Dennis E. Leber
RELIGIONS OF THE WORLD (AXIA) HUM/130
AUG 14, 2007
The Hindu religion
The Hindu religion is strongly dependent on the Hindu philosophy and in addition, has inculcated a lot of rituals and practices. The Hindu religion has 333 million gods; this is because the Hindu philosophy believes that every human being is God himself. This acceptance of the multiplicity of the Supreme Being in many forms is the hallmark of the Hindu religion. The Hindu religion is also very assimilative and has accepted many faiths into it. The Hindu religion also allows religious freedom and does not enforce the edicts of the religion on anyone. In fact, Hinduism teaches that a person, in order to attain liberation from the worldly bondage, must select the religion that he is comfortable in. Hence, it accepts the existence of all other religions as a means to realize God.
The Hindu religion like other religions also believes in the battle between the good and the evil although at a lower level of existence. The religion preaches that man must advance himself through successive levels of knowledge in his quest for the final truth. Hence, the concept of the Devas, or the good deities and the Asuras, the demoniac characters are very important in the Hindu traditions. Many folklores revolve around the battles between the Devas and the Asuras. The important Godheads in the Hindu tradition are Brahma, Vishnu and Siva who correspond with the three 'Gunas' or qualities of Satva (pureness), Rajas(action), and Tamas(darkness and inactivity). Man is a mixture of the three gunas and the inherent nature of a person will depend on the predominance of the three gunas in him.
The Hindu Social Life
The Hindu social life is caste based, which was originally devised for the division of labor. Hence the Hindu society has the Brahmins, the highest class who performs rituals and is supposed to be the most educated in terms of religion. Then comes the Kshatriyas who are the warrior and ruling class. Following them in importance comes the Vaishyas, who are the business class. Last comes the Shudras who serve the upper class. People who do not come in these four classes were previously classified as the untouchables who had to do menial jobs in the society and were looked down upon. Women were given important position in the family even though her importance in public affairs was greatly curtailed during the later years of Hindu history
The Hindu way of life has many beliefs that were perhaps a means that offered social balance in the society. For example, the norm of sacrifice and the mandatory rules on feeding others helped to provide food for the needy. Similarly, the social practices were seen as the physical manifestations of the philosophical edicts that Hinduism preached. For example the practice of sacrifice to the fire is a physical manifestation of the philosophic ritual of giving up everything for the sake of understanding the truth. Similarly, the belief that the confluence of the three rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswathi is holy, is due to the Tantric belief that the meeting point of the three nerve centers in the body awakens the Kundalini, which is the seat of power in the human body.
The desire for liberation from earthly existence
Dharma is the duty that you have to fulfill in life through your placement. Karma states that you will reap what you sow. And the desire for liberation from earthly existence is achieved through the combination of the two aforementioned methods.
Life & death has a cycle. The cycle is wrought with earthly pleasures & pain. Your intention is to be free from materialistic desires because they are temporary. Only the soul is eternal. So by meditating, fulfilling your duties, and by eventually ridding yourself of your karma; you are free to exist as soul and be one with the universe as opposed to continuing the cycle of birth & death.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindu drawn from Aug, 2007
Origin of Hinduism, About.com drawn from Aug 2007