Hinduism 101

In hopes of giving you a better understanding of the philosophical foundation at Balanced Achievement, we have created a ‘Balanced Achievement 101’ series that reviews the various components that merge together to form our teaching ideology. In each article (links can be found at the bottom of this page) we outline the given topic, discuss important historical information, and examine key educational concepts that are relevant to the teachings at Balanced Achievement. In this article, we explore the world’s oldest religion in Hinduism 101.

Hinduism 101:

A picture taken from a boat shows the steps of the Ganges in Varanasi.

The Steps of The Ganges in Varanasi

Throughout the mystical lands of India, a spiritual ambiance can intoxicate visitors, unlike any other place in the world. The transcendental feelings that one experiences as one walk along the steps of the Ganges, enter the gates of Jaisalmer, or look in awe at the Taj Mahal have the potential to grip even the most feeble souls. The country’s undeniable life-altering aurora is so powerful that it has the potential to even transform atheists into ascetics. This unmatched mysticism can be attributed primarily to one thing: Hinduism.

The Hindu religion is widely regarded as the oldest religion in the world and dates back beyond recorded history. Today, there are nearly 900 million practicing Hindus worldwide and around 85% of them call India home. As you will soon learn, the Hindu religion is formed around a multitude of both singular and pluralistic ideas, in a strange and paradoxical way, but because the religion’s roots aren’t definitively known, we are not completely sure how this structure emerged.

This map shows the migration root of the Aryan people who merged with the Indus Valley Civilization to form Hinduism.In the assessment of scholars and archeologists, modern-day Hinduism was formed by the merging of two distinctive groups of people, the Aryans and the Indus Valley Civilization. It is believed that the Aryans, who were nomadic wanders from the middle east, migrated to India around 1750 B.C.E. and came in contact with a sophisticated civilization near the Indus River (the highest-located river on the map). It was here where the Aryans encountered the Indus Valley civilization, and is considered by many to be the birthplace of modern-day Hinduism.

There are a number of different theories that try to outline the nature of this cultural integration. Many believe that the Aryans overtook the Indus Valley civilization through combat, and while there is no definitive evidence to back up this claim, one thing is clear: Both the Aryans and the Indus Valley civilization have their fingerprints on modern-day Hinduism. The Aryans, for example, brought with them The Vedas, which is considered the oldest and most sacred text in the religion, and numerous artifacts portraying important Hindu concepts, such as meditation and religious rituals, have been found within the Indus Valley.

As we begin to explore modern-day Hinduism it will become much easier to understand how the ideas, rituals, and beliefs found in the religion, could have been influenced by multiple cultures. For those who are not familiar with the religion, the task of understanding it can be a dizzying process because of the sheer volume of traditions and limited cohesion amongst practitioners. The overarching concept, however, should be easier to comprehend: The religion of Hinduism is formed around shared beliefs, which are expressed differently through cultural norms and traditions. This is the singularity and plurality of Hinduism.

Let’s now begin our journey into what is referred to as Sanatana Dharma, or Eternal Religion, by first looking at the commonalities shared amongst Hindus.

The Ultimate Reality of Oneness:

There are few similarities in the ways Hindus approach their religious lives. A multitude of gods, religious rituals, and spiritual traditions can leave one questioning if Hinduism is a single religion or numerous religions that all fall under the same heading. The most important conceptual belief in Hinduism, however, is shared by all.

The religion of Hinduism is said to have approximately 330 million gods, or Devas, who are worshiped, depending on an array of factors, by various followers of the religion. Each and every one of these deities, however, is considered to be a manifestation of the Ultimate Divine Reality. In Hinduism, this is termed Brahman, and it consists of everything in this universe and beyond. Brahman is said to be infinite consciousness and it is the all-encompassing truth.

