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Hindu Religious Traditions

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Hindu Religious Traditions Paper

Most people in the world derive their religious beliefs and traditions from their parents and peer influences. From a religious point of view, "There are many definitions for the term 'religion' in common usage. [Broadly defined], in order to include the greatest number of belief systems: 'Religion is any specific system of belief about deity, often involving rituals, a code of ethics, and a philosophy of life'" (Robinson, 1996). However, in examining Hinduism, it is difficult to label the practices as a religion. This paper will expound upon the Hindu traditions, taking into account the characteristics of sacred elements, their meaning, and significance.

Hindu Traditions

"For thousands of years people have associated objects in the sky, the Earth, and aspects of their physical world with the gods and goddesses of their culture" (Windows Team, 2000, Mythology). The Hindu culture is no different with the association of several gods and goddesses acknowledged through their traditional worship. Worshipping the many gods and goddesses makes Hinduism difficult to comprehend the many elements of the tradition. The worship of many gods and goddesses is rooted in henotheism. "Belief in one god without denying the existence of others" (Yahooligans! Reference, 2000). This way of worship is what makes Hinduism complex and hard to understand.

In addition, what makes Hinduism even more complex, is that fact that it is also "viewed as a monotheistic religion, because it recognizes only one supreme God: the panentheistic principle of Brahman that all reality is a unity. The entire universe is seen as one divine entity who is simultaneously at one with the universe and who transcends it as well. [Still others] view Hinduism as Trinitarian because Brahman is simultaneously visualized as a triad - - one God with three persons" (Robinson, 1995):

* Brahma the Creator who is continuing to create new realities;

* Vishnu, (Krishna) the Preserver, who preserves these new creations. Whenever Dharma (eternal order, righteousness, religion, law, and duty) is threatened, Vishnu travels from heaven to earth in one of ten incarnations;

* Shiva, the Destroyer, is at times compassionate, erotic, and destructive.

Sacred Elements

Thus, it is understandable, based on the various gods worshipped in Hinduism that one must look at the purpose behind each god to gain a better understanding of the practices. First, "Hinduism is based on some antique sacred writings and the assimilation of many different cultures and religious beliefs from other peoples. The oldest Hindu writing is the Rig Veda, which is a collection of songs and hymns composed over 3,000 years ago. Many are the gods and goddesses described in the sacred Hindu writings" (Windows Team, 2000, Surya). "Another important text is the Ramayana. It is 'a moving love story with moral and spiritual themes'. It is dated to the first century CE and has been attributed to the poet Valmiki" (Robinson, General Introduction, 1995).

Second, comprised of other group of texts include the Upanishadas. "They are 'a continuation of the Vedic philosophy, and were written between 800 and 400 B.C. They elaborate on how the soul (Atman) can be united with the ultimate truth (Brahman) through contemplation and mediation, as well as the doctrine of Karma-- the cumulative effects of a person's actions.' The Mahabharata, were written 540 to 300 BCE, and have been attributed to the sage Vyasa. They record 'the legends of the Bharatas, one of the Aryan tribal groups.' The Bhagavad Gita is the sixth book of the Mahabharata. It is a poem describing a conversation between a warrior Arjuna and the God Krishna. It is an ancient text that has become the main sacred text of Hinduism and other belief systems" (Robinson, General Introduction, 1995).

Characteristics

Proving whether Hinduism is a religion or culture, study of the sacred texts used in worship is important. The texts are used as guidelines to living ones life, similar to Christians' use of the Bible. Based on the article, ("Hinduism: A general"), Hindus organize their

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