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Portal:Hinduism

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The Hinduism Portal

Aum, an all-encompassing, mystical entity, representative of the Hindu religion and philosophy.

Hinduism (Sanskrit Hindū Dharmaहिन्दू धर्म, also known as Sanātana Dharma सनातन धर्म, and Vaidika Dharma वैदिक धर्म) is a dharma (the word “Dharma” does not match any other word in English) originating in the India around the start of the Common Era as a synthesis of various religious traditions. The term “Hinduism” is heterogeneous, as Hinduism consists of several schools of thought. It encompasses many religious rituals that widely vary in practice, as well as many diverse philosophies. Most Hindus believe in a supreme cosmic Spirit, which may be understood in abstract terms as Brahma or which may be worshipped in personal forms such as Vishnu, Shiva or Shakti. Hinduism is the third largest religion in the world with approximately 1.5 billion adherents, (2010), approximately 1.25 billion of whom are in India.

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A simplified version of the Dharmacakra
Dharma is a key concept with multiple meanings in Hinduism and other Indian religions such as Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism. In Hinduism, dharma signifies behaviors that are considered to be in accord with rta, the order that makes life and universe possible. The concept includes duties, rights, laws, sanskara (rites of passage rituals), conduct, morals, ethics, virtues and the ‘‘right way of living’’ for an individual in solitude, in interaction with family, with other human beings, with other living beings, as well as with nature and inanimate objects. Dharma concept incorporates principles such as Yamas, Niyama, Yoga, stages of life, goals of life and others.

Dharma is an ancient concept, that evolved over time in India. The word Dharma appears over fifty times in the Rigveda, dated to be from the 2nd millennium BCE. The concept takes a central place in later Vedic era texts and post-Vedic era Sanskrit literature. Dharma includes the pursuit and execution of one’s nature and true calling, thus playing one’s role in cosmic concert. In Hinduism, it is the dharma of the bee to make honey, of cow to give milk, of sun to radiate sunshine, of river to flow. In terms of humanity, Dharma in Hinduism is the need for, the effect of and essence of service and interconnectedness of all life.

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Saraswati.jpg
Credit: Raja Ravi Verma
Depiction of the Goddess Saraswati

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Adi Shankara
Adi Shankara was a Hindu philosopher and theologian from India. He is the most renowned exponent of the Advaita Vedanta school of philosophy, from whose doctrines some of the main currents of modern Indian thought are derived. His works in Sanskrit discuss the unity of the Ātman and Brahman, the idea that there is interconnected oneness in all of existence, that eternal Truth is Ātman that is within every human being and all living beings. He wrote copious commentaries on the Vedic canon (Brahma Sutras, Principal Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita) in support of his thesis. Shankara also authored Upadesasahasri, his most important original philosophical work. His works elaborate on ideas found in the Upanishads. He also explained the key difference between Hinduism and Buddhism, stating that Hinduism asserts "Atman (Soul, Self) exists", while Buddhism asserts that there is "no Soul, no Self".

Adi Shankara died in the thirty third year of his life, and reliable information on his actual life is scanty. Various texts state that Shankara travelled extensively across the Indian subcontinent to propagate his philosophy through discourses and debates with other thinkers of competing Indian philosophies. He established the importance of monastic life as sanctioned in the Upanishads and Brahma Sutra, in a time when the Mīmāṃsā school established ritualism and ridiculed monasticism. He is reputed to have founded four mathas ("monasteries"), which helped in the historical development, revival and the spread of Advaita Vedanta school of Hinduism. He is also credited with initiating the Kumbh Mela – one of the world's largest periodic religious pilgrimages.

Adi Shankara is believed to be the organiser of the Dashanami monastic order and the founder of the Shanmata tradition of worship. He is also known as Adi Shankaracharya.

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The Hindu religion is the only one of the world's great faiths dedicated to the idea that the Cosmos itself undergoes an immense, indeed an infinite, number of deaths and rebirths. It is the only religion in which the time scales correspond, to those of modern scientific cosmology. Its cycles run from our ordinary day and night to a day and night of Brahma, 8.64 billion years long. Longer than the age of the Earth or the Sun and about half the time since the Big Bang. And there are much longer time scales still.

Carl Sagan (1934-1996) famous astrophysicist.

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