Monday, 6 April 2015

Hinduism for Schools

Hinduism: The word 'Hindu' comes from the name of a river called 'Sindhu' that flowed in Northwest of India. The name of that river was mispronounced as 'Hindu'. Hence the people who lived in that part of the world were called 'Hindus'. The knowledge of God that comes from this part of the world is called 'Hinduism'. Most of the Hindus still live in India but a large number now live in many other parts of the world.

Symbol: Aum is an important symbol. It is the sound heard in deepest meditation and is said to be the best name for God.

Founders: Hinduism does not have one or two prophets who lived a very long time ago, but has hundreds of prophets who teach religion throughout all ages.

The special name given to these prophets is 'Rishi'. It means someone who can 'see' God. If one can meditate deeply one too becomes a 'rishi'. Some of these ancient 'rishis' were young boys and girls. These sages are highly respected by all Hindus, as they possess the knowledge of God.

Prayers: The most popular Hindu prayer is called the 'Gayatri' It translates:-

'Let us meditate on the glorious effulgence of that supreme being who has created the universe may she enlighten our hearts and direct our understanding'.

Scriptures: The knowledge of God that the 'rishis' gain is passed on to mankind. This knowledge is called the 'Vedas'. They form the main scriptures of Hinduism. They were written in a very ancient language called 'Sanskrit'. Another book of authority is called the Gita.

The mythological books of Hinduism are called the 'Puranas'. These books contain interesting stories about God. Children like to learn about God through such stories. 'Ramayana and Mahabharat' are two major history books with stories of Hinduism.

Symbols: Apart from Aum Some of the other symbols are:-

Lotus: This symbolizes beauty and purity manifesting itself from the impure.

Swastika: This denotes good luck from all corners of the world (symbol of auspiciousness)


Shrutis: are the books of authority for Hindus. The word - shruti literally means 'that which is heard'. It is so called because these scriptures were passed on by word of mouth. They are said to contain spiritual knowledge acquired through deep meditation. The main set of texts is called the 'Vedas'. The portions of the Vedas that contain the philosophy of Hinduism are called the 'Upanishads'. 'Bhagvat- Gita' is another text that is considered to be a book of authority. It literally means 'the song of the divine'. Even though this text is not part of the Vedas, most Hindus consider this to be a text of great importance. It is the spiritual dialogue between Arjun and Sri Krishna from the epic Mahabharata.

Smritis: are the scriptures of lesser authority for Hindus. They contain mythological texts like the Epics- Ramayana - Story of Rama and Sita. Mahabharata - Story of the Pandav Brothers overcoming adversities with the help of Krishna.

Puranas -There are 18 texts called Mahapuranas. They contain mythological stories of various Gods and Goddesses. These texts provide an easier way to learn Hinduism. Manusmriti is one of the texts of Hinduism that imparts ethics, morality and codes of conduct. All Smritis are considered to have lesser authority than the Vedas. 

Founders: Hinduism is unique in that it does not rely on the spiritual experiences of just one or two prophets of ancient times. It is able to refresh its message of spirituality through the teachings of different prophets throughout all ages. These prophets are sometimes referred to as:

Avatars: - which literally means 'one who descends'. Hindus say that God literally descends to earth for the good of mankind. Hindus refer to Rama, Krishna, and Buddha as avatars. Prophets of other religions are also referred to as avatars.

Some recent Avatars are: -
Chaitanya (1485-1534)
Ramakrishna (1836-1886)

There are many more avatars.

Religious teachers:

Acharya: Means spiritual teacher - those who teach by example.

Famous Acharyas of Hinduism who propounded various schools of philosophies are :

Shankracharya (788-820) - Advaita philosophy

Ramanujacharya(1017-1137)-Qualified Advaita
Madhavacharya(1197-1280)- Dvaita philosophy
Vallabhacharya-(1479-1532)- Qualified Dvaita

Saints: Hinduism has been blessed with hundreds of saints through the ages. They proclaim first hand experience of God. Some famous saints are:

Tulsidas (1527-1623)
Meera 1450-1512)
Tukaram (1607-1649)
Kabir (1440-1518).

