Sacred Elements of Hinduism

Sacred elements of Hinduism{spiritualityinformation.in}

The sacred elements of hinduism constitutes Hindu religious traditions, and their sublime meanings. It would be very difficult to completely list all the sacred elements of hinduism that make up the Hindu religious traditions because of the sheer vastness and depth of the Hindu culture and traditions that have evolved through thousands of years. Some of the sacred elements of the Hinduism religion are mentioned below.

Meaning of hinduism

Hinduism is referred to as Sanatana Dharma, the eternal faith. Hinduism is not strictly a religion. It is based on the practice of Dharma, the code of life.

Since Hinduism has no founder, anyone who practices Dharma can call himself a Hindu. He can question the authority of any scripture, or even the existence of the Divine. While religion means to bind, Dharma means to hold. What man holds on to is his inner law, which leads from ignorance to Truth. Though reading of the scriptures (Shastras)or vedas would not directly lead you to self-realization, the teachings of the seers provide a basis and a path for spirituality. Despite being the oldest religion, the truth realized by the seers proves that the Truth and path provided by the meaning of Hinduism is beyond time.

Main Characteristics and features of hinduism

• “Hindu”- ancient Persian term translating a Greek term (Indos) that translated the Sanskrit name for the Indus River – “Sindhu”. “

Hinduism” was applied to the religion

• The name was applied to the people

• Hindus themselves use the term “dharma” – duty for their religion

• Jainism & Buddhism came from Hinduism as reforms

History or origin for Hinduism

The Brief History or origin for hinduism can be explained by the following steps:

• Advanced civilization began to flourish in Indus River Valley ca 2500 BC (Abraham, ca 1800)

– Drainage systems, from houses to brick sewers

– Brick houses, several stories high

– Large city baths

– Well planned streets

– Irrigation ditches

Timeline

• Pre-Aryan to 1500 BCE

• Brahmanism to 450 BCE

– Vedas/ Upanishads

• Classical period to 600 CE

– Bhagavad Gita

• Medieval period to 1600 CE

• Modern period 1600 –

• Ca. 1500 the Aryans invaded (a fair-skinned people); “Aryans” – “the noble ones”

• Primarily shepherds

• Many Dravidians migrated south, which the Aryans never controlled

• Aryans considered the Dravidians inferior to them; established social barriers

• Beginnings of caste system

• Later the caste system became part of Hinduism

• Four Castes: (varnas)

– Brahmins – the priests and scholars

– Kshatriyas – rulers and warriors

– Vaishyas – merchants and professionals

– Shudras – laborers and servants

• Thousands of sub-castes, each has its own set of rules

• Every individual knows where they stand and how they are expected to act (duty)

• The “untouchables” existed outside the caste system for centuries

• The Indian constitution of 1950 outlawed untouchability and gave the group full citizenship

• Mohandas Gandhi (d. 1940) was influential in the struggle for this right

• The caste system has weakened some, but still very strong

The Aryans – “Noble Folk”

• Invaded from NW – dominated North & Central India

• The religion of the Aryans combined with the religion of the people of India (Dasyu) resulted in:

– Hinduism

– Jainism

– Buddhism

Beliefs for hinduism

• The Vedas – “Knowledge” – the Hindu scriptures

• Belief in one, all-pervasive supreme “being” who is both immanent and transcendent – represented by many gods

• The universe goes through endless cycles of creation

• Karma – the law of cause and effect by which each individual creates his own destiny by his thoughts, words, and actions

• The soul reincarnates, evolving through many births until one “gets it right”

• Moksha – spiritual knowledge and release from the cycle of rebirth

• Divine beings exist in invisible universes and worship, ritual, sacraments creates a union with these gods

• Ahimsa – all life is sacred

• No particular religion teaches the only way to salvation

• No particular founder

Introduction to sacred elements of Hinduism.

Hindu Scriptures

The Hindu scriptures, written over a period of 2,000 years (1400 B.C-.500 A.D.) are voluminous. They reflect the practices and beliefs for hinduism which arose during the different long periods of Hindu history.

The Hindu scriptures are divided into two classes -sruti and smriti. Sruti, or “what is heard,” refers to the eternal truths of religion which the rishis or seers saw or heard. They are independent of any god or man to whom they are communicated. They are the primary and final authority of religious truth. Using the analogy of the reflection of an image in a mirror or on the surface of a lake, the intellect of the ancient rishis was so pure and calm that it perfectly reflected the entirety of eternal truth. Their disciples recorded this truth and the record of it is known as the vedas.

Smriti, or “what is remembered,” possess a secondary authority, deriving their authority from the sruti whose principles they seek to expand. As recollections they contain all the sacred texts other than the vedas. These are generally understood to include the law books, the two great epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, and the Puranas, which are largely collections of myths, stories, legends and chronicles of great events.

Also included are the aqamas, which are theological treatises and manuals of worship, and the sultras, or aphorisms, of the six systems of philosophy. There is also a vast treasury of vernacular literature largely of a bhakti or devotional type, which continues to inspire the masses of religious Hindus and which different sects accept as smriti

The Vedas

the Vedas form as the basis for sacred element of hinduism.The word veda literally means wisdom or knowledge. It is the term applied to the oldest of the Hindu scriptures, originally transmitted orally and then subsequently preserved in written form. The vedas contain hymns, prayers and ritual texts composed over a period of one thousand years, beginning about 1400 B.C.

The term vedas (plural) refers to the entire collection of these wisdom books, also known as the samhitas, which include the rig-veda, the samaveda, the yajur-veda and the athara-veda. Each of these texts consists of three parts: (1) the mantras, hymns of praise to the gods; (2) the brahmanas, a guide for practicing ritual rights, and (3) the upanishads, the most important part of which deals with teachings on religious truth or doctrine.

The samhitas are the basis of vedic Hinduism, the most significant of the group being the rig-veda. This collection of hymns, originally composed in Sanskrit, praises the various Hindu deities, including Indra, Soma, Varuna and Mitra.

The yajur-veda consists of a collection of mantras borrowed from the rig-veda and applied to specific ritual situations carried out by the executive priest and his assistants.

The sama-veda in the same manner borrows mantras from the rig-veda. These hymns are chanted.

The athara-veda consists of magical spells and incantations carried out by the priests.

The Upanishads

the Upanishads form an important sacred element of hinduism.The upanishads are a collection of speculative treatises. They were composed during the period 800 to 600 B.C., and 108 of them are still in existence. The word upanishad conveys the idea of secret teaching. Its treatises mark a definite change in emphasis from the sacrificial hymns and magic formulas in the vedas to the mystical ideas about man and the universe, specifically the eternal Brahman, which is the basis of all reality, and the atman, which is the self or the soul. The upanishads reportedly had an influence upon Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, as can be observed in some basic similarities between the upanishads and the teachings of Mahayana Buddhism.

Evidence that Hinduism must have existed even circa 10000 B.C. is available: The importance attached to the river Saraswati and the numerous references to it in the Rig-Veda (interestingly, Ganga appears only twice) indicates that the Rig-Veda was being composed well before 6500 B.C. The first vernal equinox recorded in the Rig-Veda is that of the star Ashwini, which is now known to have occurred around 10000 to substantiate this claim.

Unity Within Diversity

There are five sacred elements of hinduism, which contribute to the essential unity of Hinduism:

1) Common Ideals

2) Common Scriptures

3) Common Deities

4) Common Beliefs

5) Common Practices

Common Ideals

All the sects and offshoots of Hinduism

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