2 Hinduism Hinduism is a religion that began in India. The religion dates back past 1500 B.C., making it the world’s oldest religion.There are 750 million Hindus in the world today.Most Hindus still live in India.
3 HinduSome of the first visitors to come to India were the ancient Persians. The ancient Persian language had a quirk of replacing the ‘s’ sound with the ‘h’ sound when they spoke. In the North-West part of ancient India flowed, a river called river Sindhu. The ancient visitors mispronounced the name as Hindu thus the word Hindu came into being and the people living across this river acquired the name Hindus. In days to come the name of the river was again mispronounced and the river became known as river Indus. Today the river is still called river Indus and the people living in this part of the world were called people of Indoi. This word gave rise to the name of the country India.
4 What is Hinduism? One of the oldest religions of humanity The religion of the Indian peopleGave birth to Buddhism, Jainism, SikhismStrong acceptance of Tolerance and diversity: "Truth is One, the paths are many"Many gods but believe in a single, impersonal Ultimate Reality or GodA philosophy and a way of life – focused both on this world and beyond
5 How did Hinduism begin? No particular single, known founder Begins with the Indus River Valley Civilization more than 5000 years agoAryans enter years agoVedic Tradition 3500 – 2500 years ago:rituals and many gods (polytheism)sacred texts (Vedas) means “truth” or “to know”social classes built in religion (caste system)Upanishads more sacred books (metaphysical philosophy) 2800 – 2400 years agoVedic Tradition develops into Hinduism
6 Hinduism is unique in that it does not rely on the spiritual experiences of just one prophet who lived in ancient times. Instead, it has enlightened people - called Rishis. They claim first hand experience of God. These Rishis were male or female, young or old. They continue to be born in Hindu society and continue to refresh and revive the message of Hinduism in different times. Some like Vashista & Vishwamitra lived in ancient times. Some like Shankaracharya (788 – 820), & Ramanujacharya (1017 – 1137) lived in medieval times. Some like Ramana Maharshi & Ramakrishna or Vivekananda lived in modern times.
7 What are the Sacred Texts? Shruti (“heard”) – oldest, most authoritative Scriptures of authorityThe Shrutis are the books of authority. The word Shruti literally means ‘that which is heard’. These scriptures are so called because they were passed on for thousands of years by word of mouth. They contain spiritual knowledge acquired by the rishis in deep meditation.
8 Sacred WritingsFour Vedas (“truth”) – myths, rituals, chants The main set of Shruti texts is called the Vedas.The Vedas collections of Sanskrit hymns (written down BCE, but based on older oral versions).
9 Upanishads - metaphysical speculation Portions of the Vedas containing the Hindu philosophy are called the UpanishadsThe Upanishads which means the inner or mystic teaching that were passed down from guru (teacher) to disciple (student).
10 Plus other textsSmriti (“remembered”) – the Great Indian Epics:Ramayana
11 MahabharataMahabharata, Sanskrit for Great Story, is one of the great epic poems of ancient India.It was written between 300 BC and AD. 300.The story is about the battle of one family over a kingdom in northern India.The Bhagavad Gita (Song of God or Song of the Divine) is contained in the Mahabharata. It is dialogue between Krishna and the hero Arjuna on the meaning of life. The Bhagavad Gita is the central text of Hindus
12 The content of the Gita is the conversation between Lord Krishna and the Pandava Prince Arjuna taking place on the battlefield before the start of the Kurukshetra War. Responding to Arjuna's confusion and moral dilemma about fighting his own cousins, Lord Krishna explains to Arjuna his duties as a warrior and prince, and elaborates on different philosophies, with5examples and analogies. This has led to the Gita often being described as a concise guide to Hindu theology and also as a practical, self-contained guide to life. During the conversation, Lord Krishna reveals His identity as the Supreme Being Himself blessing Arjuna with an awe-inspiring vision of His divine universal form.
13 “The power of God is with you at all times; through the activities of mind, senses, breathing, and emotions; and is constantly doing all the work using you as a mere instrument.”
