There is no purification in this world equal to wisdom.
-The Bhagavad Gita


Emergence of Hinduism:
Hinduism is one of the oldest religions of the world. The classical theory of the origins of Hinduism traces the religion's roots to the Indus valley civilization circa 4000 to 2200 BC. The development of Hinduism was influenced by many invasions over thousands of years. The major influences occurred when light-skinned, nomadic "Aryan" Indo-European tribes invaded Northern India (circa 1500 BCE) from the steppes of Russia and Central Asia. They brought with them their religion of Vedism. These beliefs mingled with the more advanced, indigenous Indian native beliefs, often called the "Indus valley culture.". This theory was initially proposed by Christian academics some 200 years ago. Their conclusions were biased by their pre-existing belief in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). The Book of Genesis, which they interpreted literally, appears to place the creation of the earth at circa 4,000 BC, and the Noahic flood at circa 2,500 BC. These dates put severe constraints on the date of the "Aryan invasion," and the development of the four Veda and Upanishad Hindu religious texts. A second factor supporting this theory was their lack of appreciation of the sophisticated nature of Vedic culture; they had discounted it as primitive.

Hinduism differs from Christianity and other Western religions in that it does not have a single founder, a specific theological system, a single system of morality, or a central religious organization. It consists of "thousands of different religious groups that have evolved in India since 1500 BC."

Hinduism and the world:
Hinduism has grown to become the world's third largest religion, after Christianity and Islam. It claims about 762 million followers - 13% of the world's population. It is the dominant religion in India, Nepal, and among the Tamils in Sri Lanka. There are about 1.1 million Hindus in the U.S., and about 157,015 in Canada.

Polytheistic religions have traditionally been among the world's most religiously tolerant. Hinduism remains arguably the most tolerant of polytheistic religions. However, during the past few years, a Hindu nationalistic political party has controlled the government of India. The linkage of religion, the federal government and nationalism has led to a degeneration in the level of religious tolerance in that country. The escalation of anti-Christian violence is one manifestation of this linkage.

Hindu beliefs and practices:
At the heart of Hinduism is the panentheistic principle of Brahman, that all reality is a unity. The entire universe is one divine entity who is simultaneously at one with the universe and who transcends it as well. Deity is simultaneously visualized as a triad:

Brahma the Creator who is continuing to create new realities
Vishnu, (Krishna) the Preserver, who preserves these new creations. Whenever Dharma (eternal order, righteousness, religion, law and duty) is threatened, Vishnu travels from heaven to earth in one of ten incarnations.
Siva, the Destroyer, is at times compassionate, erotic and destructive.

Most Hindus follow one of two major divisions within Hinduism:

Vaishnavaism: which generally regards Vishnu as the ultimate deity
Shivaism: which generally regards Shiva as the ultimate deity.

Simultaneously, many hundreds of Hindu Gods and Goddesses are worshipped as various aspects of that unity. Depending upon ones view, Hinduism can be looked upon as a monotheistic, trinitarian, or polytheistic religion.

The main goal for the "nivritti," those who renounce the world. is: moksa: Liberation from "samsara," the This is considered the supreme end of mankind.

Meditation is often practiced, with Yoga being the most common. Other activities include daily devotions, public rituals, and puja a ceremonial dinner for a God.

Hinduism has a deserved reputation of being highly tolerant of other religions. Hindus have a saying: "Ekam Sataha Vipraha Bahudha Vadanti," which may be translated: "The truth is One, but different Sages call it by Different Names"

Sacred texts:
The most important of all Hindu texts is the Bhagavad Gita which is a poem describing a conversation between a warrior Arjuna and his charioteer Krishna. It is an ancient text that has become central to Hinduism and other belief systems. Vedism survives in the Rigveda, (a.k.a. Rig Veda) a collection of over a thousand hymns. Other texts include the Brahmanas, the Sutras, and the Aranyakas.





































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