RUSHI
The best approach to understand Hinduism is through its teachings. Hinduism rests on the spiritual bedrock of the Vedas, hence Veda Dharma, and their mystic issue, the Upanishads, as well as the teachings of many great Hindu rishi and gurus (sages and seers) through the ages.

One feature unique to Hinduism is its assertion that moksha (liberation or deliverance) can be achieved in this life itself — one does not have to wait for a heaven after death. It guides people along paths that will ultimately lead to the atman (Innermost Self) and becoming one with Brahman (the Universal Consciousness).

Hindu Dharma recognizes that everyone is different and has a unique intellectual and spiritual outlook. Therefore, it allows people to develop and grow at their own pace by making different margas (spiritual paths) available to them. It allows various schools of thought under its broad principles. It also allows for freedom of worship so that individuals may be guided by their own spiritual experiences.

Within Hinduism there are various schools of thought, which Hindu scholars have systematized in different ways. All of these schools have enriched Hinduism with their individual emphases: Nyāya on rigorous logic, Vaiseshika on atoms and the structure of matter, Sānkhya on numbers and categories, Yoga on meditation techniques, Mīmāmsā on the analysis of sacred texts, and Vedānta on the nature and experience of spirituality. Their teachings are usually summarized in texts called sūtras or aphorisms. These sūtras can be memorized easily and recited as a means of gaining spiritual focus.

               1. Brahman: The Ultimate Reality
Various schools have contributed to Hindu thought, each school with a different emphasis. The school known as Vedānta has been the standard form of intellectual Hinduism. According to Vedānta, the highest aim of existence is the realization of the identity or union of the individual’s ātman (Innermost Self) with the Ultimate Reality. Although Vedānta states that this ultimate reality is beyond name, the word Brahman is used to refer to it. The word comes from the Sanskrit verb root brh, meaning "to grow". Etymologically, the term means brhati ("that which grows") and brhmayati ("which causes to grow").

Brahman, as understood by the scriptures of Hinduism, as well as by the acharyas (advocate or masters) of the Vedanta school, is a very specific conception of the Absolute. Brahman does not refer to the anthropomorphic concept of God of the Abrahamic religions. When we speak of Brahman, we are referring neither to the "old man in the sky" concept, nor to the idea of the Absolute as even capable of being vengeful, fearful or engaging in choosing a favorite people from among His creatures. In a nutshell, Brahman is formless, infinite and eternal. For that matter, Brahman is neither nether male nor female, It is beyond space and time, It is changeless and It is the source of consciousness and transcends all empirically discernable categories, limitations and dualities. Brahman cannot exist, as it is the existence Itself. Brahman is all knowing and it is knowledge Itself.

One can say that Brahman Itself constitutes the essential building material of all reality, being the antecedent primeval ontological substance from whence all things proceed. There is no ex nihilo creation in Hinduism. Brahman does not create from nothing, but from the reality of Its own being. Thus Brahman is, in Aristotelian terms, both the Material Cause as well as the Efficient Cause of creation.

All reality has its source in Brahman. All reality has its grounding sustenance in Brahman. It is in Brahman that all reality has its ultimate repose. Hinduism, specifically, is consciously and exclusively aiming toward this reality termed Brahman.

                  2. Aspects of Brahman
Despite having the abstract concept of Brahman, Hindus worship the Saguna Brahman in his personal forms every day. Brahman, as Nirguna, has no attributes (is formless and unmanifested), whereas as Saguna (or Iswara) is manifested and with attributes. Saguna Brahman is also called Ishvara.

Whether nirguna or saguna, Brahman represents the sat (Ultimate Reality), sit (Ultimate Consciousness), and ānanda (Ultimate Bliss).

