12 Things You Need to Know About Hinduism - Hindu American Foundation (2023)

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1) Hinduism is at least 5000 years old

Hinduism is one of a few ancient religions to survive into modern times. The collection of traditions that compose modern-day Hinduism have developed over at least the past 5000 years, beginning in the Indus Valley region (inthe nations of modern India and Pakistan), in what was the largest civilization of the ancient world. There is no ‘founder’ of Hinduism, nor single prophet or initial teacher. Hindus believe their religion has no identifiable beginning or end and, as such, often refer to it as Sanatana Dharma (the ‘Eternal Way’). As for the name itself, ‘Hindu’ is a word first used by Persians, dating back to the 6th century BCE, to describe the people living beyond the Indus River. Initially it did not have a specific religious connotation. The religious meaning of the term did not develop for roughly another 1000 years.

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2) The Vedas are one of Hinduism’s many primary religious texts

Hinduism does not have a single holy book that guides religious practice. Instead, Hinduism has a large body of spiritual texts that guide devotees. First among these are the Vedas (“knowledge” in Sanskrit), a collection of hymns on the divine forces of nature presenting key Hindu teachings. The Vedas, considered to be realized (revealed) eternal truths, were passed down via an oral tradition for thousands of years before being written down. Hindu philosophy was further developed in the Upanishads. This philosophy was restated in the Puranas, the Ramayana, and the Mahabharata (the world’s longest epic poem), as well as the Bhagavad Gita. Countless life stories, devotional poetry, and commentaries by sages and scholars have also contributed to the spiritual understanding and practice of Hindus.

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3) Hinduism is one of four ‘Dharmic’ or ‘Indic’ traditions

Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism can be referred to as the “Dharmic” or “Indic” traditions. The Dharma traditions share a broadly similar worldview, and share many spiritual concepts, such as dharma, karma, samsara, and moksha—though each religion understands and interprets them differently.

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4) Hinduism sees the Divine present in all existence

The deepest single spiritual truth presented through the Vedas is that Brahman (roughly understood in English as ‘the Absolute’ or ‘the Divine’) pervades the entire universe. This divine reality, or its essential nature, is present in all living beings, eternal, and full of bliss. Brahman is understood as the cause of creation, as well as its preservation, and dissolution and transformation, all done in a constant, repeating cycle.

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5) The nature of the Divine is understood in different ways in different lineages

Within Hinduism there is a broad spectrum of understandings about the nature of Brahman. Some Hindus believe that Brahman is infinite and formless, and can be worshipped as such, or in different forms. Other Hindus believe that the Divine is infinite and has a transcendental form. For example, some Vaishnavas believe that the one supreme form is Krishna, while Shaivites call this form Shiva.

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6) Hinduism worships the Divine in both male and female, animal form

Because Hindus believe that Brahman can take form, they accept that there are a variety of ways in which all human beings can connect with the Divine. This universal Divinity is worshipped in both male and female forms. The female form is known as devi, which is a manifestation of shakti (energy or creative force). Other forms combine male and female aspects together and some resemble animals, such as Ganesh or Hanuman. Each of these forms has a symbolic meaning. Hindus have long told stories about these various forms of the Divine to inspire devotion and instill ethical values.

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7) Hindus pray to different aspects of the Divine

Hindus pray to different forms of Brahman as manifestations of particular divine qualities or powers. For example: Ganesh is honored by Hindus (as well as sometimes by followers of other Indian religions) as the remover of obstacles and honored for his great wisdom, and is often invoked before beginning any important task or project; Saraswati is the Goddess associated with learning and wisdom; Lakshmi is worshipped as the Goddess of Prosperity. God is believed to have the taken human form of Rama to show people how to live the path of Dharma. Krishna is said to have come to eradicate evil and protect good. Shiva is worshipped as the lord of time and change. Furthermore, the prominence of each of the aspects of the Divine varies depending on the lineage of the individual Hindu.

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8) Hindus use images in worship to make the infinite comprehensible to the human mind

Hindus represent the various forms of God in consecrated images called murti. A murti can be made of wood, stone, or metals (and sometimes can be naturally occurring, rather than fashioned by human hands). Murti offer a way to visualize and meditate upon Brahman, which due to its infinite nature is believed to be beyond the grasp of the human mind. Murti is often inaccurately translated as ‘idol’ but a more accurate translation is ‘embodiment’. Hindu families conduct their daily worship at home altars and also at temples on special occasions. Many Hindus consult gurus (recognized spiritual teachers and guides) for advice or answers to spiritual questions.

