Hinduism is the world’s third largest religion, after Christianity and Islam. About 80 percent of India’s population regard themselves as Hindus and 30 million more Hindus live outside of India. Scholars describe modern Hinduism as the product of religious development that spans nearly five thousand years, making it the oldest surviving world religion. Buddhism and Jainism emerged from Hinduism. Outside India, South Africa has the largest group of Indians, most of whom practise Hinduism.
Hindus refer to their religion as the ‘eternal religion’ . It is a complex set of beliefs, values and customs – a way of life and the fulfilment of duties (dharma).
Although Hindus believe in one God, it differs from Christianity and other monotheistic religions in that it does not have:
- A single founder
- A single theological system
- A single concept of deity
- A single holy text, although the Vedas are considered to be the authoritative texts
- A single system of morality
- A central religious authority
Hindu philosophical systems are based on the sages’ and saints’ direct experiences of God. The Vedas, which are the primary written texts, are believed to have been received by the ancient sages in direct communion with the Divine. These saints are called Gurus. The most famous Guru in South Africa was Mahatma Gandhi. He was assassinated in 1948.
Hinduism is a diverse system of thought with beliefs spanning monism, monotheism, polytheism, and atheism, among others. Its concept of God is complex and allows freedom to each individual. Hindus use many forms, faces and symbols to explore the depth of God’s oneness. The most comprehensive name of God is AUM or OM.
Hindus believe that no religion teaches the only way to salvation, but that all genuine paths are facets of God’s light, deserving respect and understanding. Hinduism conceives the whole world as a single family and accepts all forms of beliefs and dismisses labels of distinct religions which would imply a division of identity. Hindus believe that all life is sacred, to be loved and revered and therefore practises non- injury in thought, word and deed.
Practices, philosophies and rituals:
Hindu practices generally involve seeking awareness of God, therefore, Hinduism has developed numerous practices meant to help one think of divinity in the midst of everyday life. The vast majority of Hindus engage in religious rituals on a daily basis. Hindus can engage in worship either at home or at a temple. Temples are usually dedicated to a primary deity along with associated subordinate deities. Hindus perform their worship through icons. The icon serves as a tangible link between the worshiper and God. The image is often considered a manifestation of God, since God is imminent.
Among other practices and philosophies, Hinduism includes a wide spectrum of laws and prescriptions of daily morality. These include the following:
• Righteousness, ethics, truth refers to the universal principle of law, order and harmony. Truth is a major tenet of Hinduism.
• Virtuous pursuit of wealth for livelihood, obligations and economic prosperity.
• Sensual pleasure which refers to desire, wish, passion, longing, pleasure of the senses, enjoyment of life, affection, or love.
• The realization of one’s eternal relationship with God
• Perfect unselfishness and knowledge of the self.
• The attainment of perfect mental peace
, and wisdom
• Mantras are invocations, praise and prayers that through their meaning, sound, and chanting style help a devotee focus the mind on holy thoughts or expr; the detachment from worldly desires
Yoga is a Hindu discipline which trains the consciousness for tranquility, health and spiritual insight, love, devotion, right action, meditation ess devotion to God/the deities.
Life-cycle rituals such as birth, marriage, and death involve elaborate religious customs.
The festival of lights- Diwali, is the most significant of the Hindu Holy Days. It is a time of reflection – to think about oneself and others, and forgive the wrongdoings by other people. It is a time to light up oneself’. The festival commemorates the triumph of good over evil.
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