Essay Hindu Religious Traditions

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Hindu Religious Traditions
History of Religious Traditions I

Hindu Religious Traditions Hinduism is a form of religion that was started in India dating back to 2000 B.C. “making it one of the oldest surviving religions” (Anonymous, 2009). Since its creation, Hinduism can also be found in the United States. The basic beliefs of Hinduism consist of dharma, samsara, karma, moksha and yogas, each playing a critical role in the religious practices of this religion. As in every religion, religious group or religious organization, most hold true to the sacred elements upon which their traditions lie and the Hinduism religion is no different. Sacred elements that are key to Hinduism worship and culture are yantra, hindu scritpures and the veda, and the hymns of praise and worship. Yantra is a “geometrical diagram representing the universe,” (Anonymous, 2009) which many use during worship and meditation. The yantra takes a three dimensional shape as it signifies the absolute at its middle and the world at its edges, thus reminding those who follow Hinduism to stay on the path towards the absolute (paraphrased, Anonymous, 2009). A person will find this sacred element in many temples and in some homes as a tool to worship and meditation. In most religions and religious groups or organizations, there is some form of religious document that governs that particular religion; in Christianity, the Holy Bible governs the religion and in Islam, the Koran governs the religion. Within the Hindu religion the Hindu scriptures are the governing documents of this religion, the scriptures were created around 1500 B.C. There are six different scriptures, the shruti, smriti, itihasas, puranas, agamas and darsanas, each form of scripture offering a different aspect to Hinduism. The shruti scriptures contain Vedas, which are “considered to be divine in origin and not manmade” (Jayaram, 2007). The Vedas are reserved as a doctrine that god gives at the beginning of the world and then is rescinded when the world comes to an end. The Vedas are typically passed down orally, from generation to generation. The Vedas are divided into four pahases or parts, brahmacharya, grihasthashrama, vanaprastha and sanyasashrama (paraphrased, Jayaram, 2007). “The four parts of the Vedas have significance and relevance to the four stages of human life” (Jayaram, 2007). The smriti is a religious literature that is the total opposite of the shruti, this literature is based on human interpretations from other followers of Hinduism based on the scriptures of the Vedas. “Strictly speaking, all scriptures which are not shruti or divine in origin come under this classification” (Jayram, 2007). The history of Hinduism is described in the itihas texts, which include the story of Rama, the story of Pandu and Dhritarashtra known as the Mahabbharata and the Bhagavad, the message of Sri Krishna. Each story holds significance to the core beliefs of Hinduism and the nature of humankind. Similar to the itihas are the puranas, which although not known as the history book of Hinduism, this literature does document all religious historical events within the Hinduism faith. God, creation, death, important people and inspiring stories compose this entire literature. The fifth form of literature or scripture known as a sacred element to Hinduism is the agamas, which is a collection of manuals, describing in detail, the methods of worship, layout for the building of temples and how to create images, to name a few. There are five classifications of the agamas: sakta, soura, ganapatya, saiva and vaikhanasa (paraphrased, Jayrama, 2007). Each respective form of Hinduism has created its own form of the agamas to assist in worship. The last form of literature or scripture that is a part of Hinduism is the darsanas; the darsanas are schools of thought that were created in India, that teach the philosophy and criticality of