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9) Hindus believe the soul is eternal and is reborn in different forms

Hindus believe that the soul, atman, is eternal. When the physical body dies the soul is reborn in another body. This continuous cycle of life, death, and rebirth is called samsara. Rebirth is governed by karma: the principle that every action (be it physical or mental) has a result, like cause and effect. What an individual experiences in this life is the result of their past actions, either actions they have already taken in this life or actions from a past life. How an individual acts today impacts the future, both in terms of effects felt later on in this life or in a future birth. Though the effects of karma make certain actions easier or more difficult to take, just as our personal habits influence our lives, this is not a deterministic or fatalistic system. Rather, we all have the ability to freely choose how to act in any situation.

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10) Hindus believe we each have four goals in life

Hindus believe we have four goals in life: Dharma (conducting ourselves in a way conducive to spiritual advancement), Artha (the pursuit of material prosperity), Kama (enjoyment of the material world), and Moksha (liberation from the attachments caused by dependence on the material world and from the cycle of birth and rebirth).

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11) There are four paths to Moksha

Hindu scripture outline four primary paths to experience God’s presence and ultimately obtain the fourth goal, moksha. These paths are not mutually exclusive and can be pursued simultaneously depending on an individual’s inclination. These paths are: Karma Yoga (performing one’s duties selflessly), Bhakti Yoga (loving God through devotion and service), Jnana Yoga (study and contemplating sacred texts), and Raja Yoga (physically preparing the body and mind to allow deep meditation and introspection, so as to overcome suffering caused by material attachments).

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12) Hinduism acknowledges the potential for truth in other religions

Hinduism is a deeply pluralistic tradition, promoting respect for other religions and acknowledges the potential for truth in them. Hindus see the varieties of religions and philosophies as different ways to understand and relate to God. This philosophy leads to pluralism within Hinduism and outside of it. The core philosophy of Hinduism is the search for truth, not the specific path taken. A quote from the Vedas that summarizes the Hindu perspective is, “Truth is one; the wise call it by various names.”

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FAQs

What are the 7 concepts of Hinduism? ›

This article explains the Hindu concepts of Atman, Dharma, Varna, Karma, Samsara, Purushartha, Moksha, Brahman, Bhagavan and Ishvara.

What are the 5 most important things in Hinduism? ›

Prominent themes in Hindu beliefs include the four Puruṣārthas, the proper goals or aims of human life; namely, dharma (ethics/duties), artha (prosperity/work), kama (desires/passions) and moksha (liberation/freedom from the passions and the cycle of death and rebirth), as well as karma (action, intent and consequences ...

What are the basic foundations of Hinduism? ›

Hindus believe in the doctrines of samsara (the continuous cycle of life, death, and reincarnation) and karma (the universal law of cause and effect). One of the key thoughts of Hinduism is “atman,” or the belief in soul. This philosophy holds that living creatures have a soul, and they're all part of the supreme soul.

What is not allowed in Hinduism? ›

Animal-derived fats such as lard and dripping are not permitted. Some Hindus do not eat ghee, milk, onions, eggs, coconut, garlic, domestic fowl or salted pork. Alcohol is generally avoided.

Can Hindus drink alcohol? ›

Hinduism. Hinduism does not have a central authority which is followed by all Hindus, though religious texts forbid the use or consumption of alcohol.

What are the 14 worlds in Hinduism? ›

In the Puranas and in the Atharvaveda, there are 14 worlds, seven higher ones (Vyahrtis) and seven lower ones (Pātālas), viz. bhu, bhuvas, svar, mahas, janas, tapas, and satya above and atala, vitala, sutala, rasātala, talātala, mahātala, pātāla and naraka at the bottom.

What are the 9 aspects of Hinduism? ›

The 9 aspects in relation to Hinduism
  • Beliefs.
  • Scared stories.
  • Spaces, places, times and artifacts.
  • Texts.
  • Rituals.
  • Symbols.
  • social structures.
  • Ethics.

What are the 3 main traditions of Hinduism? ›

Hinduism has no central doctrinal authority and many practising Hindus do not claim to belong to any particular denomination or tradition. Four major traditions are, however, used in scholarly studies: Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism and Smartism.

What are the 4 main goals of Hindus life? ›

There are four Purusharthas — artha (wealth), kama (desire), dharma (righteousness) and moksha (liberation). These may be said to be the four goals of all mankind. There are other references in Tamil literature to these goals, elaborated K.

What are the 4 stages of Hinduism? ›

The four stages of life, mainly for the men of the household are (1) sisya, or brahmacarya, (2) Grihastha, (3) vanaprastha, and (4) samnyasa. These categories complement each other, and link with the samskara system, giving a framework for the lives of an orthodox Hindu.

What are the 4 aspects of Hinduism? ›

It is a key concept in Hinduism, and refers to the four proper goals or aims of a human life. The four puruṣārthas are Dharma (righteousness, moral values), Artha (prosperity, economic values), Kama (pleasure, love, psychological values) and Moksha (liberation, spiritual values, self-actualization).

