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Hinduism Literature, Language, and the Search for Spiritual Liberation.

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Presentation on theme: "Hinduism Literature, Language, and the Search for Spiritual Liberation."— Presentation transcript:

1 Hinduism Literature, Language, and the Search for Spiritual Liberation

2 Hinduism 101 Most Hindus live in India and Nepal It is the third largest religion in the world It gave birth to Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism (Heehs 12)

3 What makes Hinduism unique? There is no founder of Hinduism There is no founder of Hinduism There is no clear date of origin There is no clear date of origin The authors of the sacred texts are largely unknown (“History of Hinduism”) The authors of the sacred texts are largely unknown (“History of Hinduism”)

4 Defining Features of Hinduism In 1995 The Supreme Court of India highlighted Bal Gangadhar Tilak's formulation of Hinduism's defining features: In 1995 The Supreme Court of India highlighted Bal Gangadhar Tilak's formulation of Hinduism's defining features: –Acceptance of the Vedas with reverence –Recognition of the fact that the means or ways to salvation are diverse –Realization of the truth that the number of gods to be worshipped is large (Rajaram)

5 Basic Beliefs: Brahman “The underlying universal life force that encompasses and embodies existence” (Hancock) “The underlying universal life force that encompasses and embodies existence” (Hancock) It is the eternal, transcendent reality of the world It is the eternal, transcendent reality of the world

6 Basic Beliefs: Reincarnation According to Hindu scriptures, one's ignorance of the true nature of the self (atman) as one with Brahman is what traps one in the cycle of endless death and reincarnation. (“History of Hinduism”) According to Hindu scriptures, one's ignorance of the true nature of the self (atman) as one with Brahman is what traps one in the cycle of endless death and reincarnation. (“History of Hinduism”) This reincarnation cycle is called samsara This reincarnation cycle is called samsara

7 Basic Beliefs: Karma Karma is tied to the concept of cause and effect Karma is tied to the concept of cause and effect Your behavior shapes past, present, and future experiences in life Your behavior shapes past, present, and future experiences in life Some sects of Hinduism believe gods play a role in one’s karma; others believe it is simply a matter of will Some sects of Hinduism believe gods play a role in one’s karma; others believe it is simply a matter of will

8 Basic Belief: Moksha Thus, the highest goal of Hinduism is liberation (moksha) from the karmic cycle of death and rebirth. (“History of Hinduism”) Thus, the highest goal of Hinduism is liberation (moksha) from the karmic cycle of death and rebirth. (“History of Hinduism”)

9 Basic Beliefs: Dharma Dharma: ethical duty based on the divine order of reality. Dharma: ethical duty based on the divine order of reality. It is determined by one’s age, class, gender (“History of Hinduism”) It is determined by one’s age, class, gender (“History of Hinduism”) It was inspired by Vedic scriptures It was inspired by Vedic scriptures

10 Vedas The Vedic period = 5 th /4 th Century B.C.E The Vedic period = 5 th /4 th Century B.C.E Veda literally means “knowledge” Veda literally means “knowledge” Ancient religion rooted in mythology & sacrifice Ancient religion rooted in mythology & sacrifice

11 Vedas Eternal truth is said to have been revealed to great sages. Eternal truth is said to have been revealed to great sages. Classification of Vedas Classification of Vedas –Rig: General knowledge –Yajur: Knowledge of action –Saam: Knowledge of worship –Atharva: knowledge of science

12 Veda Vedic texts are the oldest works of Sanskrit Literature Vedic texts are the oldest works of Sanskrit Literature They serve as the foundation for many Hindu beliefs They serve as the foundation for many Hindu beliefs

13 Upanishads Upanishad means “equivalences” Upanishad means “equivalences” These writings hoped to understand how the Atman was similar to Brahmans (24) These writings hoped to understand how the Atman was similar to Brahmans (24) Often considered gnostic in nature Often considered gnostic in nature

