Hinduism: Beliefs and Practices
Hinduism is an ancient religion with no known founder or date of origin. Hindus believe in reincarnation. This means that the soul lives through cycles of birth, death, and rebirth. During the Hindu lifetime, many believe in four main goals of life (purusharthas).
1) Moksha is the ultimate life goal. Moksha means the release of a soul from the cycle of rebirth. This is the ultimate goal because it is the goal that everyone is striving to attain.
There are four paths that can lead a Hindu to Moksha.
- The first path is the path of knowledge. This path is the spiritual knowledge between the soul (atman) and God (Brahman).
- The second path is the path of mediation. In this path people often practice mediation by the way of yoga.
- The third path is the path of devotion. In this path, a particular God of Goddess is chosen and worshipped throughout your life. Their actions, words, and deeds show their devotion.
- The fourth path is the path of good works. This path involves doing all of your duties correctly throughout life. All four of these paths will lead a Hindu follower to the ultimate goal of Moksha.
2) Dharma is the second life goal. Dharma means living ones life in accordance to the codes of conducts presented in the Hindu scriptures. It is believed that good Dharma equals good karma. Each person has their own duties based on their stage in life. Age, gender, and position in the caste system all play a major role in each individuals Dharma.
3) Artha is the third life goal. This goal is the pursuit of material gain by lawful means.
4) Karma is the fourth life goal. People attain good Karma through pure acts, knowledge, and devotion. With good Karma, one can reincarnate to a higher level. Likewise, if one has bad Karma, they can decrease to a lower level.
Hinduism has many important practices like worship and cremation. There are a few different ways to worship in this religion. Being in a Hindu temple is not mandatory, but the option is there. It is also frequent for Hindus to worship by reading the Holy texts, using prayer beads, meditating, and performing yoga. Hindus believe that a body should not be buried, the body should be burnt. With this being said, cremation is a common practice.
Another important practice in Hinduism is the caste system (varnas). By this system, each group has specific rules of conduct that must be obeyed. A person’s caste is determined by birth and can only be changed by rebirth. One is born into a caste based on the acts that they had committed in their previous life. With good karma, it is hoped that one can change into a different caste after rebirth. The four varnas are:
- Brahmins, the priests
- Kshatriyas, the administrators and the military
- Vaishyas, the shopkeepers, traders, and farmers
- Sudras, the laborers and service workers
Below all of these there is another group which is known as the Untouchables. The Untouchables are seen to be below all of the other castes and do the dirtiest jobs.