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What Takes More Courage Than Rebellion? Considering Another Point of View. Part II: Hindu-Based Religions

Updated on April 24, 2020

The preceding hub explored the Abrahamic religions. To access it, please visit this link:

A temple with prayer flags in India.
A temple with prayer flags in India. | Source

Now, here’s another way to view the world. We all have a sense of justice, right? So it bothers us to see those born into circumstances less fortunate than we have. Why is someone born crippled? Why do some people lose important loved ones at an early age? Why are most residents in some countries experiencing extreme poverty? Why are some people born in war zones, never having a real chance at life?

India, the birthplace of three major world religions, has an answer; it is all due to Karma. People are born into circumstances allegedly beyond their control based on how they lived in a past life. They will continue to be reborn until they have learned all the lessons available, at which point they will no longer have to suffer through rebirth and they enter Nirvana, a state of eternal bliss.

Below is a description of how these three religions explain the philosophy and process.



Basic Philosophy:

Hindu is more than just a religion; it is a way of life. Because it developed over such a huge territory in India, and in so many countries throughout the world, plus being one of the oldest religions on Earth, it is extremely varied. The fact that it is polytheistic, and having no single prophet, emphasizes this. However, its basic tenets are that the soul exists forever, moving on to another body after death in reincarnation. Karma (the sum total of the type of life one lives on Earth) determines what sort of afterlife the person will live. Since people can be reincarnated into animals, Hindus believe in a vegetarian diet.

Hindus believe there are 4 purposes in life; personal fulfillment, prosperity, sexual enjoyment, and enlightenment. Rather than rigidly sticking to any particular dogma, they believe all religious paths lead to Enlightenment. “Truth is one; sages call is by different names” is the most famous Hindu quote regarding religion.

