World Religions: Hinduism

Hindu Man Covered in Color

One of the more "colorful" Hindu traditions is the spring festival of Holi. As part of the celebration, people spray each other with brightly colored pigments.

Last night, we had a great class covering Hinduism. I realized after class that it might have been helpful to summarize the “good news” according to Hinduism, since the concepts are so foreign to Western Christians.  Here’s my attempt:

  • According to Hinduism, we are trapped in a cycle of reincarnation (samsara). Each time we die, we are reborn into a new life – but this isn’t a good thing, because life is filled with suffering and illusion.
  • Our next life is determined by the karma we accumulate in our current life. Good karma means we can be reborn into a better life (traditionally understood as a higher caste).
  • How do we accumulate good karma? There are many ways, including:
    • By fulfilling our dharma, including our caste, social and ritual obligations (Vedic Hinduism).
    • Through philosophy and meditation (Vedanta).
    • Through mental and physical discipline (Yoga).
    • By devoting ourselves to a specific god or avatar (Bhakti).
  • By accumulating enough karma, we can eventually achieve moksha – release from the cycle of reincarnation and connection with Brahman (the divine reality behind all existence).

This final state is a good thing, but it’s not the same idea as heaven. For one thing, many forms of Hinduism believe that our personal existence comes to an end. Further, Brahman is a not a personal god – Brahman is more like “the Force” from Star Wars, a spiritual energy that fills everything.

Photo: An Indian man celebrating the Hindu spring festival of Holi. Photo by wanderinghome

Next week, Buddhism!

Hinduism Links

You can read more about Arjuna and Krishna here.

Here is the link to the local Hindu Temple. If you are interested in learning more about Hindu gods, be sure to see the Temple’s deities page. There are some great photos of their shrines, as well as a brief description of each god or goddess. Some of the ones we mentioned last night:

Materials from class can be downloaded after the jump.

Materials from Class

Here is the handout that I distributed last night. Below is the presentation.

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