[Advaita-l] A Hindu Primer
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Fri Nov 30 03:12:38 CST 2007
*A Hindu Primer*
Source : Hinduism Today. http://www.hinduismtoday.com/
A code of Practices, Beliefs and Attitudes Common to all Hindu's
Loving Hindu parents worldwide, of various lineages, have called for a
common religious code to teach their sons and daughters. They have asked,
"What is the minimum I must do to dispatch my duty to my religion and my
children?" In response, we have assembled this "Insight" with hard copy
illustrations by artist A. Manivel. It contains 1) an overview of Hinduism;
2) nine basic beliefs; 3) Hinduism from A to Z; 4) five essential precepts;
5) five corresponding observances; and 6) five parenting guidelines. The
modern Hindu child raised up with these principles and practices will be a
fully functioning human being, one who is tolerant, devotional, fair,
fearless, obedient, secure, happy, selfless, pure and traditional. As you
will see, these are sophisticated sections, written for parents and
teachers, to be stepped down and elucidated for specific age groups. We
apologize that, in our brevity, we have inevitably blurred over subtleties
in the rainbow of Hindu views.
A Bird's Eye View Of A Family Of Faiths
Hinduism is our planet's original and oldest living religion, with no single
founder. For as long as man has lived and roamed across Earth's land and
water masses, breathed its air and worshiped in awe its fire, the Sanatana
Dharma has been a guide of righteous life for evolving souls. It is
important to note that today Hinduism has four main denominations: Saivism,
Shaktism, Vaishnavism and Smartism, each with hundreds of lineages. They
represent a broad range of beliefs, sadhanas and mystic goals.
While Hindus believe many diverse and exotic things, there are several
bedrock concepts on which virtually all concur. All Hindus worship one
Supreme Reality, though they call it by many names, and teach that all souls
will ultimately realize the truth of the Vedas and Agamas. Hindus believe
that there is no eternal hell, no damnation. They concur that there is no
intrinsic evil. All is good. All is God. In contrast, Western faiths
postulate a living evil force, embodied in Satan, that directly opposes the
will of God.
Hindus believe that the universe was created out of God and is permeated by
Him--a Supreme Being who both is form and pervades form, who creates,
sustains and destroys the universe only to recreate it again in unending
cycles. Hindus accept all genuine spiritual paths. Each soul is free to find
his own way, whether by devotion, austerity, meditation, yoga or selfless
service (seva). Hinduism's three pillars are temple worship, scripture and
the guru-disciple tradition. Hinduism strongly declares the validity of the
three worlds of existence and the myriad Gods and devas residing within
them. Festivals, pilgrimage, chanting of holy hymns and home worship are
dynamic practices. Family life is strong and precious. Love, nonviolence,
good conduct and the law of dharma define the Hindu path. Hinduism explains
that the soul reincarnates until all karmas are resolved and God Realization
Hindus wear the sectarian marks, called tilaka, on their foreheads as sacred
symbols, distinctive insignia of their heritage. Hinduism is a mystical
religion, leading devotees to personally experience its eternal truths
within themselves, finally reaching the pinnacle of consciousness where man
and God are forever one. They prefer cremation of the body upon death,
rather than burial, believing that the soul lives on and will inhabit a new
body on Earth.
While Hindus have many sacred scriptures, all sects ascribe the highest
authority to the Vedas and Agamas, though their Agamas differ somewhat.
Hinduism's nearly one billion adherents have tens of thousands of sacred
temples and shrines, mostly in India, but now located around the world. Its
spiritual core is its holy men and women--millions of sadhus, yogis, swamis,
vairagis, saints and satgurus who have dedicated their lives to full-time
service, devotion and God Realization, and to proclaiming the eternal truths
of the Sanatana Dharma.
Nine Beliefs of Hinduism
*1.* Hindus believe in the divinity of the Vedas, the world's most ancient
scripture, and venerate the Agamas as equally revealed. These primordial
hymns are God's word and the bedrock of Sanatana Dharma, the eternal
religion which has neither beginning nor end.
