Research resources on Hinduism
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In the "Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs," John Ankerberg and John Weldon state that in
many respects the philosophy of the New Age Movement parallels that of Hinduism. In addition, there are scores of modern religious cults and sects that have been influenced by Hinduism to varying degrees.
They also point out that
... literally millions of Americans have taken up Hindu practices, such as yoga, meditation, developing altered states of consciousness, and seeking Hindu "enlightenment."
Weldon and Ankerberg write:
In its most simple definition, Hinduism may be defined as the religious beliefs and practices common to India. Defining Hinduism in a more precise manner is difficult because of its wide number of practices and teachings. To illustrate this, here are selected definitions from authoritative sources. Hinduism is
The Way of the majority of the people of India, a Way that is a combination of religious belief, rites, customs, and daily practices, many of which appear overtly secular but in most cases have religious origins and sanctions. Hinduism is noted as being the only one of the major beliefs that cannot be defined, for any definition is inadequate, contradictory, and incomplete. (1)
The name used in the West to designate the traditional socioreligious structure of the Indian people. As a religion based on mythology, it has neither a founder (as do Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity), nor a fixed canon. Myriad local cults and traditions of worship or belief can be distinguished. (2)
The variety of religious beliefs and practices making up the majority tradition of the Indian subcontinent. (3)
... a complex product of [the] amalgamation of various cults and beliefs within a common social framework [e.g. the caste system]. (4)
In spite of its diversity, Hinduism reveals a number of common themes. Some of these include pantheism (the belief that all is God, God is all), polytheism (a belief in many lesser gods), and a reliance upon occult ritual and practices. Hinduism originated from a body of conflicting and contradictory literature called the Vedas (ca. 1500-1200 B.C.). Hindus claim that this body of literature was supernaturally revealed by the Hindu gods. Thus, these basic religious texts "make a special claim to be divine in their origin" (5) The four Vedas are the Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajuraveda, and the Artharvaveda. They are divided into two parts: the "work" portion (basically poytheistic ritual) and the "knowledge" portion (philosophical speculation). This latter portion comprises what is called the Upanishads or Vedanta: "Since they brought to a close each of the four Vedas, the Upanishads came to be spoken of often as the Vendanta - the anta or end of the Vedas" (6) The Vedas are mostly a collection of ritualistic hymns to various Hindu gods. The Rigveda comprises the foremost collection of these hymns. The Yajurveda is a collection of various mantras, or special words used to evoke occult power. The Samaveda combines verses from the Rigveda to melodic chants. The Artharvaveda is basically a collection of occult spell, incantations, and hymns. (7) The Vedas are really the "Bible" of Hinduism. They can be divided into the Samhitas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas, and Upanishads.
(...) Only 108 Upanishads remain and, of these, ten are of central importance. They are the tsa, kena, katha, prasma, mundaka, mandukya, chandogya, brhandaranyaka, aitareya, and taittirya. As for as the Upanishads themsevles are concerned, "[T]heir variety of thought has allowed considerable latitude in their interpretation, so that scriptural orthodox has not led to a single viewpoint. Thus, Hindu metaphysicians range in their adherance from ... theism to atheism." (8)
John Ankerberg and John Weldon, Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs Harvest House Publishers, Oregon, 1996. pp 216,217
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