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    Hinduism Analysis Essay (3185 words)

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    HinduismThe term Hinduism refers to the civilization of the Hindus (originally,the inhabitants of the land of the Indus River). Introduced in about 1830 byBritish writers, it properly denotes the Indian civilization of approximatelythe last 2,000 years, which evolved from Vedism the religion of the Indo-European peoples who settled in India in the last centuries of the 2ndmillennium BC.

    The spectrum that ranges from the level of popular Hindu belief to thatof elaborate ritual technique and philosophical speculation is very broad and isattended by many stages of transition and varieties of coexistence. Magic rites,animal worship, and belief in demons are often combined with the worship of moreor less personal gods or with mysticism, asceticism, and abstract and profoundtheological systems or esoteric doctrines. The worship of local deities does notexclude the belief in pan-Indian higher gods or even in a single high God. Suchlocal deities are also frequently looked down upon as manifestations of a highGod. In principle, Hinduism incorporates all forms of belief and worshipwithout necessitating the selection or elimination of any.

    It is axiomatic thatno religious idea in India ever dies or is superseded-it is merely combined withthe new ideas that arise in response to it. Hindus are inclined to revere thedivine in every manifestation, whatever it may be, and are doctrinally tolerant,allowing others – including both Hindus and non-Hindus – whatever beliefs suitthem best. A Hindu may embrace a non-Hindu religion without ceasing to be aHindu, and because Hindus are disposed to think synthetically and to regardother forms of worship, strange gods, and divergent doctrines as inadequaterather than wrong or objectionable, they tend to believe that the highest divinepowers are complement one another. Few religious ideas are considered to beirreconcilable.

    The core of religion does not depend on the existence ornonexistence of God or on whether there is one god or many. Because religioustruth is said to transcend all verbal definition, it is not conceived indogmatic terms. Moreover, the tendency of Hindus to distinguish themselves fromothers on the basis of practice rather than doctrine further de-emphasizesdoctrinal differences. Hinduism is both a civilization and a congregation of religions; it hasneither a beginning or founder, nor a central authority, hierarchy, ororganization. Hindus believe in an uncreated, eternal, infinite, transcendent,and all-embracing principle, which, “comprising in itself being and non-being,”is the sole reality, the ultimate cause and foundation, source, and goal of allexistence. This ultimate reality is called Brahman.

    As the All, Brahman causesthe universe and all beings to emanate from itself, transforms itself into theuniverse, or assumes it’s appearance. Brahman is in all things and is the Self(atman) of all living beings. Brahman is the creator, preserver, or transformerand reabsorber of everything. Although it is Being in itself, without attributesand qualities and hence impersonal, it may also be conceived of as a personalhigh God, usually as Vishnu (Visnu) or Siva. This fundamental belief in and theessentially religious search for ultimate reality – that is, the One is the All- have continued almost unaltered for more than 30 centuries and has been thecentral focus of India’s spiritual life.

    In some perceptions, Hinduism has been called ‘atheistic’. In otherperceptions, and this is perhaps the more common one, it is labeled’polytheistic’. The term ‘polytheism’ acknowledges the presence of a God-figurein a religious system, but in the plural. Thus it is said that Hindus worshipmany such beings we call God. But obviously this implies a very profounddifference in the understanding of what such a ‘God’ could be. It is often saidthat Hindus worship three gods and they are in fact called the ‘Hindu Trinity’.

    The gods involved are: Brahma, Visnu and Siva. The first is supposed to createthe world (at the beginning of each cosmic cycle), the second to maintain it inbeing, and Siva, at the end of a cosmic cycle, to destroy it again. But then afurther idea is added which is ignored by the proponents of the theory of aHindu Trinity. What is added invariably implies that, over and above these threefigures lies a single reality. This ‘one above the three’ controls theactivities of the creation etc. Brahma and the others, who carry out thesefunctions, are merely manifestations of that highest being, or they relate to itin some other, equally secondary, form.

    This concept of a single, all powerful,eternal, personal and loving God, is the concept of “Bhagavan”. But who is this Hindu Bhagavan? At least to us the outside observers heis not one, but many. Siva, Visnu, Krsna, Rama, Karttikeya and Ganesa may bementioned as the most important Bhagavan figures. But to speak of many Bhagavanshas nothing to do with ‘polytheism’, for in terms of Indian society, differentgroups have their one and only Bhagavan. In most cases a particular Bhagavan-figure may look the same as deva. By ‘looking the same’ is meant here:possessing the same external characteristics (including name) and having thesame or very similar stories told by his mythical deeds.

