• Category: Religion
  • Words: 654
  • Grade: 60

Introduction to Hinduism
Statistically, there are over 700 million Hindus, mainly in Bharat (India), and Nepal. Hinduism is referred to as Sanatana Dharma, the eternal faith. Hinduism is not strictly a religion. It is based on the practice of Dharma, the code of life. A detailed explanation of Hindu texts are found in Veda page and the links pointed to from there. Since Hinduism has no founder, anyone who practices Dharma can call himself a Hindu. He can question the authority of any scripture, or even the existence of the Divine. The following article is based on my limited understanding.
While religion means to bind, Dharma means to hold. What man holds on to is his inner law, which leads from ignorance to Truth. Though reading of the scriptures (shastras) would not directly lead you to self-realization, the teachings of the seers provide a basis and a path for spirituality. Despite being the oldest religion, the truth realized by the seers prove that the Truth and path provided by Hinduism is beyond time.
Hindu Scriptures are broadly classified into Shruti (meaning 'heard'), Smriti (meaning 'remembered') and nyaya (meaning 'logic') based on its origin not on the mode of transmission. Therefore, shruti means something which were heard (directly from the Gods) by the sages while smriti refers to what was written down and remembered. shruti is considered more authoritative than smriti because the former is believed to have been obtained directly from God by the spiritual experiences of vedic seers and has no interpretations. Vedas constitute the shruti while the rest including Itihaasa-s (epics), PuraaNa-s (moral stories), and Agamas (emanated scriptures) are known as smriti while Vedanta-sutras (vedanta aphorisms) are classified as Nyaya. smriti and Nyaya always agrees with shruti.
The oldest and foremost among them are the Vedas. The vedas are called shruti and stems from the inner spiritual experience of the ancient seers. Hindus believe that Vedas are timeless and eternal. There are four vedas, namely Rig, Sama, Yajur, and Atharva veda. Each veda consists of sections namely Samhita (containing the hymns) and Brahmana ( significance of the hymns), Aranyakas (interpretations), and Vedanta (upanishhads, which are metaphysical dialogs). A good write-up on vedas is the Veda intro.
The vedangas and upavedas are texts which augment the Vedas. There are six vedangas namely Siksa, Jyotisha, Kalpa, Nirukti, Candas, and Vyakarana. Jyotisha (astrology) is the most famous among them. Kalpa explains the rituals and explain a path based on the other five. There are five upavedas namely Artha, Dhanur, Sthapatya, Gandharva, and Ayur-veda. Ayurveda which deals with health, medicine is probably the most popular of the upavedas.
Agamas are rules for the ritual, rites and the worship of Gods. There are five of them based for the worship of Ganesha, Shakti, Surya, Shiva, and Vishnu.
One can argue that the vedas show three clear paths. Karma-kanda is the path using the vedangas, Upasana-kanda is the path using Aagamas while Jnana-kanda involves the path of Upanishads to realize the Brahman.
Upanishads are called Vedanta, because they expound on the spiritual essence of Vedas and they are found at the end of the vedas. However, one should note that Upanishads are texts, while Vedanta is a philosophy. While there are numerous upanishhads (1180 to be exact), 108 of them are considered genuine (given by the list in Muktika upanishhad). Eleven of them namely Isha, kena, kaTha, prashna, muNDaka, mANDUkya, taittirIya, aitareya, chAndogya, shvetAshvatara, bR^ihad-AraNyaka, are considered the most significant or "major" upanishhads since they have been commented upon by the major acharyas (teachers) of various traditions. Upanishhads means 'to sit down near' because they were explained to the students sitting near the feet of their teacher. Sri Aurobindo's introduction to Upanishhads can be found in Upanishhad intro. There is also a detailed introduction at Upanishhads introduction. There are some upanishhads on the net, and the ones I have found on the net (translated in English) are
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