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Religious Traditions:
Hinduism &
Basic Hindu Beliefs
 Hinduism is the chief religion of India.
 Hinduism: no founder or formal church
 Its roots lie in ancient Aryan beliefs and practices.
 Sacred texts: the Vedas (eternal truths revealed to
wise men) and the Upanishads (help explain ideas
in Vedas)
 The Ramayana and the Mahabharata
 Polytheistic
 Each god is part of a single supreme force called brahman.
(nameless, formless, and unlimited)
Many gods of Hinduism give brahman a concrete form that
is more understandable to the average person.
Three main gods of Hinduism: Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva
Brahma: the creator, Vishnu: the preserver, and Siva, the
Throughout India, different sects, or religious groups,
worship one or another of these gods or their many wives
and children.
Hindu Beliefs
 Unity of all life
 Every person has an essential self, or atman. This self is
part of a universal soul, also called atman. To Hindus,
atman and brahman are the same thing.
All things in nature are part of the same universal soul
Nonviolence; Respect nature and not struggle against it
Reincarnation: Rebirth of the soul in various forms ranging
from a god to a flower or a snake (temporary)
Moksha –the true goal of life; freeing of the sould from the
body so that the sould can unite with brahman
 Karma means “to do” in Sanskrit
 Hindus—cycle of death and rebirth continues until the
individual soul achieves union with brahman
 Law of karma—every deed—mental or physical—in this
life affects a person’s fate in a future life.
 A person’s present situation is the result of his or her deeds
in a past existence.
 Good—happiness and evil—sorrow
 Most Hindus believe that a person’s caste is the
result of karma.
 Each caste has its own dharma: duties and
obligations. Some examples: obedience to caste
rules and moral laws
 Guide to conduct
 Offers Hindus hope for a better life in the future
 600 B.C. the Brahman caste had become very powerful
 Some Hindu reformers tried to limit the priests’ power;
Siddhartha Gautama
 He left his family and his life of wealth to find the cause of
human misery (meditated and became enlightened)
 Buddha “Enlightened One”
 Spent life teaching others what he learned under that
sacred tree: the Four Noble Truths
The Four Noble Truths
 1. Universal suffering
 2. The cause of suffering is desire.
 3. The only way to end suffering is to crush desire.
 4. The way to end desire is to follow the Noble Eightfold
Path. (guide to right conduct)
 Buddha believed that salvation was achieved (like Hindus)
when the individual escaped the body; reincarnation,
 Buddha denied the existence of any gods; priests were not
necessary; people were to seek nirvana on their own; also
rejected the caste system
Sources: World Cultures: A Global Mosaic Prentice Hall 1993.