    From this follows thatthe individual (or, in practice, far more often, the group to which he belongs,and this is more frequently by birth than by choice) makes a decision as to howto regard such a figure. Visnu could thus be the Bhagavan for some people, aminor manifestation of Siva for others, a godling for a third group, possibly anevil demonic being for a fourth and Isvara for a fifth. But this does not meanthat every single religious individual in India ends up with a Bhagavan. Although those Hindus who particularly worship either Vishnu or Shivagenerally consider one or the other as their ‘favorite god’ and as the Lord andBrahman in its personal aspect, Vishnu is often regarded as a specialmanifestation of the preservative aspect of the Supreme and Shiva as that of thedestructive function. Another deity, Brahma, the creator, remains in thebackground as a demiurge.

    These three great figures (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva)constitute the so-called Hindu Trinity (Trimuriti, “the One or Whole with ThreeForms). This conception attempts to synthesize and harmonize the conviction thatthe Supreme Power is ingular with the plurality of gods in daily religiousworship. Although the concept of the Trimurti assigns a position of specialimportance to some great gods, it never has become a living element in thereligion of the people. Brahma, the first of the three Hindu gods, is called the Creator; he isthe father of gods and men, the Vedic Prajapati, the lord of creators.

    The termis used for the Absolute, or the Ultimate Principle, beyond which nothing existsor has any reality. In the Upanishads, Brahma is said to be beyond alldescription. “This universe was enveloped in darkness – unperceived,indistinguishable, undiscoverable, unknowable, as it were, entirely sunk insleep. The irresistible self existent lord, undiscerned, creating this universewith the five elements, and all other things , was manifested dispelling thegloom. he who is beyond the cognizance of the senses, subtile, indiscernible,eternal, who is the essence of all things, and inconceivable, himself shoneforth.

    He, desiring, seeking to produce various creatures from his own body,first created the waters, and deposited in them a seed. This (seed) became agolden egg, resplendent as the sun, in which he himself was born as Brahma, theprogenitor of all worlds. The waters are called nara, because they are theoffspring of Nara; and since they were formerly the place of his movement(ayana), he is therefore called Narayana . Being formed by that First Cause,indiscernible, eternal, which is both existent and non-existent, that male isknown in the world as Brahma.

    That lord having continued a year in the egg,divided it into two parts by his mere thought. ” In the Mahabharata and some ofthe Puranas, Brahma is said to have issued from a lotus that sprang from thenavel of Vishnu. In picture Brahma is represented as a red man with four heads, though inthe Puranas he is said to have had originally five. He is dressed in whiteraiment, and rides upon a goose. In one hand he carries a staff, in the other adish for receiving alms.

    A legend in the “Matsya Purana”, gives the followingaccount of the formation of his numerous heads :- “Brahma formed from his ownimmaculate substance a female who is celebrated under the names of Satarupa,Savitri, Sarasvati, Gayatri, and Brahmani. Beholding his daughter, born from hisbody, Brahma became wounded with the arrows of love and exclaimed, ‘Howsurpassingly lovely she is !’ Satarupa turned to the right side from his gaze;but as Brahma wished to look after her, a second head issued from his body. Asshe passed to the left, and behind him, to avoid his amorous glances, two otherheads successively appeared. At length she sprang into the sky; and as Brahmawas anxious to gaze after her there, a fifth head was immediately formed”.

    At present times Brahma is not largely worshipped by the Hindus. It issaid that the universe will come to an end at the end of Brahma’s life, butBrahmas too are innumerable, and a new universe is reborn with each new Brahma. VISHNU is called the second person of the Hindu Trimuriti or Trinity:but though called second, it must not be supposed that he is regarded as in anyway inferior to Brahma. In some books Brahma is said to be the first cause ofall things, in others it is as strongly asserted that Vishnu has this honour;while in others it is claimed for Siva. As Brahma’s special work is creation,that of Vishnu is preservation. In the following passage from the “Padma Purana”,it is taught that Vishnu is the supreme cause, thus identifying him with Brahma,and also that his special work is to preserve: ” In the beginning of creation,the great Vishnu, desirous of creating the whole world, became threefold ;Creator, Preserver, Destroyer.

