Hinduism is the oldest religion on earth. Prior to Hinduism there was no religion.
Vedas and Bhagavad Gita are the most sacred and revered texts of Hinduism. The earliest saints used to do worship only according to the Vedas and used to propagate the same knowledge. With passage of time various aberrations arose within Hinduism and it started to form many branches and offshoots with varied interpretations. Hinduism started as a monotheistic religion but due to gradual degradation, it is today known as a polytheistic religion. However in reality if one follows the Vedas and Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, then it is still a monotheistic religion preaching the worship of one Supreme God.
Key Philosophy of Hinduism
Established facts in Hinduism are as under
- Someone is alive as long as the soul resides in that body.
- Body dies but the soul is indestructible and never dies.
- Soul transmigrates - After death a soul acquires a new body which could be of any living being.
- A soul continues to take rebirth (which could be in any life form) until it achieves salvation. Salvation means an end to the cycle of birth, death, rebirth.
- The primary aim of Human Body is to worship Supreme God in an effort to achieve salvation (Moksha)
- One has to bear the fruits of karma. Bad karmas (bad actions) bring misery where as good karmas (good actions) bring prosperity.
- Karmas are cumulative and thus combination of good and bad karma defines the destiny of a person. For instance, someone who is born blind or has any sort of physical, mental or social misery is due to the karmas performed in the pervious births. (only Hinduism or its offshoots have the ability to explain this concept. Other religions especially abrahamic like Islam and Christianity cannot explain this concept. These religions do not have basic understanding of this concept)
- Each and every action of a living being is accounted for in the court of God.
Tenets of Hinduism
The basic tenets of Hinduism are derived from its philosophy
- Vegetarianism - killing someone incurs bad karma, hence Hinduism promotes being a vegetarian.
- Acquiring a Guru - It is vital to have a guru who can provide spiritual instruction to a devotee. Without a Guru one cannot attain moksha. Hence Hinduism professes about acquiring a guru. There are various gurus but as per Bhagavad Gita only a Tatvadarshi Saint can give the highest spiritual instruction and therefore one should only acquire a Complete Guru.
- Doing charity, Giving food to needy - charitable acts like donating money for good causes makes one earn good karma which are beneficial to a human being. However if that money is used unwisely and harms someone then the person who donated it also incurs bad karma. So one should be very very particular about doing charity. Likewise giving food to the needy is considered a very meritorious act.
Prevalent Gods in Hinduism
There are various Gods now prevalent in Hinduism after it digressed into various branches from a monotheistic religion. The prominent ones are as under.
- Goddess Durga
- Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva's consort is Goddess Parvati
- Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu's consort is Goddess Lakshmi.
- Lord Brahma. Lord Brahma's consort is Goddess Savitri.
Other famous names such as Lord Krishna, Lord Rama are incarnations of Lord Vishnu. Likewise various Goddesses are partial or full incarnation of Goddess Durga. Among these there are famous names like Vaishno Devi, Mansa Devi, Naina Devi, Goddess Kali etc.
Renowned Deities in Hinduism
Apart from the above mentioned Gods and Goddesses, there are a few more deities who are widely worshipped in the realms of Hinduism.
- Lord Ganesha
- Lord Hanuman
Scriptures of Hinduism - Vedas
Vedas are ancient scriptures formulated some 5000 years ago by sage Ved Vyas. At present time, Vedas are considered to be the holy books of Hindus, but at that time there was no religion. These are written in Sanskrit. There are four vedas which are as follow.
- Rig Ved
- Yajur Ved
- Sam Ved
- Atharva Ved
Rig Veda – It is oldest and the biggest veda, a collection of ancient Sanskrit hymns pertaining to knowledge. It contains information about Creation of Universe.
It has 'stutis' Praise of God, knowledge up to Kaal Niranjan. It contains 10 mandals, 8 ashtaks, 64 adhyay, 85 anuvaak, 1028 sukt, 1024 varg, 10552 mantras and 253792 shabad. It has 209 deities and 354 rishis as participants.
Yajur Veda – Yajur Veda is the Veda which contains knowledge about worship.
It is a veda of Yagya. It contains 'Karm Kand'. It has 40 adhyay, 1975 mantras and 90525 shabad. It has detailed information about karmas and yagyas.
Sam Veda – Sam Veda is the smallest among the four vedas and contains knowledge about chants.
It is a veda of 'Upasna' and 'Sadhna'. It contains knowledge up to Kaal Niranjan. It contains 27 adhyay, 87 saam and 1875 mantras. Sam has two parts - Purvachik and Utrachik.
Atharva Veda – Atharva Veda contains knowledge about spirituality, philosophy and also medical science. Most importantly it contains the knowledge about formation or Origin of Universe.
It has description about gains from sadhna as a result of which a worshipper can find out the level of his sadhna. It contains 20 Kaand, 25 prakathak anuvaak, 760 sukt, 731 varg, 5977 mantras.
In total the 4 vedas have 20389 mantras.
There are 1131 branches of the four vedas out of which there are 21 for Rig Veda, 101 for Yajurveda, 1000 for Samveda and 9 for Rigveda.
First appearance of the Vedas
Vedas first appeared during the great churning of the ocean and were granted to Lord Brahma. First and foremost, Lord Brahma read the Vedas. Brahma then propagated the knowledge of the vedas to other saints, rishis etc as per his own interpretation. Those saints and sages then propagated this knowledge further which is now available to us as the Puranas.
The vedas were destroyed in due course due to natural calamities. Henceforth Sage Ved Vyas was given the divine vision to reformulate them in the current era. It is imperative to clarify that Sage Ved Vyas is only the writer of the Vedas. The knowledge in the Vedas has been given by God. Ved Vyas has only written it. This is how currently the Vedas are available to humankind.
Read Mantras from Vedas
Scriptures of Hinduism - Bhagavad Gita
Shrimad Bhagavad Gita is the written record of conversation between Shri Krishna and Arjuna. This happened in the battlefield of Kurukshetra at the time of Mahabharata. Shri Krishna delivered a divine message via this dialogue to the whole humankind. Shrimad Bhagavad Gita is a gist of the four Vedas.
Bhagavad Gita has been written by Sage Ved Vyas but the knowledge has been given by God. Ved Vyas is just the writer of Bhagavad Gita. Ved Vyas had been given divine vision through which he composed all the Vedas, Puranas and Bhagavad Gita.
The main characters in Bhagavad Gita are Shri Krishna, Arjun and Sanjaya. Apart from these three, there is another hidden character called “Kaal” who has appeared during the sermon of Bhagavad Gita and given the knowledge.
Bhagavad Gita is a divine message by God to the mankind which is beyond any religion because when the knowledge of Gita was given there was no religion. It answers cardinal questions pertaining to life, Supreme God and Salvation. Read more on Bhagavad Gita.
Other Scriptures in Hinduism
After the Vedas and the Bhagavad Gita, Puranas have a very esteemed place in the scriptures of Hinduism. Similar to Vedas, Puranas have also been written by Sage Ved Vyas but these are not the word of God. Puranas contain the knowledge which is individual interpretation of various saints and sages. Hence the knowledge in the Puranas can differ from those mentioned in the Vedas and Bhagavad Gita. At the time of any conflict of information between the Vedas and puranas, the vedas are considered supreme.
Of the many Puranas available, the following mentioned are renowned puranas.
There are many other Puranas such as Bhavishaya Purana, Brahma Purana etc apart from the main ones mentioned above.
Aim of Human Life according to Hinduism
The main aim of human life as per Hinduism is to get free from the cycle of birth and death for ever and achieve complete salvation.