14 What do Hindus believe? One impersonal Ultimate Reality – Brahman This reality can manifest as many aspects of BrahmanTrue essence of life – Atman, the soul, is Brahman trapped in all living matter (“That art thou”)
15 Brahman and AtmanHinduism refers to the cosmic reality God as Brahman. The ultimate reality (God) appears in and as the physical universe. This ultimate reality appears even more clearly as living things. This is why all living things are sacred, as they are intrinsically God. Mankind is the most transparent manifestation of God on earth, hence the most sacred. God as our true self is called Atman. The clearest sight of God on earth is men and women. Service to mankind is the most comprehensive and highest worship of God, teaches Hinduism.Thus the Ultimate Energy Force we call God is Brahman and a piece or part of that energy (God) is within ALL living things (think of it as the soul)
16 The Cycle of Life Reincarnation – rebirth of the soul Reincarnation is the belief that the soul repeatedly goes through a cycle of being born into a body, dying, and being reborn again in a new bodyHindus believe that after we die, we are reborn. Even though we do not remember our past lives we have had many past lives. All of us started off as lesser life form and then evolved into human form. This theory of being reborn is called theory of reincarnation. The character we all possess has been formed in previous lives and that keeps coming with us when we are reborn. That is why we have to take great care to form a good character as that is the only thing that comes with us when we die. Once we are born as human beings it is highly unlikely that we will be reborn as lower life forms though it is possible.
17 Karma – our actions keeps us bound to this world (good and bad) and determine our next life form a force that determines the quality of each life, depending on how well one behaved in a past life. Hinduism says we create karma by our actions on earth. If you live a good life, you create good karma. If you live a bad life, you create bad karma
18 The Law of KarmaKarma means action and law of Karma is law of action and its consequences. Hindus say that we have to take responsibility for everything we do. Everything we do will produce results we have to bear. For example if we are careless with a knife and cut ourselves, we feel the pain immediately. We are responsible for what happens to us. Sometimes the results of our actions are felt immediately sometimes we see them much later. For example if we have not been studying hard in school, we get bad grades at the end of the year. Hindus say that in some cases the results of what we have done or not done becomes visible only in future lives. Law of Karma tells us to be very careful with every small thing we do, as the results are bound to catch up with us sooner or later. It makes us be very responsible and puts us in charge of our destiny.
19 Atman is continually born into this world lifetime after lifetime (Samsara) We continue to be reborn as human beings until we find God, merge in God. That is called moksha.The body is born, lives, dies but the soul continues on and is re born as another living thing and this cycle continues until the soul is re united with God
20 MokshaEach time a Hindu soul is born into a better life, it has the opportunity to improve itself further, and get closer to ultimate liberation.This liberation is called Moksha.One attains Moksha when one has "overcome ignorance", and no longer desires anything at all.The ones who reach this state no longer struggle with the cycle of life and death.The way to get to Moksha is to not create any karma.Ultimate goal of life – to release Atman and reunite with the divine, becoming as one with Brahman (Moksha)
21 How does Hinduism direct life in this world? Respect for all life as sacred – vegetarianHuman life as supreme:Four “stations” of life (Caste) - priests & teachers, nobles & warriors, merchant class, servant classFour stages of life – student, householder, retired, renunciantFour duties of life – pleasure, success, social responsibilities, religious responsibilities (moksha)
22 Ashramas:The word Ashrama can mean hermitage. It also means the division of life into different stages. According to Hinduism, the aim of life is to find God. In order to achieve this, life is subdivided into four stages called Ashramas. Though this practice has been abandoned since the middle ages, most of the values it promoted are still applicable today.
23 Rites of passage ~ Samskaras: Samskaras are rites of passage within Hinduism. Sixteen such ceremonies are prescribed in the scriptures. They can be classed as religious ceremonies marking entry into the different stages of life. The first samskara takes place before conception has taken place and the last takes place after death. Some of the earlier samskaras include: naming ceremony, the first feeding of cooked food and the first hair cut. We deal with four main ceremonies: The naming ceremony, the sacred thread ceremony, the marriage ceremony and the final cremation ceremony.
24 Naming ceremony ~ Namakarana The ‘naming ceremony’ is usually performed around the eleventh day after birth. Sometimes the paternal aunt is given the privilege of choosing the name, sometimes a horoscope is consulted to decide on the first letter of the name. It is believed that the planetary configuration helps the child to achieve his or her full potential. Sometimes the name is chosen to inspire the child, and may be the name of God, or a virtue to aspire towards. The name serves a religious purpose as it acts to remind the family of higher values.
