Hinduism allows all forms of belief and worship without requiring the selection or elimination of any. "Hindus must respect the divine in every manifestation, whatever it may be, and are doctrinally understanding, allowing others - including both Hindus and non-Hindus – whatever beliefs suit them best." "A Hindu may allow a non-Hindu religion without ceasing to be a Hindu, and because Hindus are likely to think unnaturally and to look upon other forms of worship, strange gods, and different doctrines as not complete rather than wrong or offensive."3 Hindus tend to believe that the highest divine powers are a balance of one another.2 Few religious ideas are considered to be conflicting. "The base of religion does not depend on the existence or nonexistence of God or on whether there is one god or many."2 Because religious truth is said to go beyond all spoken meaning, it is not conceived in strict terms.2 In addition, the tendency of Hindus to distinguish themselves from others on the basis of practice rather than principle does not emphasizes doctrinal differences.
Hinduism is both a civilization and a congregation of religions it has, neither a beginning ,or founder, nor a central authority, hierarchy, or organization.4 "Being and non-being,"4 is the main reality in Hindusim, and the ultimate cause and foundation, source, and goal of all existence.4 This ultimate reality is called Brahman. "As the All, Brahman causes the universe and all beings to originate from itself, transforms itself into the universe, or assumes its appearance. Brahman is in all things and is the Self (atman) of all living beings."5 Brahman is the creator, preserver, or transformer and reabsorber of everything.5 This fundamental belief of Brachman is that " the One is the All."5 This belief has continued unchanged for more than 30 centuries, and has been the main focus of India's spiritual life5. "A more common view of Hinduism is that many feel that it is 'atheistic'. An even more common view is that it has been labeled 'polytheistic'."5 The term 'polytheism' means there is not the presence of one god but a presence of many gods.
Hindus actually worship many such beings we call God. But obviously this implies a very big difference in the understanding of what such a 'God' could be.1 It is often said that Hindus worship three gods and they are in fact called the Hindu Trinity.6 The gods involved are Brahma, Visnu and Siva. The first is supposed to create the world (at the beginning of each cosmic cycle), the second to maintain it in being, and Siva, at the end of a cosmic cycle, to destroy it again. But then a further idea is added which is ignored by the theory of a Hindu Trinity. It is also believed that Brahma and the others, who carry out these functions, are merely manifestations of that highest being, or they relate to it in some other way.1 "This is the idea of one, powerful, eternal, and loving God, this is the concept of Bhagavan."1
For us outside observers Bhagavan is not one, but Many for example Siva, Visnu, Krsna, Rama, Karttikeya and Ganesa. "The individual now must makes a decision as to how to regard such a figure. This means, for example Visnu could than be the Bhagavan for some people, a minor part of Siva for others, and a godling for a third group, possibly an evil demon like being for a fourth and Isvara for a fifth."7 Many Hindus who worship either Vishnu or Shiva generally consider one or the other as their 'favorite god' and as the Lord and Brahman Vishnu is often regarded as a "special manifestation of a stabilizing aspect of the Supreme and Shiva as opposed to the destructive function."5 Another god, "Brahma, the creator, remains in the background as a demiurge. These three great figures (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva) make up the so-called Hindu Trinity " Trimuriti, the One or Whole with Three Forms".6 This concept leads people to believe that the Supreme Power is singular with the plurality of gods in daily religious worship.
"Brahma, is the first of the three Hindu gods, he is called the Creator; he is the father of gods and men, the lord of creators. The term is used for the Absolute, or the Ultimate Principle, beyond which nothing exists or has any reality."6 In the Upanishads, Brahma is said to be beyond all description. "This universe was surrounded in darkness - unperceived, indistinguishable, undiscoverable, unknowable, as it were, entirely sunk in sleep. The irresistible self existent lord, undiscerned, creating this universe with the five elements, and all other things , was manifested dispelling the gloom. He who is beyond the insight of the senses, subtle, indiscernible, eternal, who is the essence of all things, and inconceivable, himself shone forth."8 "He, is looking to produce various creatures from his own body, first created the waters, and in them put a seed. This (seed) became a golden egg, an egg as bright as the sun, in which he himself was born as Brahma, the ancestor of all worlds. The waters are called Nara, because they are the offspring of Nara; and since they were formerly the place of his movement (Ayana), he is therefore called Narayana . Being formed by that First Cause, indiscernible, eternal, which is both existent and non-existent, that male is known in the world as Brahma. That lord having continued a year in the egg, divided it into two parts by his mere thought.
