Hinduism is thought to be the oldest religion in the world. It is a major world religion with over a billion followers and the third largest religion. Hinduism is the major religion in the countries of India and Nepal.
Photo: One of the Hindu gods – Shiva (Creative Commons: Alice Popkorn).
The religion is thought to be a blend of many Indian cultures. The beginning of Hinduism can be traced back to 2000 BC. The religion can take on many forms. Some Hindus have no gods, while others may have many gods. There is no single holy book like a Bible and no single governing church.
Some of the main ideas of Hinduism are described below. These are considered the four proper goals of human life.
Dharma: refers to the proper way of living and includes duties, rights, laws and virtues.
Artha: is the virtuous pursuit of wealth for life and one’s obligations. It is the ‘means of life’ which includes wealth, career and financial security.
Kama: refers to sensual pleasure which includes desire, love, and enjoyment of life.
Moksha: refers to the goal of release from suffering and the cycle of life and death (reincarnation). It is considered the highest goal in Hinduism.
The Caste System
Hindu society is divided into four varnas (social classes). These are the Brahmins (teachers and priests), the Kshatriyas (kings and warriors), Vaishyas (merchants and farmers) and Shudras (laborers and servants).
Everyone is born into a specific caste. In life, people have the duty to perform their role according to their caste. There is little or no mobility from one caste to another.
Improving Your Reading and Thinking Skills
Think for a few moments. Try to recall the major ideas in this article. When you are done, click the box below for a list of main ideas.
How did you do? With practice, you should be able to identify many of the major ideas. You may even discover some important ideas that aren’t listed.
Hinduism Origins, Pantheos Library.