Terms Used In Hinduism
Vedas in Hinduism refer to Hinduism scriptures of the ancient times. These scriptures consist of texts that written in Sanskrit. The scriptures are believed to have been written based on the viewpoints of powerful people such as highly ranked priests and warriors. The Vedas represent the traditions and authority that are beyond challenge. Although the significance of the Veda in Hinduism has greatly faded, some sections are still used a test of merit while studying the Hindu religion. The scriptures of the Vedas are believed to play a revelatory role. In fact, they contain various secretes which are yet to be understood. There are four Vedas, with Rig Veda being the most important as well as the oldest. It is believed to have played a part in the coming to existence of the other three Vedas. The other three Vedas are the Sama Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda.
The Vedas have a big significance in Hinduism because they contain spiritual knowledge, which people get to understand depending on their level of spiritual development. In fact, Hindus believe that all knowledge, including what is yet to be revealed, is contained in the Vedas. The knowledge being referred to includes discoveries in science. The Vedas have been presented in symbolic language, explaining why one has to be spiritually advanced for the secretes contained in the texts to be revealed to him/her. The Vedas reveal to Hindus the different types of gods that exist as far Hinduism is concerned. These gods are revealed to the creation stories that are contained in the Vedic writings. As it has been mentioned, the significance of the Vedas has faded with time. However, it remains significant because some elements of the Vedas continue to be practiced. For instance, the scriptures that have to be memorized as test of religious merit are still used in modern Hinduism.
In Hinduism, Bhagavad Gita refers to the Gita, which is a Sanskrit scripture made up of seven hundred verses. The term can be loosely translated to English to read the “The Lords Song”. Bhagavad Gita is part of Hindu epic Mahabharata and is presented in form of a narrative. Bhagavad Gita is a dialogue between two people; Arjuna who was the prince of Pandava and Krishna who was Arjuna’s charioteer. The Bhagavad Gita shows how Krishna played the role of counselor by giving Arjuna advice during the Dharma Yudhha where Pandava was fighting against Kauravas. Arjuna was required to play the role of a warrior with the help of Krishna in the Dharma Yudhha, which refers to a righteous war. Although uncertainty surrounds the date of authorship of the Gita, it is believed that it was composed between the fifth century and the second century.
Bhagavad Gita is of great importance in Hinduism because it emphasizes on knowledge, love and action, which are its major themes. The theme of knowledge is highlighted by the Gita’s teaching on wisdom. In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna helps Krishna to see the importance of acquiring wisdom. According to Krishna, people who have steady minds are the only ones who can acquire wisdom. Yoga is believed to be important in creating mental stability. As far as action is concerned, Krishna urges Arjuna to distance himself from the benefits that result from actions. Therefore, people are urged not to be passionate about their actions. As far as love is concerned, actions should be dedicated to God. God is depicted as a supreme being who is very personal. The content and hence the themes highlighted in the Bhagavad Gita make it the main book the Indians turn to when it comes to devotion.
Brahman in Hindu refers to the reality that never changes, in the real world and beyond. Initially, Brahman was a term used when referring to spiritual powers that were believed to increase the effectiveness of a sacrifice in the Vedic religion. Brahman in this case referred to the growth that Hindus experienced as far as sacrifices and rituals were concerned. With time, ‘Upanishads’, which refers to philosophical reflections, was produced by the Vedic religion. Brahman is the reality that surrounds changes in appearances as far as ‘Upanishads’ is concerned. As such, Brahman explains the beginning and the end of material things. ‘Upanishads’ refers to the sacred writing of the Indians. According to these sacred writings, Brahman is the reason behind all the changes that are witnessed in the world because it contained in each living being.
The significance of Brahman in Hinduism lies in the fact that it forms the basis of the religion of Hinduism. In fact, according to Vedas, the power of prayer lies in Brahman. However, Brahman is not a being as such but only a power. It is believed to be the reason behind the creation of the world all that is contained in it. Furthermore, Hindus believe in Brahman as the one and only God because He is the creator of everything. The other gods are believed to be just but part of Brahman. The other gods are Brahma, who is believed to have created the universe, Vishnu, who plays the role of preserving the universe and Shiva, who destroys the universe. Therefore, knowledge, truth as well as infinity are linked to Brahman because being the source of everything, it provides the truth about everything that comes into being and eventually disappears from the face of the earth.
According to Hinduism, Samsara refers to the life cycle that people go through. This life cycle starts at birth, after which a person die and is eventually incarcerated. The belief that people go through this continuous cycle is guided by ‘maya’, which refers to illusion. The illusion leads Hindus into believing that each person is an autonomous creature and therefore has no connection with reality. Hindus usually strive to act in ways that can lead to their rebirth by achieving liberation which they refer to as ‘moksha’. Hindus usually associate Samsara with negativity because it stands in their way to liberation. Samsara is usually unpredictable because people do not know how their actions are likely to shape the future. The Hindus believe that past actions can prevent a person’s reincarnation and/or bring about suffering. For this reason, Hindus believe that liberation can free them from the effects of their past actions.