*2.* Hindus believe in a one, all-pervasive Supreme Being who is both
immanent and transcendent, both Creator and Unmanifest Reality.
*3.* Hindus believe that the universe undergoes endless cycles of creation,
preservation and dissolution.
*4.* Hindus believe in karma, the law of cause and effect by which each
individual creates his own destiny by his thoughts, words and deeds.
*5.* Hindus believe that the soul reincarnates, evolving through many births
until all karmas have been resolved, and moksha, spiritual knowledge and
liberation from the cycle of rebirth, is attained. Not a single soul will be
eternally deprived of this destiny.
*6.* Hindus believe that divine beings exist in unseen worlds and that
temple worship, rituals, sacraments as well as personal devotionals create a
communion with these devas and Gods.
*7.* Hindus believe that a spiritually awakened master, or satguru, is
essential to know the Transcendent Absolute, as are personal discipline,
good conduct, purification, pilgrimage, self-inquiry and meditation.
*8.* Hindus believe that all life is sacred, to be loved and revered, and
therefore practice ahimsa, "noninjury."
*9. *Hindus believe that no particular religion teaches the only way to
salvation above all others, but that all genuine religious paths are facets
of God's Pure Love and Light, deserving tolerance and understanding.
Hinduism A to Z, a fun, illustrated alphabet designed as twenty-six
mini-lessons on Hindu thought and culture
*A* is for Aum, the three-syllabled mantra that repre-sents the Sacred
Mystery in sound and vibration.
*B* is for bhakti, deep devotion and love for the Divine which softens even
hearts of stone.
*C* is for culture, the beauty of Hindu music, fine arts, drama, dance,
literature and architecture.
*D* is for dharma, which is righteousness, cosmic order and duty, leading us
on the right path.
*E* is for Earth, our lovely blue planet, which we treat as sacred,
protecting all its wonderful creatures.
*F* is for family, the precious cornerstone of Hindu life, culture, service
*G* is for guru, our enlightened master who, knowing Truth himself, can
guide us there.
*H* is for hatha yoga, healthful physical science for vitality, energy
balancing and meditation.
*I *is for India, Bharata, Mother land to one-sixth of humanity, holy land
for Hindus everywhere.
*J* is for japa, repetitive, prayerful mantras which quiet emotion and
empower the mind.
*K* is for karma, the law of cause and effect by which we determine our
experience and destiny.
*L* is for lotus, the heart's inner shrine, where God dwells, ever serene,
*M* is for mauna, not talking, the inner silence known when words, thoughts
and actions are stilled.
*N* is for nonattachment, the art of living the simple life, without too
many needs or desires.
*O* is for open mindedness, the Hindu's tolerant freedom of thought, inquiry
*P* is for puja, mystic worship of the Divine in our home shrine and holy
temples and places.
*Q* is for quest, seeking to know, "Who am I? Where did I come from? Where
am I going?"
*R* is for reincarnation, our immortal soul's journey from birth to rebirth.
We do not fear death.
*S* is for samskaras, sacraments sanctifying life's passages: name-giving,
marriage, death and more.
*T* is for tilaka, forehead marks worn in honor of our unique and varied
*U* is for utsava, our many home and temple festivals, full of bhakti, fun,
feasting and family sharing.
*V *is for Vedas, our oldest and holiest book, the word of God recorded in
100,000 Sanskrit verses.
*W* is for wealth (artha), one of life's four goals, along with love, dharma
*X* is for xerophily, the ability of certain plants and animals to thrive in
India's hot, arid plains.
*Y* is for yoga, union of the soul with God which brings release from
*Z* is for zeal, the fervor with which we perform service, go on pilgrimage
and greet our holy religious leaders.
THE MINIMAL HINDU BELIEFS. BY TEACHING THESE TO SONS AND DAUGHTERS, PARENTS
WORLDWIDE PASS ON THE SANATANA DHARMA TO THEIR CHILDREN.
