The Hindu religion is so old that there is not any actual written record of the beginnings, but it is believed that the faith originated in the Indus Valley, now Pakistan The Vedic-Hindu religion is one of polytheism (supporting numerous gods but with one supreme existence, Brahman) and also includes the belief in reincarnation, which is defined as a continuous cycle of birth, death and rebirth presided over by karma. Simply put, there is no beginning and no end to the universe just repeated cycles.
The world view of the Vedic-Hindu religion as it emerged from ancient India was principal based and to get a better understanding we can review Vedic literatures such as: The Vedas, The Upanishads and The Bhagavad-Gita.
1. The Vedas considered the oldest religious scriptures in the world (1900 – 1400 BCE) are a collection of mantras and hymns that were passed down through written (Sanskrit) texts dating back 2,500-5,000 years ago. The Vedas are characterized by rituals and ceremonies that help to transcend the limitations of the mind. The 4 Vedic texts known today: Rig Veda (knowledge of praise), Yajur-Veda (knowledge of sacrifice), Sama-Veda (knowledge of chants), Atharva-Veda (knowledge of Atharvan – a legendary sage of Hinduism). The Vedas became the cultural authority for new migrants to South Asia. (Tignor)
2. The Upanishads, the core Hindu scriptures and part of the Vedas, educate on the importance of Braham (universal spirit) and the Atman (individual self). The Upanishads not only influenced Hindu philosophy, they were/are one of the most influential writings ever by creating cultural unity. (Tignor 168) The Upanishads also introduced the Six Fold Yoga Path which utilizes the combined disciplines of Pranayama (breath control)-Pratyahara (withdrawal from senses)-Dhyana (meditation)-Dharana (concentration)-Tarka (contemplation)-Samadhi (self realization). Other disciplines of Hindu philosophy are path of action and reaction (karma), the path of knowledge of the scriptures and the path of devotion.
3. Bhagavad-Gita (Song of God) is the sixth book in a series of eighteen included in “The Mahabharata” a Hindu epic poem. It recounts the story of the Vedic people and serves as a guide of direction in Hindu philosophy, it builds on the Upanishads. Studying of the Bhagavad Gita allows one to come to a point of realization and self awareness. In fact it is read daily by many devout Hindus. The Bhagavad Gita has literally thousands of translations available, the book I happen to own is An Ordinary Life Transformed by Reverend Stephanie Rutt. The Bhagavad Gita is the story of feuding cousins: of course there is one good (Arjuna) and one evil. Arjuna is guided by Lord Krishna (supreme wisdom/god) in the battle of emotional discomposure. It is a story of human conditions; duty, actions vs. reactions (karma), devotion and wisdom. It is no mistake that these are also the world views of the ancient Vedic-Hindu religion.
Of course these are very general over views of the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita but each has had a profound impact on Indian history, culture and philosophy creating a unity of spirituality and point of view of the ancient Vedic-Hindu religion. I mention them because I feel they also give us a good understanding of the values and world views of the Vedic-Hindu people. Hinduism, the oldest religion now has approximately 800 million followers and over time has evolved into more of a way of life than a religion for many followers.
As usual comments and corrections accepted……….