The Central Tenets Of Hinduism

Hinduism is perhaps the oldest religious philosophy that continues to be followed by a very large part of humanity. This philosophy of faith in divine has many facets, but the central one is ‘dharma’ or duty of a man or woman towards everything that surrounds her or is connected with her in any manner. Various tenets of Hinduism, that may appear exotic to an uninitiated, are actually little more than building blocks of this eternal code of conduct......
The Central Tenets of Hinduism
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For foreigners, Hinduism is an incomprehensible enigma, largely because they tend to look at it from their own perspectives and concepts of a religion. Hinduism (as we call it today) is not just a religion, it is a way of life, a quest to understand the universe and an invitation to live and let live.....


It is near impossible to understand in one go, the vast philosophies of life that form the core of Hinduism. One can try to make a short summary of it by covering the concept of god, the concept of dharma and concept of Karma, the

major concepts that define Hinduism, but before that one need to understand what Hinduism is and what it is not.

Hinduism: Origin, Name & Misconceptions

The term HINDUISM is actually a misnomer. It is derived from a Sanskrit word, 'Sindhu' meaning river. Like all ancient human civilizations, those in India also flourished around major rivers. The lands where they developed were called 'lands of Sindhu'. Foreign traders called them 'Hindu' or ‘Indu’ and from that was derived the word 'India', the name by which world knew the country. As a result, the people of these territories were known as HINDU, and the same term was also applied to their religious practices.

This ancient religious philosophy is not a 'religion' in the sense Islam and Christianity are. It is more a sort of philosophy of life and society. It was called 'Sanatan Dharma', which literally means 'eternal duty', and revolves around the duty of a person in his or her different capacities. So the duty of a soldier will be different from those of a singer, and those of a father different from those of a son.

The central tenet of Hinduism is that every person needs to carry out each of his different duties in different capacities, in different spheres of life and family. Almost all the rest of its facets revolve around it and serve to solve the various mysteries of life and solve the different dilemmas of decision making that each one of us is faced every day.

The Concept of God in Hinduism

The concept of God in Hinduism or Sanatan Dharma is more an indication and admission of our ignorance rather than any pretension of completely knowing god. The most important feature is the existence of different schools of philosophical thoughts, all of which are equally revered and respected, even though some of them are exactly opposite – an admirable tolerance to differing views that was often absent even in the field of scientific thought till the last century.

One school of philosophy considers God as omnipresent, and a part of everything. Thus the God as a creator is not different from its creation. In this philosophy (Advaitavad), the universe is a part of God, and so is everything that exists, though each of these things and beings is not god. Then every human soul (atma) has a temporary existence, and its ultimate fate is to get united with the rest, i.e. god (parmatma), a process called 'moksha' or 'nirvana'. Another somewhat different school of thought (vishishta advaitavad) perceives the creator as separate from the creation, but after Nirvana, the creation (human soul) merges with the god.

The almighty master of universe in ancient Indian philosophy is too vast and complex, far beyond the imagination and comprehension of human beings. However, for the ordinary folk, there is also a need to feel and sense it in forms they can perceive. A devotee thus uses a form of god, perceived or imagined by him as divine, to concentrate his devotion to the almighty. Thus, as many many forms of worship....of the same almighty that prevails everywhere. Sometimes it is a god, other times goddess, a reminder that gender has nothing to do with divinity. That who is present everywhere can be present anywhere, and so even animals and trees can become the reflection of his presence to his devotees.

Thus, Hindu worship the Lord in innumerable forms, while being aware that every such form is but a reflection of that incomprehensible force that rules the universe, or maybe is the universe itself. Each of these forms that are worshipped are deities, which tend to take various forms of nature or human. One can worship several deities at the same time, without any conflict since like nature, they all exist in harmony. What matters really is not the form that is worshipped but the substance, and not the deity, but the devotee and her devotion. It is faith that makes the world go round!

The Concept of Avatar or Incarnation

The ancient Indian philosophers believed that the God will and does come to mankind in times of need, to guide them, to help them and to destroy the evil. So arose the concept of AVATAR or INCARNATION, where the Lord himself took birth as a human, lived the whole life like any other

human, and during his lifetime did whatever was required to let the good defeat the evil, and to ensure that truth and fairness prevails. Thus in Hinduism, God is worshiped in many human forms, in which he is believed to have taken incarnations. The unique thing is that even these perceived human forms, are gender neutral. The male and female are supposed to be complimentary halves, and both are worshiped.

The Concept of Dharma : Gyan, Karma & Bhakti

The ancient Indian philosophers called MUNI elaborated three ways for self-actualization. These are GYAN, path of knowledge, KARMA, the path of action and BHAKTI.

In ancient Indian tradition, there are three paths that lead to self realization. First is the path of GYANA or knowledge, which means understanding the concepts of universe, life and god. The second is the path of KARMA or actions to perform the duties assigned to you by society with extreme sincerity and religious dedication; and the third path is BHAKTI or devotion, in which the individual devotes all his attention and submerges his identity to the almighty god in one or the other form. The form could be 'saakar' or in the human like form, or it could be 'niraakar' or formless, but the individual loses his own ego in worshipping that form and almost attains a merger with it.

The Hindu Rituals

Among these paths, most people follow a combination of 'Karma' and 'Bhakti', thereby concentrating on whatever duties are assigned to them, and regularly spending some time for devotion to the Lord. Hindu PUJA (worship) is actually just that expression of devotion, wherein the devotee indulges in certain actions depending upon the traditions followed by his ancestors, neighbors and other people of that region, but the sole aim of which is to express his or her devotion to the Lord. These rituals change from place to place but have certain commonalities.

First and the most common part of all puja rituals is prayer or AARTI- a prayer describing the magnificence of the Lord along with a request to keep us under his shelter, bless us with his compassion and show us the right path in life. These prayers are the primary feature of every puja. Other rituals that are near universal include TILAK or placing the red powder on the forehead of the idol or the photograph of the Lord or the Goddess, depending upon whichever form you prefer to remember him.

Often people think that there are many gods and goddesses in Hindu religion, but actually they are all forms of the almighty, which may appear in male or female form. They are many legends and large volumes of mythology that are associated with each form, but in the end they are all forms of the single almighty power, and in fact some sections also prefer to worship the same almighty god as a formless entity, without having any conflict otherwise with other followers who prefer to offer their prayers to different forms of the same Lord.

The prayers are sometimes associated with music, and some sections of devotees also express their emotions in the form of bowing or prostrating before the Lord's idol. Some even dance with devotion, feeling the proximity of his presence while others with close eyes just seem to have entered into a trans, almost as if away from this world.

Faith in these rituals have carried them now for several thousand years. Sometimes, they also tend to take precedence over the real essence of dharma and puja, yet they play a very important role in ensuring the survival of faith of the vast masses that follow them in spite of the difficulties that life confronts them with. Faith in god helps men and women to leave their fate in the hands of an all powerful force that they trust and which is good and fair and benevolent. Even in the worst of adversities this faith helps them survive, and Hindu puja and rituals are a very important means of sustaining it.

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