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What do Hindus believe?
1.) Brahman - the eternal being created and preserves the world. Everything in the
world is an aspect of Brahman.
2.) Atman - the soul – each person has one that is an aspect of Brahman. Can
not ever be destroyed.
3.) Devas – manifestations of Brahman that are active in the world and who help
to maintain order.
4.) Three of the most common Devas - Brahma, Vishnu, & Siva.
5.) Reincarnation – being reborn into this world lifetime after lifetime (Samsara).
6.) Karma – the sum effect of a person’s actions, good and bad, which helps shape future
7.) Moksha - goal of human existence, escape from the cycle of reincarnation to join with the
8.) Dharma – set of spiritual duties and obligations that must be fulfilled to achieve moksha.
Hinduism castes:
Hindu society was divided into four castes, or classes, of people:
1.) The highest class, the Brahmins (priests), were concerned with assisting people with worship,
called puja, and with remembering and passing on the sacred texts. The intellectual and spiritual
leaders. (In our society, they would correspond to the philosophers, religious leaders, and
2.) The second caste, the Kshatriyas, - (pronounced "kshot - ree - yahs") was made up of soldiers
and nobles. The born administrators (formerly nobles, rajahs, and warriors). The protectors of
society. (In our society, the politicians, police, and the military.)
3.) The third caste, the Vaishyas, (pronounced "vy - sy - us") was made up of farmers, merchants,
and craftspeople. They are producers, the craftsmen, artisans, and farmers. The skillful producers
of material things. (In our society, the merchants.)
4.) The fourth caste, the Shudras, pronounced "shoo - drrahs“ was made up of servants and
laborers. The unskilled laborers or laboring class. The so-called menial workers or hard laborers.
5.) A fifth caste, sometimes called the untouchables, consisted of people outside all the other
castes, who did the dirtiest jobs.
Basically, Hindus believed that people were born into a certain caste because of their karma from their
past life, and they remained a member of that caste their whole life, and did not associate with members
of other castes.
Hindu Sacred Texts
A set of sayings and teachings, called the Vedas, were said to have been inspired by Brahma and were
passed down by word of mouth from one generation to the next. Eventually, these were written down.
They still play an important part in Hindu life today. They contain hymns and chants to be used in
worship and instructions for rituals and priestly duties.
Between the seventh and fifth centuries B.C.E., another set of teachings, the Upanishads, were
composed by the forest hermits. The term 'Upanishad' literally means, "sitting down near" or "sitting close
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to", and implies listening closely to the mystic doctrines of a guru or a spiritual teacher, who has cognized
the fundamental truths of the universe.
The Upanishads form the core of Indian philosophy. They are an amazing collection of writings from
original oral transmissions, which have been aptly described by Shri Aurobindoas "the supreme work of
the Indian mind".
It is here that we find all the fundamental teachings that are central to Hinduism the concepts of:
 'karma' (action), 'samsara' (reincarnation),
 'moksha' (nirvana), the 'atman' (soul),
 and the 'Brahman' (Absolute Almighty).
They also set forth the prime Vedic doctrines of self-realization, yoga and meditation.
These took the form of dialogues between a student and a teacher, and highlighted some of the main
Hindu beliefs. These were also handed down by word of mouth, eventually written down, and are an
important part of Hindu literature today.
Another set of teachings, the Puranas, also developed around this time. These contain knowledge
revealed by Brahman.
1.) The oldest, most authoritative text is The Vedas (“truth”). It written in four parts. First received in
the form of oral histories. It contains the sacred hymns of praise.
2.) Upanishads (400 B.C.E.) – Focus on the meditation and the religious instruction with a guru. It is
a philosophical reflections on the Vedas.)
The Great Indian Epics (composed by sages). Tell stories that reflect on what it means to live
according to Vedic teachings.
 Ramayana
 Mahabharata (includes Bhagavad- Gita).
 The Bhagavad Gītā (400 BCE) – Is perhaps the most famous, and definitely the most
widely-read text of ancient India.
The two great epic poems, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, are probably
the world.
the longest poems in
The Mahabharata has over ninety thousand verses and tells about a civil war between two families. It
contains a section called the Bhagavad Gita, which tells popular stories about the god Krishna. The
Ramayana tells of the exploits of the god Rama.
