Religion & Hinduism

A religion, according to Wikipedia, is a cultural system of behaviors and practices, world views, ethics, and social organisation that relate humanity to an order of existence. 84% of the world’s population is affiliated with one of the five largest religions, namely Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism or folk religion.

The scientific study of religions encompasses a wide variety of academic disciplines, including comparative religion and social scientific studies. Theories of religion offer explanations for the origins and workings of religion.

With the onset of the modernization of and the scientific revolution in the western world, some aspects of religion have cumulatively been criticized. Though non-religion has been rising in the west, they are still a minority in the region and globally many who are not affiliated with a religion still have various religious beliefs. Related aspects are health & morality.

Hinduism is the dominant religion, or way of life, in South Asia, most notably in India and Nepal. Although Hinduism contains a broad range of philosophies, it is a family of linked religious cultures bound by shared concepts, recognizable rituals, cosmology, shared textual resources, pilgrimage to sacred sites and the questioning of authority. It includes Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Shaktism among others, each with an interwoven diversity of beliefs and practices. With approximately one billion followers, Hinduism is the world’s third largest religion by population.

Hinduism has been called the “oldest religion” in the world, and some practitioners and scholars refer to it as Sanātana Dharma, “the eternal law” or the “eternal way” beyond human origins. Scholars regard Hinduism as a fusion or synthesis of various Indian cultures and traditions, with diverse roots and no founder. This “Hindu synthesis” started to develop between 500 BCE and 300 CE, after the Vedic times. Hinduism prescribes the eternal duties, such as honesty, refraining from injuring living beings (ahimsa), patience, forbearance, self-restraint, compassion, among others.

Prominent themes in Hindu beliefs include (but are not restricted to), the four Puruṣārthas, the proper goals or aims of human life, namely Dharma (ethics/duties), Artha (prosperity/work), Kama (emotions/sexuality) and Moksha (liberation/freedom); karma (action, intent and consequences), samsara (cycle of rebirth), and the various Yogas (paths or practices to attain moksha). Hindu practices include rituals such as puja (worship) and recitations, meditation, family-oriented rites of passage, annual festivals, and occasional pilgrimages. Some Hindus leave their social world and material possessions, then engage in lifelong Sannyasa (ascetic practices) to achieve moksha.

Hindu texts are classified into Shruti (“heard”) and Smriti (“remembered”). These texts discuss theology, philosophy, mythology, Vedic yajna, Yoga and agamic rituals and temple building, among other topics. Major scriptures include the Vedas and Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Agamas.

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