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Thread: Sacred Texts
09-17-2008, 12:28 AM #1
Hindu sacred texts are perhaps the most ancient religious texts still surviving today. Some appear to be millennia older than the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) which conservative Christians date to circa 1500 BCE and liberal scholars date to circa 900 BCE.
The primary sacred texts of Hinduism are the Vedas: the Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda. The Vedas contain hymns, incantations, and rituals from ancient India. 4 The Rig Veda (a.k.a. Rigveda) may be the oldest of the four. Estimates of its date of composition in oral form range from 1500 BCE to 4000 BCE. The Yajur and Atharva Vedas refer to the vernal equinox having occurred in the Pleiades constellation -- an event dating from about 2500 BCE.
The date when the Vedas were placed in written form is unknown. Various dates from 600 to after 300 BCE have been suggested.
The Upanishadas deal with Vedic philosophy and form the conclusions of each of the Vedas. "They elaborate on how the soul (Atman) can be united with the ultimate truth (Brahman) through contemplation and mediation, as well as the doctrine of Karma-- the cumulative effects of a persons' actions." 4
An important text is the Ramayana. Various sources have dated it to:
The first century CE in written form, based on oral traditions dating back six or seven centuries earlier. 4
4th century BCE in written form, based on oral traditions dating back to 1500 BCE. 6
4000 BCE in oral form, based on astronomical constellations and other features mentioned. 6
It is "a moving love story with moral and spiritual themes that has deep appeal in India to this day" 6 concerning the exploits of the hero Rama who is viewed as an avatar of Vishnu, and as "...a principal deity in his own right." 7 The written form has been attributed to the poet Valmiki.
The Mahabharata is a group of books attributed to the sage Vyasa. They have been variously dated as having been composed between 540 and 300 BCE, between 200 BCE and 2000 CE, the to the 15th century BCE. They record "the legends of the Bharatas, one of the Aryan tribal groups." The Bhagavad Gita is the sixth book of the Mahabharata. It is a poem describing a conversation between a warrior Arjuna and the God Krishna. It is an ancient text that has become a main sacred text of Hinduism and other belief systems.
Other texts include the Brahmanas, the Sutras, Puranas, and the Aranyakas.
Many of these sacred texts are available online. 4 One web site has a search engine available. 5
Hindu beliefs and practices:
Categorizing the religion of Hinduism is somewhat confusing:
Hinduism has commonly been viewed in the west as a polytheistic religion - one which worships multiple deities: gods and goddesses. Although a widespread belief, this is not particularly accurate.
Some have viewed it as a monotheistic religion, because it recognizes only one supreme God: the panentheistic principle of Brahman, that all reality is a unity. The entire universe is seen as one divine entity who is simultaneously at one with the universe and who transcends it as well.
Some view Hinduism as Trinitarian because Brahman is simultaneously visualized as a triad -- one God with three persons:
Brahma the Creator who is continuing to create new realities
Vishnu, (Krishna) the Preserver, who preserves these new creations. Whenever dharma (eternal order, righteousness, religion, law and duty) is threatened, Vishnu travels from heaven to earth in one of ten incarnations.
Shiva, the Destroyer, is at times compassionate, erotic and destructive.
Strictly speaking, most forms of Hinduism are henotheistic; they recognize a single deity, and recognizes other gods and goddesses as facets, forms, manifestations, or aspects of that supreme God.
Most urban Hindus follow one of two major divisions within Hinduism:
Vaishnavaism: which generally regards Vishnu as the ultimate deity
Shivaism: which generally regards Shiva as the ultimate deity.
However, many rural Hindus worship their own village goddess or an earth goddess. She is believed to rule over fertility and disease -- and thus over life and death. The priesthood is less important in rural Hinduism: non-Brahmins and non-priests often carry out ritual and prayer there.
Hindus believe in the repetitious Transmigration of the Soul. This is the transfer of one's soul after death into another body. This produces a continuing cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth through their many lifetimes. It is called samsara. Karma is the accumulated sum of ones good and bad deeds. Karma determines how you will live your next life. Through pure acts, thoughts and devotion, one can be reborn at a higher level. Eventually, one can escape samsara and achieve enlightenment. Bad deeds can cause a person to be reborn as a lower level, or even as an animal. The unequal distribution of wealth, prestige, suffering are thus seen as natural consequences for one's previous acts, both in this life and in previous lives.
Hindus organize their lives around certain activities or "purusharthas." These are called the "four aims of Hinduism," or "the doctrine of the fourfold end of life." They are:
The three goals of the "pravritti," those who are in the world, are:
dharma: righteousness in their religious life. This is the most important of the three.
artha: success in their economic life; material prosperity.
kama: gratification of the senses; pleasure; sensual, sexual, and mental enjoyment.
The main goal for the "nivritti," those who renounce the world. is:
moksa: Liberation from "samsara." This is considered the supreme goal of mankind.
Meditation is often practiced, with Yoga being the most common. Other activities include daily devotions, public rituals, and puja, a ceremonial dinner for a God.
Hinduism has a deserved reputation of being highly tolerant of other religions. Hindus have a saying: "Ekam Sataha Vipraha Bahudha Vadanti," which may be translated: "The truth is One, but different Sages call it by Different Names"
10-16-2008, 06:11 AM #2
- Join Date
- Mar 2008
during diwali we need good texts
12-17-2008, 04:39 PM #3
Thank you so much for sharing .
02-10-2009, 12:20 AM #4
07-04-2009, 12:45 AM #5
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- May 2009
09-12-2009, 10:30 PM #6
01-03-2010, 05:58 PM #7
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- Jul 2009
Thank you for this very useful post for people of all of the world