Many Hindu teachers will describe Brahman as an experience that is beyond comprehension and one that can be known only through spiritual practice. When trying to describe Brahman, a clever analogy is often used. It would be similar to explaining the color blue to an individual who can not see. Yet still, Hindus believe that everything, both known and unknown, is Brahman. The gods, the earth, all of us, and beyond are Brahman.

In the eyes of Hindus, it may not be fitting to call Brahman a god, because the magnitude of its presence isn’t given justice, but conceptually this may be the best way to develop an understanding of it. If Brahman were a god, he or she would have created everything in the universe, including the air, the stars, and ourselves, as well as the gods who preside over it, with parts of him or herself. Brahman is the creator of the cosmos and universe, yet at the same time is the cosmos, universe, and everything found within it.

Hindus believe that Brahman, which resides within us all, is actually our deepest and most innate nature. For this reason, the Hindu religion is formed around the idea of not only equality, at the deepest level but also singularity. The popular Indian saying, Namaste, represents this belief. Namaste, for those who don’t know, can be translated as “The divine in me respects and honors the divine in you,” and the divine that is being referenced is Brahman.

The idea of Brahman, which can only be known through spiritual practice, is the most important shared belief that all Hindus share.

The Path to Moksha (The Ultimate Goal):

We now know that all Hindus accept the notion that everything, known and unknown, is in fact, Brahman. Then, the next question that we need to explore is, ‘What is the purpose of a Hindu’s spiritual practice?’

In Christianity, individuals will live their lives with the motto ‘What Would Jesus Do,’ and base their actions on this maxim in hopes of reaching heaven after death. Hindus’ ultimate goal, similarly, is to reconnect with their divine creator, Brahman. Unlike Christianity, however, are a number of important concepts and beliefs, about the universe, life, and ourselves, that are shared by all Hindus. The following 5 terms will help you understand the ultimate goal of the Hindu population:

Atman:

We previously discussed how Brahman resides within each and every individual, and this part of one’s self is called Atman, or in English the Soul. The ultimate goal of Hindu individuals is to free their Atmans from this material world and reunite themselves with their essential nature, Brahman. Some other common names for Atman are True Self, Eternal Self, and Spirt.

Karma:

The word Karma is recognizable and understandable for much of the Western world. It can be translated to mean ‘actions’ or ‘deeds’ in Sanskrit but is more identified with its important place in spirituality. Hindus believe that the world is governed by the law of karma or the principle of cause and effect. Every action an individual takes will have a corresponding reaction in the future. ‘Whatever you sow you reap,’ and ‘What goes around comes around,’ are two common phrases that represent the reality of karma.

Dharma:

Dharma is a word that has many different meanings and uses throughout Asian spiritual traditions. For Hindus, the word Dharma is used to describe 2 key concepts: 1.) It is the cosmic law and order. 2.) It is the code of living that each and every individual should follow in hopes of keeping universal harmony and obtaining good karma. Each individual will have their own life dharma, depending on their positive or negative karma, and will be different depending on factors such as caste, age, and occupation. When you are living with dharma, you are upholding the duties that have been bestowed upon you by the gods and helping to maintain universal harmony.

Samsara:

Unlike Christian beliefs about entering heaven or hell after death, Hindus believe in reincarnation, or Samsara. It is believed that individuals will continuously be reborn, in another form, after their death. It is said that our illusion about existence and reality, or Maya, is what keeps us stuck in the cycle of Samsara. The karma that we accumulate over this lifetime, and previous lifetimes, will determine the quality of our life when our Atman transmigrates into our next physical form. While Westerners oftentimes falsely assume this to be a positive cycle, the goal of Hindus is to end this cycle and reunite their Atman with Brahman.

Moksha:

The process of an individual freeing themselves from Samsara, and uniting with Brahman, is called Moksha. This is the ultimate goal of the Hindi people. Moksha is the end of the continuous cycles of rebirth. There are 4 individual paths that one can take to Moksha, however, most Hindus will work towards liberation by dividing their spiritual attention between each of the 4 paths. The paths are: 1.) The path of spiritual knowledge 2.) The path of meditation 3.) The path of devotion & 4.) The path of karma.

