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An Insight to the Hindu Religious Tradition

The Influence of the Sacred Texts to the Hindu Beliefs and Traditions plays a significant role in the Hindu tradition. This is manifested in the voluminous collection of scriptures that it is estimated to take “70 lifetime of devoted study to read. ” The scriptures is a constant reminder of the existence of Brahman. (Sharma, A. 2006) In contrast with other religions, the Hindus maintain four sacred literatures classified as the Sruti (what is heard) and Smurti (what is remembered). The Sruti are deeply religious things recorded by a seer as told to him.

The Vedas composed of religious writings included mantras (hymns of praises), Brahmans (sacrificial rituals and Upanishads (108 teachings). The Smriti includes the books of law, puranas consisting of myths, stories, legends and epics which has a set of holy myths including Ramayans and Mahabharata. (Wenner, Sarah. 2001) A portion of the Mahabharata, the Bhagavad-Gita, functions virtually as a text on its own in Hinduism. It is the Song of the Lord, an epic poem written in Sanskrit, consisting of 700 verses and divided into 18 chapters.

The Hindus treat the Bhagavad-Gita, a part of the Mahabharata, as their most important text and is the basis of their belief. The Epic is written in 700 verses and composed of a lengthy dialogue between the incarnate god Krishna and a human hero, Prince Arjuna on the eve of the Mahabharata war. The verse narrated of the desire of Arjuna “to engage in a war against friends and relatives since he felt it was his own duty as a warrior, to fight and kill”. Krishna explained to him the nature of the soul and the proper way to reach God.

The way in which Krishna guided Arjuna has endeared the text to the Hindus as a guide to their faith. (Dingier, Wendy, 2006) In this context, these traditions and beliefs of the Hindus are being reviewed to know its significance. Hinduism is described as the oldest religions tradition in South Asia characterized by belief in reincarnation, a large pantheon of gods and goddesses For the purpose of this study, the article touches only the early stages of the Hindu civilization and the Hindus mentioned here are those living in India who were neither Islam nor Christians who did not subscribe to the practices of Judaism.

Hinduism as defined is a blend of philosophies and scriptures, religious and cultural system which originated in the subcontinent of India. (Sharma, A. 2005) As the third largest religion in the world, some of the countries that practice Hinduism are found in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Africa, Mauritius, Fiji, Trinidad and Tobago, Surinam and Guyana (“who is a Hindu? ”, 2007) Hindu Traditions The teachings of Dharma traditions began in the 7th century. It is a tenet which is supposedly, a path to knowledge, correct action and moral order.

Other religious groups arose embracing also the Dharma and to make a differentiation, Sanatana Dharma began. This was done to set them apart from the others using dharma, Sanatana means “immemorial as well as eternal” to emphasize their continuity as dharmas. The Hindus strive for generality and completeness when the religious beliefs and practices are concerned. They try to make the wealth of its credo available for those who seek the truth and knowledge their principles motivate them to invite to study all areas that would lead to the realization of the divine, and at the same time provides a system for its achievement.

As to science, the experimentation and integration of new ideas to their tradition is a continuing process. They put more emphasis on the truth as gathered from direct experiences and are not bothered with the history of ideas. The distinctive characteristic of the Hindu tradition, as reviewed, is their openness to new ideas, teachings and practices as well as to their belief in universality, in contrast to other religions that follow their beliefs thru historical events, people and revelations.

(Sharma, Arvind. 2005) Beliefs of the Hindus The study of these beliefs showed that they also believe in the Divine Power, which is said to be the principal source of the universe, and that the gods and goddesses are only a personification of the Brahman. Brahman is only a term of endearment given by them. They also referred to many Brahmans and accepted the idea of a personified form of Hindu deity which corresponds to the three cycle of the universe.

First is the Brahman who is related to a creative spirit wherein the universe arises; second is the Brahman of Vishnu who answers to the order that maintains the universe and the third Brahman of the Shiva that brings the cycle of life to and end. As a form of worship, these Brahmans come in recognizable form, called Avatar, and the most popular avatars are Krishna and Ramayana, both an epic hero. “Described in Hindu texts as other avatars are fish (matsya) axe-wielding human (parashurama), ideal person (Rama), a beautiful person (Krishna), an enlightened (Buddha) and a future incarnation (Kalhi).

