Hinduism is a conglomeration of diverse beliefs and traditions and hence cannot be confined to any one system of belief and ideas. Nevertheless, the prominent themes include:
Dharma (ethics and duties)
Karma (right action)
Moksha (liberation from the cycle of Samsara)
Hinduism also encourages truth, honesty, non-violence, celibacy, cleanliness, contentment, prayers, austerity, perseverance, penance, and pious company.
The essence of the Hindu vision of reality lies in the relation between dharma (social duty or righteousness) and moksha (release from the material world, final liberation from the endless cycles of rebirth). Both these perspectives, the world-supporting and the world-denying, are necessary to fulfill human destiny.
Hinduism is a way of life, a Dharma, that is, the law that governs all action. It has its own beliefs, traditions, advanced system of ethics, meaningful rituals, philosophy and theology. The religious tradition of Hinduism is responsible for the creation of such concepts and practices as Yoga, Ayurveda, Vastu, Jyotish, Yajna, Puja, Tantra, Vedanta, Karma, etc.
Hundreds of millions of people continue to believe in the multitudes of gods which inhabit the Hindu pantheon. This tapestry of religion is the result of millennia of integration. The Indian sub-continent has been a crossroad for several cultures, and the Indian people have incorporated numerous ideas from different faiths.
Though there are some core beliefs common to virtually all Hindus, there really is no Hindu orthodoxy- no hard and fast dogma that all Hindus must believe. Its actually a family of gradually developing beliefs and practices.
1. Who is Hindu? Anybody who practices a little of and believes in the above listed tenets of Hinduism is a Hindu. There is no baptism, no fixed gods, and going to the temple is not compulsory.
2. Idol Worship: Hinduism does not promote idol worship. To the contrary, Hinduism urges to transcend all physical aids to worship, in our spiritual progress. Realizing that it is impossible for the mortal human to visualize the Infinite and instead of sustaining false hopes of such achievements, the religion urges us to slowly and steadily continue our progress in pursuit of the Truth. For such steady progress, it asks to start with physical aids such as temples and idols, and through practice and devotion, ultimately succeed in visualizing God without the aid of temples and idols.
3. Habits : There are no specifically laid out rules constricting a persons eating/drinking habits, or clothing style or anything like that. In fact, Hinduism deals with concepts on a much higher platform, where such things are insignificant. It deals with the spiritual aspects of trying to understand God and to approach Him through many varied means (principal of which is love). As natural fallout, it also shows how to lead a meaningful life full of bliss, peace and love.
4. Conversion : Since Hinduism is a way of life, there is no formal conversion process. In fact, there is no fixed name for Hinduism; some call it Sanatana Dharma, some call it just Dharma, some call it Bhagawat Dharma, etc. There was no name Hindu in old scriptures but later invaders of India named people here as Hindu because they used to live on the banks of the river Sindhu.
5. Unity : This feature of Hindu religion has been unique. Some call the religion broadminded because Hindus believe in Vasudhev Kutumbakam, meaning that all the worlds people are one family.
6. Rituals or superstitions : Hinduism runs on value education and some rituals. These rituals are added from time to time and changeable. But these rituals convey a lot of meaning when deeply thought and understood. They are not compulsory for Hinduism; some follow, some dont.
7. Criticism : Another feature of Hinduism is there is no blasphemy clause; you may criticize openly some features you dont like and may not follow or change them still you will be a good Hindu. I think its democracy like.
8. Food : Though many Hindus are vegetarian, still many Hindus are not. The rationale behind a vegetarian diet is to promote a physically, mentally and spiritually healthy lifestyle. However, there are no rigid rules concerning vegetarianism.
9. Caste System : The caste system, originally described in the Vedas, but much abused and maligned over the years, is nothing but a representation of an efficient human society. The four castes described in the scriptures are - the Brahmins, the Kshatriyas, the Vaishyas, and the Shudras. According to the Vedas, an efficient human society is based on the strength of its educational/knowledge-pursuit system (Brahmin), its military and defense system (Kshatriya), its economical and business system (Vaishya), and a strong, happy, productive workforce (Shudras).
10. Hindu Women : The role of women in Hinduism is often misunderstood. In Vedic times women and men were equal as far as education and religion was concerned. In ancient India, women occupied a very important position, in fact in some ways, a superior position to men. It is a culture whose only words for strength and power are feminine -Shakti means power and strength. All male power comes from the feminine.
There are many stories and media attention about Child Marriage, Dowry, Bride-Burning, and Property matters for equality, mass Wife-Burning (Jauhar), Widow-Burning (Sati). Due to Islamic conquest, political instability, poor economic conditions and foreign invasion further made womens freedom impossible. Hence, society became more protective about the women community, education, power, name and fame; also they linked these issues with caste status. Such situations ceased women rights. But after Indias freedom, the law again restored and protected womens rights.
In summary, Hinduism differs from other organized religions in the following aspects:
It is not based upon one particular founder.
It is not based upon one particular book.
It is not controlled by a central institution or authority such as a church or an association.
It is not averse to examine and assimilate fundamentally diverse thoughts and beliefs into its system.
It accepts other religions as various paths to salvation and does not favor organized attempts to convert people.
It has been evolving continuously, through internal reforms and as a reaction to the threats and challenges.
Hinduism is a way of life, more than a religion
An attitude of understanding and tolerance is taught within the religion, where all religious teachings are not to be looked down upon and that no one way of worship should be considered better than another.
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