Notes on Hinduism (11/4/09) Define the following: Vedas- Brahma- Reincarnation- Karma- Dharma- Caste System- Kshitrayas- Vaisyas- Sudras- Pariahs- Brahmans- Polytheism- Nirvana- Four Noble Truths- Eightfold Path- Middle Way- Siddhartha Gautama- Kami- 1. Most people in India are Hindus. 2. Hinduism is polytheistic. Hindus have gods for almost everything—gods of places, natural phenomena, emotions, concepts. By some estimates, there are over 330 million gods. 3. Hinduism is really different from the previously studied western religions. It is very open to interpretation. 4. Brahma is considered by some to be a specific god, the creator of everything. To others, Brahma is the life force in all living things. 5. Hindus worship three main gods—Brahma, the god of creation, Shiva, the god of destruction, and Krishna, the god of preservation. 6. Reincarnation is the belief that people are reborn. If someone follows the rules of their caste, they will be born into a higher form. If they disobey the rules of their caste or ignore their duties, they will be born into a lower form. 7. The goal of Hinduism is to escape the cycle of rebirth by reaching nirvana. Nirvana is the Sanskrit for “ending.” People think of nirvana as heaven, or as ultimate peace and harmony with the universe, or a state of happiness with no suffering, or being one with Brahma. 8. Dharma is the word for duty. One aspect of dharma is following the rules of one’s caste. It also means following the teachings of Hinduism, as well as behaving in a moral manner. Dharma is different for different people, since different people have different duties. 9. Hindus believe all living things have souls. Almost all Hindus are vegetarians; they do not kill animals because the animals may be reincarnated people. Cows, in particular, are considered sacred. 10. Karma is the idea that a person’s actions determine the path of his or her life. “What goes around, comes around.” Hindus believe if a person does good, good things will happen to them. 11. Hindus consider the water of the Ganges River sacred. They think that drinking or bathing in the Ganges will purify them. Many Hindus make a pilgrimage to the Ganges, particularly toward the end of their lives. To them, the spiritual power of the river is more important than the physical pollution. It is part of their dharma (duty) and increases their good karma. 12. The highest rank in the caste system is that of the Brahmans, the priests of Hinduism. 13. Shiva is the god of fire and destruction. When people are cremated, Hindus believe Shiva moves the process of reincarnation along more quickly. 14. Hinduism does not have a single holy book. The Vedas contain some of the sacred writings. There are other sacred writings as well. Some of these writings contradict one another.
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