In pictures, Brahma is represented as a "red man with four heads, though in the Puranas he is said to have had originally five. He is dressed in white garments, and rides upon a goose. In one hand he carries a staff, in the other a dish for receiving alms."6 A legend in the "Matsya Purana", gives the following account of the formation of his numerous heads "Brahma formed from his own immaculate substance a female who is celebrated under the names of Satarupa, Savitri, Sarasvati, Gayatri, and Brahmani. Beholding his daughter, born from his body, Brahma became wounded with the arrows of love and exclaimed, 'How surpassingly lovely she is !' Satarupa turned to the right side from his gaze; but as Brahma wished to look after her, a second head issued from his body. As she passed to the left, and behind him, to avoid his amorous glances, two other heads successively appeared. At length she sprang into the sky; and as Brahma was anxious to gaze after her there, a fifth head was immediately formed".5 In current times, Brahma is not largely worshipped by the Hindus.7 It is believed that the universe will come to an end at the end of Brahma's life, but Brahmas too are countless, and a new universe is reborn with each new Brahma.7 VISHNU is called the second person of the Hindu Trimuriti or Trinity: though called second, but this does not mean that he is regarded in any way inferior to Brahma. In some books Brahma is said to be the "first cause of all things, in others it is as strongly asserted that Vishnu has this honor; while in others it is claimed for Siva."4 As Brahma's special work is creation, Vishnu’s is preservation. In the following passage from the "Padma Purana", it is taught that Vishnu is the supreme cause, thus identifying him with Brahma, and also that his special work is to preserve: " In the beginning of creation, the great Vishnu, desirous of creating the whole world, became threefold ; Creator, Preserver, Destroyer. In order to create this world, the Supreme Spirit produced from the right side of his body himself as Brahma ; then, in order to preserve the world, he produced from his left side Vishnu ; and in order to destroy the world, he produced from the middle of his body the eternal Shiva Some worship Brahma, others Vishnu, others Shiva ; but Vishnu creates, preserves, and destroys : therefore let the pious makes no difference between the three."8 In pictures Vishnu is represented as a "black man with four arms in one hand he holds a club ; in another a shell ; in a third a chakra, or diseus, with which he slew his enemies , and in the fourth a lotus. He rides upon the bird Garuda, and is dressed in yellow robes."6 This god is worshipped not only under the name and in the form of Vishnu, but also in one of his many incarnations. ‘Whenever, any great hardship occurred in the world, or the evil of any of its people proved an unbearable problem to the gods, Vishnu, as Preserver, had to lay aside his invisibility, and come to earth in some form, generally human."9 When his work was done, he returned again to the skies. There is no certainty, as to the number of times he has become real. "Ten is the commonly received number, and these are the most important ones. Of these ten, nine have already been accomplished ; one, the Kalki, is still future. Some of these Avatars are of an entirely cosmic character ; others, however, are probably based on historical events, the leading personage of which was gradually endowed with divine nature, until he was regarded as the incarnation of the god himself."9 These are Fish (Matsya), Tortoise (Kurma), Boar (Varaha), Man-Lion (Narasimha), Dwarf (Vamana), Rama-with the Ax (Parasurama), King Rama, Krishna, Buddha, and the future incarnation, Kalki. Preference for any one of these manifestations is largely a matter of tradition. Krishna is one of the preferred ones.
