summarizes the religions of India (ca. 2600 BC). The term itself is heterogeneous,
as Hinduism consists of several schools of thought. It encompasses
many religious rituals that widely vary in practice, as well as many
diverse sects and philosophies.
Many Hindus, influenced by Advaita philosophy, venerate an array of
deities, considering them manifestations of the one supreme monotheistic
Cosmic Spirit, Brahman, while many others focus on a singular concept
of Brahman (God), as in
A collection of various articles concerning
may provide a broader view.
The common concepts within the Hinduistic value system are the belief
that for every soul one's fate is determined by
- Individual ethics, duties and obligations, even from a former life (Dharma)
- The (right) actions and current deeds (Karma)
- rebirth (Samsara)
- the pursuit to break the wheel of rebirth by salvation (Moksha)
There are numerous, different schools which have evolved over time.
Within these schools, several methods
have been developed over the centuries for people
of different tastes and temperaments:
It is typical for scholars to combine two or more of these paths into their
spiritual life to create a path that suits their personal temperaments.
A few schools hold only one or two of these paths leads to salvation.
For example, some followers of the Dvaita school hold that Bhakti ("devotion")
is the only path.
- Bhakti Yoga (the path of love and devotion),
prescribed for people of emotional temperaments
- Karma Yoga (the path of right action),
prescribed for people who like to always be engaged in action
- Raja Yoga (the path of meditation),
prescribed for intellectual, meditative people
- Jñana Yoga (the path of rational inquiry)
prescribed for rational people
The Vedantic schools--often (but not always) associated with
jnana yoga--emphasize a two-step process to help one attain salvation:
First, viveka, the practice of discriminating between things that are
impermanent (i.e., worldly pleasures) and those that are
permanent (i.e. God and the soul).
Second, vairagya, renunciation of unhealthy attachment to
things that are impermanent.
Hinduism does not rely exclusively on any single religious scripture but rather
on the collected set of traditions accumulated over history.
Furthermore, the Hindu scriptural canon is not closed, new texts may be generated
over time or scriptures of other religions may even be venerated.
Of course, there is a special veneration for ancient scriptures.
There are a large number of religious texts that contain spiritual insights
and practical guidance for religious life.
The most ancient text are the
which are usually considered the most authoritative.
Other scriptures include the eighteen Puranas, and the
epics Mahabharata and
The Bhagavad Gita,
which is contained within the Mahabharata, is a
widely studied teaching that is said to contain, in distilled form,
the highest truths of the Vedas.
Some of the texts can be read at Sacred Text: the