As a form of devotion, Hindus choose a personal deity, or a saguna form of Brahman with whom they can feel a direct personal connection”. (Sharma, Arvind, 2006) With reference to Hindu teachings, The Hindu points out that a human being is a part of the universe called the Atman. The Atman concept is a study of the innermost self that the body is in a constant change, while the mind, composed of thoughts and feelings, is always in a state of instability. They theorized that the body and mind is a part of the universe, and the mind is the true self.

They ascribe to the idea that the attainment of true happiness can only be achieved through the awareness of the self and the true relationship with Brahman an important principle stressed in Hindu teachings is that the chain of life extends from the past life and into the future, and that the point is not known. This chain of life to death and beyond is called Samsdra. An interesting law that covers Samsdra is the Law of Karma. According to this Law, the present condition in life of a person has a relation to his behavior in the previous life.

Knowledge of this law, in relation to the concept, would lead the person towards doing the correct choice in work, thoughts and deeds, and has no need for any commandments as compared to other religions. Pursuant to the concept of life and death, Hindu beliefs are categorized into four Brahmans: “first is the Kama that is concerned for the sensual and sexual pleasure, second, is the Artha for the pursuit of the well-being, wealth and power. Dharma is described as righteousness and virtue, while Moksha is the desire for liberation from the chain of lives.

Moksha is said to be an extraordinary goal, and only very few people seek for it, and has to be guided rightly by dharma”. (Wenner, Sarah. 2001). The study further covers another tradition that has been unified in Hinduism. This is the Jiva theory claiming that “personality has a strong influence on the goal an individual is seeking. The human being, according to their belief, has three bodies: the physical body, the body of thought and feelings which is the mind, and the causal body”. Hindus believe that the physical body decays upon death, while the causal body travels from one life to the next which is the rebirth.

Another tradition that has gained popularity and is maintained up to the present is the Yoga, an exercise that unites the person to the ultimate reality. Choices of Yoga depend on the personality and status in life. Yoga of action calls for someone with a selfless deed of action, while Bhaki yoga is appropriate for a sentimental one. The yoga of devotion needs unconditional love for personal divinity, and yoga of knowledge calls for spiritual and physical discipline in anticipation of his meeting with the ultimate reality.

The Hindus believe that all these four yogas could be maintained by a well balanced person (Sharma, Arvind. 2006) Yoga, today, is treated as a system of breathing exercises derived from the Hindu Yoga, however, no evidence of its relation to the former is found. In relation to the society, Hindu has classified the strata of society into four occupational groupings. “The first group (the Brahmans) belongs to the priests, teachers, scholars and others in the category of knowledge and spirituality.

Second, is the group of the kings, warriors, government bureaucrats, and others who have power. The third group are farmers, traders, merchants and other skilled workers, and lastly, the unskilled workers called the shards”. These groupings constitute the Varna system of hierarchy which was completed in the 4th century BC. The system identifies the different roles and responsibilities of each group within the society. Overtime, the British census formalized this system of grouping by introducing the caste system (“Who is Hindu? ”, 2007).

In addition to groupings, the study shows the four stages of life that has a sense of purpose in every stage. “First is the celibate life a student wherein he acquires the values of dharma and the preparation and training for his matured life. Second, is the stage of a householder, which is the time for marrying, working and raising a family. The third stage begins at 50, wherein one starts spiritual contemplation in preparation for the fourth stage of life. The fourth stage is the renunciation of the world to seek liberation in sublime isolation”. Religious Activities and Rituals

There are three religious categories of worship in Hinduism: the nitya, or daily actions; the naimittika, activities that are done for special occasions, and the kimya, voluntary actions of an individual done according to his personal convictions. These are done through rituals involving sacrificial fire (yajna,) (Puja) devotional offerings such as flower, and (dhyana) meditation. Yajnas are done on special occasions such as marriages, and housewarming wherein sacred substances are offered to the fire. Puja may be done in public or privately. (Sharman, Arvind, 2006)

Samskaras – Sacraments of the Hindus The insight review shows that the Hindus keep 16 sacraments in their lives; four are done between the births up the age of five. It is celebrated with simple ceremony at birth, followed by the naming ceremony, then the taking of the first solid food, and lastly, the first ritual shaving of the head. A child is given a sacred thread to wear while a mantra is chanted to his ear. During the early times, Hindus follow a tradition wherein the boy lives in the house of his teacher to study Veda, and upon completion he shaves his head and is ready for marriage.

