Beliefs and Belivers:
There are two principle divinities, Vishnu and Shiva and then the god brahma. They make up the triad, one god with three heads. Hindus believe that every person has an indwelling spirit. This spirit is their divine nature. They refer to this spirit as “atman”. The Hindu beliefs can be broken down into four main beliefs, Dharma, Karma, Moksha and the union with god through the four yoga’s. Dharma (or Religious Duty) refers to a set of values that supports and sustains normal life in the world. There are two types of dharma, the universal dharma which is mandatory on all people without difference, and the personal dharma. Hindus believe that the next cycle of life is dependent on how the previous life was lived. The teaching of karma is closely linked to reincarnation as a person does not always experience all the consequences of their actions in one’s life therefore they must be reborn in another form in order to experience the results from those actions. Most Hindu traditions consider moksha the ultimate goal of life. Hindus have different opinions on how moksha is achieved. Some believe that liberation means the knowledge and identity of the innermost self with the divine spirit, while others believe that liberation is a result of devotion to a personal deity. Yoga is a spiritual practise; the four types of yoga include hatha yoga, jnana yoga, bhakti yoga and karma yoga. The aim is to get in contact with the inner most self and to exclude the consciousness of everything else. Individuals are obligated to speak the truth respect ones parents and teachers and cultivate proper behaviour and constitute a general system of values applicable to all people in society. They try to live life in a way that will make their next life better.
Sacred Texts and Writings:
Hinduism consists of two main types of scripture, the sruti which is the revealed scriptures of divine origin (the Vedas), and the smriti the secondary. The Vedas are the primary texts of Hinduism and there are four Veda’s: the Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Arthava Veda. Each of the four Vedas is composed of four sections: Samhita, Brahmana, Aranyaka and Upanishad. The Samhita are collections of hymns addressed to various deities. The Brahmana’s explain how to perform the elaborate rituals. The aranyakas was written for people who had withdrawn from everyday life and lived as hermits in forests because it was seen as a symbol to be mediated upon. The Upanishads teach that there is one spiritual reality. The smriti consists of Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Gita. The Ramayana was composed in the fifth or sixth century and uphold important moral values such as placing truth above all else. The Mahabharata is the presentation of Hindu life, religion, thought and culture. The Gita attempts to unite the three strands that had developed within Hinduism. These sacred texts have a vast impact on an individual because they give instructions on how the individual should live their life depending on their social divisions.
There are many aspects to the ethical system of Hinduism. The structure of Hinduism was developed around the time of the epics. Society was classified into four major divisions known as the Varna’s. The Varna’s were Brahmins (priests and scholars), Kshatriyas (the rulers and warriors), Vaishya’s (the traders and farmers) and Shudras (the labourers). Only the first three divisions had the right to study the Veda’s and function as respectable members of society. The Shudras were excluded and thought to be less pure than the others.
The basic Hindu ethics are very much similar to the beliefs of Hinduism. The four ethics include dharma, artha, kama, moksha and each has a system of ethical norms.
Dharma is the goal of an ethically sound life. It brings the general ideas of honesty, decency, respect, care for others, responsibility and duty which are mandatory upon all persons regardless of their position in society.