Hinduism refers to prolific, polytheistic
expressions, symbols and celebrations
common in India, the home to four “world religions:” Hinduism, Buddhism,
Jainism and Sikhism. Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam
were imports to Indian culture. Islam arrived with invading Arab armies. There
is no simple formula for India– it is a vast and prolific collection of different peoples, different
languages, and different religions-- a pluralistic, multilingual and multiethnic
society. India has long had a caste system that still keeps people in the lower
castes, locked into poverty. A country of extremes living in close proximity,
conflicts are as abundant in as celebrations.
Colorful costumes, dancing, drumming and
singing in the street are normal in Hindu India. A variety of gods and goddesses
express local inflections of Hindu beliefs. One could argue that every village
has its own version of the Hindu religion. Indeed
the idea that there was one Hindu religion was an inappropriate invention of the
British during their 19th-century occupation and rule of India.
The notion that "Hinduism" was a discrete world religion was popularized
by 19th-century missionaries and English- European Indologists. During the
British occupation of India the separation of a majority Hindu population and a
minority Muslim group became the basis of conflicts, mass migration and the
formation of Pakistan, a new Muslim country. Hinduism eventually transcended
national boundaries and became a world religion alongside Christianity,
Islam and Buddhism. Hindu teachers
emphasized social justice, peace and the spiritual transformation of humanity.
They teach yoga and meditation.
shared Hindu and
Buddhist concepts are:
- Dharma the
lawful path of self development that
includes precepts, ethics and duties.
- Samsāra, the impermanent world of
suffering, birth, life, sickness,
death and rebirth.
- Karma the meshwork of causes and
- Moksha, the liberation from
suffering in samsara.
- Yogas, paths and practices required for self-discipline, health and
self development. Meditations and yogas are different aspects
of the practices required to study and tame a wild mind.
The major Gods assembled under the title
of Hinduism are Indra,
Vishnu, Brahman, Shiva and Shakti. In the
Trimurti version of Hinduism, three gods interact: Brahma is the creator, Vishnu
is the maintainer or preserver and Shiva is the destroyer or transformer. The Shaivism traditions view Shiva as the supreme deity. Shakti refers
both to a goddess and a more abstract idea of feminine energy. She may be called
'The Divine Mother'. In some towns and villages, Shakti is worshiped as the
A more metaphysical version views Shakti as the female power of
male deities such as Vishnu or Shiva. Vishnu's Shakti counterpart is Lakshmi. Parvati is the female Shakti of Shiva. Shakti takes the form of Parvati, whom Shiva lectures in the
Tantras. At other places, Kali, the goddess of time, destruction and death, receives Shiva’s attention and praise.
Kali is portrayed as a terrifying creature with either four or ten arms holding
swords and accompanied by serpents. Some Indians worship Kali as
a loving goddess, the Supreme Mother of the Universe. Offerings to Kali provide protection
is another of the malleable Indian Gods
who evolved through many forms. Krishna first appears in the Chandogya Upanishad
as a man. Later Krishna is presented as an incarnation of
Vishnu. In the Indian epic, the Mahabharata, Krishna is linked to another god, Vasudeva, to Vishnu and
eventually, for some Hindus, he became the Supreme God. Krishna was born 3000
years ago, enjoyed a pastoral childhood and youth, and an emerged as a heroic
warrior and teacher. In the Bhagavad Gita warrior Krishna teaches Arjuna on a
battlefield just prior to the start of fighting.
In the Gita, Krishna claims that he is God. He is antecedent to Jesus who made a