A Religion of Diversity:

The overall ideas of Brahman, Atman, Dharma, Karma, Samsara, and Moksha are collectively shared by all Hindus, this however doesn’t mean the religion is formed purely on singularity. There is an endless amount of diversity in how each individual approaches their spiritual practice and journey. The pluralistic dimensions of the Hindu religion can be found in the immense number of deities, the numerous sacred texts, the caste system, and the differentiating traditions and norms. Let’s see how:

Devas:

A picture that shows the 3 gods of the Hindu Trinity.

There are approximately 330 million Devas, or gods, within the Hindu religion. Yes, 330,000,000. These deities, which are worshiped as divine manifestations of Brahman, are portrayed in both a traditional mystical sense or a more untraditionally manifestation found in the material world. For example, The Ganges River is thought to be the goddess Ganga. Hindus believe that there are 3 gods who preside over this universe we call home, yet still reside underneath the ultimate reality of Brahman. In India, the following 3 gods are referred to as The Hindu Trinity:

Brahma:

It is believed that Brahman created Brahma, the god of creation. Brahma has been and continues to be responsible for the creation of everything in this world and is regularly referenced as The Creator.

Vishnu:

Vishnu was tasked with the preservation of this universe and is often referred to as The Preserver. The primary responsibility of Vishnu is to keep the universal dharma in proper order. If individuals, or societies, are struggling with maintaining cosmic law, it is believed that Vishnu will come and restore order.

Shiva:

One of the most popular Devas in the Hindu tradition is Shiva. The third and final member of the Hindu Trinity is often referred to as The Destroyer. He has been burdened with the eventual destruction of this universe, which will allow for it to recreate itself but is also tasked with regularly destroying evil and negative forces, including the negative qualities that can be found within us, as this will ensure spiritual progress.

Sacred Scriptures:

There is a plethora of sacred and holy scriptures associated with the Hindu religion. The most important text is the Vedas, which was brought to India with the Aryans before the creation of modern-day Hinduism. The Vedas are separated into 4 distinctive and important texts: The Rigveda, The Yajurveda, The Samaveda, and The Atharvaveda. The Vedas, however, are not the most read scriptures today. Instead, Hindus today treat the Bhagavad Gita as the national gospel. Two other important scriptures are The Upanishads and The Agamas.

The Indian Caste SystemThe Caste System:

The Caste System in India can appear highly controversial from the viewpoint of an outsider, but to Hindus, it is the system that allows cosmic order. After an individual’s birth, he or she will be placed into 1 of 5 castes, the caste of their parents, and depending on this caste, the individual will have lifelong limitations to things such as their occupational pursuit and social interactions with others. It is believed that the birth of individuals is direct to the karma they accumulated in their previous lives. An individual with positive karma will be born into a higher caste, whereas an individual with negative karma will be born into a lower caste. The 5 castes are Brahmins (Priests), Kshatriyas (Public Service and Military), Vaishyas (Businessmen, Merchants, and Landowners), Shudras (Common men, Peasants, and Servants), and Harijans/Dalits (Untouchables, Street Sweepers).

Cultural Traditions and Norms:

It is estimated that nearly 80% of Hindus in India live outside of major cities and reside in small towns or villages, with each containing various traditions, worship rituals, and festivals. When added to the sheer number of gods and 1,721 spoken languages, it is easy to again see how Hinduism can appear more similar to thousands of small religions rather than a large one. To exemplify this truth, we can look at the vast amount of festivals, or holidays, that takes place in India. While the exact number is unknown, some scholars have estimated over 1,000, which actually may be an understatement. Regardless, it is almost certain that every day of every year is a celebration of some time in India. Some of the most popular festivals are Diwali, Holi, and Ganesh Chaturthi.