Swami: Means a master - title normally given to a monk.

Guru: Means spiritual teacher.

Role of Sectarian movements: Hinduism encourages all sectarian movements. It says: 'As we are all different the way we think of God or approach God will necessarily be different'. All religions and all sectarian movements within those religions are valid pathways to find God hence all deserve respect.

Interfaith in Hinduism: The above teachings allows one to be true to one's own faith without compromise and yet lets others follow their own faith without hindrance. This teaching is at the heart of Hinduism. The Vedic text relating to this teaching reads: 'One ultimate reality approached in many different ways.' This verse is very relevant for the multi-faith society we live in and tells us how people of different faiths can relate to each other without having to patronize or compromise their own faiths. Such pluralistic teachings are useful for any 'Interfaith ideals' we may wish to pursue.

God with form: Hindus believe that one can think of God as a person (with shape) or one can think of him not as a person (without shape). It is like the example of ice and water. Ice takes on a shape but water does not seem to have any shape and yet they are both really the same thing. There is only one God but Hindus like to think of him/her in the form of their liking.

God as a person: It is easier to build a relationship with God if one thinks of him as a person. Some Hindus like to think of God as their real father in heaven. But why only as a father? Many Hindus like to think of God as their real 'mummy' in heaven. Hindus can choose the way they wish to think of God. The important thing is to love God. It makes no difference how one wishes to see Him. One is allowed to pick and choose the way one thinks of God. Some like to think of him as Krishna. Some like to think of God as the Mother Goddess Durga - with many arms - holding many divine weapons. Some Hindus like to think of God as a little child. They do not like to think of God as a grown up person. All these different ways to approach God are acceptable in Hinduism. There is only One God in Hinduism but one can choose how he/she looks.

God without form (but with qualities): Some Hindus do not like to think of God having the shape of a man or a woman. How can God be without any shape? We all believe in truth, love, power and such. None of these have any shape and yet we all believe in them. Hindus say that this is how one can think of God without shape. Some Hindus use fire as a symbol to think of God without any shape.

God beyond form and formless: These are not the only ways one can think of God. Hindus say that there are many more ways one can think of God. If we concentrate and find out who we truly are - we find that: - 'We are really God'. This is very difficult to believe, but Hindus say the 'real you' is called 'Atman' - God as your true self. That is why the greeting used by Hindus is:- 'Namaste' - I bow down to God as 'you'. The highest worship of God is then thought to be 'Service to mankind'. Hurting any living thing is considered wrong becomes it is the same as 'hurting ourselves'!

God with Form: Hindus say that it is not enough just to believe in God. We have to make an effort to find God. One of the best ways to find God is to think of him/her as a person. This allows us to build a relationship with him and thus allows us to get closer to him. Many Hindus have found God in this manner. The form of God they choose then becomes very special because it is a tried and tested path used by a person to reach God. This is why we see God being portrayed in so many different ways in Hinduism. These are all different ways used by different people to reach the same God. Many people including some Hindus get confused when they see so many different forms of God. Vedas - the scriptures of Hinduism teach: - "There is only one God but there are many different ways to reach him".

Different Forms of God:

Brahma: God seen in the role of the creator of the universe. He is shown with four heads looking in all four directions. He is sometimes shown holding scriptures, beads, and a water pot.

Vishnu: God seen in the role of the preserver of the universe. He is normally shown with four arms holding lotus, mace, discus and conch.

Mahesh (Shiva): God seen in the role of the destroyer of the universe. Shown sometimes as 'Natraj' holding a drum as a symbol of creation and fire as a symbol of destruction. Hinduism says that if God is the creator of the universe then God is the only one who can be the destroyer of the universe. Sometimes he is shown as 'Shiva' with a snake curled around his neck.

Rama and Krishna: Avatars ( God descending to earth) like Rama and Krishna are also the forms of God Hindus like to worship.

Mother Goddess: Some Hindus like to think of God as their mother in heaven.

She is sometimes shown as the consort of Shiva and is addressed as: -  
Parvati: Goddess referred to as Shakti (Energy).

