Hindu Religious Traditions

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Hindu Religious Traditions

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. "The Aryans are said to have entered India through the fabled Khyber Pass, around 1500 BC. They intermingled with the local populace, and assimilated themselves into the social framework. The Aryans did not have a script, but they developed a rich tradition. They composed the hymns of the four vedas, the great philosophic poems that are at the heart of Hindu thought" (The Aryans and the Vedic Age, 2004, par. 2).

The Aryans began to write down their ideas and methods of worship that were originally orally passed. In order to pass these lengthy stories orally, they had been put into rhymes and hymns. The first book of the Vedas, the Rig Veda, consists of 1028 hymns to various deities.

Other books began to join the Rig Veda in the set of the Vedas. Books such as Sama Veda, Yajur Veda, and Atharva Veda 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 BCE. This is where terms like samsara, moksha, dharma, and karma first emerged in writing.

"In Hinduism, salvation is achieved through a spiritual oneness of the soul, atman, with the ultimate reality of the universe, Brahman. To achieve this goal, the soul must obtain moksha, or liberation from the samsara, the endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. As a result of these basic teachings, Hindus believe in reincarnation, which is influenced by karma (material actions resulting from the consequences of previous actions), and dharma (fulfilling one's duty in life)"(Teachings and Beliefs, 2004, par. 1).

The idea of samsara is roughly that of reincarnation. All souls are trapped 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 karma are the tools that we must use in order to obtain moksha and escape samsara.
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