Hindu Philosophy

Basic Beliefs of Hinduism

For millions of Hindus, depending on a number of factors, beliefs and philosophies vary. However, there are some beliefs that are common across the incredibly wide span of Hinduism.

Primary amongst these beliefs is the idea of one Being, from whom all other incarnations evolve. Hindus around the world worship one of these incarnations, depending on the quality or virtue that deity is said to possess. Another belief that is common to Hindus is that the human being possesses a soul (atma) that is eternal. This soul lives on after the death of the physical form, and takes rebirth in another form, until the soul has evolved into a pure and true essence, after which it achieves moksha, or liberation from the cycle.

om-aum

Hindus believe in karma, or a rule of cause and effect. It is said that one’s thoughts and actions have an effect on one’s life, whether in this life or the next. Those who refrain from evil or impure thoughts and deeds cause their souls to be reborn in higher forms, until they achieve moksha or salvation; those who pollute their souls with evil will be reborn in a lower form, even an animal if they commit wicked deeds.

Hinduism also teaches that life is sacred. It encourages a lifestyle of ahimsa (non-violence) in which all life is revered and treasured. While vegetarianism is a practice in Hinduism, there are some sections of Hindus (especially those in coastal areas where vegetables are limited) who have relied on fish, chicken and mutton for their diet, and have done so for generations. However, the cow is a sacred animal for all Hindus and most practising Hindus consider it blasphemous to turn to it for anything other than milk or to worship it.

While Hinduism does not require presence of its followers in temples, most devotees set aside a place in their homes for a shrine, and perform a daily ritual of worship or puja there. The puja is simple; women bathe to purify themselves, then wash the idols, place fresh flowers and light incense or agarbattis at the shrine, and sing a devotional verse or hymn. Often, food, fruit or sweets (prasad) are placed in the shrine, and then handed out to members of the family as a way of receiving blessings.

Beliefs vary with different deities and different regions, but tolerance, good living, non-violence and purity in actions could be said to be the basic tenets of belief for all Hindus.