Notes from BPU Sri Lanka - Third Year

Faith in Hinduism (written by ven. Mon monk Nai Suriya)

           As far as comparative study of religion is concerned, there are many religious faiths, such as faith in Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and so forth. Faith in Hinduism is very important in India. Thus Indian people are predominantly Hinduists. Hinduism is a religion with various gods and goddesses. Indian religion is generally accepted to be older than many other religions.

           In Hinduism, there are three gods who are supposed to rule the world, namely Brahma, Viṣnu and Śiva. Brahma is the creator, Viṣnu is the preserver and Śiva is the destroyer of the world. Consort of Brahma is Sarasvatī, consort of Viṣnu is Lakṣmī and consort of Śiva is called Kālī or Durga.

         Furthermore, in Hinduism, there are many other gods and goddesses, such as Ganeṣ, Hanuman, Surya, Ganga Ma, Samudra, Indra, Pṛthuvī and Śakti. These gods and goddesses are called Ma which means 'Mother'. Ganesh, also known as Vinayaka, means 'elephant’s head', Hanuman means ape, Surya is the Sun, Ganga Ma is the goddess of river Ganges, Samudra is the god of sea, Indra is the king of gods, Pṛthuvī is the goddess of earth and Śakti is goddess of power.

          Bhagavad Gīta consists of 18 chapters. This book is universally renowned as the jewel of India’s spiritual wisdom. It gives an account on Kriṣna, Arjuna and a number of other gods. The Indus people believed in them.

          Indus people believed in karma. A soul that does good karma (action) in this life will be awarded with a better life in the next incarnation. Souls that do bad karma will be punished for their sins, if not in this incarnation, then in the next incarnation, and will continue to be born in this world again and again. The good souls will attain ‘Mokṣa’.

       According to Vedic people, there are four Vedas, the main Hindu books, namely Ṛg Veda, Sāma Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda. The concluding portions of Vedas are called Upaniṣads. There are also other books like Purāṇas, Rāmāyana, Mahābhārāta and so forth. The last two books are the most important Hindu books. The main story of Rāmāyana is a story about the god Rāma. When Rāma was a king, his consort was Sīta.

       Another Hindu holy book that deals with religious duties is “Law of Manu” or “The Dharma Śāstra”. Hindus also worship and respect some animals and birds, such as cobras, apes, cows, peacocks and so forth. When the Scythians arrived in India, they adopted the Indian system of funeral, which was cremating the dead.

       According to biological arguments, the Buddha was born in India in 6th century BC. At that time, the teachings of Brahmins were spread. The Indian society is fourfold. Therefore, the system was named as castes system or ‘Casteism’. They are: (1) Brāhmaṇa (priest caste of Hinduism), (2) Khattiya (Kṣātriya) (warrior caste of Hindu system, (3) Viaśya (business people of Hinduism) and (4) Śūdra (common peasants or workers). As mentioned above, Hindus people believe in many gods and goddesses, therefore it is a polytheistic religion.