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Hinduism. Unit Four. The Name. Hindu is universally accepted as word that refers to the religion of India. Hindu’s call their religion Sanatana Dharma . The word is of Persian origin, used to describe people who lived on the other side of the Sindu river.

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Unit Four

the name
The Name
  • Hindu is universally accepted as word that refers to the religion of India. Hindu’s call their religion Sanatana Dharma.
  • The word is of Persian origin, used to describe people who lived on the other side of the Sindu river.
  • There are many sects within Hinduism, but they all share a common sacred literature, a history of religious thought and a world view that place spiritual matters above earthly concerns.
  • Elements of the faith such as reincarnation, Karma (deeds in this life that determine our place in the next), meditation and yoga are elements of Hinduism that many Canadians are familiar with.
  • Today Hinduism is the world’s third largest religion, about 837 million followers or 13% of the world’s population.
at the end of this unit you should be able to
At The End Of This Unit You Should Be Able To ……
  • Describe the role of faith in Hinduism.
  • Describe the use of symbols to represent Hindu beliefs.
  • Identify significant sacred writings and their importance.
  • Explain the origin of Hinduism.
  • Describe the role of woman in Hinduism.
  • Show how Hinduism is reflected in Canada.
  • Describe an individual’s role in Hinduism.
  • Explain the importance of Mahatma Gandhi.
  • Understand the characteristics and functions of a guru.
  • Evaluate Hinduism’s place in the modern world.
the origins of hinduism
The Origins of Hinduism
  • Unlike other religions, Hinduism was not founded by a particular individual. It is the product of the various peoples that have occupied the region of India through time.
  • Some have described it as more of a way of life than a religion.
  • Two groups of people laid the foundation for Hinduism, the Indus Valley civilization and the Aryans.
the indus valley civilization
The Indus Valley Civilization
  • Excavations along the banks of the Indus river provided the first evidence of religious thought in India.
  • Archaeologists discovered the remains of a civilization that rose in the Indus Valley between 3000 and 2500 BCE.
  • Two ancient cities, Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, were the heart of this civilization, also referred to as the Harappa Culture.
The people of this civilization were impressive builders and town planners. Houses contained drainage and sewer systems and some included bathrooms on the first and second floors.
  • Some of the buildings have been identified as worship houses, where archaeologists discovered stone sculptures that may be early depictions of the Hindu goddesses Parvati and Kali.
  • Other discoveries included charms against evil, thousands of flat seals and fire altars that suggest religious activity such as animal sacrifice.
  • One seal depicts a man wearing a head-dress seated in a yoga position, surrounded by animals. It may be an early representation of the Hindu god Shiva.
the arrival of the aryans
The Arrival Of The Aryans
  • Around 1500 BCE, thousands of people, known as Aryans, migrated into India from the northwest, destroying the Indus Valley civilization.
  • They came from central Asia, spoke an early form of Sanskrit and settled near the river Sindhu and later, the Ganges river.
  • Aryan religious thought flourished between 1500 and 500 BCE. It was contained in a collection of hymns, ritual texts and philosophical works called Vedas, and are considered Hinduism’s earliest sacred writings.
  • The earliest Veda is Rig-Veda, which constitutes the earliest record of sacred knowledge on Hinduism.
The Vedas were written in verse, and their translation into prose interpretations were called Brahmanas.
  • Other mystical texts on human existence, called Upanishads, also came from the Vedas.
  • The Aryans worshipped the forces of nature in the form of gods. Agni, god of fire, is an example.
  • Worship and prayer to honor these forces formed the core of early Hinduism.
  • The Upanishads combined prayer with philosophical inquiry about atman, the human soul. The atman was considered to be the breath of human life and became one of the fundamental principles of Hindu philosophy.
hindu beliefs
Hindu Beliefs