Hinduism at Balanced Achievement:

As you can now see, Hinduism is a religion that contains qualities of both singularity and polarity. The teachings from the world’s oldest religion are bursting with wisdom that can be utilized to improve each of our lives. At Balanced Achievement we will regularly incorporate ideas from Hinduism and view aspects of the Hindu lifestyle as indispensable in our pursuit of happiness, success, and ultimately fulfillment. Here are 3 aspects of Hinduism that are integrated into the framework of our teaching philosophy:

Enjoying The Gifts of Life:

Hindus are said to have 4 primary goals, Moksha being the ultimate, and two of them are directly related to rejoicing in the gifts that are offered to us in this life. Artha is the goal of prosperity and we believe that we each have the right to not only pursue material abundance in our lives but also enjoy it thoroughly. We believe that the basic human rights to obtain wealth and improve one’s life are parts of the life path that one must pursue in order to reach ultimate fulfillment. Another goal of the Hindus is Kama, or sensual desire, which we believe should similarly be pursued. As we pursue these things, however, it is important to have a complete understating of the Buddhist concept of impermanence. Since these pleasures will not last and are constantly changing, our happiness cannot be depended upon them.

Dharma and Karma:

Two of the most important and relevant concepts in Hinduism are Dharma and Karma. Our teachings will regularly relate to Dharma in hopes of helping individuals realize that they have worldly responsibility and an ultimate life path that needs to be discovered, pursued, and celebrated. To live in harmony with the world is to live in Dharma. It is also important that we consciously take actions with the Law of Karma in mind. You must remember that your actions will produce similar reactions that will affect your life and well-being. In order to produce desirable circumstances in our lives, we need to direct our actions in ways that produce positive and beneficial things for all.

  • The Path of Wisdom: One of the most common topics that you will see discussed at Balanced Achievement is meditation, and we believe that internally pursuing spiritual knowledge is one of the most important things that an individual can do. The pursuit of wisdom, through meditation, can change an individual’s life in countless beneficial ways, and this pursuit should not be taken lightly. We also believe that there is an overarching divine being, a Brahman, who resides within all of us through Atman. By deepening our relationship with our soul, through inner exploration, our lives will blossom in numerous ways. If you are interested in further exploring meditation, we have a wide variety of articles that discuss the practice that you can find here: Balanced Achievement Meditation.

We hope you have enjoyed your journey to Bharat Mata, Mother India, and have learned valuable information about the Hindu religion.

25 comments

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Surname William April 12, 2017 - 6:18 pm

