World Religions : A Brief Introduction to Hinduism
Nearly everyone in the world is influenced by religion in one or the other way. We all seek to connect with God in our own ways. For many of us religion is the only means to find peace and solace in life whereas for many others it is as inseparable as food. The importance of religion can also be understood from the power and influence that the religious leaders like the Pope hold. It has remained at the root of several battles and quests in human history. However, whenever there is a talk of religion it is mainly in the context of God. There are several religions practiced throughout the world. All of them are similar and dissimilar in many ways. They vary in their practices, style of worship, teachings etc. Still, one common theme found across religions is their emphasis on love and sympathy. The way of connecting with God might however, be widely different. In so many cultures of the world, religion and adherence to its practices is considered the path to salvation. Salvation has always been a profound topic linked with religion, but religion is linked with many more things. It is linked with a person’s culture and identity. Different religions teach different things and some of them advocate total abstinence from worldly pleasures which keep people from finding salvation. Religion even in its simplest form can be highly complicated and deep. Still, it is an undeniable fact that it is linked deeply with our lives. In this series, you will find a brief introduction to the main religions practiced throughout the world.
Hinduism is an ancient religion – the religion of the Aryas that ruled India long ago. However, it is rich in both literature and art. The Aryas were gifted in both and have left behind a rich legacy of art and Sanskrit literature. In some aspects people may find Hinduism complicated and specifically in terms of its rituals. These rituals may appear very odd to the non-Hindus sometimes. Hinduism is a religion that revers and worships ascetics. Hinduism teaches to not to be influenced deeply by worldly pleasures but not to shun them altogether. The Hindu saints were known as Yogis for they shunned worldly life and practiced Yoga in deep jungles and mountains. India is a land of Yogis. Yoga does not teach to escape from pleasures but to handle them in a way that not to be over influenced by them. Still, there are so many things about Hinduism that intrigue and interest at the same time.
The Aryas (ancient Hindus) are known to have written several religious texts, most important ones among them being Ramayana, Mahabharat, Bhagwad Geeta and the Vedas. Bhagwad Geeta is an important Hindu text that teaches about practical things in life. It teaches how one should deal with various situations in life without being influenced by them. True Knowledge or Gyaan is also an important concept related with Hinduism. The ancient Hindu sages were known to meditate for several years to see God and find true Gyaan. It is also considered an equal of salvation in Hinduism and anyone having found true Gyaan is accorded the status of a saint and is worshipped like the Gods. Hinduism has thousands of Gods. Hindus know salvation by the name of Moksha which is freedom from cycles of life and birth.
Hindus also believe in afterlife and reincarnation. They believe that these are affected by one’s karma or deeds in his life. After life is the period between death and rebirth. Sinners to hells and saints to heaven – the concept is nearly the same in most religions. Restraint is however an important concept in Hinduism which means preventing oneself from over-indulgence. One should indulge himself in worldly pleasures, even sex but without overindulging himself. There are several more things that Hinduism teaches like the way of life. It provides four Ashrams or stages which are a part of every individual’s life cycles except the Sanyasins or the ascetics. These three important stages are Brahmacharya’, ‘Grihasth’ and ‘Vanaprasth’. Brahmacharya refers to adolescence when a person is ideally a student. Grihasth means adulthood when a person is married and engaged with his family and duties. He should take care of his family and his parents. Vanaprastha is the last stage and when one has grown old he should pass his time worshipping God.
The Hindus believe that the soul is full of spiritual energy that can be accessed by meditating. Hinduism also teaches that people should lead a detached life and not grow attached to materialistic pleasures. However, it is possible only for the Hindu ascetics to grow detached from the world in the true sense. It is because it needs a lot of practice and Yoga. According to Hinduism, the soul is truly liberated when the soul becomes one with the God. All Hindus should try to find liberty by doing good things while they live. Apart from following God, pity and love can be the path to salvation or the liberty of soul. Hinduism has gifted the world with Yoga and Ayurveda. Yoga is more than just meditation and exercises. For the Hindus it is a practice that can cleanse your soul. It can be the path to God and Godliness. The people who practice and teach Yoga are known as Yogis. These yogis can still be found in India and one can come across them when he visits places of religious importance in India. Hinduism does not define spirituality but provides guidance on how anyone can know his soul and find his own answers to the deepest questions through meditation. Life is full of pressures, confusions and painful experiences. Hindus teaches to grow detached to minimize their impact on the human soul.