Hinduism

Basic Beliefs of Hinduism?

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May 13, 2009 2:56PM

The core of Hinduism is the belief in Brahman, the underlying universal life force that encompasses and embodies existence. According to Hindu scriptures, one's ignorance of the true nature of the self (atman) as one with Brahman is what traps one in the cycle of endless death and reincarnation (samsara). Thus, the highest goal of Hinduism is liberation (moksha) from the karmic cycle of death and rebirth.Hindus are very conscious of the paradoxes that make up the universe. Siva is simultaneously the creator, maintainer, and destroyer of life. All phenomena is a constant interplay between hot and cold, male and female, light and dark. Vedic medicine teaches that keeping these opposing forces in balance is central to the maintenance of bodily, social, and cosmic well-being. However, Hinduism is much more than an esoteric practice. For the millions of people who practice this religion, it is a way of life that encompasses family, society, politics, business, art, and health behaviors. The sacred scriptures contain instructions on all these aspects of life and have a strong influence on art and drama. While the practices of yoga are a well-known aspect of Hinduism, family life is also considered a sacred duty.Most households have a shrine to a particular deity. Women conduct a household puja, the offering of fruit, raw rice, flowers, incense, and other items to the deity, on a regular basis. Visitors may be invited to join the puja on occasion, making it a communal event. After the food has been offered it is considered to have been spiritually consumed and blessed by the deity's power. It is then redistributed and consumed by the participants as a way of receiving the deity's blessings.The belief that one's karma determines one's birth in the next life has supported the structure of the caste system in India, made up of four varnas that determine one's occupation: Brahmins (priests), Kshatriyas (nobles and warriors), Vaishyas (commoners) and Sudras (servants). Though the former colonial government officially abolished the caste system and implemented affirmative action policies to rectify imbalances in wealth and education, there are still socioeconomic advantages to belonging to a higher caste. The hierarchy of caste is a contested subject. While the concept of caste is supported in certain scriptures, there is evidence in the Upanisads that Brahmanhood is attained by depth of learning rather than birth. The tradition of bhakti (devotion) is sometimes an expression of criticism against caste and other practices such as image worship. Bhakti is associated with devotional poems composed across all social classes and emphasizes loving God over any practice or doctrine.