What is Hinduism?

Ms. Catsos
World History
What is Hinduism?
One of the oldest religions of humanity
Began in India
Gave birth to Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism
A philosophy and a way of life – focused
both on this world and beyond
How did Hinduism begin?
No particular founder or holy book,
instead early Vedic tradition evolved
into Hinduism.
Vedic tradition is based on a group of
sacred texts known as the Vedas.
Controversy over the Vedas
Historians are currently debating the
origins of Vedic tradition. The two main
theories are:
The Vedas were brought by the Aryans, who
some historians believe entered India 4000 3500 years ago
The Vedas were developed by Ancient Indian
people of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa
What are the Sacred Texts?
Shruti (“heard”) – philosophical texts that state
the basic principles of Hinduism
Smriti (“remembered”) –apply the principles of
the Shruti to daily life
Mahabharata (includes Bhagavad-Gita)
Both shruti and smriti were originally told orally
before being written down
What do Hindus believe?
There is one impersonal life spirit Brahman that
is manifested as many different gods and
Every person, plant, and animal has a true
essence or soul, called Atman, which is part of
Who do Hindus worship? –
the major Hindu gods
Brahma, the creator god
Who do Hindus worship? –
the major gods of the Hindu Pantheon
Vishnu, the preserver god
(appears in ten different forms)
Who do Hindus worship? –
the major gods of the Hindu Pantheon
Shiva, the Destroyer
Often shown with his wife, Shakti, and son Ganesha
All these gods and
goddesses are different
forms of Brahman
The Cycle of Life and Death
Reincarnation – Atman is continually
born into this world lifetime after lifetime.
Ultimate goal of life is Moksha, releasing
Atman and become one with Brahman.
Reaching moksha means escaping the
cycle of reincarnation.
Karma – actions that affect one’s fate in
the future.
How do Hindus reach Moksha?
People earn good karma by doing their
dharma (religious and moral duties)
If you earn good karma, you can be
reborn as a higher life form or in a higher
caste, and eventually reach moksha.
If you earn bad karma, you will be reborn
as a lower life form or in a lower caste.
The Caste System
Each group has specific duties, or dharma.
Hindu Nonviolence
Ahisma is the Hindu word for
All things and people have aspects of
Brahman and should be respected.
Most Hindus are vegetarians.
Adapted from…
“What is Hinduism?”
by Laura Ellen Shulman

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