Hinduism

Key Beliefs: A Very Basic Introduction

Hindu Deities

The Trimurti - Brahma, Vishnu, & Shiva

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Brahma - The Creator


Brahma is traditionally depicted with four faces and four arms. Each face of his points to a cardinal direction. His hands hold no weapons, rather symbols of knowledge and creation. In one hand he holds the sacred texts of Vedas, in second he holds mala (rosary beads) symbolizing time, in third he holds a ladle symbolizing means to feed sacrificial fire, and in fourth a utensil with water symbolizing the means where all creation emanates from. His four mouths are credited with creating the four Vedas. He is often depicted with a white beard, implying his sage like experience. He sits on lotus, dressed in white (or red, pink), with his vehicle (vahana) – hansa, a swan – nearby.

Vishnu - The Preserver

In Hindu sacred texts, Vishnu is usually described as having dark complexion of water-filled clouds and having four arms. He is depicted as a pale blue being, as are his incarnations Rama and Krishna. He holds a padma (lotus flower) in his lower left hand, the Kaumodaki gada (mace) in his lower right hand, the Panchajanya shankha (conch) in his upper left hand and the discus weapon considered to be the most powerful weapon according to Hindu Religion Sudarshana Chakra in his upper right hand.

Shiva - The Destroyer

Shiva has a trident in the right lower arm, and a crescent moon on his head. He is said to be fair like camphor or like an ice clad mountain. He wears five serpents and a garland of skulls as ornaments. Shiva is usually depicted facing the south. His trident, like almost all other forms in Hinduism, can be understood as the symbolism of the unity of three worlds that a human faces - his inside world, his immediate world, and the broader overall world. At the base of the trident, all three forks unite. Shiva is often depicted with a third eye, with which he burned Desire (Kāma) to ashes.
Hindu Deity: Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva

Important Hindu Texts

Reincarnation - Samsara

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The Bhagavad Gita states:

Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be. As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from childhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change. (2:12–13)
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Karma, Dharma, & Moksha

The Hindu Belief System: Dharma, Karma, and Moksha

Jainism

It prescribes a path of non-injury (ahimsa) towards all living beings. Practitioners believe non-violence and self-control are the means to liberation. Followers of Jainism are called Jains and must observe five major vows: ahimsa, not lying, not stealing (asteya), chastity, and non-attachment. Self-discipline and asceticism are thus major focuses of Jainism. Parasparopagraho Jivanam ("The function of souls is to help one another") is the motto of Jainism.
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Introduction to Jainism | Belief | Oprah Winfrey Network

Yoga

“Asanas are not meant for physical fitness, but for conquering the elements, energy, and so on. So, how to balance the energy in the body, how to control the five elements, how to balance the various aspect of the mind without mixing them all together, and how to be able to perceive the difference between the gunas, and to experience that there is something behind them, operating in the world of man - that is what asanas are for. The process is slow and painstaking, but a steady inquiry facilitates a growing awareness.” - Iyengar
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My Life, My Religion: Hinduism