Does Hinduism Accept Newcomers?

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In all definitions, the three pivotal beliefs for Hindus are karma, reincarnation, and the belief in all-pervasive Divinity -- forming as they do the crux of day-to-day religion, explaining our past existence, guiding our present life, and determining our future union with God. It is apparent from the pervasiveness of these beliefs today that a large number of non-Hindus qualify as self-declared Hindus already, for many believe in karma, dharma, and reincarnation, strive to see God everywhere, have some concept of maya, recognize someone as their guru, respect temple worship, and believe in the evolution of the soul. Many of these beliefs are heretical to most other religions, especially Christianity and the Jewish faith. Those who do believe in karma, reincarnation, and union with the Divine have, indeed, evolved beyond the boundaries of Western religion.

The Indian Supreme Court, in 1966, formalized a judicial definition of Hindu beliefs to legally distinguish Hindu denominations from other religions in India. This seven-point list was affirmed by the Court in 1995 in judging cases regarding religious identity:

  1. Acceptance of the Vedas with reverence as the highest authority in religious and philosophic matters and acceptance with reverence of Vedas by Hindu thinkers and philosophers as the sole foundation of Hindu philosophy.
  2. Spirit of tolerance and willingness to understand and appreciate the opponent's point of view based on the realization that truth is many sided.
  3. Acceptance of great world rhythm by all six systems of Hindu philosophy: vast periods of creation, maintenance, and dissolution follow each other in endless succession.
  4. Acceptance by all systems of Hindu philosophy of the belief in rebirth and pre-existence.
  5. Recognition of the fact that the means or ways to salvation are many.
  6. Realization of the truth that numbers of Gods to be worshiped may be large, yet there being Hindus who do not believe in the worshiping of idols.
  7. Unlike other religions, or religious creeds, Hindu religion's not being tied down to any definite set of philosophic concepts, as such.

A Summary of What Most Hindus Believe

Three decades ago we crafted a simple summary of Hindu beliefs and distributed it in hundreds of thousands of pamphlets around the world. On August 1995, these nine beliefs were published by the Religious News Service in Washington, D.C., for hundreds of American newspapers. On February 8, 1993, Christianity Today magazine printed them side by side with their Christian counterparts so Christians could better comprehend Hindus. (See p. 248-250).

Nine Beliefs of Hinduism

  1. Hindus believe in the divinity of the Vedas, the world's most ancient scripture, and venerate the Agamas as equally revealed. These primordial hymns are God's word and the bedrock of Sanatana Dharma, the eternal religion that has neither beginning nor end.
  2. Hindus believe in a one, all-pervasive Supreme Being who is both immanent and transcendent, both Creator and Unmanifest Reality.
  3. Hindus believe that the universe undergoes endless cycles of creation, preservation, and dissolution.
  4. Hindus believe in karma, the law of cause and effect by which each individual creates his own destiny by his thoughts, words, and deeds.
  5. Hindus believe that the soul reincarnates, evolving through many births until all karmas have been resolved, and moksha, spiritual knowledge and liberation from the cycle of rebirth, is attained. Not a single soul will be eternally deprived of this destiny.
  6. Hindus believe that divine beings exist in unseen worlds and that temple worship, rituals, and sacraments as well as personal devotionals create a communion with these devas and Gods.
  7. Hindus believe that a spiritually awakened master, or satguru, is essential to know the Transcendent Absolute, as are personal discipline, good conduct, purification, pilgrimage, self-inquiry, and meditation.
  8. 8)  Hindus believe that all life is sacred, to be loved and revered, and therefore practice ahimsa, "noninjury."
  9. 9)  Hindus believe that no particular religion teaches the only way to salvation above all others, but that all genuine religious paths are facets of God's Pure Love and Light, deserving tolerance and understanding.

Five Obligations of All Hindus

Worship, Upasana:  Young Hindus are taught daily worship in the family shrine room -- rituals, disciplines, chants, yogas, and religious study. They learn to be secure through devotion in home and temple, wearing traditional dress, bringing forth love of the Divine, and preparing the mind for serene meditation.

Holy Days, Utsava:  Young Hindus are taught to participate in Hindu festivals and holy days in the home and temple. They learn to be happy through sweet communion with God at such auspicious celebrations. Utsava includes fasting and attending the temple on Monday or Friday and other holy days.

3/16/2010 4:00:00 AM
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