Ethics- Hinduism- Paper 3

Hinduism- Hindu Worship & Practices

Why Hindus Worship?

  • To show loving devotion, bhakti to a God like Shiva or Vishnu,
  • Hindus believe that worship can generate good karma and blessings from God but ultimately it can lead to more,
  • For some Hindus, the aim is for the Atman (soul) to find its way back to and merge with Brahman. This is like a droplet of water merging back into the ocean,
  • For other Hindus, they see the aim as the Atman reaching communion with God. This is like a green bird on a green tree. The soul returns to its home but remains distinct from God
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Where Hindus worship?

Shrines

  • Most homes have  space set aside for a Shrine,
  • The family's chosen deity (God) will feature on a home shrine,
  • Puja (Worship) is performed daily at a home shrine,
  • In India, shrines are also found outdoors, along roadsides, worshippers can stop & pay respects to God on their journey,

Mandirs (Temples)

  • In India, elaborate temples have carvings of murtis, images of the Gods on each side to drive away evil forces,
  • mandir is the house of God where the deity is honored as a King or Queen,
  • The deity is honored by placing gifts of light (butter lamps) and food (Grains & rice) on the shrine,
  • Shoes(often made of leather) are always removed before entering a shrine to keep it pure,
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Mandirs (Continued)

  • There is usually a main God at each temple but other God's will be honored there too,
  • Many temples in Britain are buildings which have been converted into mandirs, they are simple on the outside but will have a shrine room inside,

How Hindus Worship?

  • Puja is giving respect and honor to God,
  • Prayers are offered to God in front of the murti (image),
  • Offerings are made of incense, flowers, fruit, water, and rice,
  • An arati lamp (holder with 5 lamps) is lit and waved around the murti,
  • Arati is performed with prayers and religious songs (hymns) are sung called bhajans,
  • Worshippers then pass their hands over the flames of the flame of the arati lamp as it is passed around and then they pass their hands over their heads to receive God's blessing,
  • The devotee approaches the deity kissing the step of the shrine (to show respect) chanting mantras (words & phrases) or singing bhajans (devotional songs)
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How Hindus worship (Continued)

  • It is believed the spirit of God infuses the image and so the devotee views God through the murti,
  • The appearance of God is called darshan,
  • The fire sacrifice haven is made to God Agni by a Brahmin (priest) in a Mandir, prayers are said and butter, oil, gains, and rice are offered into the fire,
  • The purpose of haven is to receive God's blessings,
  • Chanting the mantra om (Ultimate Reality) during meditation helps the Hind to feel oneness with Brahman,
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Honoring gurus

  • guru is a wise teacher of religion and spirituality,
  • A guru will guide a devotee as they try to reach moksha,
  • Many gurus are held to have attained moksha themselves or to be close to it,
  • A guru has given up all attachment to the worldly goods and spends the time studying scriptures and meditating, doin yoga,
  • Gurus pass on knowledge to disciples when they think they are ready for it,
  • Today not all gurus are men and some women have become gurus,

Purpose of Hindu Festivals

  • A festival celebrates a key event in the life of a God,
  • It brings families and communities together,
  • It celebrates the season, e.g. Spring (at Holi)
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Diwali

  • It is celebrated in October or November and lasts for 5 days,
  • It is the festival of lights,
  • It is celebrated with firecrackers & bonfires to represent the victory of good over evil, of light over darkness, truth over falsity,
  • Worshippers of Vishnu remember the story Rama returnng to his Kingdom with Sita in victory after saving her from the clutches of the ten-headed demon, Ravana; he was helped by Hanuman the monkey God,
  • Business people get their financial accounts in order and pray for the blessing of Lakshmi as it is the new financial year,
  • Householders place diva lamps in their windows and doorways to receive the blessing of Lakshmi,
  • Lakshmi of the consort (wife) of the God Vishnu,
  • She is one of the most popuar Goddesses of Hindu faith and is known as the Goddess of wealth and purity
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Holi

  • It is celebrated in February/March, a spring festival,
  • Comminties have water fights and throw colored powders over each other,
  • This remembers the tricks Krishna played on the gopis (Milkmaids),
  • Normal standards of behavior are forgotten and everyone joins in the fun, it is believed that even God has fun,
  • Distinctions of caste, class, age, and gender are suspended during Holi; everybody can join in the fun,
  • The story of Prahlad & Holika remembers that good overcomes evil,
  • Vishnu protects Prahlad from the bonfire that the demoness and wicked aunt Holika leads him into, instead, she reduces to ashes,
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Raksha Bandhan

  • This is celebrated in August,
  • It celebrates brotherhood and love,
  • Traditionally, sisters tie a rakhi, a red and gold bracelet around their brother's wrist to celebrate the brother-sister relationship,
  • The act honors the brother for doing his religious duty (dharma) and protecting her,
  • If the rakhi has been consecrated, it removes sin and offers protection (for a year),
  • The practice has developed today, with close friends, members of the community following the custom too,
  • In mythology, Lakshmi tied a rakhi to the Demon King Bail to free Vishnu from an agreement to stay in his place as a return gift,
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Pilgrimages

  • A visit to a sacred river, holy city or mountain connected with a God,

Reasons to go on a Pilgrimage

  • To feel closer to God,
  • To show commitment and strengthen faith,
  • To say thank you to God for something,
  • To make amends for some wrongdoing,
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Where do Hindus go on pilgrimage?

