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Understanding the Hindu Religion

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Understanding the Hindu Religion

Hinduism is one of the world's oldest religions. Hinduism does not have a single set of guidelines for believers, and there is no sole originator or instructor. Hindus believe in a universal eternal soul called Brahman. Brahman is believed to have created everything and is present within everything. Brahman is considered the Hindus one God; however, Hindus do recognize additional gods that represent different expression of Brahman (Jayaram, 2007). Hindus recognize one god as creating the universe, who is Brahma. Brahma is the senior god and his job was completed upon creation. Hindus recognize the god who preserves and protects the universe, Vishnu. Vishnu's responsibility is to return to earth in disturbed times and repair the stability of good and evil. There is also Lakshmi who is the companion of the god Vishnu. Lakshmi is known as the goddess of wealth, knowledge and purity. Hindus believe that those who worship Lakshmi without greed are blessed with fortune and success. Then there is the god who destroys the universe known as Shiva. Shiva is known to have untamed passion, which leads him to extreme behavior. Shiva is seen as the source of both good and evil and is regarded as the one who combines many contradictory elements. Hindu philosophy consist of six customary schools that all identify a believer as one who acknowledges the power of the Vedas as absolute (Religion Facts, 2007).

Hindus believe in samsara, which is referred to as the cycle of life where they believe that the spirit passes through a series of succeeding lives. They believe that their next life will be based on karma. Hindus strongly believe karma shapes their future lives and individuals must assume responsibilities for ones behaviors and actions in this life or their next life. Death is important in this phase because it is known as the final surrender (Jayaram, 2007). The closing phase of the death and reincarnation is known as moksha. To achieve moksha one must overcome ignorance and desires. Hindus believe that cremation releases the soul of the deceased properly, so that it can continue to the next life.

Hindu devotion is primarily an individual action rather that a public act, it includes giving special offerings to the god. During devotion worshippers repeatedly chant their favorite gods or goddesses names, and repeat songs. Hindus will bring offerings to their gods that include fruit, water, flowers, and incense. Shrines usually located in many Hindu dwellings, consist of a small room, or altar, but can also be pictures of the god, or statues of the god where they give offerings and say prayers. Hindus often worship with family members and their ceremonies are performed three times a day. Hindus do have temple worship where special parts of the temple have a different sacred or figurative meaning. The middle temple is the heart of the worshipper; the tower signifies the departure of the spirit to heaven. Inside the temple there may be a priest who usually narrates the Vedas to the gathered believers.

Hindu spiritual rights are classified into three categories. Nitya is the first category; these are rituals completed on a daily basis and consist in gifts made at the home or performing daily worship to the family deities. Naimittika is the second category; these are rituals that take place only on specific occasions during the year, such as festivals and thanksgiving. Kamya is the last category, these are optional rituals but highly encouraged. One very important aspect of Hinduism is pilgrimage, this is a mission to notice and be noticed by the deity. Rivers, temples, mountains, and other sacred sites in India are the common places where the gods have become visible or became evident in the world are all places pilgrimage takes place. Every 12 years, up to 10 million individuals share in a ceremony of bathing at the Kumbh Mela celebration

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