Hinduism; A Basic Overview Of This Eastern Religion And Philosophy.

2125 words - 9 pages

"Follow the migration of mankind from East to West along the sun's course and along the track of the world's magnetic currents; observe its long voyage from Asia to Europe, from India to France.....At its starting point in India, the birthplace of races and religions, the womb of the world...."- Jules Michelet (1789-1874) French writer:From the beginning of her history, India has adored and idealized, not soldiers and statesmen, not men of science and leaders of industry, not even poets and philosophers, who influence the world by their deeds or by their words, but those rarer and more chastened spirits, whose greatness lies in what they are and not in what they do: men who have stamped infinity on the thought and life of the country. To a world given over to the pursuit of power and pleasure, wealth and glory, they declared the reality of the unseen world and the call of the spiritual life. This ideal had dominated the Indian religious landscape for over forty centuries. Hinduism, known as Sanatana Dharma, or everlasting religion, to its followers, differs from Christianity and other Western religions in that it does not have a single founder, a specific theological system, a single system of morality, or a central religious organization. It consists of "thousands of different religious groups that have evolved in India since 1500 BCE." 1Hinduism has grown to become the world's third largest religion, after Christianity and Islam. 1 It claims about 762 million followers - 13% of the world's population. 7 It is the dominant religion in India and Nepal, and among the Tamils in Sri Lanka. According to the Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches, there are about 1.1 million Hindus in the U.S. 5 However, the American Religious Identification Survey is believed to be more accurate, with a smaller estimated number of 766,000 American Hindus in 2001. Still, this is a very significant increase from 227,000 in 1990. 3Categorizing the religion of Hinduism is somewhat confusing. Hinduism has commonly been viewed in the west as a polytheistic religion - one which worships multiple deities, gods and goddesses. However, some have viewed it as a monotheistic religion, because it recognizes only one supreme God, the panentheistic principle of Brahman - that all reality is a unity. Some view Hinduism as Trinitarian because Brahman is often visualized as a triad: Brahma the Creator, who is continuing to create new realities; Vishnu, Krishna, the Preserver, who preserves these new creations; and Shiva, the Destroyer, who is at times compassionate, erotic and destructive. Strictly speaking, Hinduism is a henotheistic religion - a religion which acknowledges a single deity, but which recognizes other gods and goddesses as facets, manifestations or aspects of that supreme God. Most urban Hindus follow one of two major divisions within Hinduism: Vaishnavaism, which generally regards Vishnu as the ultimate deity; and Shivaism, which generally regards Shiva as the...

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