  • The Hindu concept of god is hard for non-Hindus to understand. It has been described as;
  • Polytheistic – a religion of many gods
  • Monotheistic – belief in only one god.
  • Monistic – god as an impersonal and unknowable entity.
  • Scholars refer to this confusion as Hinduism’s tolerant characteristic. It allows its members to follow their own conscience and does not impose its beliefs on others, nor does it believe in conversion.
The early hymns of the Rig-Veda praise the spirits of natural forces such as fire, thunder, dawn, water, earth and the sun. However, it is believed that they all represent different aspects of the same supreme being.
  • The Upanishads refers to this supreme being as Brahman, the soul of the universe from which all existing things arise and into which they all return. It is everything and everywhere!
  • Hindus are free to imagine Brahman in any way that is meaningful to them. Therefore, Hindus worship different gods that they consider manifestations of Brahman.
hindu deities
Hindu Deities
  • The most prevalent manifestations of Brahman are the gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, who are often depicted together as one concept, called the Hindu Trinity. They each have a female counterpart, the most prominent one being Parvati, Shiva’s main squeeze.
  • Creator of the universe.
  • Has four faces and sits on a lotus.
  • He holds a book, a rosary and a gourd.
  • Not as widely worshipped as Shiva and Vishnu.
  • His female counterpart is Saraswati. She is the goddess of learning and the arts, often depicted holding a book and a musical instrument called a veena. She gets around on a peacock or a swan.
  • Preserver of the universe, a loving and forgiving figure who brings salvation.
  • Four arms in which he holds a conch shell, a discus, a lotus and a mace. His vehicle is a divine eagle.
  • Vishnu has many avatars, incarnation or manifestation of a deity in human form, and appears on earth in the form of an animal or human to conquer evil.
  • Hindus believe that one of his incarnations was of Siddartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism.
  • His companion is Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, happiness and good fortune. She is often depicted rewarding worshippers with gold.
  • He is the destroyer and restorer of the universe and is associated with creative energy.
  • He is considered a great yogi, a spiritually involved individual who practices meditation.
  • He holds a trident, a rosary and a gourd in his hands.
  • His vehicle is a bull.
  • He is also depicted as Nataraj, the god of dance and is shown holding a drum, serpent and sacred fire in his hands while performing the dance of creation.
  • He holds water in his hair from the sacred Ganges river.
  • Parvati, his wife, is the mother goddess. She is worshipped as Shakti or female energy. She is portrayed riding a tiger with many weapons in her hands.
ganesha son of shiva and parvati remover of all obstacles elephant head human body
Ganesha – son of Shiva and Parvati, remover of all obstacles. Elephant head, human body.
  • The human soul or spirit.
  • It is the part of ourselves that is identical to Brahman, the universal soul.
  • A Hindu’s goal in life is to reunite the atman with the Brahman.
  • The atman is eternal and immortal! When one dies, the atman lives on, shedding one body to enter a new one.
  • Hindus believe that the soul does not die with the body but enters another body to carry on its existence.
  • This endless cycle of rebirth is called samsara.
  • Maya is a word used to describe the temporary and imperfect nature of the physical world. Hindus believe that all life is caught in this cycle of birth, death and rebirth.
  • The goal of Hindus is to achieve moksha, liberation of the soul from the endless cycle of rebirths into this world , by uniting the atman with the Brahman.
  • Karma is the totality of one’s actions in life, and it determines the form the individual will take when he or she is reborn.
  • Bad Karma will result in rebirth at a lower station in life or as a lower form of life, such as an animal.
  • Good Karma will result in rebirth at a higher station in life, which is closer to attaining salvation.
  • Therefore, in order to achieve salvation, Hindus must work their way up the ladder of existence, by trying to secure rebirth at a higher level. This is what led to the caste system.
four paths to salvation
Four Paths to Salvation
  • Bhakti Yoga – The Path of Devotion