25 Student Stage of life ~ Brahmacharya ashrama Brahmacharya is the first stage of life. It begins at around the age of five when the child begins his studies. The youngster is expected to lead a celibate life until he finishes his studies; to stay with his teacher and learn the scriptures, as well as other skills that will help him earn his living. Respect for the teachers and elders is considered to be an important requirement promoted at this stage of life. Need for discipline and self-restraint are values still considered relevant for modern times.
26 Sacred thread ceremony ~ Upanayana . The word ‘Upanayana’ literally means ‘getting closer to God’, and marks the beginning of life as a student. In ancient times, this used to be around the age of eight. The child would undergo the ritual, in which a ‘havan’ or sacred fire is lit, and a priest recites hymns from the Vedas. The father or the priest whispers the Gayatri mantra into the child’s ear, which marks initiation into a religious lifestyle. The child is then invested with a sacred thread draped over the left shoulder. It consists of three strands, representing his debts to God, his forefathers and his spiritual teacher. The child is then deemed fit to enter the Brahmacharya Ashrama.
27 Householder stage of life ~ Grihastha ashrama Grihasta, the second stage of life, begins with marriage. The individual enters the householder’s stage and starts a family. Earning money is called artha. He earns a righteous living, and looks after all family members including the elderly, guests and children. The individual must work after the needs of society. He leads a religious life called dharma. It is also a stage of life when the individual can fulfill legitimate desires, called kama. The Grihasta Ashrama provides the financial support for the other three stages of life. Its relevance today is in teaching the importance of righteous living, performing one’s duties, and in looking after the needs of the elderly and society.
28 Marriage ceremony ~ Vivah Vivah is the marriage ceremony, which marks the individual’s transition from a student to a householder. A suitable partner is found after the individual has completed their studies. The vivah varies considerably depending on local customs, but there are a few basic guidelines that are observed at many ceremonies. The bride’s father offers the hand of the bride to the groom, a gesture called ‘panigrahana’. A havan or sacred fire is lit, and a priest recites hymns from Holy Scriptures. The bride and groom offer grains and clarified butter, ‘ghee’ to the fire in order to obtain the blessings of higher beings. Fire is considered the witness to the ritual. The bride and groom walk around the fire four times, and after every turn, the bride places her right foot on a piece of rock to symbolize her steadfastness in her wifely duties. As a symbolic gesture, the couple takes seven steps together, each representing health, wealth, strength, children, happiness, life-long friendship, and God. The wife marks her forehead (and hair parting) with red powder called ‘kum kum’. The couple is showered with rice grains and petals to wish them well. The wife is now addressed as the ‘sahadharmini’ or the companion in spiritual progress.
30 Retirement Stage of life ~ Vanaprastha ashrama Vanaprastha is the third stage in life. The scriptures say that one begins this stage ‘when the skin becomes wrinkled’. The word ‘Vanaprastha’ literally means ‘the forest dweller’; in ancient times, the householder would retire and live in the forest to contemplate and meditate. Today it can be taken to simply mean the withdrawal of the individual from family duties. The person becomes the advisor to the family and passes on the household duties to younger family members.
31 Life of a Monk ~ Sanyasa ashrama Sanyasa is the sometimes seen as the final stage in life. According to the scriptures, the individual can enter this stage whenever he feels a strong urge to find God. The word Sanyasa literally means renunciation. It is often misunderstood to mean ‘giving up everything’, however what it really means is ‘giving up the minor things in order to achieve the major’ i.e. God. The Sanyasi makes the whole world his family. The aim of this stage is to find God, and also to work for the good of mankind. He spends his time in meditation, worship, pilgrimage, and whatever he sees fit to find God. The value to be learnt from this stage is renunciation. At some stage in our lifetimes we need to develop dispassion for worldliness and give up worldly possessions and passions in order to make spiritual progress.