The eighteen Puranas are stories about the gods and goddesses, famous heroes, the beginning and
end of the world, and the history of humankind.
All of these varied writings are included in the Hindu sacred texts. These religious texts that are part of
the Vedas, contain narratives about the history of the Universe from creation to destruction and the
genealogies of kings, heroes, sages, and demigods. These were popular stories of the lives of the gods
and goddesses. They were easy to understand, and captured the imaginations of the people.
There is not a set creed or system of beliefs which one must adhere to in order to be a Hindu. Most
people of Hindu ancestry consider themselves to be Hindu and follow Hindu practices and rituals to
some extent. Hindus do not actively attempt to convert non-Hindus to their religion, but some people,
especially in the United States, have chosen to study Hinduism and have even become Hindu teachers,
or gurus.
Even though it is not required, most Hindus do share a common set of beliefs. Hindus believe that
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when people die, they come back to earth again in a process called reincarnation. A person's good or
bad behavior, called karma, during their lifetime influences their status in their next life. As a reward for
good behavior, they might be reborn into a higher caste. As a punishment for bad behavior, they could
be reborn as an animal.
This cycle of birth, death, and rebirth is called samsara.
This cycle finally ends when a person achieves moksha, the final stage of purity attained by repeated
good deeds.
Vary greatly because worship can take place anywhere - usually at a temple or in the home.
Spiritual leaders are called gurus or sages.
Yoga -integrated physical and mental exercises. They teach people to focus their minds and
bodies which will aid their meditation in order to attain moksha.
Pilgrimage to Ganges (thought it flows through two (2), Devas so its water is holy. Bathing in it will
purify them and remove bad karma.
Ultimate goal of life – to release Atman and reunite with the divine, becoming as one with
Brahman (Moksha).
Hindus are polytheistic.
Many Hindus believe in many deities (gods).
Most Hindus believe that there is one creator-god, Brahma, who is represented by thousands of other
gods and goddesses.
The three most popular are Brahma himself, Vishnu, the preserver, and Shiva, the destroyer. Vishnu is
believed to appear in ten forms, or avatars.
Shiva, a god of opposites, is believed to be responsible for destroying creation, but also for re-creating it.
Shiva’s wife takes many forms, including the gentle Parvati, the warrior Durga, or the fierce Kali.
Other popular gods include Krishna and Rama, who are different forms of Vishnu.
Both of them have had many interesting stories told about their
lives. Today, their stories are
passed on through popular media such as comic books and television shows.
Brahma - The Creator
Siva - The Destroyer
Vishnu - The Preserver
There is one big God. The Vedas depict Brahman as the Universal Soul.
 Brahma is the Hindu God of Creation
 Brahma is traditionally depicted with four heads and four faces and four arms.
 Shiva is the Destroyer
o Even though he represents destruction, Shiva is viewed as a positive force.
o Shiva is the supreme God in Shaivism.
Vishnu is the Preserver, he is most famously identified with his human and animal incarnations
(AKA, avatars). For Vaishnavas, he is the Ultimate Reality or God, The Brahman. Vishnu manifested Himself as a living being in ten avatars. They are (in order of avatar):
1.) Fish, Turtle, Pig/Boar, Lion man / from the torso upwards as a lion; below as human.
2.) First fully human form as a dwarf sage who has the ability to grow very, very tall.
3.) Fierce man/ Hunter, Greatest Warrior/ Ideal man, Mentally advanced man.
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4.) Sage who is completely still: (Prophesied what was, yet, to take place.
5.) Kali is the goddess of destruction. Kali wears a necklace made from men's skulls.
6.) Ganesha is one of the most well-known and venerated representations of God. Ganesha - The
Lord of Good Fortune.
After this top tier of gods, there is a virtually endless list of second-string deities.
All of these deities are but different Aspects of the impersonal Brahman
As Hinduism is the oldest surviving religion of the world, it has more numbers of symbols than other
religions. No religion is so filled with symbols as Hinduism. All Hindus are touched by symbols all through
the life in some way or the other. Each symbol has a different meaning and is used for different purpose.
Some Gods and goddesses are represented in pictures and in statues or sculptures.
They are often shown to have many faces or arms, indicating their special qualities. For example,
Brahma has four faces to show that he rules over the four points of the compass, and has four arms in
which he holds the sacred books and the beads and flask of a holy man.
