Hindu culture is very diverse. There are many different facets to their religious beliefs. Many of the beliefs are so varying, they differ from person to person. The most agreed upon beliefs within Hinduism appear to be the four life objectives, such as the Dharma and Moksa. These objective allow individuals to set goals in order to stay moral and one day attain enlightenment in hopes of escaping Samsara, or physical life. Karma, familiar to many Westerners, is also a belief in Hindu culture. It helps explain an individual’s current situation by examining their past behavior. Furthermore, it can help explain how their next life will be based on their current actions. It is a merit system, based on consequences and rewards. There are many other beliefs and customs observed in the Hindu religion; while they are far removed from other religions, they are primarily about moral centeredness and obtaining inner peace, which is something everybody can learn from.
The Hindu people have a vibrant, rich culture. Believing in many things that seem strange to individuals with different backgrounds, their religion affords them the opportunity to spend a lifetime cultivating a spiritual center and enlightenment. The human life objectives offered by Hinduism help followers obtain moral objectives, while ensuring they stay centered ethically, materialistically, physically, and spiritually. Karma helps explain to followers why good or bad things may happen to them, and why they should strive to lead good lives now, in hopes of breaking away from Samsara. The beliefs in god vary greatly from one follower to the next; though it is universally evident the Hindu religion does not place as much emphasis on a god or gods as it does on spiritual oneness and enlightenment. Though their customs are often Westernized and misunderstood, at their core, the present a solid foundation for any individual to live by.
Human Life Objectives
Hinduism centers on four proper goals to maintain human life. They are the Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha. These teachings ensure Hindus have a peaceful and sent her life. They are otherwise known as the Purusarthas, as stated in Maxine Johnson’s, “The Nature of Belief Systems .
In Hinduism, the Dharma is known as a code of ethics. It is a righteousness Hindus must follow. The Dharma is also considered the primary goal for humans to follow in Hinduism, as stated in Julius Lipner’s, “Hindus: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices .” The Dharma includes many codes of conduct that allow Hindus to understand the way in which they should act to maintain a proper manner. All mannerisms are in accordance the spirituality that makes the universe, as well as the life in it, referred to as rta . The Dharma includes the laws, codes of conduct, duties, virtues, etc. that should be followed by each Hindu. The Dharma also includes religious beliefs, moral beliefs, as in the difference between right and wrong, moral obligations, and the actions that enable society to function in an orderly way. Sikata Banirjee stated in, “Make Me A Man!: Masculinity, Hinduism, and Nationalism in India,” that not only Hindus, but all humans, as well as animals, must accept the way of rta if the universe hoped to flow cohesively . Religious texts tell Hindus nothing is more powerful or important to the religion than the Dharma, as it allows the weak to overcome the strong, and the truth to be heard.
Artha is a belief in Hindu culture, according to Ananda K. Coomaraswamy’s, “Hinduism and Buddism,” that defines the Hindus’ wealth, as well as their economic and sociological livelihood. It speaks about pursuing wealth to become rich, as well as to survive and meet one’s obligations. The Artha is reserved only for material wealth, which is not expanded upon extensively in the Hindu religion, as much of it is centered upon spirituality, nature, and nature. However, the Artha acknowledges the material guidance the world offers individuals, stating a “means of life,” including all physical and material amenities individuals want to acquire in order to feel comfortable with their status . While the belief exists in Hinduism, it does not give each Hindu license to become greedy for material things; proper pursuit of the Artha is important for balance in Hindu culture.
The Kama, popularly linked to sensual pleasure even in Western culture, refers to desire, pleasure, and enjoyment of aesthetics, as well as love and physical affection within the Hindu culture . In some cases, the Kama does is not associated with physical affection, or the popular Kama Sutra, which is a Westernized version of the many expressions of the Hindu culture and its beliefs, according to Andrew J. Nicholson’s, “Unifying Hinduism: Philosophy and Identity in Indian Intellectual History .” On the contrary, Kama can also mean an affectionate bond between individuals that is merely spiritual, or platonic. Regardless of the type of bond, Hinduism belief and culture considers the pursuit of Kama an essential part of human life. It is a worthy goal all Hindus are encouraged so seek.
Moksa and Moksha
The Moska, otherwise known as the Mukti, is second in the Hindu religion and belief system only to the Dharma . It is a belief in the liberation from one’s suffering or earthly sorrows; it also represents the important cycle of rebirth in the Hindu culture, as stated by Ross Floyd in, “The Meaning of Life in Hinduism and Buddhism .” The freeing of one’s self from earthly sorrows is thought to facilitate the rebirth process, allowing one to achieve moksha in the afterlife. Some Hindus believe this release can be achieved in physical life if the belief initiatives are in perfect alignment and the individual is able to find completely centered bliss within the core of their soul .
Moksha is more recognizable in the Western world under the name Nirvana. While Westerners tend to believe it is a state one reachers after intense meditation, Hindus understand it is much more involved. Moksha is reached when one realizes the eternal spiritual relationship with god, unselfishness, knowledge of the Inner Self, and the unity of all existence as a necessity to facilitate said Moksha . These realizations combined are thought to bring such an intense state of inner mental peace to an individual, Hindus believe one would lose all detachment from material goods, as well as material desires. The cycle of rebirth is then finished as the individual is free from earthly sorrows which are inherently thought to be caused by the material wants and needs of the individual who is unrealized of these liberations . The sect of Hindu culture believing such enlightenment can only be attained after death still spend their entire lives preparing their souls, which they believe to be unbreakable, for the journey of rebirth after death, as they typically have more respect for their ethereal self.