- Devotion and love towards a particular personal

deity. It’s popular among Hindus because it

provides the opportunity to worship Brahman in a

concrete way.

- Followers focus their devotion through prayer

and rituals.

2. Karma Yoga – The Path of Action

- The key to this path is good deeds and thoughts, which lead to the accumulation of good Karma. Good deeds are considered unselfish actions that are not done for a reward but because they are morally right.

3. Jnana Yoga – The Path of Wisdom

  • This difficult path calls for the guidance of a guru or teacher, a spiritual guide that can help one achieve moksha or salvation.
  • Followers learn about the relationship between Brahman and atman and the nature of the universe as explained in the scriptures. By knowing the scriptures, following the guru’s teachings and meditating, followers gain the insight necessary to achieve salvation.
4. Raja Yoga – The Path of Meditation
  • Followers of this path achieve salvation through meditation or deep contemplation on Brahman.
  • Intense meditation leads to a trance like state in which the individualacquires knowledge of the truth and becomes one with Brahman.
  • Requires strict physical and spiritual discipline.
  • This is how Hindus refer to their religion. It means a code of moral and religious duty.
  • The concept of Dharma is related to the duties and obligations of the individual and is considered essential to the welfare of the individual, family and society.
  • There are two kinds of Dharma: Sanatana dharma, eternal religion, refers to universal values and principles that apply to all people, regardless of religion, nationality, age, sex or profession. Varnashrama dharma, which concerns the specific duties of each individual with respect to age, sex and status in society.
the caste system
The Caste System
  • Divides humanity into four classes or varnas, which people are born into according to the Karma they have accumulated in previous lives.
  • Brahmins – priests, religious teachers. Goals are knowledge and education. Have duties such as performance of rituals and sacrifices, pursuit of the arts, sciences, ethics and religious study and research and training. Must have highly developed intellect and discipline.
Kshatriya – warriors and rulers. Their goal is political power and diplomacy. They work in government, law and order and protection from foreign invaders. They should possess physical strength and courage, as well as governing skills.
  • Vaishya – merchants and farmers. Their goal is wealth and commerce. They should manage wealth and trade with other societies. They should possess management and entrpreneurial skills.
  • Sudra – servants and laborers. They have manual skills, provide service to other castes and have the ability to acquire particular skills.
the untouchables
The Untouchables
  • A fifth group, outside of the four varnas, are called the untouchables.
  • They engage in what is considered “unclean practices” such as tanning leather, removing dead animals or washing toilets. They were degraded by the nature of their work and lived separately from those in the other castes.
  • Ghandi fought to have these people included in the mainstream of Indian society.
  • Today, India’s charter of rights and freedoms bans discrimination based on caste. President K.R. Narayanan is a member of this fifth caste, popularly known as dalits.
For some Indians, untouchables are less than human.
  • Just over two years ago, five dalits were lynched near New Delhi after a rumour spread that they had killed and skinned a cow, revered as sacred in India.
  • An autopsy was conducted on the cow - none were done for the the dalits - which confirmed the story their friends told - the cow had died of other causes and they were skinning it legally.
the four stages of life
The Four Stages of Life
  • Student – discipline mind and body, gain knowledge, learn rules and rituals, show respect towards elders.
  • Householder – marry and have a family, provide for the family, give to charity, care for family elders, practice social and religious traditions.
  • Forest Dweller – retire and transmit household duties to wife or son, read and study, participate in religious pilgrimages.
  • Ascetic – give up worldly life, wander, mediate, attain salvation.
four goals of life
Four Goals of Life
  • Dharma – conduct one’s duties with compassion, no jealousy, cruelty or greed, be good and pure.
  • Artha – earn an honest living, provide for family, acquire wealth and power.
  • Kama – pursuing love and physical pleasures to balance life and to sanctify marriage.
  • Moksha – leading the soul toward salvation through honest and moral actions.
hindu women
Hindu Women
  • According to “The Laws of Manu” written 2000 years ago, women are to be honored and provided for, while at the same time subordinate and dependant on men.
  • Divorce is not encouraged but allowed.
  • More and more Hindu women are working outside the home, changing tradtional gender roles.
  • Indira Ghandi was prime minister of India from 1966 to 1977 and again from 1980 until her death in 1984.
  • Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit became the first woman president of the United Nations in 1953.
hindu practices rituals symbols and festivals
Hindu Practices, Rituals Symbols and Festivals

Practices and Rituals

Hindus usually practice their religion at home, first purifying themselves with water, usually by taking a bath.

The syllable OM, which represents the supremacy of Brahman, is chanted at the beginning and end of prayers and scripture readings. Called Japa, worshippers chant the names of deities as well as sacred phrases called mantras. This is a mantra that Hindu’s chant to greet the sun……..

“ I meditate on the brilliance of the sun; may it illumine my intellect.”

