Intro to Hindu Dharma

Our Hindu seminars have been amazing thus far! I’ve learnt so many new things, and added upon the little information I already had. My first seminar was the last day of freshers’ week, and was a  really lovely, gentle introduction to our module. We began by looking at the origins of the Hindu religion, and looking into why the religion is called Hinduism.

Origins of Hinduism: We discovered that Hinduism is the oldest living religion, with the earliest evidence for elements of the Hindu faith dating back to around 3000 BCE (Before Common Era), however, the dates keep being pushed back and doubted and there is ongoing controversy over the actual origins of the religion. If we try to translate the word ‘Hinduism’, the closest term we end up with for English is ‘the eternal teaching’. We then looked at the idea that Hinduism has no one founder, and instead is seen more as a way of life by its followers, although there are many holy books that people can look at to gain inspiration or guidance. There is also no one prophet, God, or dogma. Next, we looked at the controversy surrounding the Aryan origins theory, and how some people believe the Hindu faith started.

The Aryan origins theory: The Aryan origins theory states that around 1500 BCE, the Nordic Aryans, meaning ‘Noble people’ swept into India, bringing with them their language, Sanskrit, and the Rig Veda. However, more recently scholars have disputed this theory, instead stating that the Aryans migrated slowly, and were found in India years before the alleged invasion. This would mean that Hinduism originated solely in India. We also learnt that the name ‘Hindu’ was given to describe the people who lived near the River Indus in India.

Next, we meant into more detail about the religion, looking at things like how it is classed in relation to theism, and the symbols within Hinduism. The Hindu religion is classed as pantheistic, as Hindus can worship more than one God, e.g. the God of wind. Also, the idea of an immanent, yet transcendent god is pantheistic. The Hindu triad of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva represent the three main aspects of Brahman, known as the Hindu Trimurti. “God is one, but wise men call it by different names” (Rig Veda)

aum                                                          aum-page

The Aum symbol: The Aum symbol is said to be the symbol of Brahman and is believed, by Hindus, to be the life-giving sound of Brahman within the universe. The sound is used as a mantra during meditation. It is said that when one meditated, and reached the state of complete inner peacefulness, blocking out the outside world, the only sound you hear is that of the vibration of Aum. “The past, the present, the future, are all but the unfolding of Aum” (Mandukya Upanishad).

Lastly, we looked at how Hindus perceive the avatars of Brahman.

Brahma: 

  • creator
  • four heads facing the four directions > created the universe
  • holds a water vessel > withdrawn from the world
  •  holds mala > meditation
  • sits on a lotus flower

Shiva:

  • destroys and recreates the universe
  • Lord of the Dance
  • dancing on demon dwarf who represents pride, ignorance, ego
  • holds damaru > pulse of time, rhythm of the universe
  • holds a deer > unstable mind
  • flames > destructive powers of God

Shiva as great yogi:

  • serene
  • closed eyes
  • third eye > wisdom

Vishnu:

  • preserves order of universe
  • blue > infinity
  • stands on a lotus > purity of universe
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