Religions of the World
Dr. John Heckman
February 8, 2009
Hinduism is the third largest religion in the world and has about 900 million followers. It differs from many other organized religions because it lacks a uniting belief system. What beliefs do unite the Hindu religion, what cultural and societal influences contribute to its importance in the world today, and how can the desire for liberation from earthly existence be explained?
Hinduism began over 3000 years ago near the Indus River in present day Pakistan. People who practice Hindu believe that there is a universal God called Brahman who appears in the human soul as Atman. This Brahman “has no form, and is eternal” (www.bbc.co.uk/print/religions/hinduism/intro.shtml). Hindus believe that Brahman created the universe and is the preserver of everything. There are also other gods who are worshipped along with Brahman. Some sects of Hindu worship these gods differently. Vishnu is considered the preserver and protector of the universe. He has appeared in different forms such as Krishna and Buddha. The god Shiva is the third part of the Hindu Trinity. He represents destruction which is not an entirely negative force because it is a force for recreation (BBC).
Ancient religious texts instruct the lives of Hindus. The Vedas originate from 1200-200 BCE and “Hindus believe that the texts were received by scholars direct from God and passed on to the next generations by word of mouth” (BBC). The Vedas are broken down into four parts: hymns, rituals and prayers, worship and meditation, and mystical and philosophical teachings of Hinduism (BBC). Hindus are also instructed by the Upanishads which are full of wisdom and philosophical teachings.
Another major tenet of Hindu belief is the concept that life is a cycle of birth and death that is affected by Karma. This transmigration of the soul “is the transfer of one’s soul at death into...