32 Final rites ~ Antima-Kriya Antima Kriya is the final death rite, and involves the cremation of the body. Hindu philosophy states that the body is just the outer garment of the individual, and that the real self never dies, but is reborn in a different body in due course. The body is not considered important hence it is cremated rather than buried. The body is bathed, clothed and placed in a coffin to be taken to the crematorium. The eldest son or male relative will set fire to the pyre. Verses from the Bhagavad Gita which explain the immortality of the soul, are recited to comfort relatives. The ashes are collected and taken to be immersed in the river Ganges
34 What are the spiritual practices of Hinduism? The Four Yogas - seeking union with the divine:Karma Yoga – the path of action through selfless service (releases built up karma without building up new karma)Jnana Yoga – the path of knowledge (understanding the true nature of reality and the self)Raja Yoga – the path of meditationBhakti Yoga – the path of devotionGuru – a spiritual teacher, especially helpful for Jnana and Raja yoga
35 Karma YogaKarma Yoga is the ‘path of action’. Krishna teaches in the Bhagavad Gita that action is better than inaction. This forms the basis of Karma Yoga. We should never stop working but then the work we do must be self-less. If we work for the benefit of others that helps us practise Karma yoga. We must learn to offer the results of all our actions to God. Thus we lead a God-centred life rather than an ego-centred or selfish life. This is the aim of Karma yoga. God lives in everyone so when we do good to others we automatically come closer to God.
37 JNANA YOGAJnana Yoga is often described as the way to God through reason and intellect. This path claims that to find God, we need to clear our vision of reality. As our intellect develops, our perception of the world becomes clearer. We start seeing things in a different light. With the advance of science we now view the world in a very different way than the ancient man. Jnana Yoga says that this process should be sharpened further. We require a far greater understanding of the world in order to ‘really’ see what is out there, and what we are all about. The tools needed are ‘discrimination’ and ‘dispassion’. First we need dispassion towards the world in order to become less distracted. Then we need to focus our minds on what is real and what is unreal. This is called discrimination.
38 Though force of reason we can come close to God
39 Raja YogaRaja Yoga is essentially the path to God through meditation. Many mistake the word ‘Yoga’ to mean physical exercises. Hindus recognise that this shouldn’t be an end in itself. Physical exercises, called Hatha Yoga are only the first step to making spiritual progress. A healthy body is necessary before one is able to find God through meditation. Finding God through meditation is difficult as it requires one-pointed concentration forcing the mind to become absolutely still. When the mind becomes still it is able to reflect God. So God can actually be experienced. Hindus say that it is good to believe in God but better still is to actually experience God in deep meditation. Rishis, the founders of Hinduism, were able to see God in meditation. If you could clear you all that space in your mind, you would have a doorway. And you know what the universe would do? Rush in."
41 Bhakti YogaBhakti means intense love for God. Yoga means to join together. Bhakti yoga or bhakti marg is the path of love. It is suited to those people who feel naturally drawn towards God. The devotee spends his time in prayers, worship, and constant remembrance of the deity of his choice. He may read scriptures, sing devotional songs, tell beads and socialise with people of a similar temperament to himself. He does worship with great deal of love and care, and develops a special, loving relationship with the deity of his choice. Hindus have a choice of way they can think about God. Some think of God like their father in heaven and may call him Vishnu or Shiva. Some like to think of God as their mother in heaven like Parvati or Durga or Saraswati . Some Hindus like to think of God as a little child and they worship God as baby Krishna. or baby Rama.
43 How do Hindus worship?Bhakti Yoga is seeking union with the divine through loving devotion to manifest deitiesIn the home (household shrines)In the Temples (priests officiate)Puja – making offerings to and decorating the deity imagesDarsan – “seeing” the deity (not idol worship)Prasad – taking the divine within your own being through eating of food shared with the deity
44 Om (sometimes written Aum) is the most important symbol for Hindus Om (sometimes written Aum) is the most important symbol for Hindus. Hindus claim that this is a sound heard in the deepest of meditation when one experiences God. Hence this sound and is said to be the most fitting name of God. Many Hindu prayers and chants begin with this word. This sound is extensively used during practice of meditation.