In marriage, Hindu wedding ceremonies lasts for about one week. As part of the ceremony, a knot is tied to their clothes, then they” walk around a sacred fire seven times while saying their marriage vows”. The rituals for the dead starts at cremation and according to their belief, the ashes are deposited in a river to clear the pollution created by the dead.. In a Hindu’s death, a funeral sacrament called Antyeshti Samskara is initiated by the Brahmin “to enable the departed soul to leave the world and attain the status of an ancestor and not to remain a ghost and trouble the living.

” After ten days, rice balls are offered to help the spiritual body move on Other rituals are done to obtain personal favor like requests for a suitable life partner, conceiving a child, wealth, and to ward off negative elements. Religious worships are done in the household, in the shrine for a cluster of families, in the temples for public worship, and other sacred places and do not differ much from other religions’ way of worship.. (Sarah Wenner, 2001) eve of the Mahabharata war.

The verse narrated of the desire of Arjuna “to engage in a war against friends and relatives since he felt it was his own duty as a warrior, to fight and kill”. Krishna explained to him the nature of the soul and the proper way to reach God. The way in which Krishna guided Arjuna has endeared the text to the Hindus as a guide to their faith. (Dingier, Wendy, 2006) Significance ot the Texts to the Hindu’s belief The short verse from the Rig-Veda, verse 10:129 Creation Hymn (Nasadiva) cited below epitomizes the Hindu’s belief on ultimate reality, that is, the non existence or existence of the creator.

The verse raises curiosity, analyzing, and deep understanding and requires an in-depth search to give answers to the theories therein which is not covered by this study. “There was neither death nor immortality then. There was no distinguishing sign of night or of day. That one breathed, windless, by its own impulse. Other than that there was nothing beyond. Darkness was hidden by darkness in the beginning; with no distinguishing sign, all this was water. The life force that was covered with emptiness, that one arose through the power of heat. Desire came upon that one in the beginning; that was the first seed of mind.

Poets seeking in their heart with wisdom found the bond of existence in non-existence. Their cord was extended across. Was there below? Was there above? There were seed-placers; there were powers. There was impulse beneath; there was giving-forth above. Who really knows? Who will here proclaim it? Whence was it produced? Whence is this creation? The gods came afterwards, with the creation of this universe. Who then knows whence it has arisen? There was neither non-existence nor existence then; there was neither the realm of space nor the sky which is beyond. What stirred? Where? In whose protection?

Was there water, bottomlessly deep? ” (Doniguer, W. ) The text written in poetry form once more emphasizes the universe, emptiness, and nothingness and provoking questions that would stir the imaginations of anyone. It may or may not stir the belief, but this verse appropriately describes the concept of Hinduism which still prevails now.

References

Brown, Norman W. Historical Developments of Hinduism. Encyclopedia Americana. 1984 ed. Pp208-210. Doniguer, Wendy. Rig-Veda, Verse 10:129, edited. In [email protected] 2006. Redmond, W. Microsoft Corp. , 2005. Retrieved 0900, May 20, 2007 Doniguer, Wendy.Bhagavad-Gita. In [email protected] 2006 (CD), Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2005. Retrieved 0900, May 20, 2007 Hinduism, its beliefs and customs. American Museum of Natural History. Retrieved 0800 May 18, 2007 from http://www. ammh. org/exhibitions/meeting. god/info. /hinu/html Huyler, Stephen P. (Sept. 2001) Meeting God Elements of Hindu. American Museum of Natural History. Retrieved 1600 from http://www. amnh. org/exhibitions/meeting. god/into/index. html Sharma, Armand. Hinduism. In [email protected]@2006 (CD). Redmond, WA. Microsoft Corp. , 2005. Retrieved 0900May 19, 2007

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