  • Many sites are associated with Gods: the river Ganges with the Goddess Ganga; the Himalayan mountains with the God Shiva,
  • Varanasi is an important town on the Ganges for Shiva devotees, worshippers of Rama and followers of the Goddess Durga,
  • Varanasi is like the Hindu 'Mecca',
  • Vrindavan it a town visited by Krishna devotees,

What do pilgrims do on the pilgrimage at Varanasi and the Ganges?

  • This pilgrimage is popular with Shaivas (worshippers of Shiva)  and wanting to worship the goddess, Ganga,
  • Pilgrims wash in the waters of the rivers to receive God's blessings,
  • They collect water to take home for a relative who is ill,
  • Devotees wear simple clothes and men may shave their heads and they remain celibate to show commitment to God,
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What do pilgrims do on the pilgrimage at Varanasi and the Ganges? (Continued)

  • Pilgrims circumambulate (walk around clockwise) a shrine or temple to show respect to God,
  • They take ashes of a loved one to scatter in the Ganges, the water washes away bad karma and can help a good reincarnation,
  • Some Hindu go to die on the ghats (steps of the Ganges) in the hope of achieving moksha,

Vrindavan

  • The town Vrindavan is on the River Jumna,
  • Vrindavan is popular with Vaishnava pilgrims (Worshippers of Vishnu and his avatar Krishna) and it has over 5000 temples,
  • It is the birthplace of Krishna,
  • Pilgrims follow a route recalling events of Krishna's rituals,
  • Some crawl around the sacred place and this act is called pradakshina,
  • Pilgrims believe the action of pilgrimage will bring them good luck in this life and the next,
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Vrindavan Tree Project

  • Many Hindus believe that the god Krishna lived in the Vrindavan forest, in Nothern India,
  • By 1980s India's industrial development was having a devastating effect on the forest,
  • The project is a scheme to protect the forest,
  • It started after a local retired engineer witnessed the last tree (a home to peacocks) in his quarter of the town is cut down,
  • God or Brahman is found in all nature, to destroy it is to disrespect God,

Cow Protection

  • Krishna was a cowherd so many want to follow his example,
  • Cows give us enough nutrition for a completely meat-free diet,
  • The Vedas forbids the killing of cows, the animal is scared,
  • Nand the bull is a God and is Shiva's vehicle,
  • A goshalla is a shelter for cows and oxygen on a farm. Cows produce milk and the oxen work, e.g. ploughing. These animals are not slaughtered for meat
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Food for Life

  • The Hare Krishna Movement's Food for Life project is the world's largest vegetarian non-profit food relief organization,
  • Volunteers provide up to 2,000,000 free meals daily,
  • It reaches out to all in need, including; the homeless, disadvantaged children throughout India; and victims of natural disasters around the world,
  • The Food for Life project is a modern-day revival of the ancient Hindu culture of hospitality with its belief in the equality of all beings,
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Hinduism- Hindu Belief & Teachings

Brahman- The ultimate, God and Gods

  • Brahman is the Ultimate Reality,
  • It is another name for God,
  • There are over 300 million Gods in Hinduism,
  • 'The Blind Men and the elephant' parable shows that just as each blind man feels only one part of the elephant and describes that part, the devotee only sees one aspect of Brahman and sees God as that God (Ramakrishna),
  • We cannot know and understand all of Brahman,
  • All the diffrent Gods of Hinduism are just different expressions of Brahman,
  • It would not be right to describe Hinduism as polytheistic, as having many different Gods,

Brahman- Source of Everything

  • Brahman is the source of everything,
  • It is the foundation of all existence. Everything comes from it,
  • It can be found in everything & in all living beings as the Atman (self)
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  • Nirguna Brahman means that Brahman has no qualities nor personality,
  • A Hindu philosopher called Ramanuja believed Brahman was personal,
  • Saguna Brahman is the creator, sustainer, and controller of the universe,

Three features of the divine

  • The divine is another word for God and God has 3 features,
  • 1- Brahman- The Ultimate Reality,
  • 2- Antaryami- The divine within the heart,
  • 3- Bhagavan- The loving personal God

Deities (Personal God & Goddesses)

  • Deities are Gods,
  • All Hindu families have a family God,
  • Sometimes the women of the family will worship a goddess,
  • All Hindu Temples or Mandirs are dedicated to one God whilst having smaller shrines to others,
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Deities (Personal God & Goddesses) Continued