Worship at home involves a shrine that serves as an altar for worship. Called puja, it is a form of thanksgiving in which offerings are made to deities. It has 16 steps and ends with a lamp called an arati waved around the altar while prayers and hymns are recited. You can eat the offering, called prasad, as it is considered a gift from the deity. Sometimes, on special occasions, a priest, usually from the Brahmin caste, performs a ceremony called Homa, which involves burning the offering in a fire.
  • Worship in a temple is not a requirement nor is it necessity. Usually they are for festivals and special functions. Arati and prasad are shared and they treat images of deities with baths, adornments and processions. Temples also teach children classes on Hindu prayers and hymns, called bhajans.
The Sacred Cow
  • “Holy cow” is an expression that refers to Hinduism’s reverence of cows. They see the cow as an manifestation of all that is good and precious.
  • They see the docile way of a cow as the result of its being a vegetarian. They aspire to the same lifestyle.
  • Yoga and Mediation
  • Yoga in the strict Hindu sense means yoke, or the atman at union with the Brahman.
  • To achieve this union with God, meditation is necessary. You control your breathing, concentrate on a single object, sound or idea, until you are in a deep meditative state and are experiencing the divine presence.
  • The real experts are the swamis, or holy men of India, who have dedicated their lives to meditation
Pilgrimages or journeys to holy places are important to Hinduism.
  • Hindus strive to visit, at least once in a lifetime, the holy city of Varanasi.
  • It is believed that the holy Ganges River fell from heaven to give life to people and provide food. Varanasi is located along the west bank of the river and the first thing pilgrims do is bathe in the river to cleanse themselves of sin.
  • One of the holiest cities in the world, it is also sacred because it is the birthplace of Tirthankara Parsvanatha, a spiritual teacher of Jainism and Buddha gave his first sermon their and started the sangha or community of monks
Some of the many symbols in Hinduism include the swastika, which represents good luck and well being, the lord of the dance which we have already seen and forehead marks called tilak which represent the third eye of wisdom.
  • Women wear red dots on their foreheads called bindi, which shows they are married and should be treated as such.
  • Festivals include:
  • Diwali, the festival of lights, from the end of October to early November.
  • Holi, a spring festival celebrated in March.
  • Mahashivaratri, day before the new moon in February.
  • Navaratri, spring and autumn.
sacred writings
Sacred Writings
  • Hindus have over 200 books that are considered sacred texts. They were written between 15000BCE and 1500CE.
  • Scriptures are classified as either shruti or smriti.
  • Shruti is knowledge that is revealed or discovered by the seers of Hinduism. This wisdom is contained in the Vedas.
  • Smriti is human made literature or knowledge that is remembered.
The four Vedas are considered the oldest and most authoritative Hindu scriptures:

Rig-Veda – comprises 1028 hymns contained in ten books, that praise the ancient deities.

Yajur-Veda – a priest’s handbook for the performance of fire sacrifices.

Sama-Veda – melodies, chants and tunes for the singing of hymns.

Atharva-Veda – magical formulas, chants, spells and charms.

Each Veda contains……..
  • Mantras, psalms of praise.
  • Brahmanas, prose manual for priests on prayer and ritual.
  • Aranyakas, forest books for saints and hermits.
  • Upanishads, philosophical commentaries that appear at the end of each Veda.
  • Written in Sanskrit about 200 BCE, there are about 26 different versions, and 24,000 verses.
  • It is the story of prince Rama, who is worshipped as the seventh avatar or incarnation of the god Vishnu.
  • Rama was exiled to the forest for 14 years so that his brother, Bharata, could be king. His wife, Sita, and his other half-brother, Lakshmana, followed the prince into exile.
  • Sita was kidnapped by the evil Ravana. A battle ensued where Rama, assisted by Hanuman, king of the monkeys, defeated Ravana, rescued his wife and returned triumphantly to his kingdom.
  • The story represents the constant struggle between good and evil, where good eventually wins.
hinduism in canada
Hinduism in Canada
  • There are approx. 300,000 Hindus in Canada. Most live in the greater Toronto area.
  • Came to Canada from India, Sri Lanka, Guyana, Trinidad and England.
  • Most Hindu priests in Canada are from Guyana.
  • Sermons, lectures and other discourses are delivered in the language particular to each group.