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Intro to Hinduism. The world’s oldest religion?. Key questions: Hinduism. Where did Hinduism originate? Who founded Hinduism? What is the goal or ultimate reality according to Hinduism?. Basics of Hinduism. Originated in India

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intro to hinduism

Intro to Hinduism

The world’s oldest religion?

key questions hinduism
Key questions: Hinduism
  • Where did Hinduism originate?
  • Who founded Hinduism?
  • What is the goal or ultimate reality according to Hinduism?
basics of hinduism
Basics of Hinduism
  • Originated in India
  • No founder – is made up of the beliefs and practices of many different tribal and ethnic groups from the region.
  • Over time, these traditions came together to form what we now call Hinduism
  • Third largest religion (# of adherents)
  • Practiced by 80% of India’s inhabitants – generally you are born Hindu in India unless you choose another religion
a little history
A little history…

Dates back to 1500 BCE and many consider it the oldest religion in the world – nearly 4000 years old

From 2500 BCE to 1500 BCE

  • The Indus River Valley civilization develops and flourishes. Where is that?
  • In what is present day Pakistan.
  • Derivative of word Hindu is the geographical term (Sindu River or Indus Valley)
  • Between 1600 BCE and 1400 BCE the Aryan migration (Indo-Iranians, word is from Sanskrit – meaning noble ones) entered the Indus Valley and influenced the civilization’s evolution. Enter Vedic age around 1500 BCE.

Sanskrit writings – the Rig Veda

vedic period
Vedic Period
  • 1500-500 BCE
  • Increased settlement along the Ganges
  • The period when the four Vedas were written. Seen as Hinduism’s earliest sacred texts – poems, hymns, ritual texts and philosophical works.
  • Through to today – Hindus consider the Vedas to be authoritative scripture.
  • Earliest of the Vedas is the Rig-Veda – the earliest record of sacred knowledge on Hinduism
Additional lessons are in texts written later called the Brahmanas and the Upanishads

As well, there are 2 great epics that help spread Hindu ideals and guidelines for moral conduct amongst the masses;

  • the Mahabharata (400 BCE-400 CE), 100 000 verses – the work of many authors
  • the Ramayana (200 BCE), 24 000 verses

During this era the Vedas were seen as intended for only the upper castes while the epics were for the masses.

Because Hinduism was never limited by the influence of one specific person or text, it has absorbed the ideas and practices that suited its social and cultural framework as it evolved over thousands of years.
  • This accommodation of new ideas may account for the generally inclusive nature of this religion.
  • Close connection to Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism
  • Bhakti refers to religious devotion in the form of active involvement in worship of the divine. Within Hinduism, it is the love felt by the worshipper towards the personal God.
what do you think
What do you think?
  • Is one drop of water the same as the entire ocean?
  • On one hand – they are the same – H2O - but on the other one is small and the other enormous.
  • What if we use this to understand the ideas of Hinduism?
Hindus believe that each of us has a soul, called atman.

A famous Hindu philosopher (AdiShankara) wrote that each of our souls contains a piece of God, just like the drops of water each contain a tiny amount of the ocean. The quest in Hinduism can be understood as the search for this piece of God inside each of us.

The diversity and tolerance within Hinduism can be seen as: “Truth is one, paths are many.”

There is only one God, but endless are his aspects and endless are his names. Call him by any name and worship him in any aspect that pleases you, you are sure to see him

Shri Ramakrishna, quoted in Prabhavananda (1836-1886)

classifying hinduism
Classifying Hinduism
  • According to Hindu beliefs, Brahman is the principle source of the universe. This divine intelligence exists in all beings. Thus all the Hindu gods and goddesses are manifestations of the one Brahman.
  • So does that make Hinduism monotheistic or polytheistic? Or both?
hindu beliefs deities
Hindu Beliefs & Deities

Categorizing the religion of Hinduism can be confusing:

  • POLYTHEISTIC= worships multiple deities: gods and goddesses
  • MONOTHEISTIC = it recognizes only one supreme God: the panentheistic principle of Brahman, that all reality is a unity. The entire universe is seen as one divine entity who is simultaneously at one with the universe and who transcends it as well
  • TRINITARIAN= Brahman is simultaneously visualized as a triad -- one God with three persons: Brahma (the Creator) Vishnu (the Preserver), Shiva (the Destroyer)
  • HENOTHEISTIC= recognizes a single deity, and recognizes other gods and goddesses as facets, forms or manifestations of that supreme God