Brahmā, Vishnu, and Shiva: The Trinity
Saguna Brahman — that is, Brahman with attributes — generally takes the form of one of Trimurti (three main Hindu deities): Brahmā, Vishnu, or Shiva (Maheshwara). These personified forms of Brahman correspond to three stages in the cycle of the universe.
  • Brahmā corresponds to the creative spirit from which the universe arises.
  • Vishnu corresponds to the force of order that sustains the universe.
  • Shiva corresponds to the force that brings a cycle to an end — destruction acting as a prelude to transformation, leaving pure consciousness from which the universe is reborn after destruction.
Other forms of Ishvara widely worshiped by Hindus are Shakti, the female aspect of divinity, and Ganesha, the elephant-headed deity associated with the removal of obstacles.

the Hindu Trimurti: Brahma, Siva and Vishnu.
Brahman also may choose to take birth in a knowable form, or avatara (incarnation), to uphold dharma and restore balance to the world. Krishna, a well-known avatara of Vishnu, appears at times to save the world. Rāma, another well-known avatara of Vishnu, is the subject of the Hindu epic Rāmāyana (Way of Rāma).

The majority of Hindus choose a personal deity, a saguna form of Brahman with whom they can feel a direct personal connection. Devotion to this deity can take a number of forms, including prayer, ceremonial worship, chanting of the deity’s name, and pilgrimage to sites sacred to the deity.

Ishvara: The Personal Aspect of God
When Brahman is viewed as the supreme personal being (rather than as the infinite principle) Brahman is called Ishvara ("The Lord";), bhagavan ("The Auspicious One";), or Parameshwara ("The Supreme Lord"). Ishvara thus refers to the personal aspect of Brahman in general; it is not specific to a particular deity. Ishvara transcends gender, yet can be looked upon as father, mother, friend, child, or even as sweetheart. Some schools of Hindu philosophy do not believe in Ishvara, while others interpret Ishvara in different ways. Some schools do not distinguish between Ishvara and Brahman. The dvaita-advaita school holds that Ishvara is not incorporeal, but is infinite and a personal being.

According to Bhagavata Purana, absolute Brahman can be realized in three ways.
  • Brahman it self ( the absolute reality)
  • Paramatma (union of all individual souls)
  • Bhagavan (as a personal God)
Devatās: The Celestial Beings
The Hindu scriptures also speak about many celestial entities, called devas ("The shining ones", also called devatās). The word devas may be translated into English as Gods, Deities, Celestial Spirits or Angels. The feminine of deva is devī.

The Vedas and Purānas depict traditional stories about individual devas. The latter lauds the Trimurti of Mahādevas ("Great Gods"), which are the three aspects of God, Brahmā, Vishnu and Shiva. Numerous other devas have been worshiped throughout Hinduism's history. The devas are an integral part of Hindu culture and are depicted in art, architecture and through icons. In their personal religious practices, Hindus worship primarily one or another of these deities, known as their iṣṭa devatā, or chosen ideal. The particular form of God worshiped as one's chosen ideal is a matter of individual preference and needs, influenced by regional and family traditions.

                    3. Ātman: The Innermost Self
The delightful Shri Krishna, avatâra or Divine Incarnation of Vishnu, sustainer of the cosmos, is shown in youth and later in life in the artistic images above and below. Krshna holds his famous murali flute, by which he makes such enchanting music as to awaken the atman (Innermost Self) from worldliness to Godliness. The flute also symbolizes the true devotee, who is so "empty" and "hollowed out" of egotism as to be a perfectly clear instrument for the Divine to manifest goodness and beauty within the world-dream.
We as individuals are also a part of this changing universe. Our bodies are constantly undergoing change, ātman, our innermost, transcendental Self, as opposed to the material self (our body, thoughts, and feelings) that is part of the universe. The ātman is our True Self. But we lose sight of it because of our passionate involvement with our material self and its search for happiness in this universe. The universe can never provide perfect and permanent happiness, however, because it, like our material self, is in a state of constant flux. We attain true happiness only through an awareness of our ātman and the discovery of its true relationship with Brahman.
while our minds, formed of thoughts and feelings, are also in a state of flux. According to Vedānta, however, our self consists of more than mind and body. At its core lies the unchanging

By achieving awareness of ātman and its unity with Brahman, we attain not only happiness, but also moksha, or liberation. But liberation from what? At one level, the liberation is from unhappiness, but the answer provided by Vedānta Hinduism goes deeper: Moksha is liberation from a chain of lives called samsāra.
            4. Samsāra: The Chain of Lives
We normally think of ourselves as coming into being when we are born of our parents and as perishing when we die. According to Hinduism, however, this current life is merely one link in a chain of lives that extends far into the past and projects far into the future. The point of origin of this chain cannot be determined. The process of our involvement in the universe—the chain of births and deaths—is called samsāra.

