is the oldest major religion still practiced today. It
arose from the civic
religion of the Indus Valley civilization (c. B.C. 2600-1600)and
the Vedic religion of the Aryans (c. B.C. 800).
Many of the beliefs were based on the Vedas, collections of hymns and ceremonies passed down orally by Aryan priests and then eventually written down. Hindus believe in a spiritual force called Brahman, which can take the form of many gods like: Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, Shiva the Destroyer, or Ganesh, the elephant-headed god of strength.
Hinduism's goal is to be released from reincarnation and united with Brahman. One of the ways Hindus increase "good" karma is by washing away their sins in the sacred Ganges River in India. Yoga, a method of physical training and exercise, is another way to achieve unity with Braham.
The Hindu sees two general problems in existence that must be overcome. The first is "Maya", which is the illusion of all that exists. Essentially pantheistic, the Hindu believes that perceptions of uniqueness and separateness are not real, and that overcoming this illusion through various paths is the basic objective. The Hindu doctrine that all of existence is a single unity may be found in the notion of "Brahaman". The second problem is "karma". This relates directly to the Hindu belief in the transmigration of the soul, the notion that the soul reincarnates in life after life. The cycle of lives one exists through is called "samsara". Karma determines what kind of life the soul will have in the next one, based upon how the soul's life has been lived in this one.
Hinduism has developed into three basic Paths: Classical (karma margra), the Way of Knowledge (Janna margra), the Way of Devotion (Bhakti margra). These paths generally derive from a triad belief about the nature of Brahaman, that Brahma creates, Vishnu preserves through the ordering principle of "dharma", and Shiva personifies creativity and destruction. Followers of Vishnu see this deity as incarnate in ten instances, the most popular of which is Krishna.
Depending upon which form of Hinduism one participates in, the paths of overcoming the illusion of Maya and the determinism of karma is to begin to fulfill one's responsibilities in this life by cooperating in the dance of that God which makes up the universe. The method varies depending upon the Hindu's path, but basically involves performing one's duty in life, following public rituals and daily devotions, and meditating and praying (through the multitudinous forms of yoga or otherwise) in order to unite with the divine by seeing it within one's deepest state. Followers of Vishnu (such as those who adore Krishna), or of Shiva, see their method as loving and serving others, which is an act of worship that brings freedom and salvation.
Critics of the Hindu religion often point out that the concept of karma results in a lack of social concern or justice, leading to fatalistic ethics.