Hindu Scriptures, Pantheon and Doctrines

First part: World Religions: Notes on Hinduism

3b Hindu Scriptures and Pantheon — meet the deities

There are many gods and goddesses in Hindu belief. Amongst these there’s a grouping of three Hindu deities (sometimes called the Hindu Trinity, trimurti): Brahma (the creator) Vishnu (the preserver) and Shiva (the destroyer). Brahma is the oldest of these deities but the least worshipped of the three. Vishnu is said to have had many avatars/descents. They believe he becomes incarnate whenever the world is in trouble in order to save the world. Shiva is thought to currently be the most popular deity amongst Hindus. Ganesh (with an elephant head) is considered the remover of obstacles. Most of the Gita is about Krishna talking to Arjuna. More reflective and philosophically Hindus have a strong tendency to say all their gods are different manifestations or forms of the one god.

3c Hindu Scriptures and Pantheon — Is Hinduism monotheistic or polytheistic?

More reflective and philosophically minded Hindus have a strong tendency to say all their gods are different manifestations or forms of the one god. In modern Hinduism this monotheistic tendency is very strong. It’s possible this view is influenced by Christianity and Islam. In some Hindu literature Shiva is the high god and Vishnu is created by Shiva. Whilst in other literature Vishnu is the high god and Shiva is created by Vishnu. Some say the high god is Krishna. Contradictory stories? Is it monotheism or polytheism? Can be both for Hindus depending on how they view their traditions.

4a Hindu doctrines, schools, and history — Brahman, atman, and reincarnation

Occasionally in the Vedas and prominently in the Upanishads there’s the idea of an underlying unity behind all phenomena — what is called nowadays as the ultimate reality by philosophers. “This One”. In the Upanishads it’s called Brahman (the inner self of everything including inanimate objects). In some sense everything is Brahman deep down including the gods according to Hinduism. It’s described as pure consciousness , unborn, mysterious, ineffable (no human thought captures it), enduring and is expressed by the sacred mantra word Om (aum). A disputed teaching in the Upanishads is that Atman is Brahman. Atman is one’s deep self — what is most fundamental to you.

Hindus believe humans are trapped in a cycle of reincarnation (Samsara). The goal is moksha (liberation, release) from the cycle. There are three paths to this liberation: 1. Karma yoga (action, fulfilling your duties, doing your darma) 2. Jnana yoga (mystical, nonsensory perception of atman being Brahman) 3, Bhakti yoga (devotion, surrendering to in love to a god or goddess) [Timeframe 8.50] Scholars think this is different to the earlier Vedic religion which is seen as very ritualistic. A development? Scholars think in Vedic religion one’s soul ends continues after death, is judged and then ends up in something like heaven or hell. In the later Upanishads the ideas of reincarnation/rebirth is taught. The assumption is that this process never began, this has always been ongoing. The law of karma determines a better or worse birth. An explanation for undeserved suffering. This belief could get in the way of motivating somebody to remove injustice and suffering in this world

Screencast lectures by Dr. Dale Tuggy, for his INDS 120 World Religions — a college course surveying the traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and introducing students to the terms and classic theories of Religious Studies.


Originally published at thefactsaboutislam.blogspot.com on July 29, 2017.