Religious Beliefs

Is there a Hindu creed? What are the most basic Hindu beliefs?

Hindu tradition has not historically developed the kinds of creedal formulations so important in some other communities of faith. But a number of important themes run like brightly colored threads through the fabric of the greater Hinduism. Bear in mind that some of the various denominations and smaller sects interpret these themes in different ways. Material and spiritual existence unfolds in a series of unimaginably long cycles governed by a cosmic Law called dharma (from a root that means “to hold together”). That Law manifests itself on the level of individual beings as a potentially endless succession or cycle of birth and rebirth. The human predicament consists in getting stuck in that cycle, which is called samsara, “cosmic flow, endless wandering.” Each being’s earthly existence or lifespan comes to an end at death or dissolution, but the state of each one’s soul at that moment determines whether that being remains caught in the cycle. All action (karma) has spiritual consequences. To break the cycle, human beings must gradually purify all actions of ego-centeredness, seeking to act only in accord with their personal dharma. According to the law of cause and effect, or karma, all deeds done out of inappropriate motivation chain the individual to the wheel of samsara.

Hindu tradition offers various ways of ridding one’s actions of all ulterior motive and progressing toward the ultimate goal of liberation (moksha) from the endless cycle of rebirths. Those methods or paths include the classical mode of ritual action, the quest for knowledge and full realization of the ultimate truths of existence, and personal devotion to a manifestation of God. Beginning with the earliest scriptures, the Vedas, and extending through subsequent unfoldings of ever-new sources of divine truth as explained by generations of teachers, Hindu tradition offers access to knowledge of God and hence to the hope of salvation.


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