Secondary Schools Page 1
Introduction to Hinduism
of the first visitors to come to India were the ancient Persians.
The ancient Persian language had a quirk of replacing the
‘s’ sound with the ‘h’ sound when they spoke. In the North-West part
of ancient India
flowed, a river called river Sindhu. The ancient
visitors mispronounced the name as Hindu thus the word Hindu came into being
and the people living across this river acquired the name Hindus. In days to
come the name of the river was again mispronounced and the river became known
as river Indus. Today the river is still
called river Indus and the people living in
this part of the world were called people of Indoi.
This word gave rise to the name of the country India.
Om (aum) Symbol
written Aum) is the most
important symbol for Hindus. Hindus claim that this is a sound heard in the
deepest of meditation when one experiences God. Hence this sound and is said
to be the most fitting name of God. Many Hindu prayers and chants begin with
this word. This sound is extensively used during practice of meditation.
Swastika is a symbol that denotes good luck drawn
from all four corners of the world. It has four arms drawing in good luck
from all corners. It is considered to be a symbol of auspiciousness. The word
‘Swastika’ derives from the Sanskrit root Swasti
literally meaning ‘well being’. The symbol is seen on walls, doors, and is
extensively used as a form of Hindu decoration. During the Second World War
the Nazis misused this symbol for promoting fascism. This had nothing to do
with the auspicious relevance of this symbol in Hinduism.
Lotus flower grows out of muddy water, it emerges pure, beautiful and detached. In the
same way, Hindus are encouraged to live in a pure state detached from
( ancient and modern)
Hinduism is unique in that it
does not rely on the spiritual experiences of just one prophet who lived in
ancient times. Instead, it is able to refresh its message of spirituality
through the teachings of many enlightened personalities throughout the ages.
These enlightened people are called Rishis.
They claim first hand experience of God. These Rishis
were male or female, young or old. They continue to be born in Hindu society
and continue to refresh and revive the message of Hinduism in different
times. Some like Vashista & Vishwamitra lived
in ancient times. Some like Shankaracharya (788 –
820), & Ramanujacharya
(1017 – 1137) lived in medieval times. Some like Ramana Maharshi & Ramakrishna
or Vivekananda lived in modern
ten Avatars of Vishnu
Special Personalities: Avatars
Avatars – God coming down to earth: Hindus say that from time to
time, God comes down to earth for the good of mankind and for re-establishing
religion. Hindus refer to grand personalities like Rama,
Krishna and Buddha as avatars. Avatars
differ from other saintly figures because they seem to have the power of not
only experiencing God for themselves but also have the power to let others
experience God. Hindus accept that
such grand personalities are also visible in other religious traditions.
dialogue about religion is called the Bhagavad Gita
Shrutis the Scriptures of authority
The Shrutis are the books of authority. The word Shruti
literally means ‘that which is heard’. These scriptures are so called because
they were passed on for thousands of years by word of mouth. They contain
spiritual knowledge acquired by the rishis in deep
meditation. The main set of Shruti texts is called
Portions of the Vedas containing the Hindu philosophy are called the Upanishads.
The Bhagavad Gita,
the central text of the Hindus, is also considered to have the authority of a
Shruti. The name ‘Bhagavad
Gita’ means ‘the song of the divine’. Even though
it is not part of the Vedas, it is a highly significant text for Hindus as it
contains the synthesis of the Upanishads.
Ramayana: The Noble story of Rama and Sita
Smritis are Scriptures with lesser authority they
are part of Smriti scriptures. They contina
historic stories like the Ramayana (the story of Rama and Sita) and Mahabharata
(the story of the Pandava brothers overcoming
adversaries with the help of Krishna).
Puranas form part of the Smriti
scriptures. There are eighteen grand puranas called
the Mahapuranas. These legendary tales do not have
the same authority as the Shruti scriptures they
are vital in Hinduism as they make religious teaching interesting, colourful and easy to understand. Most of these stories make it easier to grasp
difficult philosophic ideas of Hinduism. Though it is necessary to remember
that these lovely colourful stories about Gods and
Goddesses of Hinduism should not be interpreted as literal truths.
Law-books like the Manusmriti also
form part of the Smriti literature. Such law books of Hinduism offer codes of
conduct for a Hindu society. These laws come with a sale-by-date. Very few
Hindus follow these ancient law books. Most Hindus follow the codes of
conduct prescribed by modern proponents of Hinduism. Hardly any modern Hindu
reads or lives by the codes of conduct set by the Manu-smriti.
is a family of Sectarian movements
Swaminarayan movement is one of the main
sectarian movements of Hinduism in the
Pluralism: Hinduism allows for many
sectarian movements to exist side-by-side
Pluralistic teachings of Hinduism allows for
many different approaches in spirituality. As we are all different the way we
progress spiritually individually or as groups must also necessarily be
different. This is what pluralism teaches. Hinduism is a family of sectarian
movements. Each sectarian movement promotes different spiritual paths taught
by different religious teachers. No one religious movement or sectarian
movement is considered better than others. All are seen as different pathways
used by different people or groups for making spiritual progress. This
teaching of pluralism is at the heart of Hinduism. It is very relevant in the
multi-faith society we live in as it teaches how people of different
religions can live with each other peacefully without feeling threatened or
without having to threaten each other.
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