Religion originates from ancient Latin practices and language where some practices were adopted to bind people to God. Religion is a way of life that connects people to God and according to some people it helps in attainment of Godliness.
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Religion has been there since the beginning of the universe with the purpose of bringing consolation to human beings who do not want to exist like any other objects or animals but want some spiritualism so that they can have some peace and consolation of the spirit.
Past experiences have shown that human beings do not live to eat or gain wealth alone but there is something that we always crave for so as to get satisfaction with life. In this paper, I am going to discuss about the religion of Hinduism some of its practices and its principles.
According to Smith (1991), “Hinduism as a religion has its roots in India and the name “Hinduism” originated from the dominant religion that was practiced in India.”
It is believed to be the oldest religion that has been practiced according to Hindu loyalists. Unlike other religions which have basic foundation of prophets like Christianity and Islam, Hinduism does not have prophets that spread it values like Jesus and Mohammed of the later religions. Hinduism is different from other religions in the sense that it does not rely on teachings from specific people or prophets in history.
It does not have religious fanatics. Banerji (1992) wrote that, “Another name that is used to refer to this religion is Sanatana-Dharma and Vaidika Dharna.” Sanatana implies that it is a religion that is eternal while Vaidika means the religion of the Vedas. Due to the fact that it is the oldest religion, followers of this religion refer to it as an eternal religion and that it has the protection of God.
The name Vaidika Dharma is referred the same as Hinduism due to the fact that the scriptures that govern the conduct of Hindus originate from it. The scriptures that determined the practices of Rishis are regarded as the basis of the religion of Hinduism.
Hinduism is a little bit different from other religions in the manner in which practices are imposed. There is no dogmatic imposition of religious practices, but provides a means through which individuals dictate for themselves and approve things for themselves. There total freedom on the way people think and decide for themselves. It does not restrict individuals to think but allows them to reason out issues freely.
Some researchers refer to it as, “A religion that guarantees freedom.” This is due to the fact that it allows people to question the existence of God, creation myths, how to worship and the relevance of life. The other characteristic of this religion is that it does not dismiss doctrines of other religions or even adherence of other rituals and forms of worship.
Neither does it force their doctrines and teachings on people but gives them a chance to assess and meditate for themselves. As a result of these fundamental believes, Hinduism has got the favor of some religions in India who have collaborated with it to foster their values.
Hinduism does not criticize people who doubt the existence of God and as the soul maker of the world and all creatures. The groups of people who doubt existence of God are considered respectable members Hindu religion. Hinduism can be considered as the extremist version of catholic practices and is characterized with liberty.
This feature of Hinduism gives it an image that it is respectful to all religions. It does not revolt against teachings of other religions but considers what is regarded as truth irrespective of where it originates. Despite the fact that there are several religious groups in India, Hindus live in harmony with all of them and tolerate behaviors of followers of other religions.
Their ability to tolerate other religions is exemplary. Irrespective of the differences in religious practices among different sections of the Hindu, the perception of the religion and the way it presents itself to the outside world is uniform.
According to Radhakrishnan and Moore (1967), “Hinduism as a religion, compels for provision of Yoga Sadhnana and spiritulal food for all followers so that they can regulate their temperament taste and desires of life.” It recommends Yoga to all kinds of people even to the non Hindus so that they can get to know God while doing daily duties in the world.
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Radhakrishnan and Moore(1967) further claim that, “Instructors of Yoga put a lot of emphasis on self control and practical acquisition of Sadhana that is aimed at providing control for the mind and all that pertain self identity.” This religion does not merely rely on theories, but practical in nature. If you can compare the kind of activities that are done in Hinduism like Yoga, no other religion uses this practical approach.
Some scholars define religion as a “practical aspect of philosophy and philosophy as a rational aspect of religion.” Hinduism as a religion is a practical manner in which people lead their lives. For a Hindu loyalist, religion is an avenue to gain spiritualism. Practices associated with this religion are an avenue to gain freedom for a person. All aspects of life are dictated upon by the religious practices of the Hindu people.