The several different schools of thought in Hinduism offer different definitions for Moshka, what will happen, and when it will happen. For instance, dualistic Hindus believe once they have attained enlightenment or peace, separating their soul from their physical being, they will spend the rest of eternity in heaven as an ethereal being . Others believe after enlightenment is attained, the soul and self become one, and the individual is complete. Theistic Hindus believe Moksha is Samsara’s liberation. All others believe Moksha is attainable in physical life, dealing more in psychology than in death and the afterlife . This concept is more akin to the Western ideals surround Nirvana, as it requires extensive meditation in an attempt to achieve psychological transcendence above one’s on consciousness. Essentially, regardless of the school of thought, Moksha represents the liberation of the mind. Hindus attempt to free themselves from material, as well as physical restraints in order to attain a higher sense of order within themselves. The theory assumes achieving Moksha would unlock the individual’s true potential, allowing them to be a “full person .
Karma is another ideal that has been twisted by the rest of the world, primarily Western traditions, though its origin lies in Hinduism. Literally translating to “deed,” karma refers to actions that are ethical or unethical in nature, as well as the idea that good and bad deeds have consequences . The idea is explained by using an individual’s current situation and explaining it using the individual’s actions in the past. For example, if a man is experiencing a lot of bad luck that is seemingly unwarranted, an examination of his past deeds may show he abused a child or stole money from a friend. If a man is experiencing a rash of good luck, a similar examination may show he lended money to somebody in need, or helped a friend without asking for anything in return. Karma is, essentially, the universe’s way of paying the individual back for their actions. The energy we put out into the atmosphere will eventually come back to us. Hinduism believes this, but also believes our current situations may be due to things we did in a past life. Taking it a step further, Hindus also believe what we do in this life may impact our placement in the next. If we were mean or ungrateful in our previous life, it could explain why things are inadequate for us not. Similarly, if we are mean or ungrateful now, it could explain why we would be reincarnated into a dung beetle. This cycle of reincarnation is referred to as Samsara, and it is, again, what some Hindus believe Moksha will free them from . Lasting happiness and serenity is said to be granted to those liberated from Samsara or, in other words, physical life. The Hindu religious belief teaches followers their future is a result of their current efforts, which encourages them to behave.
God, Conceptually and Otherwise
The Hindu people are complex concerning the subect of god. They range from atheism to polytheism, and everything in between . In many cases, the belief in god could depend on the individual, rather than the context in which the religion was taught. The Hindu’s “Creation Hymn” found in the Rig Veda is the earliest confirmation the world has that the religion believes in metaphysical beings . It speculates on the universe’s creations, how many gods there are, and questions if they are responsible for the universe or life in the universe. The “Creation Hymn” sounds as though early Hindus were skeptical about the idea of a god, or gods. It refers to the One Truth, which as now been interpreted to mean Hindus once believed there to only be one god, with more emphasis placed on the processes of nature than the actions of metaphysical, powerful beings.
Despite the sketchy views on whether there is one god or many, Hindus believe unequivocally that every living creature is in possession of a soul, or true self. They believe it to be eternal, and many believe there is a heaven wherein the soul will inhabit should Samsara ever be escaped . Rather than placing so much emphasis on pleasing god in an effort to get into heaven, as many other religions do, some Hindu schools of thought demand the soul be tended to internally and externally in an effort to appease the true self; this is the only way one is thought to achieve access to heaven . One such belief is to recognize the soul within one’s self is the same as the supreme soul, or that which dwells within every other living thing. This realization allows self-realization and ultimate enlightenment to be attained, as the individual understands they are one with everything around them. Though a belief in god is present, there is nothing speaking to a god’s part in moral beliefs, actions, or access into heaven. This is all up to the individual. Other schools of Hinduism, however, do worship gods, the most well recognized of which being Vishnu and Krishna . While the gods are responsible for different things in an individual’s life, they still do not hold the same sway as the gods in other religions, allowing Hindus a sense of freedom unattainable in Catholicism or Islam.
In sum, the Hindu culture offers a variety of religious beliefs and customs. Due to the varyinng schools of though, it sometimes appears to be a different religion from one follower to the next. The human life objectives, such as Dharma and Kama, allow individuals to better themselves, bringing them closers to enlightenment. Karma explains current states of being, as well as why good behavior will pay off until one is able to escape Samsara. The belief in a god or gods is difficult to comprehend, as it is constantly shifting between followers. However, regardless of the individual, it is clear Hinduism puts more emphasis on the individual and psychological enlightenment than pleasing a god. Despite religious differences, Hindu’s customs are valuable and there is something everybody can find valuable.
Banirjee, Sikata. Make Me a Man!: Masculinity, Hinduism, and Nationalism in India. New York: SUNY, 2012. Book.
Coomaraswamy, Ananda K. Hinduism and Buddhism. Golden Elixer Press: Chicago, 2011. Book.
Johnson, Maxine. "The nature of belief systems: Class activity ." Culture Scope (2012): 38-40. Article.
Lipner, Julius. Hindus: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices. London: Routledge, 2012. Book.
Nicholson, Andrew J. Unifying Hinduism: Philosophy and Identity in Indian Intellectual History. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013. Book.
Ross, Floyd H. The Meaning of Life in Hinduism and Buddhism. London: Routledge, 2013. Book.