Two of the most prominent world religions today have their origins in the Indian subcontinent of Asia. Both the Hindu and Buddhist religions can trace their creation back to this vast area. Hindu was the predecessor to Buddhism, as the latter was created as an offshoot of the central religion. This can still be seen in the doctrines of the faith, though their practices are far different from those of Hindu followers. Each has very distinct religious texts, philosophies, and stories, which are expressed through their architectural works of art. The Hindu religion is based around several different texts. The word text is used loosely, as many of the most important "documents" in regards to the religion have never been written down. They are remembered orally, word for word, and passed down to each new generation in this manner. The highest of these is the Vedas, which is composed of four different smaller parts. The oldest of these, which was first learned in the Sanskrit language, is the Rig-Veda. It is believed to have been created from 1500 to 1000 BC and is made up of 1028 hymns that have been memorized and passed down to each new generation of Hindi people. The three other parts are the Yajur-Veda (textbook for sacrifice), Sama-Veda ( book of hymnals), and the Atharva-Veda (book of magic spells). This were all completed by 900 BC. The Brahmanas were also created around this time period and contain a guide for rituals for priests as well as the old myths that are behind each of the rituals. The Upanishads, which are philosophical meditations on the meaning of life and mysteries of the universe, were also added by the 5th century BC. All of these have remained unchanged since their creation as they are considered shruti or having been heard from the gods. Therefore, they exist, syllable for syllable today just as they were thousands of years ago. Another important text, the Smriti, is orally preserved but has no rules disallowing rewording, challenging, or changing the texts. Within it are two great epic Sanskrit poems, Mahabharata and the Ramayan, the Puranas, and the Dharmashastras and Dharmasutras, which are textbooks on sacred law. Like most other major religions, this play a key role in the theology of the Hindu people.
These texts create a complex philosophy that is very unique to the Hindu religion. The central idea of their beliefs is that the universe is an enclosed item, with many concentric layers. They are made up of many worlds, hells, heavens, oceans, continents, etc., with India being the center of it all. For them time is both degenerative and cylic; with their being three periods of time, each of decreasing amounts of goodness until at the end of the third period Kali Yuga, the world is destroyed as its engulfed in flames. After each Kali Yuga though, the world starts over again, in its purest time period. Another fundamental of their belief system is that just as the world is cyclic, so is life. Upon death, the soul will be recycled and come back to life in one of four forms; human, animal, vegetable, and mineral. The level of goodness in your previous lives, the concept of karma, determines what form is taken in future lives. This endless series of life is known as samsara. Release (moksha) from this can only come from the giving up of all worldly desires during one of your lives. Based on this principle, Hindus can essentially be divided into two distinct sects. These are those that seek worldly rewards, such as good rebirth, and those that look for release from the world altogether. The ideals of the first group are derived from the oldest texts, the Vedas, and are represented today in temple Hinduism. The second sect gets their advisement from the Upanishads and is found in ideology of most Hindus. The worldly aspect of Hinduism originally consisted of three Vedas, classes of society, stages of life, and goals of man with the goals and purpose of women being rarely...
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