Hindus have many scriptures – after all, it is a 7,500 years old tradition. They can be divided into two parts: The Srutis and The Smiritis.
Out of these, Bhagavad-Gita is an important part of an Epic where Sri Krishna is urging his disciple Arjun to fight on. Arjun was in a fratricidal war where he had to fight his cousins, his uncles, his preachers and teachers that he had revered all his life. But they were on the wrong side. So he asks Krishna, his charioteer, what good would come out of such a ghastly warfare whose spoils, if he wins, would be tainted by blood. In the course of convincing his disciple to do his duty and fight on, Krishna explains metaphysical concepts such as the distinction between body and soul – matter and spirit – the principle of renounced action, the virtues of yoga (linking with God), meditation and moderation.
Krishna teaches that perfection lies not in renunciation of world, rather in disciplined action, performed without attachment to results.
Gita: An Important Hindu Epic
Gita narrates the dialog between Lord Krishna and his disciple Arjun who faces the prospect of a fratricidal war. Lord Krishna’s message to Arjun (and to us all) is a guidebook – not just to Hindus and Indians.
It addresses questions such as: Why are we here? What, if anything, we are supposed to do? What will become of us?
Sri Krishna emphasizes the importance of action - fully engaged in our duty selflessly without expectations of any rewards - with single-minded focus on God. He teaches us the practical values of meditation, yoga and moderation.
Sri Krishna teaches us to rejoice in our daily duty, work itself as an offering to God, and that our soul is immortal – there is nothing to fear.
In Western terms, Gita teaches us how we can be In the World but Not of the World – the topmost yoga system!
Influential American thinkers have been influenced by the Bhagavad-Gita.
“I owed a magnificent day to the Bhagavad-Gita. It was the first of books: it was as if an empire spoke to us, nothing small or unworthy, but large, serene, consistent, the voice of an old intelligence which in another age and climate had pondered and thus disposed of the same questions that exercise us.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
“In the morning, I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavad-Gita, in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seem puny and trivial.” - Henry David Thoreau
Sanskrit (/ˈsænskrɪt/; संस्कृतम् saṃskṛtam [səmskr̩t̪əm], or संस्कृत saṃskṛta, originally संस्कृता वाक् saṃskṛtā vāk, "refined speech") is the primary liturgical language of Hinduism. It is a philosophical language in Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism, and a literary language that was in use as a lingua franca in the Indian cultural zone.
It is a standardized dialect of the Old Indo-Aryan language, originating as Vedic Sanskrit and tracing its linguistic ancestry back to Proto-Indo-Iranian and Proto-Indo-European. Today it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand. Sanskrit holds a prominent position in Indo-European studies. -wikipedia.org
Yoga and Meditation are important practices for many Hindus. Some of the earliest written records of meditation (Dhyana), come from the Hindu traditions of Vedantism around 1500 BCE. The Vedas discuss the meditative traditions of ancient India. -Wikipedia
Benefits of Meditation include:
Stress reduction · Greater flexibility and balance
Expanded self-knowledge · Body awareness
Anger self-management · Greater focus and productivity
Clarity of purpose · Peacefulness
Joyfulness · Greater Energy
Spiritual growth · An increased capacity for love
Hindus and Jains often play a prominent role in global vegetarian movements.
Hindu vegetarians do not avoid milk and milk products. Some eat eggs also.
Some orthodox Jains and a few Hindus however avoid even vegetables whose harvesting causes the plant to die, such as root vegetables (onion, potatoes).
- Very ancient tradition
- Not mandatory but strongly recommended
- Major source of Western vegetarian movements
- Loving all of God's creatures
Concept of Worship
In Hinduism, the concept of worship is a bit different. In most religions, we are in reverence of God and also in God’s AWE. In Hinduism, reverence is important but also making an interpersonal relationship: intimacy. Hindus see God as a father figure, a mother, a friend or compatriot, perhaps a lover. Many Hindu mothers think of God as their Child. They will have a statue of their favorite deity at home who they bathe, dry, make a little offering before eating, as mothers feed their own children before eating themselves. Many Hindus don’t believe in any rituals. That is perfectly acceptable also.
Research question: Compare and contrast Hindu rituals with other world religions.
Rituals play an import role in Hinduism.
Essentially, the ritual is one of honor and hospitality to God through a series of offerings- food, clothing, water etc.
Its core purpose is to deepen the relationship between Divine and human, God and worshipper.
Hospitality is a core value in our tradition.
Hindu temples are built on the principle of Vaastu-shastra. Many of you must have heard of Feng Shui – the Chinese art and science of making houses. Vaastu-shastra goes back 7,000 to 10,000 years – it’s the science of making dwelling, particularly temples. The main entrance of a temple faces east – if you open the doors, the morning sunlight fills the hallways – bringing energy in. A temple should be built at a higher ground and it should be close to a body of water if possible.
- Fractal-like design suggesting unity
- Ideally, in the Hindu temple the sacred descends to earth and humans ascend to the spiritual realm.
Hindus have many-many holidays. For a list of major religious festivals, go to this Wikipedia page.
One of them is called Raksha Bhandan where a sister ties a string, a band, around her brother’s hand, as a loving bond.