Each god or goddess has a particular kind of animal to ride on.
 Brahma rides on a goose.
 Vishnu usually rides on an eagle or a snake.
 Shiva rides on a bull named Nandi.
Om - is the most sacred of all sounds.
 It is made up of three Sanskrit letters, aa, au and ma.
 OM represents Brahman, the Almighty.
It is said that, “Om was the sound heard during the time of the creation of
the universe.”
It occurs in every prayer. Invocation to most deities begins with it. As the Cross is to Christians,
Om is to Hindus. Om is often found on pendants, rings, and enshrined in every Hindu temple.
The flower of lotus represents culture politeness. The lotus is associated with several
Hindu deities. Hindu gods and goddesses are typically depicted with lotuses. They sit on
lotus flower, they hold lotus, and sometimes they emerge from lotus. Krishna is described
as the "Lotus-Eyed One," referring to his divine beauty. Brahma and Lakshmi, are often
seen with the lotus symbol. Other deities associated with the lotus include Vishnu and
Swastika is the second most important Hindu symbol.
The term 'Swastika' is believed to be a fusion of the two Sanskrit words 'Su' (good) and
'Asati' (to exist), which when combined means 'May Good Prevail’. Swastika is an ancient
Hindu symbol that denotes well-being and auspiciousness. It means "Everything is Good."
The auspicious symbol of the swastika is very commonly used in Hindu art, architecture
and decoration. It is usually a major part of the decoration for festivals and special
ceremonies like weddings.
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Trishul (English: Trident), the tri headed spear is one of the most popular symbols
associated with Lord Shiva and Goddess Durga. The Trishul symbolizes the balance of the
three forces of preservation, creation and destruction. It also represents the three aspects of
consciousness - cognition, conation and affection.
Tilak is also known as tika or tilaka. The Tilak is a vertical line made with Kumkum (Red
lead) between the eyebrows on the forehead. It can be worn daily or only on religious
occasion in some customs. Tilak marks are applied by hand or with a metal stamp. Tilak is
usually made from red lead but can be made form a range of material such as ash from a
sacrificial fire, sandalwood paste, turmeric, cow dung, clay, or charcoal. The man wears the
tilak in different lines depending on the custom of is religious affiliation.
Saivites (followers of Shiva) wear a tilak of three horizontal lines across the forehead, with
or without a red dot. Among Vaishnavites (followers of Vishnu), the Many tilak variations
usually include two or more vertical lines resembling the letter U, which symbolizes the foot
of Vishnu.
Apart from the spiritual symbolism, the tilak has a cooling effect on the forehead and a real medicinal
significance. Sandalwood paste has great medicinal value.
Hinduism Review and Comparison To Christianity
– No one founder.
o Evolved as a mix of religious influences in India, around 1800 - 1000 BC.
Main types:
o Vaishnavism
o Shaivism
o Shaktism.
– Many writings, including:
o The Upanishads
o The Vedas (oldest, about 1000 BC)
o The Bhagavad-Gita.
– God is “The Absolute,” a universal spirit.
– Everyone is part of God (Brahman), but most people are not aware of it.
– People worship manifestations of Brahman (gods and goddesses).
– Jesus Christ is considered a teacher, a guru, or an avatar (incarnation of Vishnu).
– He is a son of God as are others.
– His death does not atone for sins and he did not rise from the dead.
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– The Holy Spirit is not part of the Hindu belief.
– Release from the cycles of reincarnation is achieved through yoga and
– This release requires spiritual evolution through many lifetimes.
– Final salvation is absorption or union with Brahman, like a raindrop
falling into the ocean.
Reincarnation into a better status (by means of good karma) if a person
has behaved well.
– A person who has lived badly can be reborn and pay for past sins (bad karma) by suffering.
– Many Hindus worship stone and wooden
– Idols in temples, homes.
– Disciples meditate on a word, phrase, or picture; may wear orange robes
and have shaved heads.
– Many use a mark, called a tilak, on the forehead to represent the spiritual
“third eye.”
– Yoga involves meditation, chanting, breathing exercises.
– Some gurus demand complete obedience.
– Hinduism is the foundation of New Age and Transcendental Meditation.
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