show generosity, hospitality and ingratiate with them. They also conduct prayers and meditations that help them connect their spirits and souls with the god and lead holy blameless lives which reflect the will of god. Hindus have diverse systems of drawings, arts and icons that they use in their day to day worship. (Sharma, 1995).
It is well known that Hindu society is divided into classes that are commonly known as castes. There are four castes in the Hindu society. These are priests, members of nobility, commoners and servants. Each group in the caste is believed to have a distinct and unique system of beliefs. It, however, remains unclear whether this classification infiltrated from the society to the Hindu religion, or conversely; but each group views the religious truths in its own special way. Nevertheless, though Hindu society has been branded as indiscriminative, such classification has been described by many as the one that may promote dominance of one caste by the members of another seemingly better caste in the society. This is a characteristic distinction of the Hindu society because other religious societies advocate equality and tolerance.
This is another distinction and characteristic of the Hindu religion. The stories are told in Indian Hindu society, they show the cordial relations between human beings and the gods. The main characters of the stories are people who are revered in the Indian society; they are beatified and serve as role models for the members of the society. By telling these stories across generations, Hindus emphasize the right standards of behavior and actions that please gods; they set the standards of behavior that the followers of Hindu religion are expected to emulate and live by. They are also meant to make the followers feel a part of the large family of believers religious role models. Among the main characters featured in these stories, there are the revered Rama, his spouse Sita and his sibling Lakshmana (Sharma, 1995).
This entails the work of poets who speak of the deeds and work of god in the lives of all Hindu followers. There are people who appear in the form of poets who are seen as very divine, and who spread the religious messages all over India through local languages and dialects. These people transcend the castes and gender spectrum. They speak about the mysteries of the divinities and their role in the lives of the Indian Hindu believers.
In conclusion, the author describes Hinduism as a very complex yet free and dynamic religion that promotes unprecedented religious tolerance. It also presents Hinduism as a religion which made up from diverse systems of beliefs, traditions and philosophies and that has no standard system of worship and behavior. In the beginning of the book, there is an apparent paradox where both the killer and the victim of assassination are accommodated by a religion, which is quite untypical for other religions of the world. The author depicts Hinduism as a religion of the Indian subcontinent where it is believed to have originated from, and various physical natural resources are revered by its followers all over the country. Hindus are also said to believe in the existence of a single god. However, they do not disregard the existence and superiority of other gods. Indian Hindu society has a caste system, which means that the society is divided into conspicuous classes where people in each class view life in a way other than those from another caste in the same society (Sharma, 1995).