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Hinduism Essay Research Paper Hinduism

Hinduism Essay, Research Paper Hinduism The term Hinduism refers to the civilization of the Hindus (originally, the inhabitants of the land of the Indus River).Introduced in about 1830 by

Hinduism Essay, Research Paper

Hinduism

The term Hinduism refers to the civilization of the Hindus (originally,

the inhabitants of the land of the Indus River).Introduced in about 1830 by

British writers, it properly denotes the Indian civilization of approximately

the last 2,000 years, which evolved from Vedism the religion of the Indo-

European peoples who settled in India in the last centuries of the 2nd

millennium BC.

The spectrum that ranges from the level of popular Hindu belief to that

of elaborate ritual technique and philosophical speculation is very broad and is

attended by many stages of transition and varieties of coexistence. Magic rites,

animal worship, and belief in demons are often combined with the worship of more

or less personal gods or with mysticism, asceticism, and abstract and profound

theological systems or esoteric doctrines. The worship of local deities does not

exclude the belief in pan-Indian higher gods or even in a single high God. Such

local deities are also frequently looked down upon as manifestations of a high

God.

In principle, Hinduism incorporates all forms of belief and worship

without necessitating the selection or elimination of any. It is axiomatic that

no religious idea in India ever dies or is superseded-it is merely combined with

the new ideas that arise in response to it. Hindus are inclined to revere the

divine in every manifestation, whatever it may be, and are doctrinally tolerant,

allowing others – including both Hindus and non-Hindus – whatever beliefs suit

them best. A Hindu may embrace a non-Hindu religion without ceasing to be a

Hindu, and because Hindus are disposed to think synthetically and to regard

other forms of worship, strange gods, and divergent doctrines as inadequate

rather than wrong or objectionable, they tend to believe that the highest divine

powers are complement one another. Few religious ideas are considered to be

irreconcilable. The core of religion does not depend on the existence or

nonexistence of God or on whether there is one god or many. Because religious

truth is said to transcend all verbal definition, it is not conceived in

dogmatic terms. Moreover, the tendency of Hindus to distinguish themselves from

others on the basis of practice rather than doctrine further de-emphasizes

doctrinal differences.

Hinduism is both a civilization and a congregation of religions; it has

neither a beginning or founder, nor a central authority, hierarchy, or

organization. Hindus believe in an uncreated, eternal, infinite, transcendent,

and all-embracing principle, which, “comprising in itself being and non-being,”

is the sole reality, the ultimate cause and foundation, source, and goal of all

existence. This ultimate reality is called Brahman. As the All, Brahman causes

the universe and all beings to emanate from itself, transforms itself into the

universe, or assumes it’s appearance. Brahman is in all things and is the Self

(atman) of all living beings. Brahman is the creator, preserver, or transformer

and reabsorber of everything. Although it is Being in itself, without attributes

and qualities and hence impersonal, it may also be conceived of as a personal

high God, usually as Vishnu (Visnu) or Siva. This fundamental belief in and the

essentially religious search for ultimate reality – that is, the One is the All

- have continued almost unaltered for more than 30 centuries and has been the

central focus of India’s spiritual life.

In some perceptions, Hinduism has been called ‘atheistic’. In other

perceptions, and this is perhaps the more common one, it is labeled

‘polytheistic’. The term ‘polytheism’ acknowledges the presence of a God-figure

in a religious system, but in the plural. Thus it is said that Hindus worship

many such beings we call God. But obviously this implies a very profound

difference in the understanding of what such a ‘God’ could be. It is often said

that Hindus worship three gods and they are in fact called the ‘Hindu Trinity’.

The gods involved are: Brahma, Visnu and Siva. The first is supposed to create

the world (at the beginning of each cosmic cycle), the second to maintain it in

being, and Siva, at the end of a cosmic cycle, to destroy it again. But then a

further idea is added which is ignored by the proponents of the theory of a

Hindu Trinity. What is added invariably implies that, over and above these three

figures lies a single reality. This ‘one above the three’ controls the

activities of the creation etc. Brahma and the others, who carry out these

functions, are merely manifestations of that highest being, or they relate to it

in some other, equally secondary, form. This concept of a single, all powerful,

eternal, personal and loving God, is the concept of “Bhagavan”.

