Hinduism is the oldest religion in the world with over 1 billion followers in the world today. We can trace back its remote existence right to the murky dawn of recorded time, as far back as 10,000BCE, based upon archaeological finds from the areas surrounding the Indus Delta. However, the religion cannot be conclusively traced to any exclusive community of people, despite its universal identity as an Indian religion. One must remember that, after the African continent, this region is the secondary launch pad for the dispersion of humanity, with the Dravidians and the Aryans seeding areas that we know as Southern and Western Europe, the Middle East, East and South Asia and North Asia. The term Hindu itself is relatively recent phenomena, popularized by Western scholars for its conjectured birthplace in the Indus Valley. The classical reference for this religion is Sanatana Darma, The Eternal Principal.
Hinduism is probably the most misunderstood religion in the world, with numerous misconceptions, assumptions and outright misinterpretation overshadowing the main tenets of the religion. Attempts to link social laws and pagan idolatries to it have further obfuscated it, hiding its core spirituality behind simplistic ritual worship. Corruption in form and style is also prevalent among its adherent, not surprising considering that religions generally adapt, evolve and devolve according to local customs, politics and economic forces, more so after being in existence for 12,000 years.
Current knowledge of Hinduism primarily based on the following shastras, written originally in Sanskrit.
A collection of hymns written around 6,500BCE, intended mainly as an educational and spiritual strengthening tool. However, this has degenerated to simple prayers for normal worshipping by Hindus the world over.
A massive tome (twice the length of the Bible, Quran and Torah combined!), it is a literary masterpiece with over 110,000 stanzas and 1.8 million words in total. Literally translated as The Great Story of The Bharatas (a synonym for the Indian people), it poetically narrates the history of the land with tales of valor and chivalry, deceit and immorality, warriors and demons, magical artifacts and celestial interventions; a theme that was echoed by subsequent great works of literature, the most notable being Homer's trilogy of Ulysses, Iliad and Odyssey.
A more compact version of the Mahabharata, The Journey of Rama is nevertheless equally influential with its symbolism and metaphors. There are a minority who considers Ramayana to be the more authoritative over the former.
The Upanishads, or Sitting Around The Mystic, is the original, most extensive and the most in depth philosophical examination of humanity that the world has ever seen. Its influence on the concept of ethics, individual and community ethos and spirituality is evident everywhere we look, despite being written between 6000-4000 BCE. The Greeks and Romans philosophical leanings and its effect on the Western world have been credited to the Upanishads by a growing number of scholars.
The Songs of God, a standalone segment from the Mahabharata, represents Hinduism in all its form and principle. Replete with sharp analysis, a well-balanced view of life and strong philosophical cogency, the Gita has been embraced by literati and professionals of various creeds and denominations as required reading. To the Hindu's however, it is the definitive, bible of sorts, guide to Darma and attainment of eternal bliss.
A great war was about to commence between the virtuous Pandavas and the immoral Kauravas, royal cousins, on the plains of Kuruksetra in 3137 BCE. The battle was the culmination of a long succession dispute between Prince Yudhistira of the Pandavas and Prince Duryodhana of the Kauravas.
Prince Yudhistira's younger brother, the mighty and legendary warrior Prince, Arjuna, stood between the two opposing armies, accompanied by his nephew Krishna, who was manning his war chariot. Arjuna began to weep upon seeing his family and loved ones split over both sides of the battlefield, fearing for their safety in the coming battle. That Arjuna, whose courage was beyond question, the slayer of demons and protector of the innocent, have seen it fit to cry piqued the interest of Krishna. Thus begun their discourse, where Krishna eventually revealed himself to be the manifestation of the Supreme Godhead, in a display of celestial splendor. The Bhagavad Gita narrates their discourse and it has become the symbol of Hinduism itself.
Krishna explained that in the beginning, there was an unnamed consciousness that was everything and at the same time, was part of everything else. Humans named Him Vishnu, and He extended His consciousness to create an entity known as Brahma, whose task was to populate the material universe with the creation of vessels for the eternal souls that exist within Vishnu. The entity Brahma lives on a 100-year cycle, where his day is equivalent to 8.5 billion of our years. At the end of the cycle, after over 300 trillion years, another extended consciousness, known as Shiva, is assigned to wipe everything out of existence and lay the grounds for Brahma's next cycle of creation.
In that intervening 300 trillion years period, souls that are part of Vishnu were released into the karmic cycle and deposited in the vessels of the material world, with the single objective of remembering Him and thus, being rewarded with the blissful return to him, to be eternally in the embrace of the ultimate consciousness - as a friend, disciple, lover, child, siblings or even a parent. Each soul's relationship with the Creator is on an individual level, unique. However, upon arrival in the material plane, souls lose their cosmic memory and remain trapped in the samsara, owing to karmic repercussion of their decisions.
Liberation from this cycle can take on many forms; however, the most direct method follows from the understanding of the main tenets of Hinduism and its application in the daily life.
The concept behind the migration of the soul, its journey and its state of being. The cycle begins with the eternal existence of a soul in the spiritual plane, its entry to the material world, its quest to live according to Darmic laws, the eventual death and the re-entry into the spiritual plane, where the cycle starts again, ad infinitum.
Darma signifies the principles of ethics and morality of the living in attaining material and spiritual victory, as outlined in the Bhagavad Gita and the divinely inspired Upanishad's and Vedic literature.
The natural and cosmic reaction to one's decisions in the material plane, determining their continuing participation in Samsara or returning to their spiritual cradle
The ultimate aim of any follower of Hinduism. Glimpsing the Creator, understanding the truth and returning to its embrace. There are stories of devotees who died peacefully with a smile upon their face after glimpsing the memory of their love of the Creator.
The concept of hell and heaven does not exist in Hinduism. The soul's separation from Vishnu (the Creator) and being perpetually trap in the material plane is considered the ultimate punishment, the depravation of sensing the Supreme Soul. In between cycles of rebirths, our soul yearns and longs to return back to the embrace of the Creator.
Hinduism believes in the existence of intelligence life form other than humans, as the entity Brahma created over 8.8 million types of life in the universe.
There are over 30 passages from the Bhagavad Gita that bears similarity to those in the Bible and Quran.
Chapter 10, Verse 20, Gita: I am the beginning, the middle and the end of things
Revelation 1.8, New Test : I am Alpha, Omega, the beginning and the ending
Conceived of a virgin mother, Devaki
His adopted father was a wood craftsman
The King of the Land ordered the murder of all male children in the Land, after a prophesy revealed that one of the newborns would slay him in the future. The adopted father followed a voice from the heavens, guiding them to safety.
His birth was witnessed by celestial beings and sages of the land and heralded by lights from the heaven
Krishna, a manifestation of Godhood, was foretold will come to provide salvation for humanity
In each cycle of the samsara, the soul's rebirth is governed by karma. As such, a virtuous life will lead to a higher plane of existence and vice versa. Progressive climbs upon the material plane will eventually transform the soul into a significant presence in the material plane, leading to some being conceived to be demigods by lesser mortals.