How many wives can a Hindu man have? ›

In the present scenario if someone asks you - is polygamy legal in Hinduism - the answer is NO. A Hindu person cannot marry more than one person legally. He/she cannot keep more than one spouse at the same time. While a person is married to another person, he/she cannot marry another person.

Is dating allowed in Hinduism? ›

Hindu dating places an emphasis on marriage

While many modern Hindus are focusing less on viewing their dating lives as an automatic pathway to marriage, the traditional view still trends towards short courtship periods.

Can Hindus drink coffee? ›

Hinduism, one of the world's oldest religions and one of the largest, is rooted primarily in India, and though tea is an essential component of the Indian culture, coffee is nearly as popular among Hindus.

Can a Hindu eat pork? ›

Hindus, who make up about 80 per cent of India's 1.4 billion people, are not prohibited from eating pork, but many consider the meat impure and this has made restaurants wary about putting it on their menus.

Can Hindus smoke? ›

Hinduism. While not explicitly prohibited in Hinduism, tobacco use is seen as a kind of intoxication, and as such should not be done in public. Vaishnavas of ISKCON, founded by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in 1966, are prohibited from using tobacco.

Can a Hindu marry a non Hindu? ›

Hindu can marry a non-Hindu

A person belonging to Hindu religion can marry a person belonging to the Hindu religion only under the Hindu marriage Act, 1955 (HMA). The HMA is applicable to persons belonging to the Hindu, Budhist, Jaina, or Sikh religion but not applicable to a Christian or Muslim.

What are 33 types of God in Hinduism? ›

These 33 type of gods are 12 Aditya (Anshuman, Aryaman, Indra, Twashta, Dhatu, Parjanya, Pusha, Bhag, Mitra, Varuna, Vivaswana, Vishnu), 8 Vasu (Aap, Dhruva, Soma, Dhar, Anil, Anal, Pratyusha, Prabhasa) and 11 Rudras (Shambhu, Pinaki, Girish, Sthanu, Bharga, Bhava, Sadashiva, Shiva, Hara, Sharva, Kapali).

Are there 33 gods in Hinduism? ›

According to Vedas there are 33 Gods/Devas. These Gods are separated in the following pattern : 12 + 11 + 8 + 2. 12 is the number of Adityas, 11 are the number of Rudras, 8 is the number of Vasus, 1 is Prajapati, the Master of Gods, and 1 is the Supreme Ruler who is very powerful.

What are the 33 million gods of Hinduism? ›

The 33 are: Eight Vasus (deities of material elements) – Dyauṣ "Sky", Pṛthivī "Earth", Vāyu "Wind", Agni "Fire", Nakṣatra "Stars", Varuṇa "Water", Sūrya "Sun", Chandra "Moon"

Is 7 a lucky number in Hinduism? ›

Hinduism. References to the number seven in Hindu knowledge and practice include: Seven worlds in the universe and seven seas in the world in Hindu cosmology. Seven sages or Saptarishi and their seven wives or Sapta Matrka in Hindu mythology.

What is the luckiest number in Hinduism? ›

Religion and the arts

The number 108 is considered sacred by the Dharmic Religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.

What are the 16 rituals in Hinduism? ›

Garbhadhana (conception), Pumsavana (rite celebrating the fetus), Simantonnayana (parting of pregnant woman's hair in 8th month), Jatakarman (rite celebrating the birth), Namakarana (naming the child), Annaprashana (baby's first feeding of solid food), Choulam (baby's first haircut, tonsure), and Upanayana (entry into ...

What is the main God in Hinduism? ›

The Hindu Trimurti consists of Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, and Shiva the Destroyer. Most Hindus are principally devoted to the god Vishnu, the god Shiva, or the Goddess.

What is the Hinduism symbol? ›

The “AUM” symbol (or OM – the symbol in the center) symbolizes the Universe and the ultimate reality. It is the most important Hindu symbols.

Why is 108 a sacred number in Hinduism? ›

According to Vedic cosmology, 108 is the basis of creation, represents the universe and all our existence. In Hinduism, we believe that outer cosmology should mirror our inner spirituality because our ultimate realization is that we are one in the same.

What is unique in Hinduism? ›

The Hinduism religion has a belief of reincarnation, meaning that after one dies they are reborn. A large belief of Hindu's is that karma is a big influence on how positive, or negative, conditions are in an individual's present life.

How many times do Hindu pray a day? ›

Worship at home

Rituals should strictly speaking be performed three times a day. Some Hindus, but not all, worship wearing the sacred thread (over the left shoulder and hanging to the right hip).

