Questions for Chapter 3 Hinduism
The Origins of Hinduism
l. What features of geography might have contributed to Hindu religions sensibilities?
2. Your author uses two analogies (river and palace) to convey the idea that nothing is
ever lost in Hinduism. Choose one and explain it.
This quote from your text contains essential information for comprehending the
uniqueness of Hinduism: “It has no identifiable founder, no strong organizational
structure to defend it and spread its influence, nor any creed to define and
stabilize it beliefs; and in a way that seems to defy reason, Hinduism unites the
worship of many gods with a belief in a single divine reality. In fact the name
Hinduism can be misleading. Hinduism is not a single, unified religion; it is more
like a family of beliefs.” (p 76)
The Earliest Stage to Indian Religion
What is noteworthy about the ancient Harappa culture?
The Religion of the Vedic Period
Note the main theories that have sought to explain the origin of the Vedas and the
religion they describe.
What are the chief features of Vedic religion?
These are the earliest sacred books of Hinduism. There are four basic text collections
which have been added onto by later generations. What sorts of things do they contain?
The Upanishads and the Axis Age
What were some of the questions posed in this period?
What are the Upanishads and how do they relate to the Vedas?
Brahman and Atman
Define and explain each term and their relationship to each other.
Note this from page 83: “Brahman is something that can be known—not simply
believed in. . . Brahman is the lived experience that all things are in some way
holy because they come from the same sacred source. It is also the experience
that all things are in some way ultimately one.”
Explain the concept and how it fits into the Upanishad’s explanation of the world.
What is karma?
Explain the relationship between karma and rebirth.
There are both benefits and liabilities of embracing the ideas of karma and rebirth. Can
you think of some?
Our text does not emphasize this point enough: The karma we accumulate by our
actions also has an effect on our lives here and now. The quality and character of
our present daily life are determined by the karma we ourselves generate. This is
as or more important than its effect on the next life.
Explain what is meant by this term.
Describe the different aspects of liberation contained in the goal of moksha.
How do kindness to all and detaching oneself from pleasure and pain relate to the
attainment of moksha?
Living Spiritually in the Everyday World
The Bhagavad-Gita is the great Indian spiritual classic. Know the basics of the plot. Its
call to war is understood by some to be literal and others to be metaphoric.
The Caste System
The democratic government established by independent India makes any discrimination
based on caste illegal. In the sixty years of democracy much progress has been made, but
systems that have been in place for thousands of years change slowly and segregation and
discrimination do still exist especially in rural villages. Describe the system and the
justifications given for it in the Gita.
The Stages of Life
What differences do you see in the latter phases of life between American and Indian
These are different spiritual paths—disciplines for achieving union with the divine. The
first four listed are the primary spiritual paths. List each of the four, its focus and the
type of person you think would be attracted to that path. (Hatha and kundalini yoga are
not complete spiritual paths.)
Hindu Meditation (Box p 92)
Be familiar with the eight steps. What is the ultimate goal of this practice?
It is in this context that ahimsa is introduced. This is a principle of central importance to
Buddhism and Jainism.
Why have intensive study and practice of meditation had limited appeal for the majority
How is bhakti, or devotional, yoga expressed in daily life?
Name the three gods and list their significant features.
Worship of the Divine Feminine
What do you find most interesting about the Hindu representation of the feminine
element of the divine?
The Guru as Object of Devotion
Discuss the role and significance of a guru in Hindu spirituality.
Hindus believe that one can gain benefits by simply being in the presence of a guru.
Are female gurus uncommon?
What is an ashram?
Devotion to Animals
Account for the Hindu kindness to animals.
Why does the cow receive such special consideration?
Other Forms of Religious Devotion
Note the importance of pilgrimage and festivals
Hinduism: Modern Challenges
Summarize the relationship between Hinduism and Islam in India.
What beliefs and practices were challenged through the British rule?
What were the influences that shaped his philosophy?
What were his key ideas and methods?
Was he assassinated by a Hindu or a Muslim?
How have the roles of women changed?
What are some of the sources of conflict between Hindus and Muslims?
Describe contemporary values most often associated with the West that are causing
tension with Indian traditional values.
Discuss contributing factors to the rise of Hindu fundamentalism. (Box p. 114)