I wanted to know about the basic beliefs of Hinduism because I have no experience with religion. I was hoping you could tell me about the basic beliefs, rules, philosophy, and about the gods and goddesses and the role they play.
- George K. Mae
Hinduism is also known as "Sanaatan Dharma" meaning eternal law. It originated in India. Basic belief of Hinduism is same as like any other religion. Like other religions, it also encourages speaking truth, respecting others and loving others. There are however some differences.
Unlike other religions, Hinduism has various books
VEDAS; 4 in numbers are primary authority. Also known as Sruti Gyaan (meaning knowledge passed through listening)
UPANISHAD; 108 in number (with 9 main) are known as VEDANTA and should be studied after Vedas are studied.
SHASTRAS; 6 in numbers are books of science
SMRITI and SAMHITA: The rules which sages remembered
PURANAS; 18 in numbers are books depicting Indian history.
MAHAKAVYAS (EPICS); 2 in numbers are RAMAYANA and MAHABHARATA.
Of these, Ramayana depicts legend of Prince of Ayodhya is written by 2 famous authors Valmiki and Tulasidas along with several others; there is one Ramayana per language. There are Ramayanas in Chinese and Thai language as well.
Mahabharata is a book primarily authored by Veda Vyasa in Sanskrit and shows a battle among cousin brothers for justice. Bhagavad Gita, a part of this epic is very famous among Hindu world and among some Western scholars like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Arthur Schopenhauer, Julius Robert Oppenheimer and Henry David Thoreau as well.
Besides there are several literature like Nirukta, Nighantu, Brahmanas, Aranyakas etc. These are used to understand Vedas.
There are Niti books (Niti Shataka by King Bhartrihari, NitiShastra by Chanakya, Vairagya Shataka by King Bhartrihari etc.)also in place to teach ethics and code of conduct.
These are beliefs / rules.
0: No need of any prophet
Hindus totally disregard need of any messenger OR intermediary between devotee and GOD. Rather, they believe that GOD comes and helps us. GOD is self existing but changes forms for our benefit. That form is called Avatars.
However, Vedas and Vedanta clearly indicate that even Avatars are not needed. Other books mention the need of Avatars. Those who take Vedas seriously (Example: Arya Samaj sect) refutes the need of Avatars.
There are certain scholars who understood the concept of GOD and meditate upon it. Those scholars are termed Rishis. However, these Rishis are not prophets. They do not claim that they are only way to meet salvation. Since, there is no prophet claiming authority there is no founder (surprisingly true).
1: GOD judges actions not beliefs
GOD as per Hindu is Ishvara. They call Ishvara as full of light. Also known as Brihm (Not to be confused with Brahma, a diety.) They discard those verses which says GOD will kill unbelievers. Their perception is unique. They believe that GOD will only judge actions. Their GOD does not stay in sky but is within us. So, GOD knows what we did and why.
Same reality is given different names by scholars
- Rig Veda
Let all be happy, all be sinless, I shall see everyone happy. No one shall suffer.
- Dharma Shashtra
For great minds, whole world is one family.
- Niti Shashtra
Jesus, a Jew founded Christianity. Similarly Buddha, a Hindu prince founded Buddhism. He gave concept of atheism which was respected by fellow Hindus. Another sage Charvaka claimed of no GOD and also said - only fools worship GOD. Hindus still regard him as a saint. Heights of Tolerance
2: Science and religion goes hand in hand
Hindus say - science need not contradict religion.
" The Hindu religion is the only one of the world's great faiths dedicated to the idea that the Cosmos itself undergoes an immense, indeed an infinite, number of deaths and rebirths. It is the only religion in which the time scales correspond, to those of modern scientific cosmology.
Its cycles run from our ordinary day and night to a day and night of Brahma, 8.64 billion years long. Longer than the age of the Earth or the Sun and about half the time since the Big Bang. And there are much longer time scales still."
- Carl Sagan
You can find that video on youtube.
CERN, Geneva has revealed that Energy mass equivalence (E=mc^2) is same as Indian diety Shiv dancing. In 2004, there was a statue of that dance (about 2.5 m long)
Even Arthur Schopenhauer, Erwin Schroedinger, Werner Heisenberg, Nicholas Tesla were inspired by Hindu Science. There were various scientists in Hindu world who discovered many things much before Western developments.
So called number system, Decimel & binary, place value system, trigonometry, geometry, algebra, arithmetics is Hindu contribution wrongly said as Arabic numerals. (Arabic scientists themselves agreed that they copied it from Hindus.) Yajur Veda gives heliocentric model repropagated by Aryabhata much before birth of Copernicus. Prashna Upanishad and Brahmagupta stated gravitation long before Isaac Newton. The first battery was written in Agastya Samhita and this was validated by Nichola Tesla. Pythagorus theorem was founded by Bodhayana 3 centuries before Pythagorus. Kanad gave atomicity 2 centuries before Democritus.
"It is clear in history that whatever had Western beginning needs to have Indian ending if it is not to end in self destruction of human race. At this supremely dangerous moment, only salvation is the Hindu way."
- Arnold Joseph Toynbee
"I am convinced that everything has come down to us - - algebra, Trigonometry, Physics, Chemistry; from banks of Ganges. That Hindu dynasty taught the rest of world."
- Francois Marie Voltaire
"India was motherland of our race and Sanskrit was mother of Europe's languages."
- Will Durant
"World owes a lot of Hindus who taught us how to count without which no worthwhile scientific discovery would have been possible."
- Albert Eisntein
US born German scientist
3: Not 1 life
Hindus believe in endless cycle of rebirths. You can take birth as any living being not only humans. There are 8.4 million living beings as per Hinduism. (Modern science says 8.7 million approx.) The salvation is in finding the way out, often termed immortality - a path meant for only humans. There is no heaven / hell where you are kept eternally. Also soul cannot born OR die. This soul is also considered equivalent to GOD.
4: Unique concept of GOD
Eyes see because of GOD but GOD cannot be seen by eyes. It Alone to be worshipped not visible objects. Ears listen because of GOD but GOD cannot be heard by ears. It Alone to be woorshipped not audible objects. Tongue speaks because of GOD but GOD cannot be spoken by tongue. It Alone to be worshipped not spoken objects. Mind thinks of GOD but GOD cannot be thought of mind. It alone to be worshipped not thinkable objects... Those who claim of knowing GOD are ignorant and those who say that GOD cannot be known are truly knowledgeable. More you search, farther it goes and if you stop searching, you find GOD within yourself."
- Kena Upanishad
Hinduism is monotheism turned to polytheism. It believes in both formless and forms of GOD. Formless is main and forms are Avatars / manifestation of the same. Even female GODs are there. These are various GODs.
Avyakta - Formless.
Brahma - Creator.
Vishnu - Protector.
Shiv - Destroyer.
Purusha - GOD of life
Prakriti - Mother Nature
Saraswati - Wife of Brahma / gives knowledge
Laxmi - Wife of Vishnu / gives wealth & prosperity
Parvati - Wife of Shiv / gives powers
Ganesha - Son of Shiv / gives intelligence
Kartikeya - Son of Shiv
Ashok Sundari - Daughter of Shiv
Ram - Incarnation of Vishnu
Krishna - Incarnation of Vishnu
Hanuman - Incarnation of Shiv / gives devotion and strength
For more details, you can visit.
If you still have doubts, go ahead.