14 Major Upanishads Ishaa – Philosophy of God and God realization Ishaa – Philosophy of God and God realization Mandukya – Niraakaar(without form) aspect of god Mandukya – Niraakaar(without form) aspect of god Prashna – Questions like root cause of universe, functioning of vital force of life Prashna – Questions like root cause of universe, functioning of vital force of life Aitareya – Atman and births of atman are described Aitareya – Atman and births of atman are described Kaushitaki – Course for souls after death, doctrine of prana and moksha Kaushitaki – Course for souls after death, doctrine of prana and moksha Katha – Q&A between Yama and Nachiketa Katha – Q&A between Yama and Nachiketa Taittariya – Tells more about the creation of god Taittariya – Tells more about the creation of god Brhadaranyaka – Negation of all conceptions of self Brhadaranyaka – Negation of all conceptions of self Chhandogya – Sacrifices and other forms of worship Chhandogya – Sacrifices and other forms of worship Kena – Sacrifices and other forms of worship Kena – Sacrifices and other forms of worship

15 The Great Epics Unlike many cultures that enjoy literature as a commentary on canons and theological studies, the epic poems of Ancient India are considered Hindu scriptures Unlike many cultures that enjoy literature as a commentary on canons and theological studies, the epic poems of Ancient India are considered Hindu scriptures The two Epics are The two Epics are –The Ramayana –The Mahabharata

16 Literature as Scripture “Hero-worship was and is a central aspect of Indian culture, and thus readily lent itself to a literary tradition that abounded in epic poetry and literature” (Heesh 25) “Hero-worship was and is a central aspect of Indian culture, and thus readily lent itself to a literary tradition that abounded in epic poetry and literature” (Heesh 25)

17 The Mahabharata Approximately 20x longer than The Odyssey, the The Mahabharata is the longest epic poem in the world! (641) Approximately 20x longer than The Odyssey, the The Mahabharata is the longest epic poem in the world! (641) It is said to have been written between 540 to 300 B.C. It is said to have been written between 540 to 300 B.C. The most famous section of the Mahabharata is the Bhagavad-Gita (The Song of God) The most famous section of the Mahabharata is the Bhagavad-Gita (The Song of God)

18 The Ramayana The Ramayana is the second Ancient Indian epic The Ramayana is the second Ancient Indian epic It is believed to have been recorded in the 4 th century B.C.E. though scholars claim the story dates back to the 7 th century It is believed to have been recorded in the 4 th century B.C.E. though scholars claim the story dates back to the 7 th century The title literally means “Rama’s journey”, and it follows a protagonist by that name The title literally means “Rama’s journey”, and it follows a protagonist by that name

19 The Original Avatars ? The word “Avatar” finds its roots in Hinduism The word “Avatar” finds its roots in Hinduism Avatar literally means incarnation Avatar literally means incarnation According to Hindu tradition, Rama is an Avatar of the god Vishnu (Satar 696) According to Hindu tradition, Rama is an Avatar of the god Vishnu (Satar 696) The main purpose of this incarnation is to demonstrate the righteous path (dharma) for all living creatures on earth. The main purpose of this incarnation is to demonstrate the righteous path (dharma) for all living creatures on earth.

20 Vishnu – The Preserver

21 Brahma – The Creator

22 Siva – The Destroyer

23 Varnas Varnas are castes Varnas are castes They are said to be based on your Karma They are said to be based on your Karma The Varnas are specifically addressed in the Rig – Veda and the Bhagavad – Gita Brahmanas = priests Brahmanas = priests Ksatriyas = warriors Ksatriyas = warriors Vaisyas = tradesmen Vaisyas = tradesmen Sudras = laborers Sudras = laborers Sudras were not allowed to hear the Vedas (Heesh 42) Sudras were not allowed to hear the Vedas (Heesh 42)

24 Varnas NOTE : The Pariahs are NOT mentioned in any of the scriptures

25 Works Cited Hancock, Mary Elizabeth.Womanhood in the Making: Domestic Ritual and Public Culture in Urban South India. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, print. Heehs, Peter. Indian Religions: A Historical Reader of Spiritual Expression. New York: NYU Press,2002. print. “History of Hinduism”. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. n.p. web. 12 March 2010 Rajaram, N.S. “Aryan Invasion – History or Politics?”. Archeology Online n.p. web. 13 March print. Sattar, Arshia.The Rāmāyaṇa by Vālmīki. New York: Viking Printers, print.


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