Hinduism Doctrine and Beliefs

What is Hinduism

Hinduism is an Indian Dharma, or a way of life,[note 1] widely practiced in South Asia. Hinduism has been called the oldest religion in the world,[note 2] and some practitioners and scholars refer to it as Sanātana Dharma, “the eternal tradition”, or the “eternal way”, beyond human history.[4][5]Scholars regard Hinduism as a fusion[note 3] or synthesis[6][note 4] of various Indian cultures and traditions,[7][note 5] with diverse roots[8][note 6] and no founder.[9] This “Hindu synthesis” started to develop between 500 BCE and 300 CE,[10] following the Vedic period (1500 BCE to 500 BCE).[10][11]

Although Hinduism contains a broad range of philosophies, it is linked by shared concepts, recognisable rituals, cosmologyshared textual resources, and pilgrimage to sacred sitesHindu texts are classified into Śruti (“heard”) and Smṛti (“remembered”). These texts discuss theology, philosophymythologyVedic yajnaYogaagamic rituals, and temple building, among other topics.[12] Major scriptures include the Vedas and Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Agamas.[13][14] Sources of authority and eternal truths in its texts play an important role, but there is also a strong Hindu tradition of questioning authority in order to deepen the understanding of these truths and to further develop the tradition.[15]

Prominent themes in Hindu beliefs include the four Puruṣārthas, the proper goals or aims of human life, namely Dharma (ethics/duties), Artha (prosperity/work), Kama (desires/passions) and Moksha (liberation/freedom/salvation);[16][17] karma (action, intent and consequences), Saṃsāra (cycle of rebirth), and the various Yogas (paths or practices to attain moksha).[14][18] Hindu practices include rituals such as puja (worship) and recitations, meditation, family-oriented rites of passage, annual festivals, and occasional pilgrimages. Some Hindus leave their social world and material possessions, then engage in lifelong Sannyasa(monastic practices) to achieve Moksha.[19] Hinduism prescribes the eternal duties, such as honesty, refraining from injuring living beings (ahimsa), patience, forbearance, self-restraint, and compassion, among others.[web 1][20] The four largest denominations of Hinduism are the VaishnavismShaivismShaktism and Smartism.[21]

Hinduism is the world’s third largest religion; its followers, known as Hindus, number about 1.15 billion, or 15–16% of the global population.[web 2][22] Hindus form the majority of the population in IndiaNepal and Mauritius. Significant Hindu communities are also found in the CaribbeanAfricaNorth America, and other countries.[23][24]

Hindu Denominations

Hindu denominations are traditions within Hinduism centered on one or more gods or goddesses, such as ShivaVishnu and Brahma.[1] Sometimes the term is used for sampradayas led by a particular guru with a particular philosophy.[2]

Four major traditions are, VaishnavismShaivismShaktism and Smartism.[1][4][5] These are sometimes referred to as the denominations of Hinduism, and they differ in the primary deity at the center of the tradition.[6] A notable feature of Hindu denominations is that they do not deny other concepts of the divine or deity, and often celebrate the other as henotheistic equivalent.[7] 

The denominations of Hinduism, are unlike those found in major religions of the world, because individuals can practice more than oneAlthough Hinduism contains many denominations and philosophies, it is linked by shared concepts, recognisable rituals, cosmologyshared textual resourcespilgrimage to sacred sites and the questioning of authority.[9]  These deity-centered denominations feature a synthesis of various philosophies such as Samkhya, Yoga and Vedanta, as well as shared spiritual concepts such as mokshadharmakarmasamsara, ethical precepts such as ahimsa, texts (UpanishadsPuranasMahabharata, Agamas), ritual grammar and rites of passage.[9][15]

In Hinduism, a sampradaya (IAST sampradāya) is like a denomination too.[17] These are teaching traditions with autonomous practices and monastic centers, with a guru lineage, with ideas developed and transmitted, redefined and reviewed by each successive generation of followers.[18] A particular guru lineage is called parampara. By receiving diksha (initiation) into the parampara of a living guru, one belongs to its proper sampradaya.

