Thursday, October 19, 2017

A Taste of Hinduism

By: Sarah Wagner
Produced & edited by: Lindsey Curnutte

 Two Hindi girls lighting candles for the Diwali Festival of Lights. Photo by  Khokarahman, via Wikimedia Commons

Hinduism is the world’s third largest religion, with approximately 15 percent of the global population as its followers. The religion has influenced the citizens of the United States since the 1970s – starting with the growing practice of yoga.  From there, religious symbols such as the Ohm and the Hamsa hand have permeated U.S. pop culture. However, this draw toward Hindu symbols and practices did not lead to a thorough look at the religion itself, and how it affects the daily lives of its followers.

What is Hinduism?
The Indian sub-continent is the main hub for Hindu practices. Here, the religion remains strong, even though Islam is predicted to surpass Hinduism as the largest religious group in the India-Pacific region.  With Islam closing in on India’s borders, the religions can run into contestations.  However, Hinduism has more in common with the Abrahamic religions than one might think.
Just as Christians and Muslims believe in God and strive to be one with Him, Hindus strive for a similar goal. 

Robin Marwaha, who lives in Gurgaon and identifies as Hindu says, “Hinduism is a set of core values, beliefs, [and] actions that guides to reach the lord.” 

The biggest difference between the religions is that the God of Christianity is an all-powerful being, whereas the Hindu “God” is concept regarding the entirety of the universe.  

A Hindu Priest by the name of Dandapani says, “God is all pervasive. God is in you, in me, in the trees, in the stones. God is everywhere.”
“Hindu majorly believes that whole universe, galaxy, solar system, Sun, Moon, planets, Earth, humans, animals, plants, insects are a part of a powerful system which constitutes God” says Pradeep Mahaur, an avid Hinduism blogger. 


This concept of all aspects of the universe being interconnected and holding power is known as Brahman, and it is the underlying basis of Hinduism.
Mahaur compares understanding the system of Brahman to understanding the ocean. While one can scoop part of the ocean into a bowl, the ocean cannot truly be seen and understood by humans at one time, making it a concept so vast one cannot truly comprehend it. It is for this reason that Hinduism uses multiple Gods and Goddesses to split-up and explain differing aspects of the universe.
A Hindi woman celebrating Holi, the spring color festival. Photo by murtaza_ali, via pixabay.
The three main Gods of the universe in Hinduism are Brahma, the creator, Vishnu, the preserver, and Shiva, the destroyer.  From these three branch millions of Gods and Goddesses, making up a comprehensive idea of the universe.  The stories of these deities are located in the religions important texts such as the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, although there is no one sacred text of the religion as there is in Christianity. 
“Hindus respect them all but have their favorites,” says Manoranjan Singh, a retired psychotherapist of New Delhi, about the different Hindu deities. “Almost every home has a small temple/worship place in the home/shop/store.”

Hinduism as a Lifestyle
Hinduism is more than just a religion in India, it is a lifestyle.  Hindus strive to achieve moksha, or salvation, by becoming a part of the absolute soul of the universe.  Unlike Christianity, there is no heaven in Hinduism.  Instead, they believe one’s Karma (fate dictated by how one’s leads their life) will lead them to either achieve Moksha or be reincarnated into another form of life. 
The main goal of the religion is to break away from Maya, the intrinsic attraction one has to this world and its illusion of reality, in order to achieve Mokosha.  Marwaha says, “Life’s a majestically woven web of various elements such as wealth, family, sad, [and] happy feelings and we must tear through this veil of Maya to reach [the lord]. The ultimate bliss is reached only when one thinks about the Lord. Anything without the Lord... would ultimately reach to disillusionment.”
There is no intense discrimination toward those with other religious beliefs in Hinduism.  Singh himself is Sikh, while his wife follows Hinduism.  He says, “Hinduism does not equate non-believers (or believers of other religions) with the devil, thus authorizing them to 'kill the devil before it spreads evil in the world' or save them from going to hell by converting them.”
Kabir Oberoi, another local Sikh of New Delhi, says, “both religions coexist and complement each other... it does not matter you are a Hindu or Muslim or Sikh, we are preached to be good humans.”

**Global Spotlight is a nonprofit educational production, constituting a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided under Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law.

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