What is the main purpose of Hinduism? ›

The aim of Hinduism is to provide the individual with a moral compass to guide virtue and piety. Karma from good deeds in this life will permit the transmigration of the soul to a better existence in the next life, perhaps to a higher caste or, ultimately, the soul's release as a higher spiritual being.

What are the values of Hinduism? ›

Hindus believe that there are four goals in human life: kama, the pursuit of pleasure; artha, the pursuit of material success; dharma, leading a just and good life; and moksha, enlightenment, which frees a person from suffering and unites the individual soul with Brahman.

What is the first goal of Hinduism? ›

Moksha is the ultimate aim in life for Hindus. It means to be saved (salvation). When a Hindu achieves moksha, they break free from the cycle of samsara. Hindus aim to end the cycle of samsara through gaining good karma, which means doing good actions and deeds.

What are the five sins in Hinduism? ›

The five deadly sins in Hinduism known as Mahapatakas are the murder of a Brahmin, stealing gold, drinking alcohol, an illicit relationship with one's teacher's wife, and keeping the company with the before-mentioned sinners (Chandogya Upanishad and Usana Smriti, Chapter 8, Verse 1).

Who is the oldest God in the world? ›

The Mesha Stele bears the earliest known reference (840 BCE) to the Israelite God Yahweh.

How do Hindus live their life? ›

For Hindus, following sanatana dharma means living their lives in such a way that they are always considering their moral choices and making the best decisions they can. They should also worship and pray so that they are thinking about God.

What is Hindu way of life? ›

According to Hinduism, the meaning (purpose) of life is four-fold: to achieve Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha. The first, dharma, means to act virtuously and righteously. That is, it means to act morally and ethically throughout one's life.

What is the Hindu life cycle? ›

In Hinduism, all life goes through birth, life, death, and rebirth and this is known as the cycle of samsara . According to this belief, all living things have an atman , which is a piece of Brahman, or a spirit or soul. It is the atman that moves on into a new body after death.

What was the very 1st religion? ›

Sometimes called the official religion of ancient Persia, Zoroastrianism is one of the world's oldest surviving religions, with teachings older than Buddhism, older than Judaism, and far older than Christianity or Islam. Zoroastrianism is thought to have arisen “in the late second millennium B.C.E.

Who create all the gods? ›

Brahma the creator

In the beginning, Brahma sprang from the cosmic golden egg and he then created good and evil and light and dark from his own person. He also created the four types: gods, demons, ancestors and men, the first of whom was Manu. Brahma then made all the other living creatures upon the earth.

Which is the most powerful religion in the world? ›

Major religious groups
  • Christianity (31.2%)
  • Islam (24.1%)
  • Irreligion (16%)
  • Hinduism (15.1%)
  • Buddhism (6.9%)
  • Folk religions (5.7%)
  • Sikhism (0.3%)
  • Judaism (0.2%)

How many beliefs are there in Hinduism? ›

Our beliefs determine our thoughts and attitudes about life, which in turn direct our actions. By our actions, we create our destiny. Beliefs about sacred matters–God, soul and cosmos–are essential to one's approach to life.

What are the six Hindu beliefs? ›

Hindu philosophy encompasses the philosophies, world views and teachings of Hinduism that emerged in Ancient India which include six systems (shad-darśana) – Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Mimamsa and Vedanta.

What are the 4 ideas of Hinduism? ›

The topic "What do individuals want?" has four solutions in Hinduism. Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha are the Hinduism purposes of life.

What are the 3 basic practices of Hinduism? ›

Karma, samsara, and moksha. Hindus generally accept the doctrine of transmigration and rebirth and the complementary belief in karma.

What are the 4 basic principles of Hinduism? ›

These are dharma, kama, artha and moksha. These provide Hindus with opportunities to act morally and ethically and lead a good life. Throughout their lives, Hindus attempt to end the cycle of samsara and behave in a way that provides good karma in this life and the next.

Who is the leader of Hinduism? ›

Swamis fulfill an essential role in Hindu society and serve as the spiritual and religious leader and minister of his or her Hindu temple or organization.

Can Hindus eat meat? ›

Most Hindus are vegetarian. The cow is viewed as a sacred animal so even meat-eating Hindus may not eat beef. Some Hindus will eat eggs, some will not, and some will also refuse onion or garlic; it is best to ask each individual.

What are the 5 duties of a Hindu? ›

Dharma is linked to career choice, class and family and encourages people to follow the 5 daily duties or debts. These are to worship God, study the scriptures, contemplate the wisdom of ancestors and elders, provide food for all beings in need and serve guests with respect and love.

What are the 3 important values according to the Hindus? ›

These values usually aren't explicitly written out, but are more subtle and are often shown through behavior and religious stories and practices. There are many variations to Hindu values with the following common threads, truth, dharma (DAR-muh), karma (KAR-muh) and the belief in a supreme being.

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