Hinduism is the oldest religion in the world by a long shot. Its earliest origins are unknown and are speculated to be around 10000-5000 BC, which in itself is a long period of time. Hence, it is also often said that Hinduism is the only religion that can’t be traced to the days of its origins. It is also a fact that there is no single founder of the religion and there isn’t any single book or doctrine that governs it either and it is because of that reason why Hinduism is not called a religion by many. There are, however, some excellent texts which have survived over centuries to be known to the world as the books of the Hindus. Hinduism, as a religion, is unique in many ways and there are scores of interesting things to be learned about it. Let us look at some of those facts.
Although there are no set scriptures for Hinduism, there are a great many scriptures that have been passed down through various media over thousands of years. A large number of text is not written anywhere and is often known as Smriti, which literally means remembered text, and the written text is known as Shruti, which means revealed texts. Hinduism has given great books to the world such as the Bhagwad Gita, Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Vedas.
According to the different doctrines of the Hindu religion, everything in the universe has a soul, which can never be destroyed or killed but takes on different external forms. Death is only a transformation according to many Hindu texts and beliefs.
The concept of reincarnation is a very important concept for Hindus. The fact that the soul is immortal makes the concept of reincarnation an essential thing in the religion. There are great tales of even Gods taking on the form of man to bring about great changes in the world order at times. The soul or the aatma goes through an endless cycle of rebirth, which also means eternal suffering.
Moksha or salvation is a central concept in many religions of the world. The possibility of attaining freedom from the cycle of life and death is opened up by moksha. It is said that this is the ultimate goal in the life of a Hindu – to be free from the cycle of life and death and to merge into the single entity known as the universe itself.
The universe was created by a Brahman and the Brahman expands within the brahmaand (universe). The cosmic objects are often looked up at as the Gods themselves, and the universe as an all-inclusive manifestation of energy within which we reside as different forms.
The division of Gods in Hinduism is very difficult to understand for non-Hindu people as there seem to be an endless array of them across the universe. However, it is also said that they are all made of the same Supreme Being known as the one God. The most prominent among all the Gods is the Holy Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Brahma is the creator who created the universe and creates everything that exists in it. Vishnu is the preserver of life and the universe itself, and Shiva, or Mahesh, is the destroyer of everything.
One of the four aspects of living in Hinduism, dharma or righteousness dictates that the purpose of life is to lead a righteous existence. Many people believe this to be the central concept around Hinduism, which is true to a great extent. Dharma is the law of morality and spirituality which defines how one should lead their lives, and it is also considered as the very foundation of life itself. It is also often known as the law of being without which living beings cease to exist.
Karma is also one of the aspects of living in Hinduism. It is one of the most difficult things to fully understand as it is the endless cycle of action that permeates through the life of any soul in Hinduism. It is also one of the central concepts of the Hindu religion. It is the law of cause and effect and also the one law that sets human beings apart from any other creature according to Hinduism. It simply says that every action we take produces an equal and opposite reaction which means that for every single cause there is an effect which also determines the worthiness of a soul. Good karma is the only way to attain freedom from the cycle of life and death.
Hinduism has many Gods. In fact there are too many to count in most cases and this can confuse a person who is not familiar with the concept of having so many Gods and yet having a single unifying god which encompasses and contains everything. Although the concepts of Gods vary from one sect to another, almost everyone acknowledges the existence of one God. In all, there are around 330 million Gods in Hinduism.
The Vedas are the defining scriptures of Hinduism in many ways. Although the Vedas are given a lot of importance, there are no written texts that could be called the Vedas but they exist by word of mouth as the knowledge is transferred by oral traditions even today. The Vedas are also the oldest of all Sanskrit literature and are said to be directly handed down by the gods to men. The four Vedas contain a lot of scientific, philosophical knowledge in ways that modern science and philosophy has failed to comprehend fully.