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the common essence in all
“Like all water droplets are
from the ocean and will
return to the ocean – so
are all things from
Brahman and will return
to Brahman.”
Brahman can only be
described by what it is
not. (*Why do you think
this is?)
Neti, neti “not this, not that”
– the Upanishads.
One can discover Brahman
by discovering the
ultimate reality in oneself
– which is called Atman.
(The best way in the west to
understand Atman is to
think of the soul.)
Brahman is Atman, and
Atman is Brahman.
One can experience Brahman by:
• Contemplating the universe
• Contemplating the inner self :– the Atman.
Polytheism – Points of contact
Human beings need points of
contact with the divine.
What are our ‘points of
One reality, many
Gods and goddesses are
seen as the various
masks of GOD, the
ways that people can
experience the divine.
…many oceans and
seas, one large body
of water….
Traditionally the
number is 330
million – but
all are masks
of the one
GOD – of the
People are free to worship which gods
they please.
This plethora of gods
reflects the
diversity of human
*Do you see a theme
arising in the Hindu
Hinduism does not
dwell much on the
why of creation.
Hinduism sees creation
not in a linear way (as
in the West) but
The nature of the universe:
a cycle of birth, destruction, and rebirth.
This is a rhythmic
pattern that repeats
itself over and over.
The universe is created by the God
• Brahma.
It is kept in existence by
• Vishnu,
and destroyed by
All three gods
are necessary
for the cycle of existence –
even Shiva who
prepares the way for
new life to come.
This pattern plays itself out in human life.
Humans are born again and again until they can
escape the cycle and be reconnected with Brahman.
This wheel of
life is called
Two principles connect the cycle of
life with the divine:
• Karma
• Dharma
Karma literally means “action” or
Every action produces
an effect.
Karma is unaffiliated with any god.
It has nothing to do
with judgment of
people or gods,
but it is the natural
consequence of
an action.
It is like the law of
gravity –
*How is this different
from how we
sometimes view
Karma so permeates samsara
that one’s karma stays
with one from one life
to the next.
Only human beings can affect
Other life forms cannot
–-- so being human is
a great responsibility
and great privilege.
In theory, Karma is a wonderful
explanation for the things that
happen to a person in his or her life.
If one suffers, it is
because of
bad karma in a previous
If one thrives in this life,
it is because of
good karma.
doing one’s duty –
doing what your life
asks of you.
Dharma is a complete rule for life.
A particular person’s dharma is determined by
• gender,
• caste, and
• stage of life.
The caste system
seems to have
emerged during the
Aryan settlement
as a way of maintaining
social order.
All people were divided into
hereditary castes:
Brahmin –
Kshatriya –
Vaishya –
producers (farmers, merchants, artisans)
Shudraservants and laborers
An additional category of “outcast” exists for all
those who are deemed outside the social system.
This group includes the
“Untouchables” who
only recently began to
enjoy legal rights due
to the work of Gandhi.
He renamed them the
In 1948, he helped
pass legislation to
end discrimination of
the Harijan.
Karma determines
caste identity,
and caste identity
determines dharma.
One’s dharma is also determined
by your stage in life.
Hinduism sees four
stages to life:
Forest Dweller
Wandering Ascetic
These four stages mirror the four
goals of life:
Pleasure – Kama
Success – Artha
Duty – Dharma
Release or enlightenment – Moksha
Hinduism offers
three paths
to liberation.
This reflects
appreciation for the
diversity within
human nature.
1) Karma Marga
The Path of Works
This is the path of most people.
It means to do your
ethical duty.
Gandhi is the exemplar of this
“I am being led to my religion through
Truth and Non-Violence, i.e. love in
the broadest sense.
The bearing of this religion on social life
is, or has to be, seen in one’s daily
social contact. To be true to such
religion one has to lose oneself in
continuous and continuing service of
all life.
Hence for me, there is no escape from
social service; there is no happiness
on earth beyond or apart from it.”
The path of works succeeds when one
does right action and is able to not
identify oneself with the action.
(What does this really mean?
Why is it important for Hindus
to not ‘identify themselves’
with their actions?)
“Be intent on the action,
Not on the fruits of the action;
Avoid attraction to the fruits
And attachment to inaction.”
- Bhagavad-Gita 2:47
2) Jnana Marga
The Path of Knowledge
This path is intended for
those who do well
with philosophical
There are several schools of
thought within this path,
Including Vedanta and
Yoga. All emphasize
the basic task:
The attainment of
knowledge over the
ignorance that binds
the self to samsara.
Human beings can attain
awareness of the
fundamental illusion of existence-that I am an individual –
something separate
from Brahman, from
the entirety of
This illusion is
referred to as
a cosmic
• A system of Hindu
whereby people
seek ultimate
reality through
knowledge and selfdiscipline
Adi Shankara
Yoga refers to any sort
of spiritual practice.
Yoga is meant to strip
away the layers of
false self –
-- to free the eternal self
from the bondage of
3) Bhakti Marga
The Path of Devotion
Suited for those who
naturally favor
emotional attachment.
This is the practice of devotion to a deity.
There are many popular
deities in Hinduism.
Some are
Incarnations of other
Example: Krishna &
Rama are avatars of
Those following the path of Bhakti Marga
practice many rituals and devotions:
•Household rituals
•Shrines in the home
•Pilgrimages to holy places,
especially the Ganges
•Cow veneration
The cow represents all
of life.
Protection of the cow,
and veneration of
them, is a way of
caring for all creation.
“The cow to me means the entire
sub-human world. Man
through the cow is enjoined to
realize his identity with all that
lives… The cow is a poem of
pity. One reads pity in the
gentle animal. She is the
mother to millions of Indian
mankind. Protection of the cow
means protection of the whole
dumb creation of God.”
- Gandhi
Hinduism in the modern world
India is a secular
society, and the
intersection of
Hinduism and the
government of a
secular state can at
times be challenging.
Mohandas K. Gandhi
Reverently called
great souled
Gandhi was the first
modern person to
as a political strategy
and a way of life.
– "When I despair, I remember that all
through history the way of truth and love
has always won. There have been tyrants
and murderers and for a time they seem
invincible, but in the end, they always fall
— think of it, always.“
• "What difference does it make to the
dead, the orphans, and the homeless,
whether the mad destruction is
wrought under the name of
totalitarianism or the holy name of
liberty and democracy?“
• "An eye for an eye makes the whole
world blind.“
• "There are many causes that I am
prepared to die for but no causes that
I am prepared to kill for.“
Hinduism and Islam
India is the
fourth largest
Muslim nation.
The two faith traditions are
extremely different.
This difference was
seen in the dividing
of colonial India
into the two
countries of
India and Pakistan.
Relations between Muslims and
Hindus are still tense.
Hinduism outside India
Hinduism has not
had the missionary
impulse like
Christianity or
*Why do you think
this is?
However, Hindu wisdom has
spread to the west through:
• Yoga
• Transcendental meditation