Polytheist. There are 3 major deities; Brahma, Visnu, and Shiva. From them spring multiple gods; nine are Vedic, and eleven modern.
Holy Book(s)
Hindu has several holy books, divided into two categories; shruti (“revealed”) and smriti (“learned”). Their ultimate reference is a set of 4 shruti books called Vedas. These were written by seers from antiquity to whom were revealed the knowledge through deep meditation. They are the RIGVEDA, which contains hymns, myths, and ancient practice; YAJURVEDA, which includes commentaries to proses written in Rigveda; SAMAVEDA, which holds mantras from Rigveda and are arranged in order for the Soma sacrifice; and ATJARVAVEDA, which is composed of incantations that deal with sorcerers, diseases, and enemies, as well as ways to atone for mistakes made during sacrificial rituals, and hums of rites regarding royalty and the household, including some spiritual lessons.
Smriti texts refer to the Vedas, and consist of updated laws and customs. In addition there is Upanishads literature, which focuses on early philosophies of Hinduism; though over 200 texts exist, only 13 are accepted as mainline.
House of Worship, Day of Worship, Typical Worship Service / Rituals and Celebrations
A Hindu house of worship is called a Temple. Since each day of the week is dedicated to a particular god, they don’t have one specific day of worship. However Monday, Friday, and Saturday are the most popular days for worship, since those days cater to the most important gods. Worship involves reading scripture, chanting mantras, singing and prayer. Followers often choose a favorite deity and spiritual practice. A spiritual leader is called a guru, or sage.
Hindus have holidays virtually every day of the year; in fact, they number over 1000! The most important ones are Holi, which celebrates the coming of spring; Diwali, which is New Year’s Eve (also referred to as the Festival of Lights) lasting 5 days; and Mahashivaratri (Shiva Ratri), which is the Great Festival of Shiva, a chief deity.
Estimated Year Founded
1800 BCE, though it may go back as far as 7000 BCE, when the earliest evidence of Indus Valley inhabitants was discovered. It rivals Judaism as the oldest known religion in the world.
Founder / Central Figure(s)
There are no founders. Central figures are the multiple deities celebrated in the religion; people are free to choose their favorite ones.
Country of Origin
Indus Valley, India (near Pakistan border).
Countries Where Practiced
Mostly in India. It is also largely practiced in the United States and the British Isles.
Percentage / Numbers of World Population Practicing It
900 million (14%) It is the 3rd largest religion in the world.
Number of Denominations
There are four major ones: Saivism, Shaktism, Vaishnavism, and Smartism. The first 3 focus on a particular deity, while Smartism allows worshippers to choose any deity they wish. Over a dozen other denominations exist; some have gone on to become religions of their own. Also, a huge variety of sects exist, influenced by the countries from which they arose. Some are monotheistic.
Inaddition, there are also six schools; Yoga, Purva Mimamsa (Mimamsa), Uttara Mimamsa (Vedanta), Nyaya, Vaisheshika, and Samkhya.
Hindu has no particular story, since it has no founder. It is named after the inhabitants of the Indus Valley. Archeological digs have revealed citizens may have lived there from as long ago as 7000 BCE. Around 1800 BCE, it began declining due to drought, flooding, and invasion of the Aryans from Indo-Europe. However, their religion and way of life spread throughout the Indian subcontinent, adapting to local cultures and changing times.
How the World Began
The Universe is constantly being created and destroyed. This world is neither the first to exist, nor the last. Whenever the Universe is destroyed, it becomes a vast ocean. Lord Vishnu, the Preserver, floats on this ocean resting on the great snake Anata; a lotus flower springs from his naval, from which arises Lord Brahma, the Creator. He creates everything in the world, which is eventually destroyed by Lord Shiva. All three gods join together to form the Supreme One.
What Happens After We Die
When we die, our soul enters another body; we are reincarnated according to our Karma, or the sum total of our deeds on Earth and the lifestyle we lived. Most people come back as human beings, though they can return as an animal. Our karma of past lives are recorded in our bodies; when we have become fully knowledgeable, we can advance to salvation, freedom from rebirth.
How the World will End
There is no end, or beginning. The existence of the Universe is a perpetual cycle of creation and destruction.
Positive Aspects
Hindu religion is extremely accepting of other points of view. It leaves its followers free to choose how to practice it; there is no hard-and-fast dogma anyone must follow. Rather than a religion, it is more a lifestyle – and a healthy one at that. It believes in a quality diet, protecting the environment, and revering art in all its forms. It even honors women; many of its deities are goddesses.
Negative Aspects
Belief that all is brought about by Karma can cause people to be indifferent to the suffering of others, even lead to victim-blaming. The caste system of India, birthplace of Hindu, promotes classism and racism.
Modern Day Issues
Many cultural practices of India are frowned upon today. Child marriage and polygamy are among those. The dowry system was originally meant to be a father’s sign of affection for his daughter, and it was hers to keep; but it has been perverted by unscrupulous in-laws who threaten the brides into giving it away, even murdering them if they don’t feel it’s sufficient.
For much of human history, India has enjoyed a high standard of living, but also has endured extreme poverty. In recent centuries, its standard of living has sunk, further exacerbating the conditions of those least fortunate. The caste system has not helped matters. Now that India is re-emerging as a world power, much needs to be done to solve these problems.
The western New Age movement is largely based on Hinduism. During the 1960s, many hippies became entranced with its liberal philosophies; thus, they incorporated it with American beliefs. Perhaps this combination can help India resolve its social issues.
Famous Hindus
Mahatma Gandhi, Civil Rights Leader; George Harrison, Musician with the Beatles; Jerry Garcia, Musician with the Grateful Dead; Amar Bose, Founder of Bose Corporation; Sunita Williams, Astronaut.


This consists of three main principles: non-absolutism (Anekantvad), non-possessiveness (Aparigraha) and non-violence (Ahimsa). Ahimsa is by far the most important and most scrupulously practiced principle. Violence is seen as intentional harm to another living entity. However, protection is given a hierarchy; the more senses and mobility a living being has, the more protection it gets. Thus, humans get the most protection, while plants get the least. Jainists eat their own type of vegan diet, which excludes root vegetables and honey, since harvesting those include violence. They will even go so far as to avoid going outside at night, in order to not inadvertently step on insects. Yet, they do believe in self-defense, and some have even become military commanders.

Anekantvad promotes making an effort to see things from others’ points of view, including opponents. Since everyone’s point of view is limited at best, people need to avoid clinging to dogma. Only gods can know what is Absolute Truth.

Aparigraha emphasizes detachment from material things. One should take no more than is absolutely necessary, and keep only minimal possessions. Wealth should be re-distributed so that everyone has enough.

Followers must take the Five Major Vows:

  1. Ahima (non-violence)

  2. Satya (always speak truth; if doing so could lead to violence, remain silent).

  3. Asteya (do not take anything that is not willingly offered).

  4. Brahmacharya (control senses by refraining from sex)

  5. Aparigraha (avoid attachment to people, places, and things).

    Clergy practice these strictly, while lay people have a slightly looser version; for example, avoid sexual promiscuity rather than avoiding sex altogether.

