Hinduism: the origins, principles and sacred texts of the religion
Hinduism is a very ancient religion, but its principles are extremely relevant and applicable in everyday life. Suffice it to remember the universal law of karma, according to which for every good or bad deed done, something positive or negative can come back to you.
Hinduism is a difficult creed to explain. It is not a unitary religion, it has no real founder, no single sacred text. Those who practice it define their religion as Sanatana Dharma, i.e. an eternal and universal religion that has always existed and will always exist. It is eternal because it is in the heart of every living being and does not need to be studied or learned, but simply awakened.
Hinduism has very ancient roots, dating back to about 2500 years before the birth of Christ, when the Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro civilizations existed in the Indus Valley. More concrete evidence can be found around 1500 BC when Indo-Europeans invaded northern India and assimilated many of the practices and beliefs of the Indus Valley peoples into their religion. It is from this contact that the origins of modern Hinduism derive, not least because it is to the Indo-Europeans that we must attribute the writing of the Vedas, the main sacred texts to which the Hindu religion refers.
The symbol of Hinduism
OM (or AUM) is one of the most famous and sacred symbols in Hinduism. It is a sacred syllable that is recited at the beginning or end of the recitation of the sacred texts, the Vedas. OM is also the primordial sound from which all the sounds and languages of the world originated, and is considered the most important and sacred mantra; indeed, it is not difficult to find it in most meditations that are conducted with the repetition of this sound. OM is a synthesis of the three sounds a-u-m, the eternal syllable, and the silent sound, i.e., the pause that forms between one mantra and the next. Reciting the OM mantra has a number of benefits. It not only relieves stress, anxiety and depression, but also helps to calm the mind, improve concentration, creativity, intuition and overall health.
The Vedas in Hinduism refer to sacred texts or ancient scriptures. They describe the myths of the creation of the world and the universal cycle of death and rebirth (samsara) to which every living being is subjected until its immortal soul reaches ultimate realization. The Vedas are the world's oldest sacred texts, apparently dating back to 5000 BC. According to tradition, the Vedas were transmitted by the supreme spirit (Brahman) to sages and women in a state of deep meditation, and then passed down orally from father to son or from master to disciple.
The Vedas are divided into four parts: the Rig-veda, the Yajur-veda, the Sama-veda, and the Athara-veda; in turn, each part is divided into four more sections: the Samhita (mantras and hymns), the Brahmana (ritual texts), the Aranyaka (theology), and the Upanishads (philosophy).
Principles of Hinduism
There are six fundamental principles of Hinduism:
- a respectful acceptance of the Vedas as the sole basis of Hindu philosophy;
- a spirit of tolerance and a desire to understand and appreciate the views of those who practice a religion other than Hinduism;
- acceptance of the rhythm of cosmic existence, with its successive periods of creation, preservation and destruction;
- acceptance of the belief in the rebirth and pre-existence of living beings;
- recognizing that there is not one but many methods and ways of attaining salvation;
- understanding that one can be a Hindu even without believing in the necessity of worshipping images of deities.
Karma and reincarnation
Hindus also believe in the universal law of karma and reincarnation. The term "karma" means "action," and the law of karma is nothing more than a strict law of cause and effect, according to which every action performed by an entity will have consequences closely related to the one who performed the action. Simply put, behave well and good will come back to you, behave badly and you will get worse. In order to be free from samsara, i.e. from that continuous cycle of deaths and rebirths, it is necessary not to perform any more negative actions in order to exhaust the negative that may return, or, in other words, to completely abstain from actions.
Therefore, in Hinduism there are no punishments and penalties, but only the logical consequences of our actions. Only by acting in harmony with the universal law (Dharma) can we avoid the cycle of deaths and rebirths: it is a kind of sacred code of behavior that includes performing rituals, reciting prayers, worshiping deities, and observing moral rules in daily life.
Hindu temple (mandir)
The term "mandir" comes from Sanskrit and means "house". It defines what for Hindus is a place of worship, namely a temple. However, in Hinduism there is no obligation to visit a temple, it is practically done only on the occasion of major festivals. The structure of the temple reproduces the macrocosm - the body of God - in relation to the microcosm - the body of the worshipper. A Hindu usually prays at the point of the temple which represents the heart, and the image of the god to whom the temple is dedicated is placed at the head of the temple, and it is there that the pujari, who is responsible for the worship of the deity, performs the ceremony of offering fire and incense, flowers and food to the deity.