Beliefs of Hinduism
Beliefs are the
building blocks of the mind. 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, man and cosmos—are essential to
one’s approach to enlightenment. But beliefs are not mere matters of
agreement. They are what we value and hold as true. Hindus believe many diverse
things, but there are a few bedrock concepts on which most Hindus concur. The
following nine beliefs, though not exhaustive, offer a simple summary of Hindu
I believe in the divinity of the Vedas,
the world’s most ancient scripture, and venerate the Agamas as equally
revealed. These primordial hymns are God’s word and the bedrock of Sanatana
Dharma, the eternal religion that has neither a beginning nor an end.
believe in a one, all-pervasive Supreme Being who is both immanent and
transcendent, both Creator and the Unmanifest Reality.
I believe that the universe undergoes endless cycles of creation,
believe in karma,
the law of cause and effect by which each individual creates his own destiny by
his thoughts, words and deeds.
I believe that the soul reincarnates,
evolving through many births until all karmas have
been resolved, and moksha, spiritual knowledge and liberation from the cycle of
rebirth, is attained. Not a single soul will be eternally deprived of this
believe that divine beings exist in unseen worlds and that temple worship,
rituals, sacraments as well as personal devotionals create a communion with
these devas and Gods.
believe that a spiritually awakened master, or satguru, is essential to know the
Transcendent Absolute, as are personal discipline, good conduct, purification,
pilgrimage, self-inquiry and meditation.
believe that all
life is sacred, to be loved and revered, and
therefore practice ahimsa, “noninjury.”
believe that no particular religion teaches the only way to salvation above all
but that all genuine religious paths are facets of
God’s Pure Love and Light, deserving tolerance and understanding.
world’s oldest religion, has no beginning—it precedes recorded history. It
has no human founder. It is a mystical religion, leading the devotee to
personally experience the Truth within, finally reaching the pinnacle of
consciousness where man and God are one. Hinduism has four main denominations—Saivism,
Shaktism, Vaishnavism and Smartism. The above nine beliefs form a common ground
for all Hindu sects.
Nine Questions of Hinduism (from the Himalayan Academy)
Back in the
spring of 1990, a group of teenagers from the Hindu Temple of Greater Chicago,
Lemont, sent a formal request to me for “official answers” to nine questions
they had been commonly asked about their religious heritage by their American
peers. These same questions had perplexed the Hindu youth themselves, and their
parents, they confided, had no convincing answers. We took up the challenge and
provided the following answers to the nine questions. We begin with advice on
the attitudes to hold when responding.
yourself, “Who is asking the question?” Millions of Americans are sincerely
interested in Hinduism and the many Asian religions. Therefore, when asked
questions about Hinduism, do not take a defensive position, even if the
questioner seems confrontational. Instead assume that the person really wants to
learn. With this in mind, it is still important never to answer a question about
religion too boldly or too immediately. This might lead to confrontation. Offer
a prologue first and then come to the question, guiding the inquirer toward
understanding. Your poise and deliberateness give the assurance that you know
what you are talking about. It also gives you a moment to think and draw upon
your intuitive knowing. Before going deeply into an answer, always ask the
questioner what his religion is. Knowing who is asking, you can address his
particular frame of mind and make your answer most relevant. Another important
key: have confidence in yourself and your ability to give a meaningful and
polite response. Even to say, “I am sorry. I still have much to learn about my
religion and I don’t yet know the answer to that,” is a meaningful answer.
Honesty is always appreciated. Never be afraid to admit what you don’t know,
for this lends credibility to what you do know.
Here are four
prologues that can be used, according to the situation, before you begin to
actually answer a question.
1) “I am really pleased that you are interested in my religion. You may not know that one out of every six people in the world is a Hindu.”
2) “Many people have asked me about my spiritual tradition. I don’t know everything, but I will try to answer your question.”
3) “First, you should know that in Hinduism it is not only belief and intellectual understanding that is important. Hindus place the greatest value on experiencing each of these truths personally.”
4) The fourth type of prologue is to repeat the question to see if the person has actually stated what he wants to know.
So, repeat the question in your own words and ask if you have understood his query correctly. If it’s a complicated question, you might begin by saying, “Philosophers have spent lifetimes discussing and pondering questions such as this, but I will do my best to explain in a simple way.”
Speak from your inner mind. Sanâtana Dharma is an experiential path, not a
dogma, so your experience in answering questions will help your own spiritual
enlightenment. You will learn from your answers if you listen to your inner mind
speak. This can be a lot of fun. The attentive teacher always learns more than
prologue, address the question without hesitation. If the person is sincere, you
can say, “Do you have any other questions?” If he wants to know more, then
elaborate as best you can. Use easy, everyday examples. Share what enlightened
souls and scriptures of Hinduism have said on the subject. Remember, we must not
assume that everyone who asks about Hinduism is insincere or is challenging our
faith. Many are just being friendly or making conversation to get to know you.
So don’t be on the defensive or take it all too seriously. Smile when you give
your response. Be open. If the second or third question is on something you know
nothing about, you can say, “I don’t know. But if you are really interested,
I will find out or mail you some literature or lend you one of my books.”
Smile and have confidence as you give these answers. Don’t be shy. There is no
question that can be put to you in your birth karmas that you cannot rise up to
with a fine answer to fully satisfy the seeker. You may make lifelong friends in