Central Concepts of Hinduism
Many Gods or One God
Hindus believe there is a single God, referred to as “Brahman” or absolute reality. In modern Hinduism, this God is called “Ishwara” or “Bhagavan”. This God plays three roles, forming the Hindu trinity. These roles are: Brahma (creator), Vishnu (preserver) and Shiva (destroyer).
One perceives reality through one’s senses. The sense organs create images that are similar in everyone. This facilitates communication between people. The sense organs are responsible for attachment and samsara (cycle of birth and death). As long as a human is attached and desires worldly things, his soul would continue to exist in this earthly plane. A human’s desires propel his/her soul into the next life. This is the basis for reincarnation.
The doctrine of karma states that you reap what you sow, and get what you give. Karma literally means action. Thus, your karma controls your fate. Your actions in your previous life dictate the circumstances of your present life. And, your current deeds will determine your future. But, Hinduism is not fatalistic. Though you cannot control your circumstances, you have the free will to react wisely and thoughtfully in any given situation.
means moral and ethical principles which guide one’s life. One should follow the principles of dharma to fulfill one’s desires and needs, but without harming or affecting others’ rights and well-being.
(wealth) is required to meet our desires and basic wants.
is desire. These three worldly aims are inter-connected. One should strive to earn money (artha) through righteous methods (dharma) to satisfy one’s desires (kama).
- The fourth aim is
, which may be translated as self-realization, salvation or nirvana. Some Hindus say this is the most important ideal in one’s life.
Heaven and Hell
Salvation cannot be obtained as long as one thirsts and hankers for worldly objects. Your soul may travel to heaven or hell after death, but it will be back on the earthly plane if you have unfulfilled desires. Hinduism believes heaven and hell are just places of transit for the soul. One’s soul goes to heaven or hell depending on one’s karma. But, this visit is transitory.
One may be very successful and rich, but ultimately one is still not satisfied. This is because one is bound to worldly objects through desires and one’s ego. Once the balloon ego is pricked, one realizes that one’s individual soul is a part of the universal soul, or brahman. This realization helps one break the bond of worldly attachment. Then, the individual soul merges with the universal soul.