"In the Mahabharata, Krishna is primarily a hero, a chieftain of a tribe, and an ally of the Pandavas, the heroes of the Mahabharata. He accomplishes heroic feats with the Pandava prince Arjuna. Typically he helps the Pandava brothers to settle in their kingdom, and when the kingdom is taken from them, to regain it."4 In the process he emerges as a great teacher who reveals the Bhagavadgita, "the most important religious text of Hinduism."4 In the further development of the Krishna myth, it is found that as a child, "Krishna was full of boyish pranks and well known for his favoring for milk and butter. He would raid the dairies of the gopies (milkmaids) to steal fruit, milk, and butter, and would accuse others for his crimes."4 Krishna is the most celebrated god of the Hindu pantheon. "He is worshipped as an independent god in his own right, but is also regarded as the eighth incarnation of Vishnu. In the course of life he was supposed to have had 16,108 wives and 180,008 sons."4 In the epic he is a hero, a leader of his people, and an active helper of his friends. Shiva is the third person of the Hindu Trinity. As Brahma was Creator, Vishnu Preserver, in order to complete the system, as all things are subject to come to and end, so a Destroyer was necessary and destruction is regarded as the unusual work of Siva. "It must be remembered that, according to the teachings of Hinduism, death is not death in the sense of passing into non-existence, but simply a change into a new form of life."9 "He who destroys, therefore, causes beings to assume new phases of existence - the Destroyer is really the re-creator ; therefore the name Siva, the Bright or Happy One, is given to him, which would not have been the case had he been regarded as the destroyer."6 According to the ancient Indians, "Shiva primarily must have been the divine representative of the fallow, dangerous, doubtful, and much-to-be-feared aspects of nature."6 He is the great foundation of all existence and the source and ruler of all life, but it is not clear whether, Shiva is invoked as a great god of "frightful aspect, capable of conquering ungodly power."9 He is a terrible and mild, creator and an agent of reabsorption, eternal rest and endless activity. His myths describe him as the "absolute mighty unique One, who is not responsible to anybody or for anything."9 "As a dancer, his affectation expresses the eternal rhythm of the universe; he also catches the waters of the heavenly Ganges River, which destroys all sin; and he wears in his head dress the crescent moon, which drips the nectar of everlasting life. Sometimes in the act of trampling on or destroying demons, he wears around his black neck a serpent, and a necklace of skulls, furnished with a whole device of external emblems, such as a white bull on which he rides, a trident , tiger's skin, elephant's skin, rattle, noose, etc. He has three eyes, one being on his forehead, in reference either to the three Vedas, or time past, present and future and in the end of time, he will dance the universe to destruction."6 It is said that without his consort Mother Goddess, no Hindu god is much use or value to anyone. He may strut about, but his powers are limited. To be complete he requires a Devi, "Goddess," who takes many different names and forms, but always embodies Shakti. In some myths Devi is the prime mover, who commands the male gods to do work of creation and destruction.2 Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, all three have their own consorts. Sarasvati, the goddess of wisdom and science and, the mother of Vedas, is Brahma's wife. She is represented as a "fair young woman, with four arms; with one of her right hands, she is presenting a flower to her husband, by whose side she continually stands ; and in the other she holds a book of palm-leaves, indicating that she is fond of learning. In one of her left hands, she has a string of pearls, called Sivamala (Shiva's garland) and in the other a small drum."1 Lakshmi, or very commonly known as Sri, is the wife of Vishnu. "Sri, the bride of Vishnu, the mother of the world, is eternal, immortal ; as he is all-pervading, so she is godlike . Vishnu is meaning, she is speech ; Hari is polite, she is prudence ; Vishnu is understanding, she is intellect ; he is righteousness, she is devotion Sri is the earth, Hari is the support. In a word, of gods, animals, and men, Hari is all that is called male Lakshmi is all that is termed female ; there is nothing else than them." Lakshmi is regarded as the goddess of Love, Beauty, and Prosperity and is also known as Haripriya, "The beloved of Hari", and Lokamata, "The mother of the world".
The law of Hinduism is basically defined by what people do rather than what they think. Therefore, far more steadiness of behavior than of belief is found among Hindus, although very few practices or beliefs are shared by all. A few usuages are Observed, by almost all Hindus: respect for Brahmans and cows, not eating meat (especially beef); and marriage within caste (jati), in the hope of producing male heirs. Most Hindus worship Shiva, Vishnu, or the Goddess (Devi), but they also worship hundreds of additional minor deities depending on the particular village or even to a particular family. Although Hindus believe and do many apparently conflicting things, each individual perceives an orderly pattern that gives form and meaning to his or her own life. No doctrinal or clerical power structure exists in Hinduism, but the complex hierarchy of the social system gives each person a sense of place within the whole.
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