Samsāra is caused by a lack of knowledge of ātman (our Innermost Self) and our resultant desire for fulfillment outside ourselves. We continue to embody ourselves, or be reborn, in this infinite and eternal universe as a result of these unfulfilled desires. The chain of births lets us resume the pursuit. The law that governs samsāra is called karma. Each birth and death we undergo is determined by the balance sheet of our karma—that is, in accordance with the actions performed and the dispositions acquired in the past.

This cycle of action, reaction, birth, death, and rebirth is a continuum called samsara. The Bhagavad Gita states that:
As a person puts on new clothes and discards old and torn clothes,similarly an embodied ātman (our Innermost Self) enters new material bodies,leaving the old bodies.
— Bhagavad Gita (B.G. 2:22)
          5. Karma: Action and Its Consequences
Karma is a crucial Hindu concept. According to the doctrine of karma, our present condition in life is the consequence of the actions of our previous lives. The choices we have made in the past directly affect our condition in this life, and the choices we make today and thereafter will have consequences for our future lives in samsāra. An understanding of this interconnection, according to Hindu teachings, can lead an individual toward right choices, deeds, thoughts, and desires, without the need for an external set of commandments.

The principle of karma provides the basic framework for Hindu ethics. The word karma is sometimes translated into English as “destiny,” but karma does not imply the absence of free will or freedom of action that destiny does. Under the doctrine of karma, the ability to make choices remains with the individual.

We are subject to the “law” of karma just as our physical movements on earth are subject to the law of gravitation. But just as the law of gravitation does not take away our freedom to move about, the doctrine of karma does not leave us unfree to act. It merely describes the moral law under which we function, just as the law of gravitation is a physical law governing our being.

When we cause pain or injury, we add to the karmic debt we carry into our future lives. When we give to others in a genuine way, we lighten our karmic load. In the Bhagavad-Gītā, an important Hindu text, Krishna states that the best way to be free of debt is by selfless action, or by dedicating every action as an offering to Krishna himself. In addition, human beings can purify themselves of karmic debt through different yogas (disciplines), kriyās (purification processes), and bhakti (devotions).
          6. Purusharthas: Stages or Goals of Life
Classical Hindu thought accepts two main life-long dharmas: Grihastha Dharma and Sannyasin Dharma.

PurusharthasThe Grihastha Dharma recognize four goals as noble; these are known as the puruṣhārthas, and they are:

1. kama: Sensual pleasure and enjoyment
2. artha: Worldly prosperity and success
3. dharma: Following the laws and rule that an individual lives under
4. moksha: Liberation from the cycle of samsara

Among these, dharma and moksha play a special role: dharma must dominate an individual's pursuit of
kama and artha while seeing moksha, at the horizon.

The Sannyasin Dharma recognizes, but renounces kāma, artha and dharma, focusing entirely on moksha. As described below, the Grihasthi eventually enters this dharma as an eventual stage of life. However, some enter this stage immediately from whichever stage they may be in.

           7. Moksha: Liberation from Samsara
Moksha (Freedom or Liberation) from the cycle of birth and death is the ultimate goal of Hindu religious life. Moksha is called Mukti (freedom) by yogis.

The atman (Innermost Self), in its liberated state, possesses divine qualities such as purity, omnipresence and omnipotence, and is beyond limitations. Within the individual, however, the atman is involved in the working of samsara (the cycle of birth and death in the phenomenal world), thereby subjecting itself to bondage by Law of Karma. Moksha is attainted when the individual becomes liberated from the cycle of birth and death and attains eventual union with the Brahman (Supreme Being).

This union can be achieved through gyana or jnana (True Knowledge), bhakti (devotion), or karma (right work). Purity, self-control, truthfulness, non-violence, and compassion toward all forms of life are the necessary pre-requisites for any spiritual path in Hindu dharma. The Hindu dharma emphasizes the importance of a satguru (True Guru or Spiritual Master) for the attainment of True Knowledge of the atman and Brahman.

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