Religion

A Guide to Hinduism

Yash Varma ’24 

Contributor 

Hinduism is the oldest and the third most practiced religion in the world, the predominant religion in India and Nepal. Unlike religions such as Christianity or Judaism, Hinduism does not have a founder (like Jesus or Abraham). Instead, it is a collection of traditions and philosophies.  

In Hinduism, God is viewed differently than in Abrahamic religions. Unlike Christianity, Hinduism believes that God exists in many forms all around us. Hinduism follows the henotheist tradition. “Henotheism” is the worship of a single god (like Shiva or Vishnu) while simultaneously recognizing various deities.  

The two core beliefs of Hinduism are karma and samsara. Karma is the concept of the universal law of cause and effect. For example, the good you send out into the universe will come back to you, just as evil would. The cycle of life, also known as reincarnation, is known as samsara. Karma, or the actions of a previous life, determines a person’s next life. In Hindu philosophy, one’s atman (soul) is thought to go through numerous cycles of rebirth.  

The soul’s purpose is to attain moksha (salvation) in order to enter the ultimate soul and break free from the reincarnation cycle.  

Although there are many gods in Hinduism, there are three central gods that form a triad. This triad is known as Trimurti. The triad consists of: Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, and Shiva the Destroyer. Brahma is depicted with four heads and four arms, a holy number in Hinduism. He was credited for the creation of the universe. He is not directly worshipped by Hindus today, unlike Shiva and Vishnu. The second god of the Trimurti is Vishnu the Preserver, the God of Light and Enlightenment. He is associated with sending avatars to Earth. An avatar is also known as an incarnation; this is a deity having a human form on Earth. Some of the well-known Vishnu avatars are Krishna and Rama, who are worshipped by many Hindus today. The last god of the Trimurti is Shiva the Destroyer, God of Power. He is associated with the power to destroy evil, as well as mediation and yoga. Shiva is worshiped by many Hindus around the world.   

Pujas are Hindu rituals that include murtis (a deity’s image, statue, or idol), mantras (prayers), and yantras (diagrams of the universe). There are special occasions when Hindus perform pujas, such as weddings, festivals or moving into a new home. All pujas generally begin by worshipping Lord Ganesha (remover of obstacles).  

This article only scratches the surface of the Hindu religion. The religion is far more complex than what I could cover here. Regardless, I am a proud Hindu, and I am thankful that I can share the philosophy of my religion with everyone!   

Photo Credit: Indiafacts.com