Hinduism is unique in that, unlike other major world religions such as Islam, Judaism and Christianity, its followers have a much broader interpretation of orthodox teachings. In many ways, Hinduism transcends traditional views of what constitutes a religion as it is a way of life for its adherents. Still, there are important concepts within the Hindu faith upon which most Hindus agree.
Unity of All Living Creatures
A central principle of Hinduism is the interconnectedness of all living beings. This philosophy is reflected in the Hindu teachings on reincarnation and dharma. Reincarnation is the belief that a soul experiences different lives based on how the previous life was lived. Ultimately, the soul will achieve oneness with God and thus with all other souls.The unity of all life is also expressed in the dharmamic principle that a truth greater than any individual consciousness unites humankind and nature.
The majority of Hindus believe in a Supreme Being whose spiritual essence is manifest in many gods. Hinduism teaches that this Supreme Being is immutable and transcendent, beyond time and space. Though they worship many gods, Hindus acknowledge three important gods, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva as responsible for the creations, maintenance and destruction of the world.
Karma and Dharma
Karma is the Hindu teaching that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. People control their own fates through their actions and thoughts. Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, the founder of "Hinduism Today," explains that, "the enduring sense of an ever-present Truth that is God within man is the essence of the Sanatana Dharma." Following Sanatana Dharma is to follow a righteous path leading to spiritual maturity, though this will look different for every individual.
The Hindu holy scriptures are comprised of the four Vedic texts, the Samhitas, the Brahmanas, the Aranyakas and the Upanishads. These texts are revered as sacred and their contents form the basis for the Sanatana Dharma. Hindus believe the four Vedas were given to scholars from the Supreme Being. They were passed down through the generations as an oral history, before being converted to Sanskrit text.
- Visage/Stockbyte/Getty Images