But who is this Hindu Bhagavan? At least to us the outside observers he

is not one, but many. Siva, Visnu, Krsna, Rama, Karttikeya and Ganesa may be

mentioned as the most important Bhagavan figures. But to speak of many Bhagavans

has nothing to do with ‘polytheism’, for in terms of Indian society, different

groups have their one and only Bhagavan. In most cases a particular Bhagavan-

figure may look the same as deva. By ‘looking the same’ is meant here:

possessing the same external characteristics (including name) and having the

same or very similar stories told by his mythical deeds. From this follows that

the individual (or, in practice, far more often, the group to which he belongs,

and this is more frequently by birth than by choice) makes a decision as to how

to regard such a figure. Visnu could thus be the Bhagavan for some people, a

minor manifestation of Siva for others, a godling for a third group, possibly an

evil demonic being for a fourth and Isvara for a fifth. But this does not mean

that every single religious individual in India ends up with a Bhagavan.

Although those Hindus who particularly worship either Vishnu or Shiva

generally consider one or the other as their ‘favorite god’ and as the Lord and

Brahman in its personal aspect, Vishnu is often regarded as a special

manifestation of the preservative aspect of the Supreme and Shiva as that of the

destructive function. Another deity, Brahma, the creator, remains in the

background as a demiurge. These three great figures (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva)

constitute the so-called Hindu Trinity (Trimuriti, “the One or Whole with Three

Forms). This conception attempts to synthesize and harmonize the conviction that

the Supreme Power is ingular with the plurality of gods in daily religious

worship. Although the concept of the Trimurti assigns a position of special

importance to some great gods, it never has become a living element in the

religion of the people.

Brahma, the first of the three Hindu gods, is called the Creator; he is

the father of gods and men, the Vedic Prajapati, the lord of creators. The term

is used for the Absolute, or the Ultimate Principle, beyond which nothing exists

or has any reality. In the Upanishads, Brahma is said to be beyond all

description.

“This universe was enveloped in darkness – unperceived,

indistinguishable, undiscoverable, unknowable, as it were, entirely sunk in

sleep. The irresistible self existent lord, undiscerned, creating this universe

with the five elements, and all other things , was manifested dispelling the

gloom. he who is beyond the cognizance of the senses, subtile, indiscernible,

eternal, who is the essence of all things, and inconceivable, himself shone

forth. He, desiring, seeking to produce various creatures from his own body,

first created the waters, and deposited in them a seed. This (seed) became a

golden egg, resplendent as the sun, in which he himself was born as Brahma, the

progenitor of all worlds. The waters are called nara, because they are the

offspring of Nara; and since they were formerly the place of his movement

(ayana), he is therefore called Narayana . Being formed by that First Cause,

indiscernible, eternal, which is both existent and non-existent, that male is

known in the world as Brahma. That lord having continued a year in the egg,

divided it into two parts by his mere thought.” In the Mahabharata and some of

the Puranas, Brahma is said to have issued from a lotus that sprang from the

navel of Vishnu.

In picture Brahma is represented as a red man with four heads, though in

the Puranas he is said to have had originally five. He is dressed in white

raiment, and rides upon a goose. In one hand he carries a staff, in the other a

dish for receiving alms. A legend in the “Matsya Purana”, gives the following

account of the formation of his numerous heads :- “Brahma formed from his own

immaculate substance a female who is celebrated under the names of Satarupa,

Savitri, Sarasvati, Gayatri, and Brahmani. Beholding his daughter, born from his

body, Brahma became wounded with the arrows of love and exclaimed, ‘How

surpassingly lovely she is !’ Satarupa turned to the right side from his gaze;

but as Brahma wished to look after her, a second head issued from his body. As

she passed to the left, and behind him, to avoid his amorous glances, two other

heads successively appeared. At length she sprang into the sky; and as Brahma

was anxious to gaze after her there, a fifth head was immediately formed”.

At present times Brahma is not largely worshipped by the Hindus. It is

said that the universe will come to an end at the end of Brahma’s life, but

Brahmas too are innumerable, and a new universe is reborn with each new Brahma.

