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Introduction to Hinduism or Sanatana -dharma “universal truth”. You may find it helpful, before diving into Ch 3 of the red text to look over the shorter introduction to Hinduism on pp. 1-11, and to keep the glossary of Hindu vocabulary on pages 9-11 handy. .

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introduction to hinduism or sanatana dharma universal truth

Introduction to Hinduismor Sanatana-dharma “universal truth”

You may find it helpful, before diving into Ch 3 of the red text to look over the shorter introduction to Hinduism on pp. 1-11, and to keep the glossary of Hindu vocabulary on pages 9-11 handy.


The Laws of Manu;*Manu was the mythic forbearer of humanity. He was the son of Brahma, the god who created the universe, and all humans are descendents of his many children.The text explains 4 stages that people go through in life:



Forest Dweller (hermit)


* = samples from this work can be found in the Scriptures of the World Religions book


More of the Laws of Manu;*He explains 4 goals that drive us through in life. We should get through the first 3 of these at some point as a householder and hope to move on to seek the last goal as a hermit or renunciant.

Arta(gain):material possessions needed to live, and pleasing to the senses.

Kama (pleasure):pleasant emotions, love ( ex: the Kama Sutra is a guide to the emotional experiences of life)

Dharma (duty-virtue):the law; moral and religious duties specific to our role in society. (ethics and the caste system).

Moksha (liberation):spiritual release: overcoming ignorance and the problems it causes. Dissolution of the ego (jiva) = becoming a generous, open person.

People are driven to pursue each of these, and when one has satisfied and exhausted each level, one moves on to the next.

* = samples from this work can be found in the Scriptures of the World Religions book

karma and samsara
Karma and Samsara
  • Samsara; the wheel of rebirth (reincarnation).
  • Karma : the law of cause and effect: People have self-consiousness, freedom and responsibility. We have total responsibility for our own future and total accountability for our own past actions. We have reason and free will. Good and evil realities can only come from good and evil actions freely chosen in the past or present
  • Fulfilling your duty (dharma) in life is the ultimate good. To go against your dharma as assigned by caste and gender, would be evil and ultimately self-destructive.
  • Tragedy is not a mystery or seen as unfair. There is no such thing as bad or good luck. Good or bad fortune always has a rational understandable cause….. you brought it on yourself either in this life or in a past life.
the caste system varnas colors


The CasteSystem(varnas:colors)

Probably descendents of the original Vedic (Aryans) who conquered

Indus valley

Conquered peasants

Probably became the bottom caste

hindu scriptures
Hindu Scriptures

Vedas: the oldest Hindu stories, were only transmitted orally, and most were unknown to the Western scholars until the 1850s (Sanskrit). They come from a a group of invaders called the Aryans who conquered northern India around 1400 BC and imposed their culture on the Indus Valley.


  • Rg Veda (hymns to Hindu Gods) *
  • Sama Veda (rituals and chants)
  • Atharva Veda (healings)
  • Brahamanas (priestly manual: rules, rituals explained).
  • Aranyakas (meditation manual)*
  • Upanishads (“sitting near”): a very philosophical work which explains samsara (the cycle of birth and rebirth) which can lead ulitimately to moksha (liberation).
  • Puranas* , Mahabharata* , & Ramayana*: ancient lore

and stories of the gods. (smriti)

Sriti (that which is heard) and Smrti (that which is remembered)

* = can be found in the Scriptures of the World Religions book

The BhagavadGita*is the most famous part of the Mahabharata telling of the Gods Krishna and Rama, who are both incarnations of Vishnu.)

hinduism has aspects of polytheism pantheism monism montheism
Hinduism has aspects of polytheism, pantheism, monism, montheism.

4 earliest vedas show polytheism (belief in many gods).

Later Upanishads (700-300 BC) speak of many gods being an expression of one divine principle.

Early ideas of the primal element

Everything is made of fire.

……………………. .space.

……………………. .being and non-being.

… finally Everything is made of Brahman, a spiritual entity which animates all living things (like pantheism).


Brahman takes on many forms in this world (called Maya) and they all seem different. Enlightenment is in realizing that all things in the world are really one, not sewparate and independent.

  • Soul = inner self called Atman.
  • Philosopher Sankara (c. 800 A.D) later says we must realize that Atman itself is an illusion; all is Brahman.
  • In the modern period, Brahman is described more and more as a single supreme source of all being (getting closer to monotheism), though he appears in many forms. Unlike Western religion, he doesn’t have a personal relationship with people.
  • Different Hindus hold different beliefs ranging from atheism, agnosticism, pantheism, polytheism and monism and monotheism. There is no one creed of core beliefs, but there is a common vocabulary, scriptures, rituals etc.
major hindu deities
Major Hindu Deities

The Trimurti(Hindu Trinity)

These principal gods are depicted in many different forms. Also they can incarnate themselves as avatars.

avatars of vishnu
Avatars of Vishnu



See clips on Animated World Religions disk

ganesha son of shiva parvati
Ganesha: son of Shiva & Parvati
  • Read Stephen Prothero’s introduction to Ganesha from pages 131-133 of his 2010 book God Is Not One.

Flushing, Queens has a Hindu temple dedicated to Ganesha. See

  • The paradigm of the ultimate warrior
  • Home on Mount Meru
  • His weapon is the lightning bolt (vajra).
  • born of DyausPitar (Father Heaven) and Prithvi Mata (Mother Earth).

Hindu Symbols

  • ShriYantra
  • Mandalas
  • Om (aka Aum)
  • Lotus Flower
  • Swastika

Devotees may show their allegiance to a particular god through marks painted on the forehead (tilaka)

  • Saivites (followers of Shiva ) wear a tilak of three horizontal lines across the forehead, with or without a red dot. Sometimes a crescent moon or trident is included. The devotees of Shiva usually use sacred ashes (Bhasma) for the tilak.
  • Vaishnavites followers of Vishnu) use two or more vertical lines resembling the letter U, which symbolizes the foot of Vishnu. There is sometimes a central line or dot. Most Vaishanativetilaks are made of sandalwood paste (Chandan).
  • Women often wear a dot on the forehead called bindi.

Chakras = “circles” or centers of energy in the body. Yogic theory is about releasing the energies stored in the chakras. They are sometimes called “lotus centers”



The Bonfire Festival

Amidst the freezing cold weather, people are busy making preparations for Lohri — the long-awaited bonfire festival — when they can come out of their homes and celebrate the harvesting of the Rabi (winter) crops and give in to relaxing and enjoying the traditional folk songs and dances.


is dedicated to Shiva. The night before the feast, Hindus recite texts, sing and tell stories in honor of Shiva, whose dynamic cosmic dance creates, preserves, destroys and recreates the world.


biggest of all Hindu festivals, it celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains. It's the festival of lights that is marked by four days of celebration, which literally illumine the country with its brilliance and dazzles all with its joy.

The Golden Temple in Amritsar, India