Jains believe the human soul was originally pure, but was soiled by karma over the centuries. By living an acetic lifestyle, they can destroy that karma, and eventually become pure again.

Though they believe in multiple gods, in practice they are atheistic. Gods exist in both higher and lower realms; the lower ones act more like humans. They do not believe in a Creator God, but they do believe in a Perfect Universal Presence.
Holy Book
The Jain Holy Books (Agamas) are based on Mahāvīra's teachings, and were written by his disciples. These comprise forty-six works: 12 angās, 12 upanga āgamas, 6 chedasūtras, 4 mūlasūtras, 10 prakīrnaka sūtras and 2 cūlikasūtras.[
House of Worship, Day of Worship, Typical Worship Service / Rituals and Celebrations
Jains typically worship every day. Their house of worship is called a Temple. Worship consists of reciting prayers. The Namokara Mantra is the most basic prayer; it offers deep respect to the nuns and monks, and focuses on the ultimate goal, which is freedom from bondage to karma (Moksha). In prayer, Jainists do not ask for anything; the purpose is to break all attachments to the world. In worship, Jainists practice the 6 Avashyakas (duties):
1) Samyika (serenity)
2) Chaturvimshati (praising the tirthankara, or those who have broken through the cycle of rebirth)
3) Vandan (respect for monks, nuns and teachers)
4 Pratikramana (instrospection)
5) Kayotsarga (stillness)
6) Pratyakhyana (renunciation of desire).
Important festivals are PARYUSHANA, which is a time for clergy to take new vows; occurring in late September, it lasts between 8 to 10 days. MAHAVIRA JAYANTI, which is Mahavira’s birthday, is celebrated in late March / early April. DIWALI celebrates when Mahavira first achieved Nirvana; it is honored during October. Celebrations consist of fasting, meditation, chanting, and prayer.
Estimated Year Founded
569 BCE
Founder / Central Figure(s)
Though Rishabha was the original founder, Mahavira is considered the main Tirthankara as he was the last one, and the most records exist regarding his life.
Country of Origin
Ganges River Area of Eastern India.
Countries Where Practiced
Jainism is mainly practiced in India, where they are a religious minority. Other countries include Belgium, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, and the United States.
Percentage / Numbers of World Population Practicing It
6.1 million (0.1%) It ranks 9th among the 10 most practiced religions.
Number of Denominations
Jainist monks and nuns are divided into two major denominations; Śvētāmbara, who wear white clothing (known as “white-clad”), and Digambara (“sky-clad”) who go the far more austere route and wear no clothing.
Jainism is a branch of Hinduism. Twenty-four Tirthankaras (monks) taught Jainism over the centures; the last one was Mahavira. He lived from 599 BCE to 527 BCE, and began teaching at age 30. He achieved Nirvana by salekhana, which is fasting to death.
During the next 2 centuries, Janism migrated throughout India, eventually settling in the west and central part of the country. They attracted lots of followers, but its popularity began declining during 8th century CE, due to persecution and rising interest in other religions such as Buddhism.
How the World Began
The world has no beginning. The universe has always existed, and always will. Totally self-sufficient, no Supreme Deity set it in motion. The Universe is made up of six strata:
1) Jiva – living entity
2) Pudgala – matter
3) Harma Tattva – creates motion
4) Adharma Tattva – causes rest
5) Akasa – space
6) Kala – time
Kalachakra, the ceaselessly turning cosmic Wheel of Time, is divided into two parts: UTSARPINI, a period of prosperity and progression, and AVASARPINI, a time of immorality and sorrow.
What Happens After We Die
People are reincarnated into another form after they die, based on their lives on Earth. This can mean a heavenly or hellish realm. There are 8 levels of hell, each lower one getting progressively colder, but they don’t last forever; after doing time, the person is reborn into a better state. Though life and time are eternal, living a good acetic life can bring release from the cycle of rebirth.
How the World will End
Since the Universe has no beginning, it has no end.
Positive Aspects
Jainism greatly advocates free thinking, strongly encouraging followers to take in other points of view, including those of their opponents. They encourage education and learning, leading to high literacy rates (in India, Jains have a literacy rate of 94.1%, the highest of any religion there). Its strict disciplinary lifestyle helps develop self-control.
Negative Aspects
The theory of non-violence can be taken too far. Some Jainists value the lives of animals over human beings, to the point of maintaining veterinary hospitals for rats! Asceticism can be taken to extremes, and a degree of sexism exists; the Dijambara, or "Sky Clad" monks, believe women must be reincarnated as men before obtaining liberation. Some sectors also allow suicide, which many religions frown upon
Modern Day Issues
In the days of antiquity, Jainism was widely practiced throughout the Indian subcontinent. However, it has been in decline since the 8th century CE due to the growth of, and persecution by, other religions. Though Jains have the highest literacy rates in India, and own the oldest manuscript libraries in the country, it is one of the smallest of world religions.
Famous Jainists
Dilip Shanghavi, founder and managing director of Sun Pharmaceuticals and also the 2nd wealthiest man in India; Gautam Adani, Chairman of Adani Group; Naveen Jain, Founder of InfoSpace and Intelius; Nariv Shah, Cinematographer; Prateik Jain, Mr. India World 2014.


