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Hinduism. Basic Worldview . Key Terms. Braham : The all-pervading, self-existent power, the cosmic unity. Atman : The true self; The essence or principle of life: reality in its individual forms, as distinct from brahman ; n.b. this is not individual soul rather it is the universal self

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Basic Worldview

key terms
Key Terms

Braham: The all-pervading, self-existent power, the cosmic unity.

Atman: The true self; The essence or principle of life: reality in its individual forms, as distinct from brahman; n.b. this is not individual soul rather it is the universal self

Maya: Literally ‘illusion’; this world is neither real nor unreal

Advaita: Only one reality exists. All things are one. A strict form of this belief called ‘monism’ was taught by Shankara.

Dharma: moral and religious duty

key terms1
Key Terms


Literally ‘action’; the inexorable moral law of cause and effect governing the future: bad actions lead to rebirth in the lower orders, perhaps as an animal; good actions lead to rebirth in the higher orders, perhaps as a priest.


The bondage of life, death and rebirth, governed by the law of karma


Literally ‘release’; liberation from the continuous round of rebirths


Devotion or worship (often but not always offered to a single deity); Liberation by faith as distinct from liberation by works or knowledge.

indian world view
Indian World View
  • Diversity as essential element of Hinduism
    • No need to select exclusively
    • Flexibility
    • Divine is manifested in a number of ways
    • Truth transcends all conceptualizations or verbalizations
common beliefs
Common Beliefs
  • Common beliefs include:
    • Recognition of Vedas as revelatory and authoritative
      • Even if content is largely unknown to many Hindus
    • Recognition of Brahman priests
      • Bear and teach the Vedas
      • Ideal of ritual purity
    • Brahman as ultimate
    • samsara
    • Transmigration of atman
    • Karma
world view cycles reality
World View: Cycles & Reality
  • Endless ages and cycles of death & rebirth
    • There are creation stories, though Upanishads suggest that source of creation is unknowable
    • Each falls into period of decline
    • Present point of cycle is one of increasing evil & chaos
  • Ultimate Reality

Diversity of approaches but two main strands:

      • Brahman as the Sacred Ultimate
      • Theistic Hinduism
ultimate reality brahman
Ultimate Reality:Brahman
  • Brahman as the Sacred Ultimate
    • Evolution of understanding
    • Stress on oneness
      • All-embracing principle
      • The one behind all differentiation
      • Precedes any forms of multiplicity
      • The ultimately real
    • Transcendent and immanent
      • Immanent because Brahman permeates all reality/existence (monism), including gods
ultimate reality brahman1
Ultimate Reality: Brahman
  • Grounds all reality
    • Ultimate cause, source and goal of all existence
    • Preserves universe
    • All things emanate from Brahman
  • Uncreated
  • Infinite
  • Apophatic quality
    • Beyond description on conceptualization
    • Impersonal
    • No personal attributes
  • IMPORTANT: Atman=Brahman
two ways of knowing brahman see esp philosopher shankara

Lower level of knowledge .

Stress on immanence




With form:differentiated


Personal god

With attributes

Creative force in the universe


Highest level of knowledge

Stress on transcendence


Non-changing; beyond change


Formless: undifferentiated



Beyond all attributes


Two ways of knowing Brahman(see esp. philosopher Shankara)
indian world view atman
Indian World View:Atman
  • What is eternal is atman or self
    • More real than empirical self
    • Atman = Brahman- pure consciousness
    • Through mediation one may come to experience the atman and achieve unity with Brahman
    • Atman is eternal, immaterial & immortal
      • Ego (the ‘I’) is impermanent
      • Mistake true nature if excessive focus on the ‘I’
      • Result is one is caught in bondage of samsara
      • N.b. that for many in India, liberation is not communion w/personal God
indian world view karma
Indian World View:Karma
  • Law of karma
    • Every action has a consequence which leads to rebirth
    • Karma binds one to wheel of existence, samsara
    • Three paths: karma (action), jnana (knowledge), bhakti (devotion)
      • Liberation achieved through path of jnana or bhakti
indian world view dharma
Indian World View:Dharma
  • Law of dharma
    • One’s dharma is conditioned by karma from previous lifetimes
    • Dharma is duty to live in the state of life which has been determined
dharma cont
Dharma (cont.)
  • Two aspects of dharma:
    • Dharma as cosmic ordering principle
    • Dharma as expression of cosmic order in the social order
      • Dharma on these two levels are linked in that
        • The social order represents (is a microcosm) of the the cosmic order
      • Dharma is focus in day to day existence
      • All things have proper place & function
      • Understand what our place is, its associated duties & follow it to best of ability
      • We have duty to contribute to dharma which keeps world functioning
    • Ignorance & selfishness cause us to fail to take our proper place in divine, cosmic order
    • Maintaining divinely ordered society is central to Hindu way of life
doctrine of maya
Doctrine of Maya

Doctrine of Maya

  • saguna Brahman – what we subjectively experience w/ our senses
  • Finite world does exists, but it is not the ultimate reality
  • Shankara’s rope illustration
indian world view basic problem
Indian World View:Basic Problem
  • Basic Problem: We fail to realize our true nature: atman = Brahman
    • Ignorance of our true nature (identify w/Brahman) causes egotism
      • We act as if the phenomenal world is ultimate reality & we pursue selfish desires
      • Pursuit of desires causes desire for worldly existence
      • Which leads to actions which have consequences (karma)
      • Karma (the chain of acts & consequences) then produces bondage to physical world through cycle of samsara
    • Solutionis moksha from samsara so that the atman can attain union with Brahman
    • Thus it is our ignorance & selfish desire that creates conditions for next lifetime
    • Realization of our true nature comes from insight