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Title: Hinduism
Basic Teachings of Hinduism
One of the world’s oldest religions, Hinduism, is practiced by most people in India
today. Hinduism evolved over thousands of years and was influenced by the cultures
and traditions of many peoples. However a few fundamental teachings are shared by
nearly all Hindus.
• Among most basic tenets of Hinduism,
belief in Brahman, eternal being that
created, preserves world
• Brahman all-encompassing
• Many believe human mind incapable
of understanding
• Hindus believe each person has
atman, soul, aspect of Brahman
• Atman shapes personality, cannot be
destroyed, even by death
• Devas, manifestations of Brahman,
active in world, helping maintain order
in nature
Three devas- Brahma, Vishnu, Siva -are particularly influential. Some believe in
thousands; others worship only one as the true manifestation of Brahman.
Rebirth and Salvation
Pattern of Life
• Hindus believe universe, everyone in it, part of continual pattern of birth, death,
and rebirth
• After death atman reborn in process called reincarnation, or samsara
New Life
• Nature of person’s new life shaped by karma—sum effect of deeds, actions
• Good karma, reincarnated to better station in life; bad karma, lower station in life
• Ultimate goal of human existence, moksha, escape from cycle of rebirth
• With moksha, atman leaves world, reunites fully with Brahman
• To achieve moksha is to fulfill one’s dharma—spiritual duties, obligations
• By fulfilling dharma, one creates good karma, breaks free from rebirth cycle
Sacred Texts and Practices
Much of Hinduism’s evolution stemmed from a number of sacred writings produced
over centuries.
Sacred Texts
• Teachings, practices based on many
texts, most sorted into one of three
– The Vedas
– Later writings inspired by the
– Sacred epics
• The Vedas, sacred hymns of praise,
among earliest sacred texts of
The Vedas
• Name means “knowledge” in
• Hindus consider Vedas to contain
eternal knowledge not written by
humans, revealed to them by
• Parts of Vedas date back more than
3,000 years
• Considered core of Hinduism even
• Sacred texts that built upon the Vedas appeared
• Some, such as Upanishads, also believed to have been revealed rather than written
by people
• Upanishads philosophical reflections on the Vedas, dealing with nature of world,
meaning of life
Ramayana, Mahabharata
• Other sacred texts based on themes in the Vedas, but composed by sages, including
two epic poems, Ramayana and Mahabharata
• Each tells story, reflects on living according to Vedic teachings
• Included in Mahabharata, most sacred of all Hindu texts, the Bhagavad Gita,
addressing many aspects of Hindu belief, philosophy
Hindu Religious Practices
Meditation, Pilgrimages
• Hindu beliefs vary widely, religious
practices vary as well; worship can
take place anywhere
• To help meditate, Hindus practice
series of integrated physical, mental
exercises called yoga
• At temples, priests might recite, read
portions of the Vedas; image of a deva
sometimes carried out of temple to
• Yoga teaches people how to focus
bodies, minds to aid meditation, help
attain moksha – escape from the cycle
of rebirth
• At home, food, drink, gifts offered for
deva; meditation, silent reflection
• Hindus also make pilgrimages to
Ganges River to purify, remove bad
New Religion
• 500 BC, group of Hindus broke away, founded new religion called Jainism
• Led by teacher Mahavira, Jains thought most Hindus put too much emphasis on
Ritual Unnecessary
• Jains thought ritual unnecessary
• People could achieve moksha by giving up worldly things, carefully controlling
• Central to Jain teaching, idea of ahimsa - nonviolence
• Most Hindus also practiced ahimsa, but not to same extent
• Jains carefully avoid harming living creatures, are usually vegetarians
Other Traits
• Jains promise to tell only truth
• Avoid stealing
• Strive to eliminate greed, anger, prejudice, gossip from lives
• These things can prevent person from achieving moksha
• Most devout become monks, nuns,
give up possessions
• Most Jains not monks, nuns
• Live outdoors, seek shelter only during
rainy months
• Pledge to uphold principles of ahimsa,
have careers that do not involve
harming of animals
• Cover mouths with masks, sweep
ground to avoid accidentally killing
• Jainism calls for periodic fasting,
especially during festivals, on holy
days; limiting worldly possessions