We explain to you what Hinduism is, its origin, main gods and sacred writings. In addition, their beliefs and differences with Buddhism.
What is Hinduism?
Hinduism or Hindi religion is one of the main religions of the planet Born in the Indian subcontinent, It is one of the oldest and most complex religions that exist, since it lacks a unique and structured body of beliefs and practices, becoming rather a philosophy of life.
In fact, their practices were baptized as “Hinduism” by British settlers of the first decades of the 19th century, since those who practice them prefer to use the term dharma, from Sanskrit.
Although it is the majority religion of several countries and it has more than one billion faithful Worldwide, Hinduism is easier to understand as a set of spiritual practices, and not as an organized and hierarchical whole. In fact, there is no religious leader before, the faithful of the entire world, nor is there a Hindu church proper.
Even so, It is practised as a majority religion by 80.5% of the population from India and 80% from Nepal, as well as on the island of Bali in Indonesia, or the island of Mauritius in Africa.
There are also numerous practitioners in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Thailand, and Hindu minorities in Europe, the United States, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago.
The practitioners of Hinduism are called Hindu or Hindu, terms that should not be confused with the demonym of India. This, according to the Royal Spanish Academy can be both “Indian” and “Hindu”, but it has nothing to do with the practice of religion: one can speak of Muslim Hindus, Christian Hindus or Hindu Hindu, in that sense.
Origin of Hinduism
Hinduism it is the result of the union of a series of ritual and spiritual practices originating in the Indian subcontinent.
For the most part, it comes from Brahmanism, the ancient Indian religion, also known as Vedic religion. This religion existed between 1500 and 700 a. C., and served as a common root to Hinduism (born between the 5th and 3rd centuries BC) and to Buddhism (born around the 4th century BC).
On the other hand, Hinduism lacks a founder, since it is the result of processes of synthesis of cultural syncretism. For that same reason, it does not have a church, nor a unified body of ritual practices or beliefs.
Gods of Hinduism
There are variants of both monotheistic and polytheistic Hinduism, and both the first and the last can venerate different gods and deities, among which are:
- Brahma. The creative deity of the universe, which represents its eternal and absolute character. It is part of the Hindu trinity or trimurti, and is commonly depicted as a bearded man with four arms.
- Shiva. The destroyer of the universe, part of the trimurti Together with Brahma and Visnú, he is a powerful God, husband of Parvati and father of Ganesha and Kartikeya, who is represented as a blue-skinned yogi with four arms.
- Ganesha. It’s about the god of wisdom, usually represented as a person with four arms and an elephant head. He is one of the main gods of the Hindu pantheon and the most revered of all.
- Vishnu. He is the God who preserves or maintains the stability of the universe and is part of the trimurti with Brahma and Shiva. According to Hindu texts, it manifests itself in the world under different incarnations, which can be Krishna, Rama, Hari or Narayana. He is depicted as a bluish man with four arms playing the flute or holding symbolic elements such as snails and lotus flowers.
- Kali. It is one of the consorts of the god Shiva, held in Hinduism as the universal mother: destroyer of evil and demons. Their representations point to a woman of blue complexion with four, six or eight arms, in one of which she wields a bloody sword.
Holy book of Hinduism
Since it does not have a unique and central body of beliefs, Hinduism does not have a single sacred text, as in other religions. Instead, he venerates a set of ancient writings, distinguished into two groups or sets:
Shruti. Its name comes from Sanskrit and translates “what has been heard”, and Hinduism follows its instructions to the letter. In turn, it is divided into two large sets of texts:
- The four of them Vedas, What are they:
- Rig-veda, the oldest text of the literature of India, from the fifteenth century.;
- Láyur-veda, the book of sacrifices, taken from Rig-veda;
- Sama-veda, the book of hymns, also extracted from Rig-veda;
- Atharva-Veda, the book of rituals, added to the set several centuries later.
- The Upanishad, a set of mystical and philosophical meditations dating from the sixth century BC. C.
Smriti. Its name comes from Sanskrit and translates “remembered.” These are sacred texts that, unlike the previous ones, require interpretation or an inspiring or allegorical reading, and which are:
- The Majabhárata, epic text of the third century BC. C. covering the religious text Bhagavad-twine.
- The Ramaiana, a narration Epic King-God Rama, dating from the third century BC. C.
- 18 o’clock Puranas, set of stories written between the third centuries BC. C. and XI d. C.
- The texts áiur-veda, a series of treatises on herbalism and traditional Indian medicine.
Main beliefs of Hinduism
Hinduism calls purushartha or vital truths to its main vital concepts, on the basis of which the entire framework of religion can be defined. These are the dharma (religious duties), artha (riches), Käma (pleasures) and Moksha (release of the reincarnation cycle or Samsara).
Based on these four basic precepts, the áshram or the stages of the life of a brahmin, a member of the priestly caste of the ancient Brahmanic religion:
- Brahmacharya or celibate student.
- Grihastha or married life.
- Vanaprastha or withdrawal to forest.
- Sannyasa or complete renunciation.
As you will see, number four is very important in this tradition, which explains the presence of the four arms in the representations of their gods. In fact, there are four main currents of it: Vaisnavism, Shivaism, Shaktism and Smartism, depending on their chosen guardian gods.
On the other hand, Hinduism does not handle the notion of Judeo-Christian sin, although it does raise a series of traditional commandments, such as:
- The prohibition of eating meat, especially of cow, since it is had by a sacred animal.
- The prohibition of marriage between individuals of different social castes.
- Hinduists must pursue enlightenment through the rejection of the material world and its pleasures, to escape from the eternal cycle of deaths and reincarnations known as Samsara.
- It is always due make offerings on the altar to the deities major and minor, depending on the variant of the cult practiced.
Hinduism and Buddhism
These two religions are often thought of as sister religions, since they have a common root. Both come from India, as a reinterpretation of many of the precepts of the Vedic or Brahmanic religion. However, their paths diverged a lot, to the point that today they have important and marked differences, such as:
- Hinduism has a pantheon of very diverse deities, while buddhism is non-theistic, that is, does not propose the existence of gods or higher beings, but of a path to enlightenment.
- Buddhism proposes a path of inner discovery and away from the real world to escape the eternal wheel of suffering and reincarnation that is life. Hinduism pursues a similar end, but it does so through ritual practice and adherence to a spiritual path ruled by the gods.
- Unlike Hinduism, which lacks prophets and founders, Buddhism It is governed by the teachings of Buddha Siddhartha Gautama, the enlightened one.