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The One/Brahman/God/Goddess
Permeates all things, including the
atman (soul)
Knowledge of the One as means to
moksha (liberation)
Shankara (788-820)
Two levels of knowledge of Brahman
Nirguna Brahman (without qualities)
Saguna Brahman (with qualities)
Shankara’s teaching about maya (illusion):
If one knows saguna Brahman, the
world is real
If one knows nirguna Brahman, one
recognises that the world is an
illusory projection upon nirguna
Others maintaining distinction between self
and Brahman
Others advocating for own deities, e.g. Vishnu,
Shiva, Mahadevi/Devi (incl. Kali, Shakti,
Varied approaches to divine
The human position:
Tension between dharma (cosmic order)
and quest for moksha (liberation)
from samsara (cycle of death/rebirth)
Law of karma affecting individual
dharma from life to life
The problem of ignorance
Paths of transformation:
Path of Knowledge (jñana-marga, incl.
jñana yoga and raja yoga, Smith
29-32, 41-50)
Path of Work (karma-marga, incl.
karma yoga, Smith 37-41)
Path of Devotion (bhakti-marga, incl.
bhakti yoga, Smith 32-36)
Puja: worship of deity in temple
or home
Pregnancy: “Parting of the hair”
Naming ritual about 10 days after birth
First haircut at about 3 years old, leaving
sacred tuft
Initiation for upper-caste boys (c. 8-12),
also puberty-initiation rites for girls
in some traditions
Hindu weddings
Usually arranged, but not forced
At bride’s house
Ceremonies including:
Seizing the bride’s hand
Bride placing foot on grindstone
Knotting garments together
Seven steps around fire
Groom touching bride over heart, putting
cosmetic on forehead
Observing Pole Star
Hindu funerals
Preparing the body
Taking the remains to River Ganges
Later rituals
Hindu dietary laws
Often vegetarian
Sacred cows
Virtue of ahimsa (non-violence), e.g. Gandhi
Samnyasin (renouncer)
Renouncing possessions, caste, friends,
Quest for moksha (liberation)