Part 2: Practice
1. Karma Yoga: Karma Yoga recognizes that selfish actions limit the soul to the physical world, and therefore one’s actions should not be driven by selfish needs or wants. To practice Karma Yoga, one needs to have their actions be driven by a greater cause, with the ultimate goal of having all of one’s actions serve God.
2. Jnana Yoga: Jnana Yoga focuses on limiting and reducing one’s actions to promote knowledge and wisdom. People who practice Jnana Yoga emphasize education to promote knowledge and freeing the body from desires that hide one’s Atman. The main goal of Jnana Yoga is to achieve liberation through knowledge and freeing oneself from physical limitations.
3. Astanga/Raja Yoga: This type of yoga is an eight-part process that is based on the teachings of Pantanjali, a Hindu sage. This process makes the people who practice this type of Yoga obtain eight main types of mystic powers by overcoming physical and mental limits. By reaching these goals, one can focus on leaving the physical world through focusing on God within one’s Atman.
4. Bhakti-Yoga: Bhakti-Yoga is the type of Yoga that most Hindus follow in order to be released from Samsara, and focuses on worshiping the murti, spiritual development, and specific practices like pilgrimages in which one worships a personal god. Bhakti-Yoga is also a blend of most of the other types of yoga because it focuses on knowledge as well as liberation. The main goal of most people who follow Bhakti Yoga is to completely devote oneself to the personal deity that he or she worships.
1. The Trimurti: The Trimurti is a method of understanding God through his three main qualities, creating, sustaining, and destroying. The Trimurti uses the three principle deities of this world, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva to portray these qualities. Brahma is the creator who controls Raja-guna and is usually not specifically worshipped by Hindus. Vishnu is the sustainer of the universe who controls Sattva-guna and is usually worshipped in the form of Rama or Krishna. Shiva is the destroyer who controls Tama-guna and is in control of the destruction of the universe.
2. The Murti: Murti is a sacred image and worshipping these images helps Hindus connect and develop their relationship with God. The Murti is like a middleman for people to communicate with God through because most people cannot communicate with God directly, so He appears in the Murti that they worship. This means that Murti are not just a physical form of God, but can also be a spiritual form of God to those who have developed their relationship with him. Also, there are specific regulations for creating Murti that are in Hindu scriptures. Hindus do not view the Murti as a form of idolatry because it is done out goodness, instead of evil desires.
3. Puja- Ritual Worship: Puja refers to worship specifically of the Murti. Each denomination (sampradaya) of Hinduism has different regulations for Puja, but it usually involves bathing and dressing the Murti and offering items to it and later offering food to the Murti. Puja can be performed at home or in a temple where it is performed more elaborately. It is seen as an act of devotion to god or the specific deity that the Murti symbolizes.
1. Holi: Holi occurs in March and celebrates the defeat of the evil king Kiranyakashipu by Narashimha (a form of Vishnu) after he tries to kill his son by having his sister, Holika take him onto a pyre to burn him alive. Instead, Holika begins to burn and the King’s son forgives her dedicating a festival to commemorate her death. Holi begins by burning fires to symbolize the burning of Holika and to dispel evil spirits. Then there is a part of the festival in which everyone throws colors or colored water at each other.
2. Ganesh Chaturthi: This festival occurs in August and/or September and celebrates when Ganesh was born. The festival lasts for eleven days in which intricate Murtis of Ganesh are made which the people worship in large, intricately decorated tents. It is believed that during this festival Ganesh is present on earth for all those who are devoted to him.
1. Varanasi: Varanasi is located on the Ganges river south of Delhi and is one of the oldest cities in the world. Varanasi is a pilgrimage site because Hindus believe that if someone dies or is cremated there, they have a better chance or breaking free from samsara and achieving moksha. People transport corpses from all over India to be cremated in Varanasi and sometimes the loved ones of the dead come to scatter their ashes in Ganges to help the soul achieve liberation.
2. Mathura and Vrindavana: Mathura is an ancient city in India and is famous for being where Krishna was born. It has a main temple called Keshava Deo Mandir where many people come to worship Krishna and Radha. Mathura is part of a larger area called Vraj that consists of other holy sites and sacred forests. Vrindavana is the village that Krishna lived in and many people who worship Krishna live the end of their lives in Vrindavana because they want to return and be connected to Vishnu after death.
