Hinduism is the largest religion in India, our Secret Church 16 prayer focus. Though it is hard to sum up all of Hinduism in one blog post, we wanted to provide you with some basics about India’s most popular religion as we focus on the country for prayer.
Hinduism is predominately found in India, with over 80 percent of Indians being followers of this religion (more than 800 million people). However, Hindus can also be found in much of South Asia and the rest of the world. It is currently the third-largest world religion, and some say that there are around one million Hindus in the United States.
Origins and Founder of Hinduism
There is no founder of Hinduism, even though it is one of the oldest religions still practiced today. Traced to around 4,000 years ago when a developed group of people lived in Northwest India. When nomadic, Indo-European tribes invaded Northern India, they brought influences of Vedism, which eventually mixed with local Indian beliefs. The principles of reincarnation, polytheism and the spiritual unity of humanity became intertwined. This mixture of beliefs was passed down orally until it became written scripture called the Vedas. Today the Vedas are revered sacred texts in Hinduism.
Religious Texts and Scriptures
Hindus hold many ancient texts in reverence. A few of these include:
- The Veda: The oldest text that contains hymns, prayers, and rituals. There are four Vedas: the Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajuraveda, and Artharaveda.
- The Upanishads: A collection of writings that marked a change to the ideas about humanity and the universe, especially the Brahman and the soul or self. This text also had a large influence on Gautama Buddha, who founded Buddhism.
- The Ramayana: One of two epic tales of India about the life of Rama, believed to be an incarnation of the god Vishnu.
- The Mahabharata: The second epic tale about the deeds of Aryan clans.
- The Bhagavad Gita: The most sacred most widely read Hindu book that describes man’s duty and impacts the Hindu belief of bhakti, or devotion to a particular god as a means of salvation.
Who Hindus Worship
There are over 300 million gods worshipped in the religion. Many Hindus consider these gods to be manifestations of one supreme being, Brahman, who created everything as an illusion with no beginning or end. Some believe that the different gods represent the different aspects of the One Divinity which is too large for humans to comprehend. Others see a singular god with millions of different forms. Still, other traditions of Hinduism believe in a triune view of god with Brahma as the creator, Vishnu as the preserver, and Shiva as the destroyer.
How Hindus Worship
Temples abound in India where people come to worship the gods. Typically people go in and out of temples at all times of the day and do not have services for worship like a church. An average temple will have shrines to several gods throughout with statues and places to leave offerings. Temple priests perform rituals to the idols throughout the day while people watch and wait for blessings. Temple goers worship and pray by prostrating on the floor, meditating in front of a statue, or walking around a shrine a certain number of times.
Besides public temples, most Hindus have a shrine at home for one or more gods. These sometimes have their own rooms or stored in cabinets made especially for them. Each family has specific gods that it worships and will have idols to represent those gods. Typically people will perform morning and evening pujas (worship ceremonies) in their homes each day.
Key Concepts of Hinduism
- There are four goals for a typical Hindu: Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha.
- Dharma means individual ethics, obligations, and duties. It is the moral code for living.
- Artha is the gathering of wealth, which should be gathered to help others and remove barriers for dharmic living.
- Karma is the cause and effect of actions.
- Moksha refers to salvation by more than one path and freedom the cycle of death and rebirth.
- Hindus believe that a person’s soul will continue to be reborn until it attains salvation.
- The ultimate goal of all Hindus is to become one with the Supreme Being. Also, to gain freedom from reincarnation and material existence.
- Actions determine one’s progress toward salvation. Actions of virtue get one closer to the goal, and evil actions add to the separation and show one’s lack of understanding.
Pray for the Spread of the Gospel
In India, more than 800 million souls are working towards the day when they will escape the cycle of reincarnation and become part of their one god. As we prepare for Secret Church 16, let us pray for these 800 million to hear about the One True God who created them and about Jesus Christ who died so that they could become children of God.
For resources on Hinduism and how to pray for Hindus, visit the International Mission Board’s (IMB) South Asian Peoples website.
Information for this post was gathered from Compelling Truth, Patheos, and IMB South Asian Peoples.