VISHNU is called the second person of the Hindu Trimuriti or Trinity:

but though called second, it must not be supposed that he is regarded as in any

way inferior to Brahma. In some books Brahma is said to be the first cause of

all things, in others it is as strongly asserted that Vishnu has this honour;

while in others it is claimed for Siva. As Brahma’s special work is creation,

that of Vishnu is preservation. In the following passage from the “Padma Purana”,

it is taught that Vishnu is the supreme cause, thus identifying him with Brahma,

and also that his special work is to preserve: ” In the beginning of creation,

the great Vishnu, desirous of creating the whole world, became threefold ;

Creator, Preserver, Destroyer. In order to create this world, the Supreme Spirit

produced from the right side of his body himself as Brahma ; then, in order to

preserve the world, he produced from his left side Vishnu ; and in order to

destroy the world, he produced from the middle of his body the eternal Shiva

Some worship Brahma, others Vishnu, others Shiva ; but Vishnu, one yet threefold,

creates, preserves, and destroys : therefore let the pious makes no difference

between the three.”

In pictures Vishnu is represented as a black man with four arms : in one

hand he holds a club ; in another a shell ; in a third a chakra, or diseus, with

which he slew his enemies ; and in the fourth a lotus. He rides upon the bird

Garuda, and is dressed in yellow robes.

This deity is worshipped not only under the name and in the form of

Vishnu, but also in one of his many incarnations. Whenever any great calamity

occurred in the world, or the wickedness of any of its inhabitants proved an

unbearable nuisance to the gods, Vishnu, as Preserver, had to lay aside his

invisibility, come to earth in some form, generally human, and, when his work

was done, he returned again to the skies. There is no certainty as to the number

of times he has become incarnate. Ten is the commonly received number, and these

are the most important ones. Of these ten, nine have already been accomplished ;

one, the Kalki, is still future. “Some of these Avatars are of an entirely

cosmical character ; others, however, are probably based on historical events,

the leading personage of which was gradually endowed with divine attributes,

until he was regarded as the incarnation of the deity himself.” These are Fish

(Matsya), Tortoise (Kurma), Boar (Varaha), Man-Lion (Narasimha), Dwarf (Vamana),

Rama-with-the-Ax (Parasurama), King Rama, Krishna, Buddha, and the future

incarnation, Kalki. Preference for any one of these manifestations is largely a

matter of tradition. Thus, Rama and Krishna are the preferred ones.

The classical narrative of Rama is recounted in the Ramayana by the

saga Valmiki, who is the traditional author of the epic. Rama is deprived of the

kingdom to which he is heir and is exiled to the forest with his wife Sita and

his brother Laksmana. While there, Sita is abducted by Ravana, the demon king of

Lanka. In their search for Sita, the brothers ally themselves with a monkey king

whose general, Hanuman (who later became a monkey deity), finds Sita in Lanka.

In a cosmic battle, Ravana is defeated and Sita rescued. When Rama is restored

to his kingdom, Sita’s chastity while captive is doubted. To reassure them, Rama

banishes Sita to a hermitage, where she bears him two sons and eventually dies

by reentering the earth from which she had been born. Rama’s reign becomes the

prototype of the harmonious and just kingdom, to which all kingdoms should

aspire. Rama and Sita set the ideal of conjugal love; Rama’s relationship to his

father is the ideal of filial love; and Rama and Laksmana represent perfect

fraternal love. In all but its oldest form, the Ramayana identifies Rama with

Vishnu as another incarnation and remains the principle source for Ramaism

(worship or Rama).

In the Mahabharata, Krishna is primarily a hero, a chieftain of a tribe,

and an ally of the Pandavas, the heroes of the Mahabharata. He accomplishes

heroic feats with the Pandava prince Arjuna. Typically he helps the Pandava

brothers to settle in their kingdom, and when the kingdom is taken from them, to

regain it. In the process he emerges as a great teacher who reveals the

Bhagavadgita, the most important religious text of Hinduism. In the further

development of the Krishna myth, it is found that as a child, Krishna was full

of boyish pranks and well known for his predilection for milk and butter. He

would raid the dairies of the gopies (milkmaids) to steal fruit, milk, and

butter, and would accuse others for his misdeeds.

Krishna is the most celebrated deity of the Hindu pantheon. He is

worshipped as an independent god in his own right, but is also regarded as the

eighth incarnation of Vishnu. In the course of life he was supposed to have had

16,108 wives and 180,008 sons. In the epic he is a hero, a leader of his people,

and an active helper of his friends. Shiva is the third person of the Hindu

Trinity. As Brahma was Creator, Vishnu Preserver, in order to complete the

system, as all things are subject to decay, a Destroyer was necessary and

destruction is regarded as the peculiar work of Siva. It must be remembered that,

according to the teachings of Hinduism, death is not death in the sense of

passing into non-existence, but simply a change into a new form of life. He who

destroys, therefore, causes beings to assume new phases of existence – the

Destroyer is really the re-Creator ; hence the name Siva, the Bright or Happy

One, is given to him, which would not have been the case had he been regarded

as the destroyer, in the ordinary meaning of that term.