*1. God Is All in All*
The dear children are taught of one Supreme Being, all-pervasive,
transcendent, creator, preserver, destroyer, manifesting in various forms,
worshiped in all religions by many names, the immortal Self in all. They
learn to be tolerant, knowing the soul's Divinity and the unity of all
*2. Holy Temples*
The dear children are taught that God, other divine beings and highly
evolved souls exist in unseen worlds. They learn to be devoted, knowing that
temple worship, fire ceremonies, sacraments and devotionals open channels
for loving blessings, help and guidance from these beings.
*3. Cosmic Justice*
The dear children are taught of karma, the divine law of cause and effect by
which every thought, word and deed justly returns to them in this or a
future life. They learn to be compassionate, knowing that each experience,
good or bad, is the self-created reward of prior expressions of free will.
The dear children are taught that souls experience righteousness, wealth and
pleasure in many births, while maturing spiritually. They learn to be
fearless, knowing that all souls, without exception, will ultimately attain
Self Realization, liberation from rebirth and union with God.
*5. Scripture and Preceptor*
The dear children are taught that God revealed the Vedas and Agamas, which
contain the eternal truths. They learn to be obedient, following the
precepts of these sacred scriptures and awakened satgurus, whose guidance is
absolutely essential for spiritual progress and enlightenment.
THE MINIMAL PRACTICES (ALSO KNOWN AS PANCHA NITYA KARMAS) TO NURTURE FUTURE
CITIZENS WHO ARE STRONG, RESPONSIBLE, TOLERANT AND TRADITIONAL
The dear children are taught daily worship in the family shrine
room--rituals, disciplines, chants, yogas and religious study. They learn to
be secure through devotion in home and temple, wearing traditional dress,
bringing forth love of the Divine and preparing the mind for serene
*2. Holy Days*
The dear children are taught to participate in Hindu festivals and holy days
in the home and temple. They learn to be happy through sweet communion with
God at such auspicious celebrations. Utsava includes fasting and attending
the temple on Monday or Friday and other holy days.
*3. Virtuous Living*
The dear children are taught to live a life of duty and good conduct. They
learn to be selfless by thinking of others first, being respectful of
parents, elders and swamis, following divine law, especially ahimsa, mental,
emotional and physical noninjury to all beings. Thus they resolve karmas.
*4. Pilgrimage *
The dear children are taught the value of pilgrimage and are taken at least
once a year for darshan of holy persons, temples and places, near or far.
They learn to be detached by setting aside worldly affairs and making God,
Gods and gurus life's singular focus during these journeys.
*5. Rites of Passage*
The dear children are taught to observe the many sacraments which mark and
sanctify their passages through life. They learn to be traditional by
celebrating the rites of birth, name-giving, head-shaving, first feeding,
ear-piercing, first learning, coming of age, marriage and death.
Five Parenting Guidelines
BEHAVIORAL PRINCIPLES TO LIVE BY TO NURTURE CHILDREN AND TEACH THEM,
VERBALLY AND BY EXAMPLE, TO FOLLOW THE PATH OF DHARMA
*1. Good Conduct*
Loving fathers and mothers, knowing they are the greatest influence in a
child's life, behave the way their dear children should when adults. They
never anger or argue before young ones. Father in a dhoti, mother in a sari
at home, all sing to God, Gods and guru.
*2. Home Worship*
Loving fathers and mothers establish a separate shrine room in the home for
God, Gods and guardian devas of the family. Ideally it should be large
enough for all the dear children. It is a sacred place for scriptural study,
a refuge from the karmic storms of life.
*3. Talking about Religion*
Loving fathers and mothers speak Vedic precepts while driving, eating and
playing. This helps dear children understand experiences in right
perspective. Parents know many worldly voices are blaring, and their dharmic
voice must be stronger.
*4. Continuing Self-Study*
Loving fathers and mothers keep informed by studying the Vedas, Agamas and
sacred literature, listening to swamis and pandits. Youth face a world they
will one day own, thus parents prepare their dear children to guide their
own future progeny.
*5. Following a Spiritual Preceptor*
Loving fathers and mothers choose a preceptor, a traditional satguru, and
lineage to follow. They support their lineage with all their heart, energy
and service. He in turn provides them clear guidance for a successful life,
material and religious.
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