Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Introduction to Hinduism, 1

I’m reworking an “Introduction to Hinduism” handout, the kind of material that can be used in the World Religions class, but also in a church class setting. What follows is the first half of an outline. Most of this material comes from Dr. Dana Sawyer, Professor of Religion at the Maine College of Art, Portland, ME. The other source is the chapter on Hinduism in Warren Matthews, World Religions.
- - - - - -
1. Unlike Buddhism and Christianity, Hinduism has no particular founder.

2. The origins of Hinduism disappear into pre-history. According to prevailing theory, what came to be called Hinduism began sometime around 1800 B.C. Aryans migrating to modern- day NW India brought with them their religion, which is reflected in ancient Vedic texts. They met the spirituality indigenous to the Indus Valley Civilization. The blending of these two viewpoints was, evidently, the beginning of Hinduism.

3. For Hindus, the purpose of life is to find out the true nature of the self. That is, in Hinduism the big question is, “Who are you?”

4. Hindus believe that we reincarnate lifetime after lifetime because we are in ignorance (avidya) of our true nature. Knowledge of who we are will bring moksha, liberation.

5. Hinduism postulates two levels of the self: (a) There is the transitory self, bound by time and space and made up of the body, the mind, emotions, thoughts, and memories. (b) Underlying and implicit to the relative, transient self is an infinite, unbounded, eternal and unchanging self called Atman. The Atman, or higher self, was never more and never dies. It does not change because it is absolute according to its very nature.

6. The Atman is the essence of every human being. But this differs markedly from, say, the Islamic concept of the soul. For Hindus there is not a multiplicity of infinite Atmans. (In Islam, there are as many souls as there are people). Instead, there is one world soul at the base of all individual consciousness.


Anonymous said...

Few suggestions
1)The earliest evidence for elements of the Hindu faith dates back as far as 3000 BCE.(
The Aryan theory is challenged by modern scholars.
2) It is not "Who are you?" - Who am I?
You don't need to search much the whole teaching of Hinduism is embodied in Tat Tvam Asi - That Thou Art.
from Abhi (
I had to post this message anonymous as beta blogger is not accepting comment

Dee O'Neil Andrews said...

That's interesting. It's more than I already knew about Hinduism. Are you going to be bringing us summaries of other world religions, too, Frank? Like Buddhism, maybe?

Jim Martin said...

So glad you are doing this series. Very helpful and insightful. I look forward to the next.

Frank Bellizzi said...

Abhi, thank you for your feedback.

It seems that Hindu origins go back to time immemorial. The theory that says that Aryans migrated from the NW to the Indus River Valley where they met and blended with "Dravidians" who were indigenous to that area is the only theory of Hindu origins that I've read. But I'm certainly interested in hearing other takes on the historical origins of Hinduism. So I appreciate the web addresses you have left.

I didn't completely understand the second part of your comment, mainly, I'm sure, because of my inexperience with Hinduism itself.

Dee, yes, for several world religions I would like to put together introductory material that would fit on one or two pages. That way, my students can have the basic, have-to-know-this information in one spot. I would want the same sheet to serve as the material for one or two class meetings in a church setting.

Jim, thanks for your encouragement.

Wade Tannehill said...

Thanks Frank,

Since I did not know anything about Hinduism before reading this post, the post now states everything I know about Hinduism. You have made me curious to learn more. Thanks for the starting place.

The Hindu said...

Dear Frank,

That was nice, neutral introduction to Hinduism. I am a student of religions (I should call it spirituality, considering that the word religion has become synonymous with rituals) and have compared the highest teachings in them. In principle, there is no difference. I can show how the Genesis and the Ten commandments can be found in Hinduism, for example.

I hope we all realize that we are all fellow travellers towards the one Supreme being and can help each other in this journey.