Basic Philosophy: Because Buddhism is an offshoot of Hinduism, it has many similarities; however, it is more highly organized, and it does not depend on believing in deities. Buddhist tradition is based on the Three Jewels: the Buddha (leader), the Dharma (teachings), and the Sangha (community). When people convert / commit themselves to Buddhism, they "take refuge in the triple gem".

Buddhism is based on the laws of Cause and Effect. Buddhists believe in reincarnation, which is a cycle of rebirth into different realms. There are 6; Nakara (hell), Preta (living among humans as ghosts), Animals, Human Beings, Asuras (lowly deities,) and Devas / Brahmas (gods, spirits, and angels). People are reborn into a particular realm based on their actions on Earth, known as Karma.

Those in the 4 lower realms experience the three marks of existence; impermanence, suffering, and dissociation regarding sense of self. The Four Noble Truths state that 1) suffering exists; 2) it is caused by ignorance regarding true reality, and greed (cravings). 3) Suffering can cease; 4) this is accomplished by following the Noble Eightfold Path.

The Noble Eightfold Path consists of: 1) Right View (awareness of true reality, rather than how things seem to be) 2) Right Intention (aiming to behave righteously and do no harm) 3) Right Speech (speaking truthfully in an uplifting manner 4) Right Action (positive behavior) 5) Right Livelihood (ethical career) 6) Right Effort (continuous efforts to improve) 7) Right Mindfulness (viewing reality without craving or opinion) and 8) Right Concentration (proper meditation techniques). The ideal lifestyle encompasses moderation between acetic living and hedonism, and refraining from clinging to what is impermanent; this is referred to as the Middle Way.

Buddhists seek Enlightenment through Meditation. Buddha Gautama invented the meditation concept of the Four Immeasurables: Love, Compassion, Joy, and Equanimity (freedom from bias, attachment, and rage). One is to meditate on this for all beings.

Buddhists who have achieved excellence in meditation can be reborn into the Asuras, or even Devas / Brahmas realm. Bodhisattvas take a vow to dedicate their lives to teaching the Six Perfections: Discipline, Effort, Forbearance, Giving, Meditation, and Transcendent Wisdom. They seek to dispel misery and suffering.

