Hinduism: Basic Terms and Concepts

Hinduism: Basic Terms and Concepts
 
Hinduism refers to a rich aggregate of tradition of practices and texts, some of which date to the 2nd millennium BCE or possibly earlier.
 
1. The Yajur Veda was used by udgatri priests and comprises short prose to go with ritual acts, many of which are addressed to the ritual instruments and offerings. It was also used by the adhvaryu, priests who recited appropriate formulas from the Yajur-Veda while actually performing the sacrificial actions.
 
2. The ‘Upanishads’ constitute the core of Indian philosophy. They are collections of writings where all the essential teachings that are fundamental to Hinduism — the concepts of 'karma' (action), 'samsara' (reincarnation), 'moksha' (nirvana), the 'atman' (soul), and the 'Brahman' (Absolute Almighty) are found.
 
3. The Bhagavad Gita, often referred to as simply the Gita, refers to a Hindu scripture written about 2000 years ago. It is a 700-verse Hindu scripture in Sanskrit that is part of the Hindu epic Mahabharata (chapters 25 - 42 of its 6th book).
 
4. Kāma (pleasure) involves the pleasure of the senses, both aesthetic (refined artistic) pleasures and sensual or sexual pleasure.
 
5. In Hindu philosophy, the term atman’ also refers to the true essence of everything, including the universe. The atman is believed to be the only thing that truly exists, an immortal substance that transmigrates from body to body.
6. According to Vedānta (a school of Hindu thought), the highest goal of existence is the attainment of the identity or union of the individual’s innermost self or atman with the ultimate reality or Brahman.
 
7. “For example, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. studied the teachings of Gandhi, the famous Hindu leader, and learned this concept of atman is Brahman. Dr. King incorporated it into his own Christian theology and used it as a central idea in his theory of non-violent, passive resistance in the American civil rights movement. …
 
8. Karma-yoga, or the yoga of selfless action or work, aims to face the problem of ignorance by doing away with the ego. It is said that the ego, born of ignorance, that binds us to this world through attachment. The ego generates a dreamland of divisive existence that disclaims the rights of others.
 
9. The first and highest varna is that of a Brahmin. It consists of priests, teachers, and wise men. The Brahmin priests have the largest amount of religious authority in Hindu society.
 
10. Horace Hayman Wilson (1786-1860) is an English orientalist who lived many years in India and translated numerous Sanskrit texts. He was the first to make a translation of the complete Rig Veda. The following is his translation of Rig Veda 10:129 in its entirety (“The Creation in Rig Veda,” n.d.):
 
Part III
1. The core teaching of Hinduism is the attainment of liberation in the identification of Atman and Brahman through the Four Yogas. It means that ideally, each Hindu’s life goal is to follow Hindu prescribed ways, such as the yogas, to attain moksha, which is one’s atman’s blissful union with the universal spirit or Brahman.
 
2. Shiva (“Auspicious One”), on the other hand, has the role of destroying the universe in order to re-create it. It is believed that his powers of destruction and recreation are employed even now to terminate the illusions and imperfections of this world, paving the way for useful change.
 
3. The first traceable roots of Hinduism lie with the conquering Aryans, who moved into the northwest of the Indian subcontinent from about 1500 BC. The Aryans’ priestly caste, the Brahmans, was responsible for the sacrificial rites.
 
4.  For Hindus, the Veda is said to be a symbol of unchallenged authority and tradition. Before the writing down of the current texts, sages called ‘rishis’ communicated the Vedic matter orally, changing and expounding it in the process.
 
5. Brahmanas are prose commentaries and are concerned primarily with the details and the interpretation of the sacrificial liturgy. Supplemental to the Brahmanas are later esoteric works known as forest treatises, the Aranyakas from Sanskrit ‘aranya,’ which means ‘forest.’
 
6. The philosophical concepts taught in the Upanishads served as the basis of one of the six orthodox systems of Hindu philosophy, the ‘Vedanta.’ “Some 150 Upanishads exist (108, according to the traditionally accepted number). Most are written in prose with interspersed poetry, but some are entirely in verse.
 
7. For Hindus, the Gita is a source of wisdom and the truth. The Bhagavad Gita is in the form of a dialogue between the incarnate god Krishna and a human hero, Prince Arjuna, on the holy field before the start of the Kurukshetra War.
 
8. Atman is part of the universal brahman, with which it can commune or even fuse” (“Atman,” n.d.).
 
9. Many Hindus traditionally choose a personal deity, a saguna form of Brahman with whom they can feel a direct personal connection. Devotion to this deity may take various forms, including prayer, ceremonial worship, chanting of the deity’s name, and pilgrimage to sites sacred to the deity.
 
10. The identification of Atman and Brahman is captured in the phrase "atman is Brahman." It reflects Hinduism’s primary view about ultimate reality and our human relationship to it ... continue reading

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