Durga: Parvati in the role of a warrior. Shown sitting on a lion or a tiger and holding many divine weapons.

Kali: Parvati in the role of the 'all-destroying' mother goddess.

Sarasvati: is shown wearing a white sari and playing the Veena. She is referred to as the Goddess of all learning.

Lakshmi: Is considered to be the goddess of wealth and beauty. She is shown wearing a red sari and offering gold coins to her devotees.

God without form but with qualities: Some Hindus like to think of God as being formless. The best way that they can describe God is as Truth and Love. They say that if we try and find out the real nature of these qualities, we can find God. They do not like to think of God with form. Two recent movements in India that promoted this approach to God are called: Arya Samaj and Brahmo Samaj. They both promote God as impersonal but with qualities like truth and love. Swami Dayananda Sarasvati (1825-1883) was the founder of the Arya Samaj. Ram Mohan Roy was the founder of Brahmo Samaj. Both these movements brought about important social reforms within Hinduism.

God with and without form: Most Hindus are not very keen to think of God as being formless. The best explanation of God as being both with and without form came from a recent Hindu prophet called Ramakrishna (1836-1886). He explained why there is no contradiction in thinking of God as being both with and without form. He gave the example of ice and water.   It is the same thing with and without shape. He says that the love of the devotee freezes the formless God into the form of his choice. Hence any approach to God is fine. Any form of God we decide to worship is fine. He said God is both with and without form and much more.

Brahman and Atman - God beyond form and quality: Hinduism also teaches that God can be beyond form and quality. Hinduism refers to God as the ultimate reality -'Brahman'. It teaches that this ultimate reality 'appears' as the physical universe. It adds that this same ultimate reality also 'appears' in a more clear form as all living things. Hence they are sacred as they represent an image of God. Mankind is the most sacred image of God as it represents the most transparent manifestation of God. What sparkles in all of us as the 'I' say Hindus is a clear reflection of God. The name given to God as our true self is called 'Atman'. This is one way in which we can think of God as being beyond form and quality - just as the witness to everything.

Cycle of Life: Hindus believe that after we die, we are reborn. This cycle of being born again and again is called reincarnation. Most of us cannot remember anything about our past lives but there are some who can remember. The most important thing that comes with us when we are reborn is our character. That is why we see children born in the same family with such different characters. That is why some children are born as geniuses - they had developed their skills in past lives.
Can we be reborn as a butterfly? Some think that this would be fun, but it is highly unlikely. We start off being born as a lower being like the plant but we slowly evolve and are reborn as higher and higher beings until we become human. It would be difficult to be reborn as a lower being after we have developed a human character.
Can we stop being reborn? Yes, only after we find God. That is the final destination. We have to reach God to stop this cycle of rebirth. This is called moksha.
Law of Karma: Hindus say that we have to bear the consequences for all that we do. Just like if we foolishly cut our finger - we immediately feel the pain and scream. Sometimes what we do now does not bear results immediately, but catches up with us later on - sometimes in later lives. This is called the Law of Karma. We reap what we sow. This means we have to be very careful in what we do. If we do hateful things, we will have to bear the consequences and bear hateful things later on. If we do good things then we will get good results later on. We are responsible for everything that happens to us. It is our past actions (karma)catching up with us.
Different ways to reach God:Religions: Hindus say that all religions are different ways to find God. They say that we can reach God through any of these different ways. No one religion is better than others. This way of thinking about many religions all teaching about the same ONE God is called 'Pluralism'.
Different ways to reach God within Hinduism: Within Hinduism there are lots of different ways to find God.
Some 'clever-clogs' like to use their intelligence to find God - this way to God is called path of knowledge (jnana marg).
Then there are others who just fall in love with God - the method they use to find God is called the path of devotion (bhakti marg).
There are also some that like to use concentration and find God. This method of finding God is called path of meditation (raja yoga).
Some people like to be very active. They love to work. The method they use to find God is called path of action (karma marg).
No one method is better than others. The method we choose should reflect our own character and abilities.