    In order to create this world, the Supreme Spiritproduced from the right side of his body himself as Brahma ; then, in order topreserve the world, he produced from his left side Vishnu ; and in order todestroy the world, he produced from the middle of his body the eternal ShivaSome worship Brahma, others Vishnu, others Shiva ; but Vishnu, one yet threefold,creates, preserves, and destroys : therefore let the pious makes no differencebetween the three. “In pictures Vishnu is represented as a black man with four arms : in onehand he holds a club ; in another a shell ; in a third a chakra, or diseus, withwhich he slew his enemies ; and in the fourth a lotus. He rides upon the birdGaruda, and is dressed in yellow robes. This deity is worshipped not only under the name and in the form ofVishnu, but also in one of his many incarnations. Whenever any great calamityoccurred in the world, or the wickedness of any of its inhabitants proved anunbearable nuisance to the gods, Vishnu, as Preserver, had to lay aside hisinvisibility, come to earth in some form, generally human, and, when his workwas done, he returned again to the skies. There is no certainty as to the numberof times he has become incarnate.

    Ten is the commonly received number, and theseare the most important ones. Of these ten, nine have already been accomplished ;one, the Kalki, is still future. “Some of these Avatars are of an entirelycosmical character ; others, however, are probably based on historical events,the leading personage of which was gradually endowed with divine attributes,until he was regarded as the incarnation of the deity himself. ” These are Fish(Matsya), Tortoise (Kurma), Boar (Varaha), Man-Lion (Narasimha), Dwarf (Vamana),Rama-with-the-Ax (Parasurama), King Rama, Krishna, Buddha, and the futureincarnation, Kalki. Preference for any one of these manifestations is largely amatter of tradition. Thus, Rama and Krishna are the preferred ones.

    The classical narrative of Rama is recounted in the Ramayana by thesaga Valmiki, who is the traditional author of the epic. Rama is deprived of thekingdom to which he is heir and is exiled to the forest with his wife Sita andhis brother Laksmana. While there, Sita is abducted by Ravana, the demon king ofLanka. In their search for Sita, the brothers ally themselves with a monkey kingwhose general, Hanuman (who later became a monkey deity), finds Sita in Lanka.

    In a cosmic battle, Ravana is defeated and Sita rescued. When Rama is restoredto his kingdom, Sita’s chastity while captive is doubted. To reassure them, Ramabanishes Sita to a hermitage, where she bears him two sons and eventually diesby reentering the earth from which she had been born. Rama’s reign becomes theprototype of the harmonious and just kingdom, to which all kingdoms shouldaspire. Rama and Sita set the ideal of conjugal love; Rama’s relationship to hisfather is the ideal of filial love; and Rama and Laksmana represent perfectfraternal love. In all but its oldest form, the Ramayana identifies Rama withVishnu as another incarnation and remains the principle source for Ramaism(worship or Rama).

    In the Mahabharata, Krishna is primarily a hero, a chieftain of a tribe,and an ally of the Pandavas, the heroes of the Mahabharata. He accomplishesheroic feats with the Pandava prince Arjuna. Typically he helps the Pandavabrothers to settle in their kingdom, and when the kingdom is taken from them, toregain it. In the process he emerges as a great teacher who reveals theBhagavadgita, the most important religious text of Hinduism.

    In the furtherdevelopment of the Krishna myth, it is found that as a child, Krishna was fullof boyish pranks and well known for his predilection for milk and butter. Hewould raid the dairies of the gopies (milkmaids) to steal fruit, milk, andbutter, and would accuse others for his misdeeds. Krishna is the most celebrated deity of the Hindu pantheon. He isworshipped as an independent god in his own right, but is also regarded as theeighth incarnation of Vishnu. In the course of life he was supposed to have had16,108 wives and 180,008 sons.

    In the epic he is a hero, a leader of his people,and an active helper of his friends. Shiva is the third person of the HinduTrinity. As Brahma was Creator, Vishnu Preserver, in order to complete thesystem, as all things are subject to decay, a Destroyer was necessary anddestruction is regarded as the peculiar work of Siva. It must be remembered that,according to the teachings of Hinduism, death is not death in the sense ofpassing into non-existence, but simply a change into a new form of life. He whodestroys, therefore, causes beings to assume new phases of existence – theDestroyer is really the re-Creator ; hence the name Siva, the Bright or HappyOne, is given to him, which would not have been the case had he been regardedas the destroyer, in the ordinary meaning of that term. According to the ancient Indians, Shiva primarily must have been thedivine representative of the fallow, dangerous, dubious, and much-to-be-fearedaspects of nature.

