Some Beliefs, Practices and Characteristics In Hinduism
Hindus have many obligations including rites of passage, pilgrimages (no central destination is required, however), worship rituals, selfless living, and the observance of many holy days (including fasting and attending temple).
Rites of passage, or samskara, include rites for birth, name-giving, head-shaving, ear piercing, coming of age, marriage, death, and many other common events in the lifecycle.
The Act of Worship
All the Hindu deities are worshiped, especially the main gods mentioned above. For the purpose of worship, the deities (gods) are represented in the form of idols (or icons) made of gold, silver, bronze, or clay. Extremely poor people often substitute paintings or other kinds of images for the idols. Sacred stones are also worshipped.
For people of the world who do not worship idols or stones, this concept may be confusing. It is important to note that to a Hindu, there is no difference between the worship of the idol and the worship of the deity it represents – they are the same; the god is the idol, and the idol is the god.
Meditation is a common practice. Believed to have been practiced in India as long ago as 1000 B.C., meditation involves sustained deep thought and concentration that is often aided by postures, sounds, or images that help to focus the mind. Drugs, herbs, alcohol, and self-effacing behaviors are also used to enhance inward vision.
Fear of demons is prevalent. Many daily and event-responsive rites performed by Hindus are for the purpose of protection from demons; it is believed that multitudes of demons roam free in the earth (or in the air) and humans are always in danger of their assault.
Sandhyavandana or Sandhyopasana, is a Nitya Karma or an action that is to be done daily. It is a prayer and worship offered to God at the junction (Sandhi) of night and morning, forenoon and afternoon and at the junction of evening and night. It is performed daily for self-purification and self-improvement.
Worship of Many Gods
Preeminent among the many gods of Hinduism (there are 330 million Gods and Goddesses in Hindu mythology) is the Trimurti, or trinity. These gods compose the threefold manifestation of “Absolute Reality,” or Brahman – not to be confused with Brahma:
Brahma is not usually worshipped and there are very few temples in his honor. Vishnu (and the incarnations of him, Rama and Krishna), Shiva (and his various forms), and all their wives, are the most popular gods and goddesses. They all have numerous temples and followers.
The wives of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva are Saraswati, Laxmi, and Parvati, respectively. Collectively, they are sometimes referred to as the “Divine Mother” (or Shakti). Two of Parvati’s most powerful forms are Durga and Kali. The sons of Shiva, Ganesha (the elephant god) and Kartikeya (also called Muruga) are also widely worshipped. Also revered is the monkey god, Hanuman.
Each god has several names. For instance, Lord Ganesh has 108 names. They are manifested in many forms, including the form of animals as referenced in the paragraph above.
Vishnu (“the preserver”) reveals himself in the form of 10 avatars. He is called the “savior of mankind” . Vishnu is the supreme deity of the Vaishnava . In Indian art, Krishna is often shown engaged in Romantic activity.
The performance of puja (act of worship) is an act of affirmation between the Hindu and the god; the Hindu is affirming that all things seeming to belong to himself (including his senses and personality) actually belong to the god. Worship is an act of surrender of self and recommitment to the god. At the very least, Hindu worshipers are expected to bring their gods flowers; these flowers are usually laid at the god’s feet and a salutation is spoken.
Ceremonial washing of the body is performed before performing puja, and mantras (chants) are recited during worship as a means to spiritual purification.
Temples and Ashrams are places of worship
Agamas is a term that refers to the rules for rituals and worship of gods. The worship of the major gods Ganesha, Shakti, Surya, Shiva, and Vishnu each have their own agamas.
Traditional songs, prayers, and dances are used in worship. It is a Hindu tradition to end the puja with aarti (a prayer song).
Hindu Ethics & Morality
Hinduism puts great emphasis on the necessity for ethical and moral behavior. According to one scripture, a Hindu must observe moral and ethical laws from his birth till his death. Some scholars have rightly described Hinduism as a way of life. Every important event in Hindu life is directly influenced by religion. Marriage, birth, naming of babies, giving the first hair-cut, a baby’s first intake of solid food, a child’s first introduction to studies, eating habits, duties of married life, death, and post-mortem rituals – all are sanctified and made into sacraments.
Hindu Caste system
Hindu society has a caste or class system which was originally based on the character and aptitude of individuals. The system later became degraded as caste was made hereditary by powerful people. with vested interests. Through the efforts of many saints and reformers this degraded caste system is gradually on the verge of elimination today.
Nine Beliefs of Hinduism
(i)Hindus believe in the divinity of the Vedas, the world’s most ancient scripture, and venerate the Agamas as equally revealed. These primordial hymns are God’s word and the bedrock of Sanatana Dharma, the eternal religion which has neither beginning nor end.
(ii) Hindus believe in a one, all-pervasive Supreme Being who is both immanent and transcendent, both Creator and Unmanifest Reality.
(iii) Hindus believe that the universe undergoes endless cycles of creation, preservation and dissolution.
(iv) Hindus believe in karma, the law of cause and effect by which each individual creates his own destiny by his thoughts, words and deeds.
(v) Hindus believe that the soul reincarnates, evolving through many births until all karmas have been resolved, and moksha, spiritual knowledge and liberation from the cycle of rebirth, is attained. Not a single soul will be eternally deprived of this destiny.
(vi) Hindus believe that divine beings exist in unseen worlds and that temple worship, rituals, sacraments as well as personal devotionals create a communion with these devas and Gods.
(vii) Hindus believe that a spiritually awakened master, or satguru, is essential to know the Transcendent Absolute, as are personal discipline, good conduct, purification, pilgrimage, self-inquiry and meditation.
(viii) Hindus believe that all life is sacred, to be loved and revered, and therefore practice ahimsa, “non injury.”
(ix) Hindus believe that no particular religion teaches the only way to salvation above all others, but that all genuine religious paths are facets of God’s Pure Love and Light, deserving tolerance and understanding.
Five Obligations of Hindus
(i) Worship, upasana: Young Hindus are taught daily worship in the family shrine room,rituals, disciplines, chants, yogas and religious study. They learn to be secure through devotion in home and temple, wearing traditional dress, bringing forth love of the Divine and preparing the mind for serene meditation.
(ii) Holy days, utsava: Young Hindus are taught to participate in Hindu festivals and holy days in the home and temple. They learn to be happy through sweet communion with God at such auspicious celebrations. Utsava includes fasting and attending the temple on Monday or Friday and other holy days.
(iii) Virtuous living, dharma: Young Hindus are taught to live a life of duty and good conduct. They learn to be selfless by thinking of others first, being respectful of parents, elders and swamis, following divine law, especially ahimsa, mental, emotional and physical noninjury to all beings. Thus they resolve karmas.
(iv) Pilgrimage, tirthayatra: Young Hindus are taught the value of pilgrimage and are taken at least once a year for darnana of holy persons, temples and places, near or far. They learn to be detached by setting aside worldly affairs and making God, Gods and gurus life’s singular focus during these journeys.
(v) Rites of passage, samskara: Young Hindus are taught to observe the many sacraments which mark and sanctify their passages through life. They learn to be traditional by celebrating the rites of birth, name-giving, head-shaving, first feeding, ear-piercing, first learning, coming of age, marriage and death.