Ways to God: There are as many ways to God as there are people. Everyone has to find his/her own way to God. We have to make the best use of our own abilities. We can pick and choose any of these ways, or a combination of any of these major ways. They are called the four yogas or margs (paths).

Bhakti Yoga: Bhakti means intense love for God. This path is suited to people who feel naturally drawn towards God. The devotee spends his time in prayers, worship and constant remembrance of the deity of his choice. His daily routine consists of these activities. He may read scriptures, sing devotional songs, tell beads and only socialise with people of similar temperament. He carries out worship with great love and care. He develops a special relationship with the deity of his choice in order to get closer to Him. Some like to think of God as their real father or their real mother.
Some even think of God as their sweetheart. Some may take the attitude that they are just the servants of God. Others like to think of God as their best friend. All these attitudes help them feel closer to God. The greatest advantage of this path to God is that the end product "Intense love of God" - is also the very instrument used to achieve that goal. Hence many people consider this path to be the easiest way to God. The difficulty is that only few people feel such intense love of God! If the devotee expects anything in return for his devotion, his love (bhakti) is considered to be unripe. When the devotee wants God only for the sake of God and nothing else, his love is mature and is then called parabhakti.

Raja Yoga: Essentially raja yoga teaches the path to God through meditation. Many mistake the word yoga to mean postures and physical exercises. The term for these activities is - Hatha yoga. Hindus realise the importance of a healthy body for spiritual progress; hence these exercises were introduced. Sage Patanjali developed the system of raja yoga. It consists of eight steps. The first two are called Yama and Niyama. These prescribe ten disciplines to be observed in daily life before we are ready to practice meditation. They require practice of truthfulness, celibacy, cleanliness non-violence, austerities etc. in daily life. Next comes Asana - suitable sitting posture for meditation. The main requirement is to sit upright with the backbone kept straight. The aim of Raja yoga is to develop intense concentration whereby we are able to become more 'awake' than we are now. It requires a dramatic change in the level of awareness we experience. Hindus claim that it is in this higher state of awareness that all prophets come face to face with God. Spirituality then becomes first hand experience and transforms the individual into a God-man. The goal of raja yoga is to develop one pointed concentration (dhyana) and thus achieve union with the ultimate reality - God. This is called samadhi.

Karma Yoga: is often called the path of action. Krishna teaches in the Bhagavat Gita, "Action is better than inaction". This forms the basis of this particular path. It says that we cannot really avoid action. Even if we sit in the remotest place our mind will still continue to conjure up images and be active. The best thing is not to stop acting but to act in a manner that helps to cleanse the mind. The simplest method recommended is to continue to act but to offer the fruits of our action to God. Thus we begin to develop a sense of detachment in the midst of all activities. The ultimate reality as our true self is best described as the witness looking out through the body. By following this practice of non-attachment to our actions we get closer to our true self as the witness.

Jnana Yoga: This is often described as the way to God through intellectual ability. This path claims that to find God we need to clear our vision of reality. We all know that as we develop sharper intellect the same world begins to appear in a different light. With the advance of science we now view the world in a completely different way than the ancient man. Jnana yoga says that this process should be sharpened even further. We require greater mental evolution in order to see what is really out there and what we are all about. This can be achieved by using the tools of discrimination and dispassion. First we need dispassion towards the world in order to become less distracted. Then we need to focus on what is real and what is unreal that is called discrimination. The best example of a Jnana Yogi is perhaps 'Shankracharya'.

Raman Maharshi - used sharp intellect to see through the apparent world.

Ramadas with Krishnabai - used constant repetition of the name of Sri Rama
Vivekananda - master of Raja yoga and yet involved in unceasing activity.

Worship: Hindus say any activity we do that takes us closer to God is called worship. There are no hard and fast rules about worship. The best time for worship is considered to be dusk and dawn when everything seems to be peaceful.

