Outline of Hinduism

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Outline of Hinduism

Post by gangajal on Thu Jul 02, 2009 1:56 pm

Hindu dharma is a diverse system. However, there are some basic concepts
accepted by the vast majority of (astika) Hindus. These are:

1. Scripture (Sruti and Smriti)

The primary texts of Sanathana Dharma includes four Vedas, Sixteen Brahmanas,
four Aranyakas, One Hundred and Eight Upanishads, Six Vedangas, five Upavedas,
eighteen Mahapuranas, eighteen Upapuranas, six Darsanas, eighteen Smritis and
two Ithihasas.The major scriptures are the Vedas (specially the Upanishads
also called Sruti), the Bhagavad Gita (Smriti). Two popular scriptures are
Ramayana and Mahabharata. Different Hindu sects may have additional

1a. Hindu attitude towards scripture

Hindu scripture can not be quoted to override reason as can be seen from the
following quotes.

Sri Sankara, the famous Advaita philosopher, makes the same point in his
commentary on the Bhagavad Gita 18.66:

" ...... The appeal to the infallibility of the Vedic injunction is
misconceived. The infallibility in question refers only to the unseen force or
apurva, and is admissable only in regard to matters not confined to the sphere
of direct perceptions etc. ..... Even a hundred statements of sruti to the
effect that fire is cold and non-luminous won't prove valid. If it does make
such a statement, its import will have to be interpreted differently.
Otherwise , validity won't attach to it. Nothing in conflict with the means of
valid cognition or with its own statement may be imputed to sruti." (Bhagavad
Gita Bhashya of Sri Sankaracharya translated by Dr. A.G. Krishna Warrier).

Yoga Vasishta Ramayan (II-18) says:

"Though human in origin, an exposition of truth is to be accepted; otherwise
even what is regarded as divine revealation is to be rejected. Even a young
boy's words are to be accepted if they are words of wisdom; else reject it
like straw even if uttered by Brahma the creator." (Vasishta's Yoga translated
by Swami Venkatesananda)

Vacaspati Misra, the author of Vamati, says, "Even one thousand scriptural
statements cannot transform a jar into a piece of cloth".

2. Ultimate Reality (Brahman)

The existence of an Ultimate Reality called BRAHMAN. All Hindu sects agree
that Brahman is Satchidanand (existence-knowledge-bliss). There are, however,
differences among Hindu theologians about whether this Reality is Impersonal
or Personal. However, most Hindus except for athiests have shraddha (shraddha
will be explained in point number 6) in this Reality.

Different philosophers in Vedanta stress different aspects of this Ultimate
Reality. Sri Sankara stressed the impersonal aspect of the Ultimate Reality,
i.e, according to him, Brahman is Pure Consciousness. there are Personal forms
of Brahman but considers them to be not completely real compared to the
Impersonal Reality. Vaishnava Acharyas like Sri Ramanuja, Sri Madhva etc only
accept one Personal form of Brahman. Sri Ramakrishna accepts both Personal and
Impersonal Reality. The analogy used by Sri Ramakrishna is that of the world's
oceans. The world's oceans contain both the formless, colorless water and
icebergs (in Arctic and Antartic oceans). Similarly Brahman is both Personal
and Impersonal. The Personal and the Impersonal are merely two aspects of the
same Reality. The Personal form serves the needs of the Bhakta (devotee) while
the Impersonal is for the Jnani (those who use the path of knowledge). The
various Hindu Devas and Devis are different Personal forms of the One Reality.
Different Hindu sects worship different Personal Forms of Brahman.

3. Atman and Its relationship with Brahman

The vast majority of Hindus also accept that this Ultimate Reality has an
individual aspect called ATMAN. It is the presence of this Atman in us, the
immanent divinity, that makes us (jivas) conscious. There are, however,
profound differences among Hindu philosophers about the precise relation
between Brahman and Atman. Sri Sankara argues that Atman and Brahman are the
same Reality. Sri Ramanuja's position is that Atman and Brahman are different
but form an indissoluble unity. The analogy is to a fruit where Brahman may be
thought of as the seed and Atman as the flesh and skin of the fruit. Sri
Madhva considers Atman and Brahman to be eternally different. Sri Ramakrishna
considers these 3 views to be correct for different levels of evolution of
jivas. When the jiva starts to think about God, he or she thinks god to be
distant and then Sri Madhva's position is justified. When the jiva makes
progress in realizing God and can see the Personal form of God then Sri
Ramanuja's description is appropriate. When the jiva experiences the
Impersonal Reality then all duality vanishes and Sri Sankara was describing
this experience.

4. Divinity of Jiva, heaven and hell, Reincarnation and law of Karma

Since man (jiva) is conscious due to Atman, man is potentially divine. Jivas
commit sin because they are unaware of the divine Atman. Even though a man may
commit henious sin his Atman is unaffected by it. Since no man can do infinite
amount of good or bad, there is no concept of eternal heaven or hell. (Sri
Madhva is an exception in promoting the idea of an eternal hell). Upon death
the jiva enters the astral world and remains there till it reincarnates in
accordance with the law of Karma. The law of Karma is the law of cause and
effect. It is the divine law of justice by which an individual creates his own
destiny through thought, word and deed.

5. Ultimate Goal

Hindu dharma says that man must purify his heart, experience the Ultimate
Reality and be free. Freedom from all imperfections is the goal of human life.

6. Shraddha, Belief, No Savior

Hindu philosophy does not ask for blind belief but only Shraddha. Shraddha
means open mind. It is not good to have belief in unproveable things. Mere
belief is also not very useful since belief alone can not help one attain the
ultimate goal of God realization. Only God realization can help one free
oneself from the cycle of birth and death (called Samsara). There is no
concept of Savior. One has to free oneself by one's own effort. No savior can
help one achieve God realization without one's personal effort.

7. Spiritual Aids

Help from a spiritually awakened Master (Guru) is essential for God
realization. The other requirements for God realization are good conduct (Yama
and Niyama), purification of the mind, yoga and meditation.


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Re: Outline of Hinduism

Post by maya3 on Thu Jul 02, 2009 9:32 pm

Thank you Gangajal,

I really like this. It summarizes it perfectly.


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