THE SACRED SYLLABLE - This is the Sanskrit symbol for
the word 'OM,' taught to be the primal sound-vibration uttered by God in
the beginning of creation. By repetitiously chanting this single-word
mantra during long periods of meditation, yoga advocates believe they can
access oneness with the Absolute, the Source of all things.
The word "Hindu" stems from the Sanskrit word sindhu meaning
river (specifically the Indus River that flows through India and Pakistan).
Dating historically from 1500 B.C., Hinduism is one of the oldest of the eleven
main living religions. It boasts over 700 million adherents. A wide variety of
beliefs exist in Hinduism, sometimes complementary and sometimes contradictory.
Most likely this syncretism has resulted because of Hinduism's ease in
absorbing ideas from other cultures and religions. Millions of gods are revered
(the traditional number is 330 million), but the source of all personal deities
is the Impersonal Absolute, that Ultimate Reality referred to as Brahman.
No ecclesiastical hierarchy, no specific doctrinal parameters
and no universally defined moral boundaries are promoted in Hinduism. Each man
discovers his own dharma, the divine order for his life. Commonly held beliefs
include: reincarnation, the divinity of man and the quest for "enlightenment.'
The highest source of written truth for Hindus is found in the four Vedas (a
word meaning "knowledge" or "sacred teaching"). The most
ancient is the Rig Veda, probably created between 1,300 and 1,000 B.C.
Hindus differentiate between shruti"”"hearing"
(texts that adherents believe stream from divine revelation and are therefore
infallible, absolute truth) and smriti"”"recollection,
tradition" (texts based on traditions that are valid and
authoritative only when drawing from shruti). Shruti includes
certain portions of the Vedas (the Samhitas, Brahmanas, Upanishads and certain
Sutras). Smriti includes certain traditional texts (including the Puranas
and two lengthy Sanskrit epics: the Mahabharata and the Ramayana). One of the
most popular texts is the Bhagavad-Gita ("the Song of the Lord"),
which is actually part of the Mahabharata.
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to view what followers believe on that subject.