  • Shrine room (or shrine): is the place where worship is done in the house.
  • Deity (the form of God being worshipped) is placed on a raised and well-decorated platform.
  • Water may be sprinkled around the shrine as a symbol to purify.
  • Flowers may be offered as symbol of offering our heart to God.
  • Fruit and cooked food may be offered to God. At the end of the worship this becomes holy (prashad) and is distributed and eaten by everyone.
  • Incense may be burnt - the sweet scent goes everywhere to symbolise God being everywhere.
  • Bell may be rung to awaken the deity and also to block out other disturbing sounds.
  • Tilak - (mark on the forehead) may be made to awaken spirituality. The mark is usually made with red powder (kumkum).
  • Prayers or sacred verses may be sung.
  • Aarti (waving a lamp in front of the deity) ceremony may be carried out to invoke and welcome the deity.
  • Camphor is burnt to symbolise burning of our egos.
  • Japa or telling beads while repeating God's name may be carried out.
  • Sacred scriptures may be read, or meditation may be practiced after the prayers.

Temples: Hindus say temples are the homes of God on earth. There are no hard and fast rules about when to go to the temple. Hindus go to the temple to get 'darshan' (catch sight of God they worship). We may take some fruits or flowers or other items as offerings. When we arrive at the temple we remove our shoes before entering the temple. There is normally a bell that we ring to announce our presence to God. The main deity (form of God being worshipped) is normally kept in the inner shrine. The outer walls may have smaller shrines showing other deities. The worship is similar to the worship in the home using the same kind of artefacts. There may be corporate singing ('bhajans') accompanied by musical instruments. We may observe the 'aarti' ceremony (a lamp is gently waved in front of the deity in a clockwise direction). The lamp is passed around and everyone cups their hands over the lamp to receive blessings. We may go round the image / deity to pay our respects. When we leave we receive 'prashad' (food that was offered during worship).

Four stages of life: Ashramas

Ashramas: - Can mean hermitages. Ashrama also means different stages in life. According to Hindu thinking the aim of life is to find God. In order to achieve this, life is subdivided into four stages called Ashramas. This practice has been abandoned since the middle ages, but some of the values it portrays are relevant today.

Brahmacharya: - This marks the first stage of life. It begins at the age of about 8 when the child is ready to begin his studies. The child is expected to lead a celibate life. He stays with the teacher, learning the scriptures as well as other skills. The importance of discipline and respect for the elders and teachers are stressed. The values to be learnt from this stage that are still relevant are concepts of celibacy, self-restraint, concentration in studies and respect for elders / teachers.

Grihasta: - This second stage of life begins with marriage. One enters the householder stage and starts a family. One earns a righteous living. One looks after all family members including the elderly, guests and children. One is supposed to work for the good of the society as a whole (dharma). This stage allows one to acquire wealth (artha) and fulfill legitimate desires (kama). This stage in life is the key stage, as it acts as the financial support for the other three stages of life. It has relevance today in teaching values of righteous living, carrying out one's duties, not just looking after one's own family but also doing good work for society as a whole.

Vanaprastha: - This is the third stage of life. The scriptures say 'when the skin becomes wrinkled' one begins this stage. It literally means - 'the stage of the forest dweller.' It encourages withdrawal from family duties. It is a stage of retirement. One acts as the advisor in the family and passes on the duties of running the household to the younger members of the family. One withdraws from worldly desires in order to attend to one's spiritual needs. Normally one continues to live with the family but spends time in contemplation and meditation.

Sannyas: - This is the final stage in life. According to the scriptures, this stage can begin at any time one feels a strong urge to find God. Sannyas literally means renunciation. It is often misunderstood to mean giving up everything. In fact it really means giving up the minor things in order to achieve the major thing(God). It is also misunderstood to mean giving up the family. It really means that you make the whole world your family. The aim of sannyas is twofold. One is to find God (some call this liberation or Moksha) and the other is to work for the good of mankind. He moves away from his family and lives the life of a monk. He spends time in meditation, worship, going on pilgrimages and doing whatever he sees fit to find God. The values that can be learnt from this ashrama are the values of renunciation. Without renunciation, how can we expect to achieve the highest? At some stage in life we have to develop dispassion for the worldly things in order to make spiritual progress.