45 Who do Hindus worship? – the major gods of the Hindu Pantheon Hindus say that it is not enough to just believe in God. We need to make the effort to find God while we are alive. One of the best ways to find God is to think of him/her as a person. This allows us to build a relationship with God and allows us to become closer to God. Many Hindus have successfully found God by thinking of God as a person. This is why we see God being portrayed in so many different forms in Hindu temples. These are all different ways used by different Hindus to think of and reach the same one God.
46 Brahma, the creator godBrahma is God seen in the role of the creator of the universe. He is shown with four heads looking in all four directions. He is sometimes shown holding scriptures, beads, and a water pot.
47 Who do Hindus worship? – the major gods of the Hindu Pantheon Vishnu, the preserver godIncarnates as ten avatars (descents) including:Rama (featured in the Ramayana)Krishna (featured in the Mahabharata)(Each shown with his consort, Sita and Radha, respectively)
48 Vishnu is God seen in the role of the preserver of the universe Vishnu is God seen in the role of the preserver of the universe. He is normally shown with four arms holding lotus, mace, discus and conch.
49 Shiva, god of constructive destruction (the transformer) Appears as Shiva Nataraj, lord of the dance of creation…and with his wife, Parvati, and son Ganesha (the elephant headed remover of obstacles)
50 Shiva is God seen in the role of the destroyer of the universe Shiva is God seen in the role of the destroyer of the universe. He is sometimes depicted as 'Nataraja', the lord of the dance, holding a drum as a symbol of creation and fire as a symbol of destruction. Hinduism says that if God is the creator of the universe then God is the only one who can be the destroyer of the universe. Shiva is sometimes depicted in the posture of meditation (Yogiraja) with a snake curled around his neck. His body is smeared in ashes and he is shown with a third eye (the eye of discrimination).
52 What about the goddesses? Devi – the feminine divine Saraswati, goddess of wisdom, consort of BrahmaSaraswati is the Mother Goddess as the personification of learning, art, and music. She is shown wearing a white sari, and playing the Veena instrument. She holds the scriptures in one hand. She is considered to be the consort of Brahma
53 Lakshmi, goddess of good fortune, consort of Vishnu. Lakshmi is the Mother Goddess as the personification of wealth and beauty. She is shown wearing a red sari and offers gold coins to her devotees. She is the consort of Vishnu. The English word luck is derived from the Sanskrit word Lakshmi, meaning good fortune
54 Parvati, divine mother, wife of Shiva Shakti: God as MotherSometimes as Parvati / Sometimes as Durga / Sometimes as KaliMother Goddess: Some Hindus like to think of God as their mother in heaven. There are several different forms of God as the mother in Hinduism.Parvati is the form of the Mother Goddess referred to as Shakti (Force). She is the driving force behind the whole of creation. Parvati in the role of the warrior is called Durga. She is shown sitting on a tiger holding many divine weapons. Parvati as the all destroying figure of the mother goddess is called Kali. Her role as the all destroyer allows creation to come into being again. In the film Star Wars, the term 'may the force be with you' was likely borrowed from this Hindu idea of God as shakti power
59 God can be thought of as a personality but without shape Some Hindus prefer to think of God without form. The best way they can describe a formless God is by calling (him) Love and Truth. They say that if we try to discover the real nature of these qualities, we can find God. Two recent movements in India that promoted this approach are the Arya Samaj and the Brahmo Samaj, and also brought about important social reforms within Hinduism
60 How can God be both with and without shape? Ice has a shape, but water does not. In the same way, God can be both with and without shape. It is the love of the believer who freezes a formless God into the form of his/her choice. Any form of God we decide to worship is fine. God is both with and without form, and much more.
61 And we too are manifest forms of God! Thus, we are divine. “We are not human beings having spiritual experiences; We are spiritual beings having a human experience!”“That art Thou”Hinduism is about recognizing the all aspects of the divine including the human. “God dwells within me...as me”
62 Explore Hinduism on the Web: The Hindu Universe: Lots of information on Hinduism and the Hindu community on-line and around the world. Includes chat rooms and message board forums -The Virtual Hindu Temple: Contains some interesting and useful pages including: Discover Hindu Gods & Goddesses and FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT HINDUISM. Also contains a gallery of deity images and a collection of links to Hindu sacred texts online and other sites related to Hinduism -Hinduism for Schools provides basic, introductory info to teach primary and secondary level students about Hinduism -
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