Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma, the eternal spiritual path, began about 4000 years ago in India. It was the religion of an ancient people known as the Aryans whose philosophy, religion, and customs are recorded in their sacred texts known as the Vedas. These texts were initially handed down by word of mouth from teacher to student. It was not until much later that they were actually written down. Archeological evidence from the Indus Valley civilization of northwestern India helps to establish Hinduism as the world's oldest living religion. Hinduism is the traditional religion of India and it has different tenets that almost all believers practice.
The fundamental teaching of Hinduism, or Vedanta, is that a human being's basic nature is not confined to the body or the mind. Beyond both of these is the spirit or the spark of God within the soul. This spirit is within us and also within everything we see. All beings and all things are really, in their deepest essence, this pure or divine spirit, full of peace, full of joy and wisdom, ever united with God. This is not just theory, but it can actually be experienced. Anyone who takes the trouble to undergo the necessary training to purify and refine the mind and senses can begin to feel the truth of this. Training can take various forms and is known as yoga, union of the individual self with this inner spirit. According to “KHANDOGYA-UPANISHAD”, Om is a symbol used in yoga and in a Hindus everyday life.
The general name for God in Sanatana Dharma is Brahman. The name of the divine essence within us is Atman. They are one and the same, infinite and eternal. However, God is also present in all creation. God's manifestation in creation goes by many names. It is the one infinite, eternal, Divine Being that is manifesting in countless ways. A special relationship goes with each name. So the same Divine Lord has been addressed as Shiva, Vishnu, etc and as Divine Mother, Kali, Durga, etc. According to “Hindu Gods & Goddesses”, God can also manifest as an extraordinary being in human form, who is then known as an incarnation of God, such as Krishna, Rama, etc. Since it is the one infinite God alone that is being looked at in different ways, all these manifestations can be prayed to for help and protection. This is the underlying principle behind all the different sects of Hinduism. Those who prefer a particular manifestation of the divinity will form a sect devoted to the contemplation and worship of that manifestation. All the sects, however, will accept the ancient teachings of the Vedas and the Vedanta as the foundation of their practice.
Hinduism has different characteristics that many people believe in. According to “Difference Between Dharma and Karma”, dharma is one’s duty in life, while karma is the action in relation to the duty. The code of behavior is one's dharma. This is determined by the place in society and the duties associated with it. There are four main social positions or varna; Brahmins (priests and teachers) Kshatriyas (rulers and soldiers), Vaishyas (merchants) and Shudras (workers). There are four ideal stages of life described in Hindu scriptures: the student, the family man, the recluse, and the wandering holy man. Your dharma determines what type of karma your actions will bring. For most Hindu people, these represent a metaphorical path, not an actual path.
Hinduism is interpreted in many different ways. According to “The Four Denominations of Hinduism”, there are four denominations. Saivite Hindus worship Shiva. Saivites esteem self-discipline and philosophy and follow a satguru. Shaktas worship the Divine Mother, either Shakti or Devi. Shaktas use chants, real magic, holy diagrams, yoga and rituals to call supernatural forms. Vaishnavites worship Lord Vishnu and his incarnations, especially Rama and Krishna. They are mainly dualistic and are deeply devotional. Smartas worship one supreme god in six forms: Ganesha, Siva, Sakti, Vishnu, Surya, and Skanda. They are known as liberal and follow a philosophical, meditative path. The denominations can affect other cultures too.
This religion has influenced many cultures. For example, American movies have huge parts of Hinduism incorporated into them.
Almost all Hindus believe in the eternal soul, reincarnation, and karma. According to “What Do Hindus Believe?” Hindus believe in an eternal spiritual truth, called Brahman, from whom all existence comes. The purpose of life is to understand this truth and to understand one’s eternal identity as the atma, or soul. Reincarnation is the belief that the soul lives for many lifetimes, in one body after another. The cycle of rebirth is called samsara, and under the influence of karma, the soul moves upwards and downwards on the wheel of rebirth. Karma is the Sanskrit word for action. Hindus believe every experience, pleasant or unpleasant, is linked to past actions, in this lifetime or in some previous lifetime.
Sanatana Dharma has different features practiced by believers. It was originally practiced by the Aryans, who wrote down their religious laws down in sacred texts known as the Vedas. It is now practiced by people of many nationalities. Hinduism was established 4,000 years ago in India. It is still practiced to this day.