-is the supreme being-entity without form or quality-soul of universe-divine, invisible, unlimited




  • Shiva is the Hindu god that is compassionate, erotic and destructive
  • He is often depicted wearing a cobra around his neck and with the Ganges River flowing from his head.
  • Shiva is also the god of selflessness and meditation. Some Hindus worship Shiva as the supreme deity. Hindus also consider him as the god of salvation and destruction.
  • He is thought of as the preserver of the universe. Whenever dharma (eternal order, righteousness, religion, law and duty) is threatened, Vishnu travels from heaven to earth in one of ten incarnations known as avatars.
  • Vishnu, when in one of his mortal forms is shown sleeping on a great serpent and floating on water. While in his godly form, he is seen in either black or blue. He can be seen in various colors while in mortal form. Normally, in his godly form, he is seen with four arms: One hand holds a lotus; a second holds a conch; a third holds a discus, which always returns by itself after being thrown; and the fourth carries a mace.
Ten Avatars

Vishnu’s avatars appear on earth as humans or animals to conquer evil and establish righteousness7th- Rama

8th- Krishna

9th- Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha)

According to Hindu faith the 10th, Kalki, has yet to appear. He will come at the end of this epoch to assist in the return to righteousness.

Rama is a Hindu deity worshiped as the seventh incarnation of Vishnu. Rama is represented as the ideal hero of the Sanskrit epic poem the Ramayana.
  • Krishna is the eighth incarnation of the god Vishnu. According to legend, Vishnu appeared as Krishna to rid the world of a tyrannical king named Kamsa, a son of a demon. Many legends tell of Krishna's miracles and heroic exploits. He mostly appears in the epic poem Mahabharatain which he helps the hero Arjuna. Right before a decisive battle, Krishna delivers a speech to Arjuna. This speech became the famous commentary on duty and life known as the Bhagavad-Gita
Son of Shiva and Parvati

Human body and an elephant’s head with only one short tusk

Worshipped as the remover of all obstacles

Milk Miracle – Sept. 25, 1995


“For those who believe, an explanation is unnecessary.

For those, who don’t believe, an explanation

is impossible.”

-St. Bernadette of Lourdes

Beliefs and Goals
  • Hinduism is based on the concept ofreincarnation, in which all living beings, from plants to gods, live in a cycle of living and dying.
  • Life is determined by the law of karma. According to karma, the quality of rebirth is determined by the moral behavior displayed in the previous life. In this view, life on earth is regarded as temporary and a challenge.
  • The goal of existence is to end the cycle of rebirth and death (samsara) and enter into an indescribable state called moksha (liberation).
  • The ones who reach this state no longer struggle with the cycle of life and death. This person has united the human soul (atman) with the universal soul (Brahman)
Review Terms
  • maya= all forms of existence are temporary and illusionary
  • samsara= endless cycle of reincarnation
  • karma = Basic belief of cause and effect (all actions have a consequence)
  • dharma =personal conduct and righteous living
  • moksha= the liberation from samsara and the uniting of atman (human soul) with Brahman (ultimate soul)
did you know
Did you Know?
  • All Hindus avoid eating beef since they venerate the cow. The cows appear to know that they are sacred. It is estimated that 40,000 cows wander the streets of New Delhi being patted by each person they meet. They amble slowly crossing highways or relax in the middle of the road if they feel so inclined.
  • Holy Cow (3 min)
While all animals are considered sacred, the cow has been singled out as particularly sacred because they:-Have given years of faithful service in helping man till the soil and pull the carts-Provide man with food, milk.-Provide man with fuel, in form of cow dung, to heat his home and cook his food. -Symbol of motherhood.
  • In Hindu mythology the cow was created by Brahman on the same day as the Brahmins (highest rank in the Caste system) thus it is an animal venerated above all others.
hinduism today
Hinduism Today

Hinduism differs from Christianity and other monotheistic religions in that it does not have:

  • a single founder,
  • a single concept of deity,
  • a single holy text,
  • a single system of morality,
  • a central religious authority
Around the World in 80 Faiths

Episode 6/ 8, BBC 2009