Sacraments - rites of passage

Samskars - rites of passage. There are 16 rites of passages prescribed in the Hindu scriptures. These are religious celebrations to mark entry into different stages in life. The first samskar takes place before conception! The last one takes place after death. Some of the early samskars are: - Jatakarma: - After birth before umbilical cord is severed. Namakarana: - Naming the child. Annaprasana: - First feeding of cooked rice. Chaula: - First hair cut.

Upanayana: - It literally means getting closer to God. This is sometimes called the sacred thread ceremony. It marks the beginning of life as a student. It may take place when the child is about 8 years old. In ancient days, both boys and girls undertook this ceremony. A havan (worship through fire) is lit. The priest recites hymns. The father or the priest whispers the 'Gayatri mantra' into the child's ear. This marks initiation into religious life. The child is invested with a sacred thread that is draped over the left shoulder. The thread has three strands. They represent the three debts the individual bears. The first debt is to God, the second is to the forefathers and the third is to the spiritual teacher. The child is now fit to study the scriptures and carry out worship in the family shrine. He/she is now expected to begin serious studies of the scriptures.

Vivah (Marriage ceremony): - This ceremony marks the transition from the student life to the life of a householder. At the end of the studies the person is ready for marriage. A suitable partner is found and the Vivah ceremony is carried out. The ceremony may vary a great deal depending on local customs. There are some basic rituals that are observed at most ceremonies. They involve the bride's father offering the hand of the bride to the groom (Panigrahan). A havan (worship through fire) is lit. A priest will recite some hymns from the scriptures. The bride and groom will offer grains and ghee to the fire. This is to obtain blessings of higher beings. Fire is considered to be the witness to the ceremony. The bride and groom will walk around the fire four times. Every time the bride will put her right foot on a piece of rock. This is to symbolise her steadfastness in carrying out her duties as the wife. As a symbolic gesture, the bride and groom take seven steps together. The first step is for God. The other steps can be for health, wealth, strength, children, and happiness. The last step is for a life - long friendship between the husband and wife. The wife marks her forehead with red powder called kum-kum. The couple is showered with rice and petals to wish them well. The wife is now addressed as 'Sahadharmini' meaning partner for spiritual progress.

Antim kriya (final rites): - This is the final rite and involves the cremation of the body. The Hindu philosophy says that the body is just the outer garment of the individual. The real self does not die but goes forth and assumes another body in due course. The body is not considered to be important, so it is not preserved, but cremated. The body is bathed, clothed and placed in the coffin and taken to the crematorium. In India the body will be taken to the funeral pyre where the eldest son or male relative will set fire to the pyre. Verses from the Bhagavat Gita are recited to console the relatives. The ashes are collected and may be taken to India and immersed in the river Ganges.


Today this word is used to mean postures and physical exercises. It really means 'to join together' or 'to join with God'. Physical exercises help us keep our bodies healthy, which then helps to do the real yoga ('joining with God').

Raja Yoga:

This is true yoga and is called 'Raja Yoga'. It involves meditation. This is not easy. Very few people are able to meditate properly. Real meditation comes when we 'become more awake' than we are now. Can we become even more awake? Yes, when that happens we cannot even feel our own bodies and still feel 'very awake'. When we meditate successfully, others can come and tickle us and we won't feel a thing! Only when we meditate like this can we 'join with God' and learn all the secrets about God. Hindu prophets learn about God in this manner.

Festivals celebrate: - Mythological events, Historic events, Personal relationships or Seasonal festivities.

Diwali, is perhaps the most popular Hindu festival. This day celebrates the return of Rama and Sita from exile. It also celebrates the day Mother Goddess destroyed a demon called 'Mahisha'. On this day people light lots of lamps, visit relations, have feasts and firework displays.

Navratri celebrates the worship of Mother Goddess and her victory over evil.

Janamasthami celebrates the birth of Krishna.

Ramanavmi celebrates the birth of Rama.

Shivratri celebrates the worship of Shiva.

Guru Purnima honours the teachers.

Raksha Bandhan honours the relationship between brothers and sisters.

Holi celebrates the arrival of spring.

Philosophies: There are six schools of philosophy in Hinduism. They are all attempts to rationalise the teachings of the Vedas.