Non-theistic. This means no emphasis is placed on belief of a Supreme Deity. Some Buddhists believe in one God, some believe in many gods, some believe in none. Either way, the basic mode of practice is the same.
Holy Book
They are called Sutras, the teachings of Buddha. There are 3; Tripitaka (Pali Canon), Mahayama Sutras, and Tibetan Book of the Dead. They correspond with the 3 main branches of Buddhism.
House of Worship, Day of Worship, Typical Worship Service/ Rituals and Celebrations
The Buddhist house of worship is called a temple. Buddhists worship every day at a home shrine. In western countries, they attend temple Sunday morning. Services involve singing, chanting, and reading / listening to readings from holy books. Buddhist clergy are referred to as priests and monks.
The most important Buddhist holiday is Vesak, which is Buddha’s birthday. It is celebrated during the first full moon of May. Other holidays are the New Year, which is in March; Sangha Day, when Buddha’s disciples returned to pay homage to him; Dhamma Day which commemorates the turning of the Dharma Wheel; Observance day, which celebrates the 4 phases of the moon each month; Kathina Day, when the rainy season ceases; Floating Bowl Festival, which releases bad luck; Elephant Festival, emphasizing a lesson the Buddha once taught using elephants as an example; Festival of the Tooth, in which followers honor a relic from the Buddha; and Ancestor Day, when people leave food offerings to alleviate the suffering of their ghostly ancestors.
Estimated Year Founded
Circa 528 BCE
Founder / Central Figure(s)
Siddhartha Gautama originally founded Buddhism. Whenever a leader dies, his spirit is passed on to whoever is destined to take his place. The current leader is the Dalai Lama of Tibet.
Country of Origin
Bodh Gaya, Northeast India (near Nepal).
Countries Where Practiced
Worldwide, but mostly throughout the continent of Asia.
Percentage / Numbers of World Population Practicing It
About 500 million (7%). It is the 4th largest religion in the world.
Number of Denominations
There are 3 major branches; Theravada (School of Elders) dominates in Southeast Asia; Mahayana (Great Vehicle) in East Asia; and Vajrayana in Tibet, Mongolia, and adjacent regions of Russia and China. In addition, Mahayana has 6 traditions. Some people consider Vajrayana a 7th tradition of Mahayana, rather than a separate branch on its own. Within the past century, at least half a dozen new movements have emerged.
Siddhartha Gautama was born a wealthy prince in northeast India, around 563 BCE. A visiting astrologer predicted he would grow up to be a great ruler - but only if he wasn't exposed to life outside the palace walls. If he was, then he would become an acetic holy man. So his father forbade him to leave the palace, but at age 29, he escaped, and the Four Sights - an elderly man, a man afflicted with illness, a corpse, and - at last - a holy man who was at peace with himself because he had renounced the world - led him to become a holy man himself. Determined to find an end to human suffering, he first learned meditation techniques from famous spiritual leaders. Then he practiced extreme acetic ism, nearly starving himself to death in the process. Finally, he sat beneath a fig tree, practicing Anapanasati Meditation (now referred to by Buddhists as the "Middle Way", which is between extreme asceticism and hedonism). After several days, he achieved enlightenment by focusing in spite of many distractions. This tree is now considered sacred. It is called the Bodhi Tree; it is in the town of Bodh Gaya, India. The south branch of the original tree, called the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, is located in Sri Lanka.
Once Siddhartha Gautama achieved the status of Buddha at age 35, he formed a monastic order and travelled throughout northeastern India, teaching everyone what he had discovered, gaining followers everywhere he went. He died in 483 BCE in Kudhinagar, India, at age 80.
How the World Began
Life is an eternal cycle, so there is no beginning. People are constantly cycled through rebirths
What Happens After We Die
Depending on the life lived, people are reincarnated into another form. They continue through the cycle of rebirth until they achieve Nirvana
How the World will End
Since life is an eternal cycle, there is no ending. People are constantly cycled through rebirths. Perhaps all will attain Nirvana someday.
Positive Aspects
Buddhism is the only major world religion with virtually no history of holy wars. Buddhists will defend themselves when attacked; however, they do not persecute those whose beliefs differ from theirs. Buddhism is an excellent tool for acquiring self-knowledge and mastery; rather than seeking heaven and salvation, practitioners learn to improve their own lives here on Earth.
Negative Aspects
Buddhism tends to promote nihilism, which is pretending human needs and wants don't matter. Marxist groups, which saved China from extreme poverty after World War II, blame Buddhism for keeping Tibet from developing into a more modern society. The Theravada tradition believes bad karma can never be erased; thus, there is a tendency for victim blaming.
Modern Day Issues
Buddhism is one of the fastest growing religions in the world. All 3 branches exist in the West, where the teachings are considered exotic. They are updated according to the times and foreign countries in which they are practiced.
Though Buddhists are major believers in non-violence, they do believe in defending themselves when attacked. In 2013, riots broke out in which Buddhist monks attacked and killed Muslims living in Myanmar. This was criticized by the Dalai Lama, because of the thin line between persecuting a minority and the monks protecting their own self-interests.
Many western New Agers have incorporated Buddhism, as well as Hinduism, into their philosophies.
Famous Buddhists
Tensing Norgay, first man to successfully ascend Mt. Everest in 1953; Tina Turner, American musician; Orlando Bloom, American Actor; Richard Gere, American Actor; Steven Segal, American actor.

To read the next hub in this series, Far East Religions, please visit this link:

Japanese Shinto Temple
Japanese Shinto Temple | Source

© 2014 Yoleen Lucas


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