HINDUISM

HINDUISM
THE VEDAS (1500-1200 BCE)
Even though Hinduism is the popular term that is used to define the indigenous faith of India, it
is an etic (outsider) term. This is why Vedism is a more appropriate term, as the religion rests
upon the foundational holy texts of India, the Vedas, composed around 1500 BCE or possibly
even earlier. Veda denotes, “A Book of Holy Knowledge.” According to tradition, the Vedas
were composed by Seven Rishis, sages said to be the “Guardians of Vedism.” Many of the
Vedas are praise-songs to God.
Auyerveda Medicine is a traditional form of healing based upon the Vedas, especially the
Atharva Veda. Auyerveda essentially means,”knowledge that leads to a long life.” In Hinduism,
theology, medicine, & well being are all intertwined. Note how the Sanskrit word for physician,
“vaidya,” stems from the Vedas and means, “one who knows.”
Hinduism in India is studied and practiced in Sampradayas, religious schools that follow any one
of the innumerable gods & goddesses of the faith. Every school has a founder who interprets
the Vedas differently (while not rejecting the original meaning of the text). In this way, each
school illuminates the multifaceted Vedas in a unique (and yet interrelated) way. The most
popular schools center on three inter-relational gods: Brahma, (Creator), Vishnu (Preserver), &
Shiva (Destroyer). These gods are collectively known as the Trimurti. While these gods
appear as separate entities, all emanations (divine beings) share a “divine Oneness.” Thus
these popular sayings in Hinduism: “Truth is One,” & “The Many come from the One; from the
One come the Many.” The conception of how Hinduism operates may be likened to a beating
heart; just as the heart ever beats and sends life-giving blood around the body, (blood which
returns to its heart-origin), so God, ever vibrating, rhythmically sends his energies out into
creation in a circulatory manner, lovingly nurturing all things; and via this energizing love, he
draws all things back to their Holy Origin. Here the popular phrase “Go With the Flow”
ultimately has divine-transcendent meaning.
The Trimurti, (described earlier as Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva), can be loosely be seen as three gods
operating as One because of the cyclic interrelationship of creation-preservation-destruction,
leading to creation beginning anew. Out of Brahma flows life, life is preserved by Vishnu, & life
ends with Shiva. And yet, life is also paradoxically reborn through Shiva, who releases souls
from their living bodies to be born again via reincarnation. Thus Shiva is sometimes seen as
one who “prunes life,” that life might grow spiritually richer.
In Hindu sculpture Shiva is seen doing the dance of the Tandava (which ultimately ends an age
in order to begin the next). The time when all things must end is referred to as the Age of the
Kaliyuga. Interestingly, Shiva’s dance becomes increasingly faster as it ends. Many Hindu
theologians believe that we are now living in this “Kaliyuga” (think of the blurring speed of
technology!).
With regard to Vishnu, deity of life’s preservation, the god is known to incarnate ten times in
every age. These incarnations are necessary to uphold creation and keep life going-flowing in a
spiritually pure & productive manner. Vishnu’s most famous incarnation is Krishna; here he
takes on the roles of teacher, friend, hero, lover, lord. As teacher, he is the god who is the voice
of truth in the Bhagavad-Gita, (The Song of the Lord Krishna), guiding his noble student Prince
Arjuna through four basic forms of “yoga-awakening” until Arjuna experiences illumination. This
holy book was written at some point between 400 BCE and 200 CE and integrates many Hindu
theological and yogaic concepts.

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