Basic Facts of Hinduism
Date Founded: 1500 BC est.
Sacred Texts: Vedas, Upanishads, Sutras
Spiritual Leader: Guru or sage
Place of Worship: Temple or home
Key Dates in Hinduism
1200-900 BCE: Earliest Vedas found
800-300 BCE: 11 major Upanishads are written
320-500 AD: Gupta Empire
500-650 AD: Gupta Empire breaks into 7 kingdoms
1600-1800 AD: Hindu Renaissance
1720: Fall of Mughal Empire, British take power
1915 AD: Gandhi joins the nationalist movement
1948 AD: Gandhi is assassinated
Symbols of Hinduism
Sacred Cow: found in the Vedas as Devi (goddess) and Aditi (mother of the gods)
Tilak: Form of bindi for men, a blessing
Pratik and swastika: the social service (upward triangle external actions social service; downward triangle internal actions like meditation; rising sun spiritual progress; swastika fulfillment)
Lotus: symbol of beauty and non-attachment, grows out of mud and floats above the water and mud (release)
Yantra: symbol of the universe
Trisula: Shiva’s three aspects of creator, preserver, and destroyer/will, power, wisdom
Bindi: Married woman, female energy
Um: Hindu sacred sound, essence of the universe, chanted in 3’s; 3 worlds (earth, atmosphere, heaven) 3 gods (Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva), 3 scriptures (Rig, Yajur, Sama)
The ultimate goal of Hinduism is to be release from the cycle of rebirth. This is called Moksha. While some may believe it would be wonderful to go through new lives, it is really considered a horrible fate. Moksha will place a soul into a state of Nirvana. The achievement of nirvana will place a soul at the center of it all along with the Brahma. Brahma is a shapeless, sexless spirit/being. Souls are judged by the law of karma. No good deed or evil deed goes un-noticed. The behavior of the person will determine where their soul will land in their next rebirth which is called Samsara.
The cycle of rebirth is the reason why the caste system of India is difficult to eliminate. It is their belief that Brahma and the karma of a soul placed a person in the situation they are in. Hindus believe to interfere with their own soul, will interfere with their rebirth. Breaking the cycle can be done by choosing one of three paths
Essentially there are 10 commitments to living a good life to help achieve Moksha:
1. Do no Harm
2. Do not Lie
3. Do not steal
4. Do not overindulge
5. Do not be greedy
6. Be Clean
7. Be Content
8. Be Self-disciplined
10. Surrender to God
The Path of Action: A person dedicates themselves to living a life of total selflessness.
The Path of Prayer: A person chooses a god or goddess of the Hindu universe and dedicates their lives praying and emulating this god or goddess
The Path of Knowledge: A person chooses to abandon active society and tries to understand and solve the mysteries of the world and universe (Brahman) on their own.
The most holy of places in the Hindu religion is the river Ganges. It is there that rebirth occurs. It is important for Hindus to bathe and to visit the Ganges. Upon death a Hindu is to be cremated and if possible, to have the ashes placed in the Ganges. If too far away from the Ganges, any river will be okay.