Samsara is of great importance in Hinduism because together with ‘moksha’, they represent the main and ultimate goal that all Hindus seek to achieve. According to the Hinduism beliefs, a lot of suffering usually characterizes life and death. Therefore, Hindus always try to escape from this cycle. However, for one to escape from this cycle, they have to be liberated, through a process called moksha. The relevance of Samsara in Hinduism lies in the fact that it compels the Hindus to work on spiritual growth because they believe that is the only way of neutralizing the effects of the actions of the past. According to the Hinduism beliefs, reincarnation can only be achieved by individuals who attain the highest levels as far as spirituality is concerned. When people achieve reincarnation, they are not re-born in the cycle of life and death. Instead, such individuals end up being reunited with Brahman.
Advaita Vedanta is one of the types of Hinduism whose followers believe that they have souls that is comparable to God. Advaita Vedanta forms the oldest Vedanta sub-school, which were mainly religious practices. Traditionally, Advaita Vedanta mainly revolved around the understanding of ‘sruti’. Advaita Vedanta holds a special part in Hinduism because it teaches Hindus about the world and reality. According to the teachings of Advaita Vedanta, everything apart from Brahman is illusionary. Therefore, individuals can only be liberated when they get to understand both their identity and that of Brahman. According to the teachings of Advaita Vedanta, understanding knowledge takes a process of four stages where an individual engages in self-cultivation. The individual is required to listen to what he/she is taught, reflect and then contemplate on what he/she is exposed to. To destroy habits, an individual is required to practice what he/she learns.
Sankara is among the famous scholars who wrote a lot of material on Hinduism. Sankara’s views about Advaita Vedanta show that he had varied ideas as far as the issue is concerned. His main view was that the world and everything contained in it were not real. However, he argued that only Brahman was real. He argued that the all the other gods represented Brahman in different ways. Sankara’s other view was that Brahman is pure and conscious but lacks attributes. He argues that while people view satcitananda as Brahman’s attributes, they are not. Instead, Sankara refers to satcitanada as the nature of Brahman. Sankara’s views divide people into two. One group consists of ignorant people who think that they are not part of Brahman. The second group consists of people who have been liberated and therefore compare their souls with Brahman. This group always remains unaffected by what happens around them.
In Hinduism, Shiva refers to one of their gods, which is believed by the Hindus to be responsible for the destruction of the world. The Hindus believe that Shiva destroys because things have a beginning should therefore end at some point. During destruction, it is believed that it is only the illusion of an individual that is destroyed. However, in the Shaivite tradition Shiva is the Supreme God. The Shaivites are the Huinduism followers who mainly worship Shiva. The Shiva that is usually worshiped takes the form of Shiva linga. Images of Shiva usually show him to be in meditation or in a dance. He is the father of three deities: Ayyapan, Ganesha and Murugan. In Hinduism, especially among the Shaivites, Shiva was given that name to mean he is auspicious because it is believed that it his attribute.
According to the followers of the Shaivite tradition, Shiva is the Supreme God because he plays five important roles. It is believed that he creates, preserves and destroys the world. In addition, he plays the role of a concealer and he is the one who blesses. In Hinduism, Shiva takes various forms as can be seen through his five heads which combine all the energies that Shiva has. Shiva has a special place among the Hindus because he is a god. Shiva’s dance symbolizes how the world is created and destroyed. It represents the stages that Hindus go through, starting from birth up to the time when they die and are reborn. Shiva’s pose of the hand extending to the foot symbolizes the Hindus release from the bondage of the earth. It is believed that Shiva in Mahamrityunyaya form conquers death. It is believed that he gets rid of both death and diseases which people are subjected to on earth.
In Hinduism, Ahimsa summarizes the ideals of Hinduism, which mainly take a nonviolent approach. Hindus are believed to be nonviolent people who always work to create and maintain a peaceful environment. Hinduism is guided by the belief that force should not be used for religious purposes. For instance, Hindus believe that people should only use weapons when they are faced with danger. The reason as to why Hindus discourage the use of force is that all living beings, especially human beings, are sacred. For this reason, rather than destroying life, it should respected and given protection. Karma also teaches Hindus that their actions have consequences that directly affect a person at individual level. For instance, those use force and cause harm in the process are bound to suffer the same fate in their lives as well. For this reason, Ahimsa is very important in Hinduism.
