2700 Words on Hinduism. History and perspectives
History and Perspectives
Jason M. Howard
ASH 3100–Dr. Singh
Hinduism is easily the oldest major world religion that is still in use today. It has not only survived countless attacks but has also thrived and has changed little to none in the last 2500-3000 years. Hinduism has been able to accomplish this through a variety of traits that it possesses. One such trait is that Hinduism is inclusive. By inclusive I mean that practicing Hindus never try to convert a Christian, Jew, or Muslim to their exact manner of theological thought. Instead they see other religious practitioners as Hindus themselves; Hindus that are praying to one of many other gods. This leads to another reason that Hinduism has conquered adversity. That is Hinduism’s tremendous variety in ways and means of worship. A third reason that Hinduism has been so popular is that it is more than just a religion, it is an entire way of life. For these and many other reasons, Hinduism has overcome millennia and will overcome even more.
Hinduism came to be roughly what we know it as today between 1500-500 B.C.E. When the Aryans came through the Khyber Pass and pushed out the Harappan culture, they found themselves among great riches in beautiful, fertile lands. With these lands the Aryans were able to lead a more relaxed and introspective life. Undoubtedly not all of the Harappans were pushed south to the Dravidian culture, so soon the Harappan belief in reincarnation began to reemerge.
The Aryan gods of fire, Agni and the god of war, Indra merged with the gods of the Harappan and Dravidian culture to produce one great, unreachable god named Brahma and his two lieutenants named Shiva and Vishnu. This shows the ultimate realism that the Hindu culture possesses over many other religions. The god Vishnu is the creator, and Shiva is the destroyer. One is not looked upon as better than the other. Hindus realize that you cannot have one without an equal part of the other.
These are not the only gods in Hindu culture. There are many others, all having special skills and talents. The gods themselves also give birth to the idea of avatars, or the form of the god when he or she comes to earth. A hand carved statue of Krishna, one of the avatars of Vishnu, was found in the ruins of an ancient Dravidian city. This proves that there were indigenous ideas for the Aryans to use in their worship.
The Aryans began to write down their ideas and methods of worship that were originally orally passed. These writings began what we know today as the Vedas. In order to pass these lengthy stories orally, they had been put into rhymes and hymns. The first book of the Vedas, the Rgveda, consists of 128 hymns to various deities. These deities were more of Aryan descent since they were warlike and patriarchal. However the Rgveda did already show signs of polytheism.
Other books began to join the Rgveda in the set of the Vedas. Books such as Samaveda, Yajurveda, and Athauuaveda showed that the Aryan culture was changing the way that it viewed its gods, as well as the way that they viewed themselves. The final addition to the Vedas in the classical period, the Upanishad, was added around 800 B.C.E. This is where terms like samsara, moksha, dharma, and kharma first emerged in writing. Hinduism could now be more easily passed and taught with its own jargon for communication.
These terms, when viewed separately may be difficult to grasp. However, when they are brought together they make perfect sense. The idea of samsara is roughly that of reincarnation. All souls are stuck in a cycle of life, death, and rebirth. The goal of each of these souls is to escape the cycle of samsara and obtain moksha. Moksha is a reincarnation with a god. In recent Hinduism the moksha that you obtain is with the god of your choice, or whomever you worshipped as your patron deity. The terms of dharma and kharma are the tools that we must use in order to obtain moksha and escape samsara.
Dharma is what we must do to behave properly. It can