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Defining Elements Of Hinduism Essay Research Paper

Defining Elements Of Hinduism Essay, Research Paper The Defining Elements of Hinduism Arvind Sharma contends that the task of defining Hinduism may be difficult and problematic: The difficulties in defining Hinduism tell us that not only does Hinduism have ethnic roots and tends to be inclusive but also that it is willing to overlook contradictions and may even generate them (Sharma 4).

Defining Elements Of Hinduism Essay, Research Paper

The Defining Elements of Hinduism

Arvind Sharma contends that the task of defining Hinduism may be difficult and problematic: The difficulties in defining Hinduism tell us that not only does Hinduism have ethnic roots and tends to be inclusive but also that it is willing to overlook contradictions and may even generate them (Sharma 4). For example, Hinduism is inclusive while being universal; it supports militant groups while also supporting pacifism; and it preaches the doctrine of karma while practicing socioeconomic class discrimination (i.e., the caste system). Therefore, how does one define a religion that is contradictory in nature? Due to its complexity, establishing a thorough and thoughtful definition of Hinduism without first identifying its central elements would be superficial. The Collins English Dictionary defines Hinduism as: The complex of beliefs, values, and customs comprising the dominant religion of India, characterized by the worship of many godsgh and thoughtful definition of Hinduism without first identifying its central elements would be superficial. The and may even generate them (Sharma 4). For example, Hinduism is inclusive while being universal; it supports militant groups while also supporting pacifism; and it preaches the doctrine of karma while practicing socioeconomic class discriminat defines Hinduism as: The complex of beliefs, values, and customs comprising the dominant religion of India, characterized by the worship of many godsgh and thoughtful definition of Hinduism without first identifying its central elements would be superficial. The and may even generate them (Sharma 4). For example, Hinduism is inclusive while being universal; it supports militant groups while also supporting pacifism; and it preaches the doctrine of karma while practicing socioeconomic class discriminate selfless devotion to a god as a means of reaching Brahman (Sharma 22). However, achieving Brahman-the divine reality of the universe-without the assistance of both religious texts and religious leaders would be a difficult task.

Many think the fundamental beliefs in Hinduism are grounded in its fundamental texts. However, rather than the texts being authoritative, they are generally used as guides for Hindu traditions, rituals, and cosmic laws (Sharma 5). The Veda-RigVeda, YajurVeda, SamaVeda, AtharvaVeda, Brahmanas, Aranyakas, and the Upanishads-reveals knowledge on sacrificial rituals, specifically the fire sacrifice, which were primarily transmitted orally by the brahman priests. While the Vedas refer to the physical participation in sacrificial rituals, and the Brahmanas are the brahman priests commentaries on the rituals themselves, the Aranyakas promotes the focusing of the mind, which allows one to internally, rather than externally, perform sacrificial rituals. Thus, this internal sacrifice suggests any individual has brahman characteristics, or a personal soul or self (atman). Accordingly, the Upanishads introduced the notion of an identity separate from the universal, which supports both the doctrine of karma and the belief in samsara. Many Hindus depend upon the brahman priests for guidance and support in their quest for the Brahman. Unfortunately, the dominance and control of the brahman priests over both the sacrificial rituals and the Vedas eventually established a social hierarchy of power, which is the Hindu caste system (Sharma 26-7).

The Smrti specifically deals with eternal truths pertaining to dharma and moksa, or morality and salvation (Sharma 28). The specific text that seems to have the most social impact is the DharmaShastras, which divides the world into both social categories (castes) and stages of life (ashramas). The Hindu caste system was established during the Medieval Period (ca. 1000-ca. 1800), and promotes the belief that people are “reborn into [a caste] as a result of that universal accounting system called karma (Sharma 25). Even though there were socioeconomic class divisions before this period, the DharmaShastras creates four distinct categories: The priest or more generally the intellectual (brahmana); the warrior and administrator (ksatriya); the farmer and trader (vaisya); and the laborer (sudra) (25). The DharmaShastras also divides human life into four quarters which compose the century of one s life as those of the celibate student (brahmacari), householder (grhastha), hermit (vanaprastha), and renunciant (sannyasi) (Sharma 24).

The common assumption that all people from India are Hindu suggests that Hinduism is an ethnic religion, and is directly influenced by the overlapping of the historical developments of both Hinduism and India (Sharma 6). However, despite its inclusive nature, Hinduism has many universally appealing characteristics-such as yoga, and the belief in reincarnation and karma-which are gaining wider acceptance amongst those in the western world (Sharma 7-8). Because Hinduism has many gods and many manifestations of gods-for example, two of Vishnu s human incarnations are Rama and Krishna-it enables individuals to personalize Hinduism: Hindu pluralism means that Hinduism can be all things to all human beings [and is] based on an analysis of the individual human personality (Sharma 13). Therefore, Hinduism cannot be clearly explained in the simply phrase Hinduism is the dominant religion of India because it is too complex and diverse to define. Rather, as Sharma concludes, Hinduism is not a thing, it is a process a method for the discovery of spiritual truths [and] makes one aware of the unconscious presence of diversity in the phenomenon of religion itself (56-7).

Sharma, Arvind. Hinduism. Our Religions.

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