This is the truth about the 330,000,000 Hindu gods. Read on. To die to the mind of Christ is to live in GOD. Here we see the evidence of the war within the mind. (2 Samuel 11:9) (Genesis 4:7) The killing of Uraiah is attested within the Hindu Bhagavad Gita, where Krishna is the Biblical David warring within his own mind. Krishna’s lover Radha is Bathsheba Venus. Here is her golden apple. (Proverbs 25:11) The name David means Beloved, and Solomon is also called Jedidiah which means Beloved of the Lord. (1 Samuel 12:24-25) (Psalm110:1) (2 Samuel 7:12-17) (Mark 12:35-36) (Acts 2:34-35) (Romans 14:9-12) (Hebrews 1:5-7) (Bhagavad Gita 9:16) (1 Chronicles 17:13) (Luke 20:37-44) The Bhagavad Gita was written as a prophesy before time had passed, and was disguised within the Hindu Holy Scriptures. Here Krishna is called the Beloved in the Eknath Easwaren Nilgiri Press English Translation. (Bhagavad Gita 7:17) Other translations speak of him as the Wisdom in being a type of one with his son Shiva whom is the Biblical Solomon. Shiva is also known as the Almighty Wisdom. (1 Kings 10:23-24, 4:29-34, 5:12) (2 Chronicles 1:11, 9:22-23) Shiva is known as the man of destruction as his teachings are said to destroy ones inner evils. (Romans 6:1-23, 8:10, 14:9) (1 Corinthians 15:29-52) (2 Corinthians 15:4) (Galatians 2:17-21) (2 Timothy 2:11-13) (1 Peter 2:23-25) In the Bible, Shiva is called Abaddon which is translated as destruction. (Revelation 9:11) (Job 26:6) (Proverbs 15:11, 27:10) In Irish Celtic, Solomon is known as Aonghus whom had a foster-son named Diarmuid of the love spot, with a magical love spot on his forehead. This spot is the Hindu Tilaka, which is similar to the red Hindu Bindi dot on the forehead of females in Hinduism. The Hindu Bhagavad Gita is also called Song Celestial, The Celestial Song, and The Song of the Lord which links to the Biblical book called the Song of Solomon which is also known as Song of Songs. The Song of Songs was written as a link to the parents of Solomon whom is the Hindu Shiva. His parents are the Biblical David (Roman Mars & Hindu Krishna) and Bathsheba (Roman Venus & Hindu Radha). Here are a list of Biblical books that will properly correspond to Solomon in Hindu Scriptures. The Book of the Acts of Solomon. (1 Kings 11:41) The Book of Nathan the Prophet, The Prophesy of Ahijah the Shilonite, The Visions of Iddo. (2 Chronicles 9:29) Here are a list of Biblical books that will properly correspond to prophesies of David in Hindu Scriptures. The Book of Samuel the Seer, the Book of Nathan the Prophet and the Book of Gad the Seer. (2 Chronicles 29:29) (Colossians 1:17-23) We hid the books over there together.
The Vishnu Lineage. (Revelation 22:16, 19:10) We are not to be worshiped though.
And Jesus Christ is the Mediator between heaven and Earth. (Galatians 3:19-20) (1 Timothy 2:5) (Hebrews 8:6, 9:15) Life is fall. Eternal life to me is eternal fall, as we are not GOD. Eternal progression. So, if you agree with eternal fall, join Jesus Christ and have eternal life. It is not bad; it is a decision. We do not understand GOD’s perfection. Unless you are perfect, you have a remnant of a fall, meaning that you are able to progress. If you want to go to the literal heaven, Jesus can mediate your way. I don’t personally answer nor listen to prayers the people may think I do. I forward them to GOD, for I am not GOD, nor did I ever say to pray to me. (Luke 11:1-4)

(Isaiah 52:15) (Psalm 77:1-20)
For the doctrines to work, we had to have veils and secrets until now. The condemnation was only from himself. It is said that Hinduism has 330,000,000 gods, yet it is also said that Hinduism is a religion of Polytheism. They were the people who were called on to hide every single one on Earth from the new ages. These 330,000,000 gods were actually the ancient Census, which has now been forgiven.
(2 Samuel 24:10-25) (Psalm 82:1-8) (John 10:34-36) (Hosea 1:10) (1 Corinthians 8:5-6)
They were on Prayer Lock. And thus now I will forward all of their prayers to GOD. Every Prayer ever spoken by any Hindu has now opened in Heaven.
I was told that GOD has accepted all their prayers, and has not left anyone behind.
(Ezekiel 18:4)
And your sins are forgiven.

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[…] in the interview, Perry turned her attention towards the ancient Buddhist and Hindu teachings of karma and suffering while subtly linking them to the previously mentioned ideas of […]

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[…] Like many of the world’s other most accomplished spiritual teachers, Dr. Paul Haider was nudged down the sacred path by the inevitable challenges and hardships life throws our way. To be more exact, it was a combination of coming to terms with a number of failed relationships, coping with the premature death of his father at the age of 57 and the subsequent realization that he may suffer a similar fate if he didn’t reduce his levels of stress that moved the now accomplished author and master herbalist towards the wisdom of Buddhism and Hinduism.  […]

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