These practices allow people to find ways through which they can attain freedom for the soul and life in general. A person who is considered an Hindu is one that believes that Vedas contain true scriptures while other define a Hindu as a person who follows a religion that has its roots in India among many other liberal definitions.
Hinduism has survived for a long time because of the nature of practices and teachings it proposes. In this religion, there is no worship of many gods neither does it compel people to practice certain behaviors. It is an amalgamation of several religious practices and experiences with full consideration of the human life. It discourages fanatics which has enabled it survive amongst a big number of religions in the world.
Hinduism has a global presence. It can accommodate all the teachings of other religions of the world. Teachings of Hinduism are flexible and quite easy to adopt. Its practical approach to issues in life makes it unique while its ethics are considered by Hindus as soul elevating.
It has some teachings for the modern world in the manner in which it can handle issues of hatred and war from the teachings that advocate for universal love, truthfulness and peace among people. Practicing Yoga implies you appreciate the scriptures and practices of Hinduism.
The scriptures of Hinduism are known as Sanskrit literature. They are classified differently according to their forms and authority. Among their doctrines is the Srutis, which is also referred to as the Vedas. It implies the scriptures that arose as a result of revelation and classified as superhuman revelations that have no human authors.
Sargeant (1984) claims that, “The Hindus hold the Vedas with high respect and pride with supreme authority over the whole world. The word Srutis which also means Vedas means knowledge.” According to the scriptures of the Hindu, it means a documentation of facts that bring knowledge.
All the other scriptures have their basis in the Vedas. According to some researchers, the Vedas is the source of Wisdom in India which humanity will cherish forever. According to the teaching of Hinduism, the Veda is true teachings that were revealed to Rishis in the ancient India. These teachings were believed to have been heard by Rishi which forms the basis for its naming as Sruti which means to hear.
Even after hearing, Rishi did not write them down but believed that these teachings were existent even before they were revealed to him. All the other religions in the world give credit to specific people that were sent by God to bring the truth to people. The Vedas which also implies Hinduism does not recognize any authority as having been sent by God. They recognize themselves as having been given knowledge and authority by God to find out for themselves.
They believe this knowledge was given to them by Lord Brahma whom they consider as their creator. The Rishis have been depicted by Hindus to have had a strong connection with the creator. They were inspired to write the scriptures and left an example that has been followed by other religions to date.
Vasu (1919) elaborates that “Apart from the Srutis, Hindus also follow the doctrines written in the book called Rig Veda Samhita which is believed to be the oldest book.” Just like the Christian bible, Hindus hold the scripture of this book with high respect and forms the basis of foundation of their values right from birth.
The manner in which it is written is stylish and inspiring. The immortal expression of the Mantras depicts it as the oldest book of religion in the earth that contains the truth. The scripture in this book is written in prose form and is meant to be interpreted by a priest called the Adhvaryu. It outlines procedures that ought to be followed when delivering sacrifices.
Other teachings of Hinduism are the Upanishads. This is a section of the Vedas that form concluding remarks. The teachings in the Upanishads form the basic values of Hinduism and are also referred to as the Vedanta. There are different categories of Upanishads affiliated to the Veda.
Though they might give different interpretation of the Veda, the all obey the authority and values of Upanishads. Scholars from western countries appreciate the work of the Upanishads because at a time when the west was far behind in terms of development, the seers of the Upanishads had achieved incredible civilization.
Smritis is another doctrine of the Hindus. Fuller (2004) argues that, “Unlike the Sruti, Smritis is a secondary source of scriptures to the Hindus.” It contains sacred laws that were followed by the Hindus with regard to the Sanatana Dharma. They provide further explanations of scriptures contained in the Vedas especially the chapter on Vidhis.
The teachings of the Smriti are dependent on the teachings of Sruti and contain stipulated explanations of regulations that govern the society as a whole and the family. From the past, all laws that determine the way of life for the Hindus are written in the Smritis. It contains a laid down policy in which individuals in the society should follow so as to gain harmony. It stipulates the duties of all men.
