A Religion Profile from International Students, Inc.
Hinduism: An Overview
after the revolt emphasized the importance of internal
meditation as opposed to external practice.
Between 800 and 300
were written. The
, also called
(“the end or conclusion of
”), are the Hindu equivalent of the New Testament.
exposed the idea that behind the many gods
stands one Reality, which is called Brahman. Brahman is an
impersonal, monistic (“all is one”) force. The highest force of
Brahman is called
, which means “without attributes.”
Even after the
were written, the Hindu concept of
God continued to develop, and it developed in the direction
of seeing God as personal.
Brahman, which is Brahman “with attributes.” This
personified Brahman is called Ishvara.
According to Hindu tradition, Ishvara became known as
humanity through the
manifestations”) of Brahman. Those manifestations include
Brahma (the Creator), Vishnu (the Preserver), and Siva (the
Destroyer). Each of the three deities has at least one
Ishvara became personified even further through the ten
mythical incarnations of Vishnu, called
. The forms of
these incarnations include that of animals (e.g., a fish, a
tortoise, and boar) and of persons (e.g., Rama, Krishna, and
Buddha). Epics such as the
which includes the
, tell the stories of these
myths. Beyond the principal deities of the
, it is
estimated that there are 330 million other gods in Hinduism.
Besides the religion’s various concepts of God, Hinduism can
also be divided along the lines of whether the physical
universe is considered to be real or illusory (
) see Brahman alone as being real and
the world as illusory. The qualified non-dualists
Number of Adherents
It is estimated that there are over 850 million Hindus world-
wide, accounting for more than 13 percent of the earth’s pop-
ulation (Barret). There are more than one million Hindus in
North America. Globally, Hindus outnumber protestant Chris-
tians (Christudas, p. 18).
Hinduism Among the Nations
The vast majority of Hindus live in India, where they account
for 81.3 percent of the population (2000 est.). Hindus also
comprise a significant portion of the population in seven other
countries: Bangladesh (16 percent), Bhutan (25 percent), Fiji
(38 percent), Mauritius (52 percent), Nepal (86.2 percent), Sri
Lanka (15 percent), Suriname (27.4 percent), and Trinidad
(23.8 percent) (
CIA World Factbook
). Nepal is the only nation
where Hinduism is the state religion.