Hinduism is the oldest religion that exists in the world. It is based on several basic principles that have stood the test of time and as been prevalent in Asian cultures for millennia. Behind only Christianity and the Islamic faith as the most popular religion in the world today
This religion knows no nationality, race, or creed, and It accepts all who are willing to understand its traditionally steeped philosophies.
An astonishing 95% of the entire world’s Hindu believers can be found in India.
Though it is a religion that is deeply based in history, due to its extensive history, there is no distinct founder of the faith. It is founded upon many different religious philosophies that have melded into one complete, comprehensive religion that is accessible to anyone around the world who is willing to believe in its foundations and teachings.
A Brief Explanation of the Core Beliefs of Hinduism
Hinduism is a complex religion in many ways and a very comprehensive religion in others. Some of the core beliefs of Hinduism include the following:
- Due to its lack of having any one set of “rules,” such as Christianity’s Ten Commandments, Hinduism is founded on a conglomeration of multiple religious ideals. It could be said that the principle construct of this religion is based on the belief that people are their actions.
- While this religion believes that there is only one true god, Brahman, they recognize many lesser gods who are there to help to reach Brahman ultimately.
It has been said that there are over 300 million lesser gods are accepted as a path to Brahman, and Jesus could be accepted as a vehicle to their ultimate god.
- As animals, especially cows, are held sacred, most Hindus do not eat meat.
- Another central principle is that believers are expected to marry into their same social class or caste.
- Believers trust that there is a continual cycle that consists of life, death, and reincarnation.
Karma, or the idea that the actions a person performs in this life will determine their fate in their next reincarnation, is a driving force for Hindus.
The ultimate goal of a believer is to reach their final incarnation and become a part of the absolute soul, achieving “moksha,” or salvation.
- Dharma is a sacred belief held by followers and is a power that is thought to help control the forces of the universe through peoples’ virtue and morality.
The Major Gods and Goddesses of Hinduism
As previously mentioned, Hinduism is an extremely polytheistic religion, but several significant gods and goddesses are widely recognized by the faith. These deities include:
- Brahman - He is the ultimate god in Hinduism and is thought to be the creator of all things.
- Vishnu - He is the god of preservation. He is a god that reveres peace and truth. It is thought that when the world is in complete disarray, Vishnu will arise to reset the universe's balance.
- Ganesha - He is the god of success and wealth. While very few Hindus share the same belief in god, this god is worshiped by most of those who follow the religion.
- Shiva - This is the god of destruction. He is known for his association with death and destroying worlds in the hopes that the ultimate god, Brahman, will come forth and recreate it.
- Saraswati - She is the goddess of knowledge and the arts. She is thought to be responsible for gifting humans with knowledge and speech.
- Krishna - One of the most revered gods in the Hindu religion, he is associated with love and compassion.
The Caste System
Though there are few universal practices or belief systems that are consistent in Hinduism, one that tends to be followed and practiced today is the caste system. Today this is an idea that a social hierarchy class system determines what class one should marry into. Those classes are:
- The Brahmin who are the pinnacle of the spiritual and intellectual.
- Society’s public servants are the Kshatriyas.
- Vaisyas are the skilled laborers in society.
- The lowest class in this caste system are the unskilled workers known as the Shudras.
Explaining Hinduism: A Vast, Rich Religious History
Though it would be impossible to give an in-depth explanation of Hinduism due to its extensive multi-millennial history, a comprehensive overview of some of its most essential highlights can be achievable.
There is so much involved in the understanding of this ancient religion, but it is important to note that, while complex in ways, in other ways it is completely accessible to anyone who is interested in learning about or following its teachings and practices. That is evident by the fact that, thousands of years after its inception, it is still being practiced by millions today.
Though Hinduism is predominantly practiced in India, it is a religion that is practiced world wide by millions who find value in its offerings.