A typical Hinduism follower has to learn from the Smritis on how to conduct his or her entire lifetime. The main emphasis of this book is to purify a human being so as to get perfection and freedom. Due to the dynamics of the times, the present day society ought to be given a new Smriti to accommodate the changes that have been seen with time.
This is due to the fact that Hinduism itself allows people to formulate ideas that enable them gain freedom. Sruti and the Smriti books form the basic foundations of the teachings of Hinduism. From the explanations of the two books, Sruti means what is heard while Smriti implies that which is to be remembered. The other books that contain the doctrines of Hindus are the Itihasas, Puranas, Agamas, Tevaram and Tichurakam.
Dharma is one of the dominant aspects of Hinduism and is used to mean righteousness. It is used mainly to foster unity and brotherhood among members of the community. It promotes harmony and brings unity of purpose. Hindus describe it as an avenue through which solutions to conflicts in the world emanate.
The opposite of this word is Adharma. According to Banerji (1992), “Dharma brings happiness to people while on earth and in the next world.” Dharma is further described as that thing that lifts people to attain perfection and freedom. It connects people to have straight communication with God, implying that it is a way of going directly to God.
The definition of Dharma is not limited. It also means laws that govern our daily lives that are categorized under Achara. Hinduism has different roles for different categories of people, rules for men are different from those of women but they all promote harmony and peace in the society.
The basis upon which ethics is determined in Hinduism is the responsibility of Dharma. From the earlier discussion, practice of Dharma brings harmony and respect in the society. It proposes a life of love, brotherhood and friendliness. By abiding by Dharma, one is guaranteed of good life now and even after death. According to the Hindu practices, “Ethics is a cornerstone of Yoga, Vendanta and realization of Godliness.”
They believe that if one does achieve ethical perfection, then he or she will not achieve spiritual perfection. For instance, a student pursuing Yoga must be ethically perfect and should not engage in practices that will cause harm, injury or abuse. The ethics of Hinduism are based the rules set forth by Buddha.
Just like many other religions, Hinduism has got rituals that are widely practiced. One of them is Sandhyopasana. This ritual is characterized by prayers that are offered to God in timed occasions of the day. During these prayers, people seek forgiveness of transgressions committed when carrying out daily routines. It is believed that these prayers have to be performed during specific times when the Lord can hear them.
Other times that are not stipulated in the schedule, prayers cannot be heard. The Samskaras is a ritual in the Hindu religion that defines the sanctity of life. It elaborates purification practices that ought to be followed in the entire life of and Hindu loyalist. What ought to be done in every stage of life is documented.
Garbhadana is a ritual in Hinduism where the husband prays for conception to occur. They believe that through this prayer, the cells in the embryo are excited. Simantonnayana is a ritual performed after seven months of pregnancy to offer protection to the unborn baby.
According to Sargeant (1984), “Jatakarma ritual is conducted immediately after a baby has been born as a sign of welcome and success wishes in life. Other rituals that follow include Namakarana, Annaprasana, Chudakarma, and Upanayana in life.”
In the present day, several aspects of the religion of Hinduism have been incorporated in the society. These include the celebrations that are done when a child is born, during birthdays, weddings and burials. In search for perfection, people have resorted to interpreting scriptures of religions in a manner that suits their practices. As far as looking for harmony in the society is concerned, leaders have resorted to promote religious values that bring love and brotherhood just like Hinduism promotes these practices.
Banerji, S. (1992). Tantra in Bengal (Second Revised and Enlarged ed.), Delhi: Manohar.
Fuller, C. (2004). The Camphor Flame: Popular Hinduism and Society in India, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Radhakrishnan, S and Moore, C. (1967). A Sourcebook in Indian Philosophy, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Sargeant, W. (1984). The Bhagavad Gita, New York: State University of New York Press.
Smith, H. (1991). The World’s Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions, San Francisco: Harper SanFrancisco.
Vasu, S. (1919). The Catechism of Hindu Dharma, New York: Kessinger Publishing, LLC.