The practice of Ahimsa is based on the belief that all human beings are equal because they all have souls. Furthermore, it is believed that all people are equal before the Karma laws. Whereas the cycles of birth, life, death and rebirth are associated with suffering, harm causes more pain to those who are subjected to it. Classical Hindu writings spell out how ahimsa should be practiced. For instance in war, Ahimsa directs that violence should be avoided and people should instead resort to dialogue. Violence may only be used to contain those who have ill motives. Ahimsa interpretations also reveal that there are no enemies because people attack others either out of ignorance or out of fear. Therefore, people who are attacked should counter by taking actions that ensure their safety as well as those of the attackers. When it comes to punishing wrong doers, Ahimsa directs that the punishments that people are given should be fair.
The Yogic Paths
Yoga refers to a spiritual path that creates the union between an individual and the universe. It involves an individual’s realization that comes about when one becomes conscious about himself/herself and the universe. This essay describes the four main paths of yoga observed in Hinduism.
Karma is a path of yoga, which is concerned with a process through which people learn to be perfect with the actions they take. It refers to how people think and act as they strive to fulfill their roles. Karma yoga stems from teachings that are derived from Bhagavad Gita. This form of yoga has spiritual benefits because it facilitates spiritual growth. Karma calls for people to act without selfishness in everything they do. As people act, they should not focus on the fruits that come because of their actions because they might be affected emotionally. As such, one is neither expected to be pleased nor irritated by the results of his/her actions. The need to detach oneself from the results of one’s actions is demonstrated in the Bhagavad Gita. In the scriptures, Krishna tries to make people understand that detachment from the results of actions makes one’s mind pure. Karma yoga is related to the law of Karma because it is related to reincarnation. Reincarnation can only be achieved when one is liberated. However, it should be noted that one’s liberation depend on past actions. For one to be liberated, he/she must take actions selflessly until the state of zero balance is achieved.
Jnana yoga refers to the yoga path that is concerned with knowledge of Atman, which is associated with human beings, and Brahman, who is the powerful God in Hindu. It also involves the realization of the unity between Atman and Brahman. For those who believe in God, jnana yoga enables them to use the power of the mind to tell if something is real and how long it is expected to last. Jnana yoga has spiritual benefits because of the role it plays in self-affirmation, which enables people to know the real aspects of their lives. This form of yoga reveals that people are spirits and that they are pure and perfect. As such, people are responsible for their limitations. Jnana yoga enables people to gain the spiritual revelation that enables them to know the truth surrounding their coming into being. The law of karma comes into play in jnana yoga. It should be noted that people have the power to control their destiny and attaining liberation is the desire of every Hindu. Jnana yoga comes in handy for those who want to attain liberation because it enables them to realize that they can be perfect through their actions and therefore end up being liberated.
Bhakti yoga is a form of yoga the entails developing love and hence devotion to God. According to this yoga path, an individual’s desire to be devoted to God is guided by the desire to make God happy and not as a means of escaping punishment for one’s wrongdoing in life. It should be noted however that there are different types of bhakti yoga depending on the kind of devotion in question. Ishvara-Bhakti is one of the devotions under bhakti yoga. This devotion is usually directed to the Hindu Cosmic Lord. The Cosmic Lord refers to God when he is regarded as a formless being. Ishvara bhakti starts with a person’s connection to the universe. This is guided by the belief that each individual has a personal connection with the Devine. Atma bhakti is also a kind of devotion, which is directed to the supreme self. This kind of devotion focuses on the understanding of the self and helps to seek for problems and solve them before they come. It involves total commitment to spiritual activism and is therefore involve full-time practices. Guru-Bhakti is yet another kind of devotion. This devotion comes in the Guru form. It involves transmitting sections of the Vedas to pupils who are isolated to avoid distractions. The pupils gradually become initiated to spirituality.
Raja yoga is a part of yoga that forms the concluding stages of yoga as one approaches Samadhi. Raja yoga is a form of yoga that mainly engages the mind because at the state of Samadhi, one’s mind focuses as he/she concentrates. However, during Samadhi an individual’s state of awareness is maintained. Just like the other paths of yoga, raja yoga has spiritual benefits because it also used with the aim of liberating those who want to get closer to God. As far as karma yoga is concerned, individuals should focus on how they are likely to benefit from their actions because they are expected to act with selflessness. This enables an individual to avoid becoming stressed and anxious. Raja yoga enables people to focus and eventually they learn to overcome habits that are not desirable. Therefore, just like the other yoga paths, raja yoga enables one to control his/her destiny.
Following my exploration of Hinduism, its practices and its traditions, I have realized that Hinduism is a consistent religion. This consistence is in terms of how most of the beliefs have stood the test of time. This I believe is mainly because of the fact that spirituality in Hinduism is taken seriously. Hindus always strive to develop spiritually because as it has been revealed herein, they believe their actions greatly affect their future. I particularly like how the desire to attain liberation has been emphasized in Hinduism. I am of the opinion that this emphasis goes a long way to encourage Hindus to do good unto others. The consistence of the Hindu practices explains why they have been passed from one generation to another. The practices are also spreading as it can be seen through yoga.