Hinduism is the oldest religion of immeasurable diversity and infinite adaptability. It is one of the major living religious traditions of the world.
Hinduism, in simple terms, can be described as 'a way of life'. A way of life that consists of the religious, spiritual, cultural, moral, ethical and every other aspect of life; the way of life that allows the human beings to enjoy all the pleasures of life which, at the same time, guides them to follow the righteous path to attain salvation; the way of life that enables all living things to live harmoniously with one another and with nature; the way of life that comprises a medium, an instrument or an integrated scheme of life by which one is uplifted spiritually or in short, the way of life, which can be rightly defined as Sanatana (eternal) Dharma (laws of nature).
The vastness and variety of interpretation of Sanatana Dharma has led to an extensive literature and a great variety of customs, traditions and practices over many centuries. Sanatana Dharma has been adapted to the changes in time, differences in geographical and climatic conditions, changes in the social structures and human wants and needs. This has created an infinitely varied, diverse culture. However, in spite of this diversity, there is a certain unity among all the various doctrines and schools of thought because their basic principles are based on the 'eternal laws of nature'.
A very brief account of the core beliefs of Hinduism is given below to explain the journey of the soul (atman) through the cycle of life and death.
Atman, law of karma and reincarnation
The greatest contribution of Hindu Philosophy is the concept of Atman or Self. The Atman is believed to be immortal and eternal; it is divine, has no birth or death; it is of pure consciousness and pure bliss. Union of the soul with a body is called birth and severance of the link between the body and the soul is called the death. It is a commonly accepted belief that only the body that dies and not the soul. The soul is immortal and it continues its journey.
The passing of the soul through a succession of births is called reincarnation (punarjanma). The transmigration of the soul into another body is governed by our won actions (Karma). This means that the future of soul is determined by our own past and present actions. Based on our Karma, our own action - not that of God or Devil, we have pleasure and pain in our lives. Whilst experiencing the fruits of it past actions, the soul is free to act in each birth and can determine its future. Through the experiences of these pleasures and pains and by adopting a proper course of action, we improve ourselves birth after birth until we realize our real Self i.e. Atman.
The journey of life
The Hindu view on the purpose and way of life has evolved over thousands of years and presents an outlook of life, which synthesizes both spiritualism and materialism. This practical doctrine is based on an understanding of the desires of human nature, but at the same time it acknowledges the ultimate reality that the physical body is only transient.
According to Hinduism there are four objectives [Purusharthas], which every person would generally aspire for. These four objectives are accomplished at four different stages of life.
The four objectives are (1) duties [Dharma], (2) material prosperity [Artha], (3) enjoyment [ Kama ] and (4) salvation [Moksha]. These four objectives are carried out and achieved at the four (stages [Ashrams] of every human life: (1) student life [Brahmacharya] (2) Family life [Grihastha] (3) retirement [Vanaprastha] (4) renunciation [Sanyasa]. In the Brahmacharya stage one learns about the duties and the in Grihastha stage one carries out one's duty towards family, society and the nation, enjoying the pleasures of life and working towards material prosperity. At the Vanaprastha stage one slowly detaches himself/herself from worldly life and start to practice mediation and learn to live a simpler and less complicated life. In the Sanyasa stage, which is the final stage of life, one must prepare for the ultimate objective of attaining salvation from this cycle of life and death.
Hinduism provides clear directions to accomplish the objectives of life through 40 different guided directions or sacraments [Sanskaras]. Of the forty prescribed sanskaras there are sixteen widely carried out in the four stages of life in order to purify, refine and develop the body, the mind and the intellect?
After birth (Namkarn etc.)
Namkaran is the traditional Hindu Indian practice of naming the baby child. Nama literally means 'name' and karana means 'to make, to effect'.
The Namkaran is held at home or in a temple where the father of the child whispers the name in the child's right ear usually after 2 or 3 weeks of the child's birth. The ceremony usually takes place on the twelfth day after birth. Choosing a Hindu name is a difficult process. Friends and relatives are invited celebrate the namkaran ceremony.
According to the Grihyasutras, there are 5 requisites to selecting a name for the baby. This is the name that the child is will be called. It depends on the culture, religion & education of the family, and should be auspicious.
Puja is believed to be derived from the Dravidian (see Dasas) word 'pu-chey', (flower action) or worship with the offering of flowers. Some trace it to the Dravidian word 'pusu', to anoint or smear with sandalwood paste or vermilion.
The term puja is now used to include all forms of ceremonial worship, ranging from the simple daily offerings of flowers, fruit, leaves, rice, sweetmeats and water to the deities in homes or temples, to the sacrifices of goats and chickens in temples dedicated to Kali, Durga and other female deities. This rite is performed, in its bloodless form, by all pious Hindus at least once a day.
There are three kinds of pujas: great, intermediate and small.
Further information about the Hindu Faith