Curiosity - Hinduism

22 March 2011

{My statue of Ganesh, the remover of obstacles, from the university's International Bazaar.}

Today, while I sipped my coffee in my 8 o'clock Hinduism class, we discussed our 20 page paper that will be due in a month. We have several set topic questions to choose between and one personal question to combine with our choice topic. After a 40 minute discussion of the final paper (worth 60% of my final grade!) we began lecture (yes, that terrifying L-word). 

My professor mentioned something today that set my wheels turning... You may know that I consider myself agnostic, although I may be past labels at this point, and that I have a religion minor. The questioning of my personal beliefs began years ago but the minor started when I was a freshman in college. In my first semester I took a course called World Religions and the faith that stuck out to me the most was Hinduism. I was surprised by several concepts in that class relating to Hinduism (such as their belief that we are all fellow travelers and the fact that Hinduism may not be polytheistic, as you might have thought).  Ever since, I was just sitting on the edge of my seat until I could learn more. 

Today I'm going to tell you some of the facts and beliefs in Hinduism that I find striking.  Of course, I am by no means an expert on the religion but I want to share the knowledge I have found, hear what you know, and try to answer any questions about the faith that I can. I think it is very important that we make an effort to understand all faiths. 

Common Misconception: Hinduism is polytheistic.

Not exactly. There are many "gods" in Hinduism but they are truly representatives of Brahman, the whole. In fact, everything is a part of Brahman. You, your desk, the little keypad that your hands are hovering over.... Brahman would be the closest relation to the Christian God. The 330 million* other gods represent characteristics of that one god/supreme being/everything.  (Take note that Brahman is not the same thing as Brahma, one of the three well-known gods).

It is too difficult for humans to wrap their minds around the concept of Brahman so instead different characteristics are used. It is similar to the way Christians celebrate Jesus and think of him when they worship (often as a white, brown-haired, blue-eyed man when in fact he was from the middle east and probably looked VERY dark skinned with brown eyes). It is easy to picture Jesus, a man, instead of God.  We all need some way to focus our thoughts. 

*330 million was the population of India at the time the number was first recorded. This number implies that there are as many Hindu gods and goddesses as there are people. Everyone is unique and worships in different ways while focusing on different characteristics. 

Belief: We are all traveling towards the same destination.

Alright, if I was trying to get to California from Virginia I have many routes I could be taking in order to arrive at my destination. There isn't a path more right than the others, each is just different. 

In the same way, every religion is heading towards liberation, just in their own way. 

From a Hindu perspective, we are all Hindus. You can be a Christian and Hindu, heck, you can be an atheist and still be Hindu. Fulfilling social duties and practicing yogas is the way to reach liberation (although this may take several lifetimes). 

*If you're curious, Christianity would likely fall under Bhakti Yoga.

Belief: Karma controls what happens.

You will experience consequences equivalent with the morality of your actions. If something bad happens it is a consequence of your actions (whether from this life or a previous life). If something good happens it is because of a moral action that you have performed. There is no "good or bad" karma, just karma. Karma itself is a process/response that is not good or bad, it just is. 

There is no way of knowing (when something good or bad happens) whether the happening is related to one action or another, but it is a proper consequence. 

For now, I'll leave it at that. If you have questions I'll do my best to answer them, I just wanted to throw a few ideas out there. 


Megan Flynn said...

I find Hinduism really comforting. I like it. I love the idea of everyone having so much in common, even if we don't really realize it.

Mish Mashh said...

So interesting! I really knew nothing about Hinduism until now! xo

Kimbirdy said...

i love this! thank you for sharing the things you've learned. i grew up in a christian religion, but left about 4 years ago out of the belief that there is no one right way to experience spirituality and personal growth. i consider myself a learner of all religions and i think there are so many beautiful concepts we can apply to our lives from a variety of cultures. i love what i've learned about hinduism (although i know very little), and what you said makes me love it even more. lately i've been studying buddhism, which has been so life changing. i've found a lot of misconceptions with buddhism too. i guess it's not surprising that a religion practiced by millions of people all over the world, thousands of years after the buddha's original teachings, would stay true to his message. we're all just people with our own twists on things we learn. so it's been great to study these religions for myself, instead of just believing the various ideas that people in the western world seem to spread about them.

Krysten @ After 'I Do' said...

Wow very interesting, thanks for sharing!

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