Samkhya, Yoga and Vedanta are three schools that are considered to have stood the test of time.

Samkhya: Is perhaps the most ancient philosophy of the world.

Sage Kapila is said to be the author of this school of philosophy. It is almost impossible to date the work. Kapila attempted to classify the world into different categories. Dealing with matter, sense organs, mind, intellect and so on. Some of the findings of Samkhya are very similar to the way modern science views things. Samkhya states that the universe is created by the combination of two major categories. They are called Purusha (the individual) and Prakriti (nature).

Yoga: Is the name of the philosophy propounded by sage Patanjali in the post-Kapila era. The Yoga school has adopted most of the findings of Samkhya and added one further category - God. The practice of Raja Yoga or path to God through meditation is based on the teaching of this school of philosophy. In fact it can be said that Raja Yoga is the practical experiment suggested by the Yoga school of philosophy.

Vedanta: This is reputed to be the most popular Hindu school of philosophy. Vedanta has been the theology that has represented Hinduism for the past two millenniums. The term Vedanta literally means - end of Vedas, or conclusions of the Vedas. The teachings are supported by the Upanishads. The principal teachings of this school discuss the nature and relationship between God, the individual, and the universe. Vedantic teaching can be subdivided into two major categories.

Dvaita-vedanta: - (Dualistic Vedanta) talks of God as the supreme personality. Soul(s) and Nature are considered to be eternal and distinct from this God-head.

Advaita-vedanta: - (Non-dualism) says that there cannot be more than one eternal and infinite ultimate category - else they will limit each other. Hence it concludes that the individual soul cannot be different from God or the essential nature of the universe. It claims that in the final analysis - there cannot be 'more than one'. This 'non-dual appears' as many due to ignorance.

The differences:

It may seem that there are serious differences between these schools of philosophies. Vivekananda explains that these differences are more to do with semantics and technicalities than the validity of experiences of the enlightened souls or the explanations offered by various acharyas who promoted these different explanations to suit the needs of mankind in different circumstances.

Upanishads: - These are the sacred texts that form the basis of the Vedantic teachings. Upanishads literally mean sitting near the teacher. There are 108 Upanishads. 11 of which are very popular. These upanishads occur at the end portion of the Vedas (the books of authority for Hindus). They talk about the real nature of man as 'Atman'. They promote ideas about the real nature of the universe as 'Brahman'. They then proceed to discuss the possible relationships between them.

Ahimsa: - Concepts like non-violence and sacredness of all living things come out very naturally from these philosophic teachings. The reason why we should not hurt another living thing is because in reality we are harming ourselves say the teachings of Advaita. These kinds of conclusions form the basis of moral laws in Hinduism.

Bhagavat Gita: - This is another text which is considered to be authoritative for the Hindus. It literally means 'song of the divine'. It is in the form of a spiritual dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjun. It has 700 verses and captures the essential teachings of the upanishads. The central themes of Gita are the concepts of 'renunciation' and 'devotion to God as Krishna'.

Theory of Creation from Rig Veda 10.129 - Nasadiya Sukta There was neither non-existence nor existence then; there was
neither the realm of space nor the sky which is beyond. What stirred? Where? In whose protection? Was there water, bottomless - deep?
There was neither death nor immortality then. There was no distinguishing sign of night nor of day. That one breathed, windless, by its own impulse. Other than that there was nothing beyond. Darkness was hidden by darkness in the beginning; with no distinguishing sign, all this was water. The life force that was covered with emptiness, that one arose through the power of heat. Desire came upon that one in the beginning; that was the first seed of mind. Poets seeking in their heart with wisdom found the bond of existence in non-existence.

Their cord was extended across. Was there below? Was there above?
There were seed-placers; there were powers. There was impulse beneath; there was giving-forth above. Who really knows? Who will here proclaim it? Whence was it produced? Whence is this creation? The gods came afterwards, with the creation of this universe. Who then knows whence it has arisen? Whence this creation has arisen perhaps it formed itself, or perhaps it did not the one who looks down on it, in the highest heaven, only he knows or perhaps he does not know.

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