    He is considered as the ultimate foundation of all existenceand the source and ruler of all life, but it is not clear whether, Shiva isinvoked as a great god of frightful aspect, capable of conquering impious power,or as the boon-giving Lord and protector. He is both terrible and mild, creatorand agent of reabsorption, eternal rest and ceaseless activity. Thesecontradictions make him an ironic figure, who transcends humanity and assumes amysterious grandeur of his own. His myths describe him as the absolute mightyunique One, who is not responsible to anybody or for anything. As a dancer, hispose expresses the eternal rhythm of the universe; he also catches the waters ofthe heavenly Ganges River, which destroys all sin; and he wears in his headdressthe crescent moon, which drips the nectar of everlasting life.

    Sometimes in theact of trampling on or destroying demons, he wears around his black neck aserpent, and a necklace of skulls, furnished with a whole apparatus of externalemblems, such as a white bull on which he rides, a trident , tiger’s skin,elephant’s skin, rattle, noose, etc. He has three eyes, one being on hisforehead, in reference either to the three Vedas, or time past, present andfuture and in the end of time, he will dance the universe to destruction. It is said that without his consort Mother Goddess, no Hindu god is muchuse or value to anyone. He may strut about, but his powers are limited. To becomplete he requires a Devi, “Goddess,” who takes many different names and forms,but always embodies Shakti.

    In some myths Devi is the prime mover, who commandsthe male gods to do work of creation and destruction. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva,all three have their own consorts. Sarasvati, the goddess of wisdom and science and, the mother of Vedas,is Brahma’s wife. She is represented as a fair young woman, with four arms;with one of her right hands, she is presenting a flower to her husband, by whoseside she continually stands ; and in the other she holds a book of palm-leaves,indicating that she is fond of learning.

    In one of her left hands, she has astring of pearls, called Sivamala (Shiva’s garland) and in the other a smalldrum. Lakshmi, or very commonly known as Sri, is the wife of Vishnu. “Sri, the bride of Vishnu, the mother of the world, is eternal,imperishable ; as he is all-pervading, so she is omnipotent . Vishnu is meaning,she is speech ; Hari is polite, she is prudence ; Vishnu is understanding, sheis intellect ; he is righteousness, she is devotion ; Sri is the earth, Hari isthe support. In a word, of gods, animals, and men, Hari is all that is calledmale ; Lakshmi is all that is termed female ; there is nothing else than they.

    “Lakshmi is regarded as the goddess of Love, Beauty, and Prosperity and is alsoknown as Haripriya, “The beloved of Hari”, and Lokamata, “The mother of theworld”. Uma or Kali, is the consort of the Hindu god Shiva in her manifestationof the power of time. As Shiva’s female consort and a destructive mother goddess,she inherits some of Shiva’s most fearful aspects. She is frequently portrayedas a black, laughing, naked hag with blood stained teeth, a protruding tongue,and a garland of human skulls. She usually has four arms: One hand holds a sword,the second holds a severed human head, the third is believed by her devotes tobe removing fear, and the third is often interpreted as granting bliss. Kali isbeyond fear and finite existence and is therefore believed to be able to protecther devotees against fear and to give them limitless peace.

    The canon of Hinduism is basically defined by what people do rather thanwhat they think. Consequently, far more uniformity of behaviour than of beliefis found among Hindus, although very few practices or beliefs are shared by all. A few usuages are observed by almost all Hindus: reverence for Brahmans andcows; abstention from meat (especially beef); and marriage within caste (jati),in the hope of producing male heirs. Most Hindus worship Shiva, Vishnu, or theGoddess (Devi), but they also worship hundreds of additional minor deitiespeculiar to a particular village or even to a particular family.

    Although Hindusbelieve and do many apparently contradictory things, each individual perceivesan orderly pattern that gives form and meaning to his or her own life. Nodoctrinal or clerical hierarchy exists in Hinduism, but the intricate hierarchyof the social system (which is inseparable from the religion) gives each persona sense of place within the whole. History

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