1. Upanaya-Initiation: This ceremony symbolizes that a boy has been recognized as part of his Varna, or social level. Hindus view this rite of passage as a second birth for the boy on which he beings to develop his relationship with God, find his spiritual identity, and accepts a spiritual teacher and the Vedas as his symbolic parents. In the ceremony, the boy’s head is shaved and he is bathed and given new clothes to wear. He also receives a jenoi, which is a sacred thread that all men wear for their entire lives after this ceremony. Sometimes, the boy’s spiritual teacher will give him a spiritual name to replace his birth name and the boy vows to study the Vedas and follow certain rules of the faith.
2. Antyeshti-Funeral Rites: Most Hindus retire into the third stage of their life, which is called Vanaprastha in which they focus more on their spiritual progress before they die. Funeral Rites play a large role ending not only this stage in their life, but their entire life. In Hinduism, there are not many differences between how funeral rites are preformed in different denominations and usually involve cremating the dead, unless it is a small child or saint, who are buried. Hindus cremate bodies in order to allow the spirit to detach from that specific physical body and move onto its next life. There is also a mourning period of thirteen days to allow family members to grieve and allow the departed soul to move onto its next body. The ceremony itself consists of bathing the body and dressing it in fresh cloths, placing flowers around the body, and putting a few drops of water from the Ganges River in the mouth of the deceased. Then the body is carries to be cremated where the eldest son of the deceased lights the fire and verses are read from Hindu scripture.
1. Describe the concept of Dharma: Dharma means religious duty and has two parts: Sanatana-Dharma and Varnashrama-Dharma. Sanatana-Dharma is the souls natural desire to serve God, and is more closely related to spiritual concepts than Hindu lifestyle. Varnashrama-Dharma is an individual’s duties that are correlated with his or her place in society and spiritual stage in life. It is mainly concerned with social matters, and teaches Hindus to accept that there are many paths toward liberation allowing for acceptance of diversity. There is also a third part of Dharma, called Sadharana-Dharma, which is the set of moral codes that all Hindus live by. Dharma combines all of these three concepts to live a life that coincides with the natural laws that are listed in scripture in which one can spiritually grow and flourish.
2. Explain the purpose and meaning of the Varnas: There are four Varnas, or social/economic classes that each contains their own set of duties for members of that specific Varna. The first Varna is the Shudras, which consists of Artisans and workers. The Shudras should take pride in their work, provide their services for other, follow the general moral code, and marry. The second Varna is the Vaishyas, which consists of businessmen and merchants. The duties of the Vaishyas are to protect animals, create wealth, care for their workers, trade ethically, and pay taxes to the Kshatriyas. The third Varna is the Kshatriyas, who are the ruling class. They are supposed to protect society, and show strength in terms of force and moral character to act as an example for the rest of society. The fourth Varna is called the Brahmanas and consists of priests, teachers, and intellectuals. They provide spiritual education and leadership, and shape the moral character and development of society.
3. Explain the purpose and meaning of the four Ashrams: An Ashram is a spiritual stage of life that each person goes through in their lifetime, although not everyone goes through all four. The first Ashram is called Brahmacari, in which one usually moves away from home to grow spiritually by living a simple life, serving the guru, studying the Vedas, and developing the ideal qualities of a Hindu. The second Ashram is called Grihasta in which one gets married and starts a family and is required to support the family, and teach the children spiritual values. The third Ashram is called Vanaprashta, in which one can stop thinking about family responsibilities and begin to focus more on spiritual responsibilities. The fourth Ashram is called Sannyasa, which is mainly only for Brahmanas. In Sannyasa, the man leaves his family and wanders until his death living the last part of his life fully devoted to God.
Part 3: Expressions of Faith
Step 1: Practice
Symbolism is used in Hinduism to simulate things that cannot be understood in earthly terms because they occur on a higher level of consciousness. Symbols are used in all aspects of Hinduism, such as using the Murti and Puja displaying sacred symbols in one’s home in order to bring about good luck. The most is important Hindu symbol is the Aum (“Om”) symbol. It signifies many different things, especially the three levels of consciousness that all humans know: waking, dreaming, and deep sleep. The symbol as a whole signifies the fourth state of consciousness, in which one is aware of his or her spiritual identity. Hindus consider religious symbols the embody God, and therefore each symbol is sacred.
Step 2: Lifestyle
Caste and Untouchability: Untouchables are considered to be the fifth Varna, which consists of everyone who is not born into one of the four other Varnas. Untouchables were ostracized from village life and had to do work that was considered to be below the other castes such as sweep or be crematorium attendants. The Bhakti movements during the middle ages were the first to oppose the Caste System. Other people such as Gandhi have opposed the Caste System, including Ranji Ambedkar, an untouchable who was allowed to study law and promoted an Indian society that did not rely on castes. People still debate over what the purpose of Castes should be in Indian society even though all Indian citizens were granted equality in the Constitution of 1950.