Tuesday, September 12, 2006

HINDUISM: It's Origins and Nature

I like to think of Hinduism's origins as primeval -- arising from the mists of the past. Some scholars believe Hinduism, more properly called The Sanatana Dharma (Eternal Religion or Truth) as beginning around 5000 BCE.

Unlike many religions, Hinduism has no founder, no person that can be pointed to as the one who started the faith. God did not speak from a mountaintop surrounded by flashes of lightning and the reverberations of thunder. Ancient seers, rishis through ritual and especially deep meditative contemplation came in contact with the Absolute. Entered in to its very substance and came to know and relate what they had found.

Hinduism came out of India and its people. So, it is also a culture, a way of life, as well as an insight into the ultimate and the ways we can find union with it.

There are no heresies in Hinduism. No Creed that all who claim its name must know, recite and believe. This religious path evolved in an almost organic manner: some roots went in one direction and some in another.

Hindus accept The Vedas, of which there are four and are the most ancient. These are descriptions of ritual, passages of poetry, hymns, maxims, etc.

The Upanishads followed The Veda and were created around 800-400 BCE. Upanishad means to sit close to and refers to the students sitting next to their teacher. The re are 200 of these religious/philosophical works; thirteen are considered the most important.

From one of these Upanishads comes the three lines recited as an introductory purification before puja (worship) ----

Lead me from the Unreal to the Real,
Lead me from the Dark to the Light,
Lead me from Death to Immortality.