Literacy of World Religions
As a knowledge of mythology helps us uncover the deeper meaning in some literature,
so a knowledge of religious/biblical terms is useful in broadening our understanding of
the author’s meaning, in a work written in a cultural context containing Jewish,
Christian, Muslim, and Hindu elements.
Hinduism is the predominant religion of the Indian subcontinent.
It is considered the
world’s oldest and third largest religion.
It is often referred to as
Sanskrit phrase meaning “the eternal law.”
The religious source for Hindus is the set of
ancient texts called the
, timeless truths revealed to anonymous sages at least four
to five thousand years ago.
means “knowledge” in Sanskrit.
The Vedas attempt
to address the relationship between God, humankind, and nature.
refers to the highest, most exalted entity to be known – the Absolute.
(Brahman is used much in the same way that “God” or “Allah” is used in the other
According to Vedanta philosophy, the goal of life is to establish a pure
and eternal relationship with Brahman.
Brahman is the “infinite, undivided,
Brahman can also be seen as various manifestations, or avatars
(an avatar is the descent of a deity to the earth in an incarnate form or some manifest
shape; the incarnation of a god):
Humans are individual souls seeking to be reunited with Brahman.
In the context of
the individual, the absolute Brahman is called the
Hindus believe all man yearns for freedom, love, and peace, and that only through
spiritual practices can one “wake up” to his true nature and find absolute freedom,
love, and peace.
Hindus recognize that all the various religious paths in the world can
lead one to God.
Because of this, Hindus feel no need to convert others.
that by studying different religions they can come to a deeper understanding of their
own, and hope that studying Hinduism will do the same for others.
Hindus believe in
, the law of cause and effect, and in
, personal duty.
They also believe in
, the continuing cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth, and
, liberation from
Hindus advocate the practice of respect for all life because divinity is
believed to permeate all beings, including plants and animals.
Vegetarianism is not a
requirement, but is recommended for a purifying lifestyle.
The cow for generations was
relied on for its milk (protein), its dung (fuel & fertilizer), and its labor (tilling the
fields), and thus was recognized as a caretaker and maternal figure.
The cow is
honored as a symbol of unselfish giving.
Advice from Hinduism: