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Maxwell School
Maxwell / Moynihan / South Asia Center

Hinduism

Hinduism embodies a large number of different expressive paths. It has no single founder or single text, and no single administrative authority. Hinduism is one of the oldest and longest lasting religious traditions, with a Hindu written text dating from 1200 B.C.E. The name "Hinduism" comes from sindhu, the Indo-Aryan word for "the sea," and came to apply to the region east of the Indus River.

A set of texts called the Vedas (knowledge) which contain much of the religious beliefs and practices. Composed over many centuries, Hindus believe that the Vedas are "revelations" that were heard, not text composed by people. Amongst the major concepts is dharma, one's duty in this lifetime, and karma, the actions one has performed in previous lifetimes and the actions one performs in this lifetime. Other concepts related to dharma and karma are transmigration of the soul after death, and rebirth of the soul depending upon one's karma in this life. This endless succession of births can be ended by 'moksa', or salvation, attainable only by a strict practice of liberation from desire and education in the higher forms of knowledge.

In Hinduism exists the trinity of Brahma, the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer and regenerator. Vishnu and Shiva incarnate themselves into other forms, as humans, animals or other living beings on earth to help the beings on earth in times of crisis. Rama, the hero of the Ramayana, is one of the nine major incarnations of Vishnu on this earth. Rama, the son of King Dasaratha, is thought to have been put on earth to conquer Ravana, ruler of Lanka and king of the demons.

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