Term Paper: Christianity and Islam, Hinduism

Pages: 3 (1228 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … Christianity and Islam, Hinduism is the third largest religion in the world, And, unlike Islam or Christianity, it does not have a single belief system, a central religious organization, did not have a single Prophet/Messianic founder, or a single system of law/morality. Despite this, 13% of the world's population consider themselves Hindu, most located on or near the Indian subcontinent (Knott, 2000). It is often quite difficult for westerners to understand Hinduism, not just because of the number of sects that exist within its areas of predominance, but because it does not need the formulization and intellectual overlord that many western religions seem to require. This is why, according to some, Hinduism is seen as a philosophical belief system rather than a religion -- but this is likely picking nits since it adheres to most of the formal definitions of "religion" (Michaels, 2004).

Because there is no central text, it is sometimes difficult to construct an overview of the context of Hinduism. There is controversy, for instance, as to whether Hinduism is monotheistic or polytheistic -- Hindus recognize only one supreme God (Brahman) and that all things constitute an overall unified reality, but there are then many sub-deities that reflect belief in nature (perhaps they can be compared to saints). It does appear that most Hindus believe in one of two major contexts: Vaishavaism -- Vishnu as the ultimate deity; or Shivaism -- Shiva as the ultimate deity (Bhaskaranada, 2002).

The four principal beliefs of Hinduism are dharma, karma, samsara and moksha. Dharma means duty in life. It refers to all actions, attitudes and words in life. By fulfilling one's dharma, one helps maintain the cosmic order. Karma is the belief that a person's experiences affect his or her individual actions, and the belief that every act or thought has consequences. Moksha is a state of changeless bliss and is achieved by living a life of religious devotion and upholding dharma. The ultimate reward is being released from Samsara and union with God (Brahman). This is the ultimate aim of all Hindus. Hindus believes that once someone dies, a process known as the transmigration of the soul occurs. It is also known as reincarnation, or in Hinduism, Samsara. A human soul (Atman) passes through one body to another, developing and improving karma until the atman is released from this cycle, obtaining moksha. Purposes of life are represented through Dharma, Artha (wealth or prosperity), Kama and Moksha. A person has to have wealth to uphold his dharma. If one wants to uphold his dharma, he cannot do so due to lack of wealth. Kama, in a narrow sense, means sexual desire, or enjoying the pleasures of life ("Heart of Hinduism," 2004).

The ideas presented in Hinduism seem appropriate for a culture in which there are a large number of people who live in a poorer state. Because Hinduism embraces a simple, rural life, the ideas of nature as Gods, social contracts, agriculture, etc., the belief systems allow for many paths to a generally agreed upon balance. The ritualization of society, too, has been a long tradition on the Indian subcontinent and surrounding areas. In addition, because there is little meat or areas to raise beef, the idea of vegetarianism and the sacredness of the cow make cultural sense (Hinduism, cited in www.allfaith.com).

The major, or most important philosophical writings in Hinduism were originally written in Sanskrit, the ancient language of the region. They are: Vedas, Upanishads, Ramayama, Mahabharata, Bhagavad Gita, Puranas, Dharmashastras, and Manusmrti. The sacred literature of Hinduism can be divided up into two distinct categories: sruti and smrti. Sruti texts are those that are heard or divinely revealed, such as the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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