The 4 Key Beliefs of Hinduism
By Kritika Parmar
The four main beliefs of Hinduism that we will explore this month are:
Do we know our Philosophy?
Presuming that the most of us reading this are Hindu, if someone were to ask us our religion, then we would undoubtedly say that “we are Hindus” (or whatever your faith is). But then, if the question that follows would be “what do you people believe in?”. At this point, many of us would start giving out some blinking stares.
Unlike the other monotheistic religions, which are centralized around one entity, Hinduism is considered to be a polytheistic religion with more than one god. Due to this difference in the ideologies, Hindus are often bombarded with questions like:
“Why do you guys have more than one God?”, “Why do you people worship animals?”, “Do you people have multiple faiths?” etc…
Questions as such, often get harder and harder as the conversation proceeds. And eventually, we given in, just to avoid arguments. However, amidst the increased modernization it is quite important to hold on to our roots and therefore, it is essential to understand the basic principals on which our religion stands.
Avatarvaad: God Incarnates on Earth
Growing up as an Indian, the Tales of Akbar and Birbal were the famous bedtime stories. Akbar was a Muslim Emperor who had a Hindu minister named Birbal.
One morning, Akbar questioned Birbal, “Why does your Hindu God himself come down on Earth every time there is an unrest? Why can he just not send any of his Angels to protect his devotees?”. Hearing this, Birbal did not respond at the moment, instead he promised to answer later.
Days passed and one fine day, Birbal came to the king with a proposal to go for a boat ride along the river side with the entire royal family. The Emperor was glad and invited the Queen and his little Prince. The ride was quite pleasant until a point when the boat lost its balance and the Prince accidentally fell into the river. Seeing this, the Emperor, without a second of thought jumped into the river and got the Prince on-board.
Upon coming back onto the boat, the Emperor realized that he was not holding his son, instead, it was a mannequin dressed as the Prince. This enraged the king and he got bewildered with this act. Calming the Emperor, Birbal asked, “Your Majesty, there were several servants and ministers on-board, then why did you jump into the river? Why did you not ask any of us to save the Prince?”. The enraged king replied, “He is my son! Why would I ever wait to order someone to save my child?”.
Hearing this, Birbal replied, “Exactly this way, our God sees all his devotees as his children and hence, every time we encounter any hardships, God himself comes down on this Earth to protect and liberate us.”
One of the most important and admired quality of the Lord is that he is “Karunā na Sāgar”, meaning the most compassionate. God can never see any of his devotees in pain and hence, he incarnates on this mere planet out of the love that he holds for us. Despite being the most powerful, he becomes just like us to redeem us from our miseries.
Therefore, our first and foremost belief is that God will incarnate when adharma goes over-board and his devotees face extremity.
Karmavaad: You Reap what You Sow
Since birth, all of us have been performing activities or actions. Sleeping, eating, laughing, thinking; all of these are considered to be actions and hence, every soul is destined to perform activities throughout their lifespan. Karma, is a Hindu law which states that every person is responsible for the results of ones actions. Bhagwan would reward us for the good karma and punish for bad ones.
This theory is further intensified by the belief that nothing happens to us coincidentally or accidentally, instead there is a reason to every incident that takes place in our lives. This ties to the concept of Karma as we might be experiencing the results of the action performed earlier. There are 3 types of Karmas:
Kriyamān Karma: refers to the actions performed every moment. These are the present life actions and the results will be experienced in this life or in the upcoming ones.
Sanchit Karma: refers to the accumulated actions from our previous births, whose results are either being experienced or will be experienced.
Prārabdha Karma: this is a part of the sanchit karma and its results are being experienced at present in the form of our physical and mental capacities. If one is born with physical or mental limitations, then it is due to the results of our prarabdha karma.
We are destined to perform actions and hence, would have to face its consequences. Now the question is, how can one liberate from this cycle? The answer lies in the way we perform the actions. Nishkaam Karma versus Sakaam Karma are the two main ways with which one can perform the karma.
Nishkām Karma: means performing all the actions but detaching one’s self from the consequences of those deeds. These karmas should only be performed to fulfill one’s duties and to please God. Upon performing such actions, one does not get entitled to the consequences and would not have to take births in order to experience the fruits of those actions.
Sakām Karma: are the actions that are performed with an expectation of a materialistic thing. Due to the attachment, one would be entitled to the results of every performed action and would have to take births until the fruits of those actions are experienced.
Hence, this forms the second most important belief of the Hindu Dharma and in order to liberate us from this materialistic world, it is important that all the actions are performed as Nishkām Karma.
Punarjanamvaad: Wrapped in the Cycle
Hindu Dharma considers Punarjanma as an important concept. If we were to split this word, then the meaning arises to be:
Punar meaning Again and Janma meaning Birth
This states that Punarjanmavaad is the philosophy of rebirths and reincarnations of every living organism. The preach is that, upon death, we loose our body however our soul meaning jiva is transported into another body as it is immortal, imperceptible, indivisible and imperishable. This jiva cycles throughout this materialistic world by constant births and deaths of different bodies.
Upon tying this concept to the Karmavaad, we can draw the connection as to why does the jiva get transported constantly. We tend to tie ourselves to all the actions that we perform and as a result, we need to face its good or bad consequences. In order to experience the results of our karma, we need to take multiple births till we can free ourselves from the fruits of our actions. Hence, it is quite important to perform Nishkaam Karma in order to end this reincarnation cycle.
The prime Hindu scriptures named Purānas state that a jiva goes through 8,400,000 number of births, which includes all kinds of living forms like bacteria, plants and animals. As every form arrives just once, the jiva tends to get a human form after every 8,400,000 births. This count is quite a number and therefore, it is said that:
Mānas no avatar mongho nahi male fari
Meaning, we are very fortunate to have received this human form after infinite number of births. So we should take the advantage of this opportunity and work towards our jiva’s liberation.
Murtipuja: God Has a Form
Every time we come across the word Hindu, we tend to picture those large temples with massive shrines manifested with beautiful idols of God and Goddess. Murtis, as the idols are called, are the prime symbol of the Hindu Dharma. The philosophy of Murtipuja is centered around the belief that God himself resides in the idols and images, and offering worship to them is considered equal to worshiping the Almighty Lord himself.
As we are obliged to God for various reasons, it is important for us, as devotees, to offer our respect to God. Hence, devotees pray in their respective ways to please and thank the Lord for all that he has blessed us with. Bhakti is the term used for such a devotion.
As discussed before, Hindu Dharma believes in Avtaarvaad, where God himself manifests on Earth to redeem this devotees from the pains of maya and bless them with the fruits of their bhakti. However, the different avtaars of Lord reside on Earth for a specific time frame, after which they depart back to their respective Dhaam. A question arises that whom to offer bhakti once the avtaar of God has left Earth?
The answer resides in the philosophy of Murtipuja. Thedevotees tend to make various forms of Lord as per their faith and imagination, and if their devotion is pure, then lord himself accepts the prayers offered to the idols and images. Having a form of God helps in detaching our mind and senses from the worldly distractions, and focusing them on God and performing his pure devotion. By a true focus on God’s form, one can also attain a state of nirvikalpsamadhi, which is the highest state of realization experienced by a jiva. Hence, Murtipuja is a symbol of true devotion offered by a bhakta to experience the ultimate and similar bliss of the God residing in the Dhaam above.
As a Hindu, one must realize these 4 beliefs of our dharma which form the basis of our journey towards attaining our ultimate goal which is Moksha.
With Deepest Prayers,