Hindu beliefs

Hindu beliefs include

  • Dharma (ethics/duties), 
  • Samsāra (the continuing cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth),
  • Karma (action, intent and consequences),
  • Moksha (liberation), and
  • the various Yogas (paths or practices).[18]

Purusharthas (objectives of human life)

Hindu thought accepts four proper goals or aims of human life:  DharmaArthaKama and Moksha. These are known as the objectives of human life or  Puruṣārthas:[16][17]

Dharma (righteousness, ethics)

Dharma is considered the most important goal of a human being.[124]  It means behaviors that are considered to be in accord with the order that makes life and universe possible,[125]and includes duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and “right way of living”.[126] Hindu Dharma includes the religious duties, moral rights and duties of each individual. It also includes right social order and right conduct.[126]  [127] All beings must accept Dharma and respect it to sustain harmony and order in the world. Dharma is the pursuit and execution of one’s nature and true calling.[127] 

The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad states it as:

Nothing is higher than Dharma. .. Dharma is the Truth (Satya); both are one.

— Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 1.4.xiv [128][129]

In the MahabharataKrishna defines dharma as upholding both this-worldly and other-worldly affairs. (Mbh 12.110.11). The word Sanātana means eternalperennial, or forever; thus, Sanātana Dharma signifies that it is the dharma that has neither beginning nor end.[130]

Artha (livelihood, wealth)

Artha is earning wealth. Wealth, that is needed for living, to discharge responsibilities and prosperity. The meaning of Artha includes wealth, career and financial security.[131] The proper pursuit of artha (money, influence and security) is considered an important aim of human life in Hinduism.[132][133]

Kāma (sensual pleasure)

Kāma means desire, wish, passion, longing, pleasure of the senses, enjoyment of life, affection, or love, with or without sexual connotations.[134][135] In Hinduism, Kama is considered an essential and healthy goal of human life when pursued without sacrificing Dharma, Artha and Moksha.[136]

Mokṣa (liberation, freedom from samsara)

Moksha is the ultimate goal of a Hindu. It means liberation from sorrow, suffering and saṃsāra (birth-rebirth cycle). Hindus believe that after death, a being is reborn and this cycle of birth-death-rebirth is a suffering. A release from this cycle is called moksha.[137][138] 

In other schools of Hinduism, such as monistic, moksha is a goal achievable in current life, as a state of bliss through self-realization, which comes when one understand the nature of one’s soul. Upon attaining this state of freedom one realizes that the whole universe as the Self”.[139][140]

Karma and samsara

Karma translates literally as actionwork, or deed.[141] Karma also means the “moral law of cause and effect”.[142][143] The law of karma says that all actions whether good or bad, have consequences. It is these consequences which cause rebirth, death and rebirth cycle.[144]  This cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth is called samsara. Liberation from samsara through moksha brings eternal happiness and peace.[146][147]


Moksha has more than one meaning.  For example,

Advaita Vedanta says that knowing “soul, self” as one with Brahman and with everyone in all respects is Moksha.[153][154]

Dvaita (dualistic) schools, say, identifing individual “soul, self” as distinct from Brahman but infinitesimally close is Moksha. After attaining moksha one goes to heaven and lives there for ever.

Moksha is also a liberation from samsara i.e. from the cycle of birth and death.

Moksha is a psychological concept that can be atained in current life.

Moksha is the perfect state of being, of self-realization, of freedom and of “realizing the whole universe as the Self”.[139][153] 

Concept of God

Hindus believe that all living creatures have a soul. This soul – the spirit or true “self” of every person, is called the ātman. The soul is believed to be eternal.[165] This Atman is indistinct from Brahman, the supreme spirit.[166] The goal of life, according to the Advaita school, is to realise that one’s soul is identical to supreme soul, present everywhere. All life is interconnected and there is oneness in all life.[167][168][169]

Dualistic schools (see Dvaita and Bhakti) understand Brahman as a Supreme Being separate from individual souls.[170] They worship the Supreme Being as VishnuBrahmaShiva, or Shakti, depending upon the sect.

God is called IshvaraBhagavanParameshwaraDeva or Devi.[171][172][173]

There is a divine in everything, human beings, animals, trees and rivers. It is observable in offerings to rivers, trees, tools of one’s work, animals and birds, rising sun, friends and guests, teachers and parents.[174][175][176] It is the divine in these that makes each sacred and worthy of reverence. The Vedic view does not see competition, but sees a unifying divinity that connects everyone and everything.[174][177][178]


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