According to the ancient Indians, Shiva primarily must have been the

divine representative of the fallow, dangerous, dubious, and much-to-be-feared

aspects of nature. He is considered as the ultimate foundation of all existence

and the source and ruler of all life, but it is not clear whether, Shiva is

invoked as a great god of frightful aspect, capable of conquering impious power,

or as the boon-giving Lord and protector. He is both terrible and mild, creator

and agent of reabsorption, eternal rest and ceaseless activity. These

contradictions make him an ironic figure, who transcends humanity and assumes a

mysterious grandeur of his own. His myths describe him as the absolute mighty

unique One, who is not responsible to anybody or for anything. As a dancer, his

pose expresses the eternal rhythm of the universe; he also catches the waters of

the heavenly Ganges River, which destroys all sin; and he wears in his headdress

the crescent moon, which drips the nectar of everlasting life. Sometimes in the

act of trampling on or destroying demons, he wears around his black neck a

serpent, and a necklace of skulls, furnished with a whole apparatus of external

emblems, such as a white bull on which he rides, a trident , tiger’s skin,

elephant’s skin, rattle, noose, etc. He has three eyes, one being on his

forehead, in reference either to the three Vedas, or time past, present and

future and in the end of time, he will dance the universe to destruction.

It is said that without his consort Mother Goddess, no Hindu god is much

use or value to anyone. He may strut about, but his powers are limited. To be

complete he requires a Devi, “Goddess,” who takes many different names and forms,

but always embodies Shakti. In some myths Devi is the prime mover, who commands

the male gods to do work of creation and destruction. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva,

all three have their own consorts.

Sarasvati, the goddess of wisdom and science and, the mother of Vedas,

is Brahma’s wife. She is represented as a fair young woman, with four arms;

with one of her right hands, she is presenting a flower to her husband, by whose

side she continually stands ; and in the other she holds a book of palm-leaves,

indicating that she is fond of learning. In one of her left hands, she has a

string of pearls, called Sivamala (Shiva’s garland) and in the other a small

drum. Lakshmi, or very commonly known as Sri, is the wife of Vishnu.

“Sri, the bride of Vishnu, the mother of the world, is eternal,

imperishable ; as he is all-pervading, so she is omnipotent . Vishnu is meaning,

she is speech ; Hari is polite, she is prudence ; Vishnu is understanding, she

is intellect ; he is righteousness, she is devotion ; Sri is the earth, Hari is

the support. In a word, of gods, animals, and men, Hari is all that is called

male ; Lakshmi is all that is termed female ; there is nothing else than they.”

Lakshmi is regarded as the goddess of Love, Beauty, and Prosperity and is also

known as Haripriya, “The beloved of Hari”, and Lokamata, “The mother of the

world”.

Uma or Kali, is the consort of the Hindu god Shiva in her manifestation

of the power of time. As Shiva’s female consort and a destructive mother goddess,

she inherits some of Shiva’s most fearful aspects. She is frequently portrayed

as a black, laughing, naked hag with blood stained teeth, a protruding tongue,

and a garland of human skulls. She usually has four arms: One hand holds a sword,

the second holds a severed human head, the third is believed by her devotes to

be removing fear, and the third is often interpreted as granting bliss. Kali is

beyond fear and finite existence and is therefore believed to be able to protect

her devotees against fear and to give them limitless peace.

The canon of Hinduism is basically defined by what people do rather than

what they think. Consequently, far more uniformity of behaviour than of belief

is found among Hindus, although very few practices or beliefs are shared by all.

A few usuages are observed by almost all Hindus: reverence for Brahmans and

cows; abstention from meat (especially beef); and marriage within caste (jati),

in the hope of producing male heirs. Most Hindus worship Shiva, Vishnu, or the

Goddess (Devi), but they also worship hundreds of additional minor deities

peculiar to a particular village or even to a particular family. Although Hindus

believe and do many apparently contradictory things, each individual perceives

an orderly pattern that gives form and meaning to his or her own life. No

doctrinal or clerical hierarchy exists in Hinduism, but the intricate hierarchy

of the social system (which is inseparable from the religion) gives each person

a sense of place within the whole.

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