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What makes up the Hindu religion?

No one knows how many religions exit in the world today, but among those religions, Hinduism is thought to be the oldest. It has a rich and varied history going back 5-6,000 years and characteristics that distinguish it from other religions. For example, it has no religious founder, it emphasizes a union with God, it depicts sex as a thing of beauty in its artwork rather than as forbidden fruit and it does not depict God as a superhuman being. Although some might view it as a religion with multiple gods and goddesses, Hinduism only has one central God known as Brahman (see below).

Hinduism is composed of a diverse mass of traditions and beliefs. What makes up the Hindu religion? The basic concepts of Hinduism have to do with the cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth or reincarnation. According to the Hindu belief, everyone is born, lives his/her life, dies and is eventually reborn into a new body, reincarnation. (Bhaskarananda, 1994) The Hindu concept of God is vague. They do not view God as a superhuman being and some claim that Hinduism is atheistic while others claim it to be polytheistic. Certainly, there are gods in Hinduism such as the Goddess Shiva.

Shiva is a confusing, perhaps contradictory God. The God of destruction, Shiva is a god of many forms who destroys worlds and bad habits, is self-controlled and celibate even though he makes love to his wives. Shiva is beyond death and associated with the Kundalini serpent of energy. (Flood, 1996) Shiva is the supreme God if one denomination of Hinduism. Vishnu is another Hindu God. Vishnu is the Supreme Being or the Ultimate Reality and a manifestation of the Brahman. Vishnu is the All-Pervading essence of all beings who supports, sustains and governs the Universe, the master of and beyond the past, present and future.

Vishnu preserves and maintains the universe and shares some roles with Shiva and with Brahma. Brahma is not the Supreme Cosmic Spirit known as Brahman. Brahman is the Supreme God of Hinduism, the impersonal God, the “Godhead” that is infinite, eternal, unchanging and transcendent. Brahman is in control of time, space, matter, energy and existence. (Harman, 2004) As you can readily see, at some point, many of these concepts overlap and become confusing. Although Hinduism has been viewed as being polytheistic and there are certainly many gods in the Hindu religion, Hinduism can also be seen as a monotheistic religion.

Brahman, which manifests itself in multiple forms, is the One Supreme God of Hinduism. In this respect, it even differs from Christianity which, although Christianity is a monotheistic religion, it often portrays God and the devil as if they were sufficiently close in power as to compete and do battle against one another. In Hinduism, there is no competing force against the Supreme God even though good and evil do collide. The Kundalini or “Kundalini Serpent” is a complex and varied idea in the Hindu religion.

The Kundalini serpent is associated with the chakras and nadis in the body. In general, the chakras and nadis are conduits of energy associated with the nervous system and the cardiovascular system. This energy moves up and down the nerve clusters of the spine, called ganglia, through the chakras during meditation. Therefore, the Kundalini Serpent, the chakras and nadis are channels for energy flow. The flowing energy is called prana. The entire system, though often simplified here, is actually quite complicated and difficult to explain adequately in a few pages.

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