  • Murtis are images that represent the Gods, they have many symbolic meanings, the images become infused with the spirit of God during worship but they are not actually the God,

Trimurti

  • Trimurti means three images of God,
  • Three Gods take three different roles in relation to the existence of reality,

Brahma

  • Brahma is the creator,
  • There are not many worshippers dedicated to Brahma today, perhaps because his job is over,
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Vishnu

  • Vishnu is the preserver and sustainer,
  • Followers of Vishnu are Vaishnavites and they are the largest group of Hindus,
  • Vishnu's name means "All-Pervading",
  • He is the proctector of the world and the restorer of moral order (dharma),
  • He is peaceful, merciful, and compassionate,
  • He has 10 avatars (incarnations), including Rama and Krishna,
  • Avatars are descents to earth, God takes on different forms to help humans at times of trouble,
  • His consort (wife) is Lakshmi,
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Shiva

  • Shiva is the destroyer,
  • The world is created, it is kept in existence and is brought to an end. It is then recreated and the cycle starts again,
  • Devotees of Shiva are called Shiavites. They are the second largest group of Hindus,
  • His name means "Auspicious One",
  • Shiva is a paradoxical deity (opposites),
  • He is both the destroyer and the creator, 
  • He is a great ascetic (strict holy man, sadhu) and on the other hand the symbol of sex and fertility,
  • He is kind and loving Lord and on the other hand, the angry one who punishes the wicked,
  • His consorts (wives) are Durga, Kali & Parvati
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Krishna

  • Krishna is the most popular avatar of Vishnu,
  • He was the cowherd,
  • He is the God who plays the flute and entices the gopis out to dance with him in the moonlight, and he plays tricks on them,
  • He married one of the gopis called Radha,
  • Tradidtion says he performed miracles and slew demons like the wicked Kamsa,
  • He was Arjuna's charioteer and convinced him of his moral duty to fight in a battle and defend his people
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Shakti

  • Shaki is the energy of God, it is the Goddess, all Goddess we called Shakti,
  • Many male Gods have female counterparts, consorts of wives,
  • God or Brahman has a feminie side as well as a masculine one,
  • Parvati is a consort of Shiva and she is an example of perfect motherhood,
  • Parvati and Shiva are the parents of Ganesha the elephant-headed God,
  • Kali is a fierce and wild Goddess with at least 4 arms and she kills demons,
  • Kali has a necklace of skulls and a hanging tongue and carries a sword, a head, a bowl, and a trident,
  • Durga is a fierce and powerful Goddess with many arms to fight demons,
  • Durga rides a lion or tiger and carries weapons: a bow and arrow, discus, trident, and sword,
  • Durga fights and defeats the wicked demon Mahish,
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Dharma

  • Dharma means duty and all Hindus have dharmas or duties,
  • It means cosmic law which keeps order in the universe,
  • Sanatana Dharma means the religion,
  • Varna- Which social group (caste) you are in,
  • Doing your duty earns you good karma, not following your duty generates bad karma,

Ashramas

  • There are 4 ashramas or stages of life, each has dharmas (duties),
  • 1- Student-  Duty to do well at school and college or uni,
  • 2- Householder- Responsibility to bring up the family,
  • 3- Retirement- Handing over of responsibility to the first son, gives up daily work,
  • 4- Renouncer- Only a few reach this stage and give up all worldly ties, live a religious life, a very few become wanderers,
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Varnas

  • There are 4 varnas or social classes, each has dharmas (duties):
  • 1-Brahmins- Traditionally the priests; duty to preserve the traditions of Hinduism, set a good moral example; today they are priests and professionals,
  • 2-Kshatriyas- Traditional warriors & rulers; responsiblity to lead, rule and protect the people; today they are admnistrators not just rulers and soldiers,
  • 3-Vaishyas- Traditionally the merchants, business people; responsibility to provide goods and wealth of society; entrepreneurs, businesses, shopkeepers,
  • 4-Shudras- Tradtionally the service class; responsibility to do physical and manual work that supports everyone,
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Aims of Life

  • There are 4 aims of life for all Hindus found in the book 'The Laws of Manu',
  • 1-Dharma- Which means practicing right conduct in your religion and social life,
  • 2-Artha- Which means earning material conduct in your religious and social life,
  • 3-Kama- Which means is enjoyng the pleasures and beauty of life,
  • 4-Moksha- Which is aiming for the final goal of release from the cycle of reincarnation,
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Samsara, atman, karma & moksha

  • Samsara is the idea that time is cyclical, it has no beginning or end,
  • Birth, death, and rebirth occurs over and over again, the cycle is endless,
  • All individuals have a self or soul which is called the atman,
  • At death, the atman passes on from one body to the next, this is called transmigration,
  • The body is only a temporary house for the Atman,
  • Karma refers to our actions & the consequences of our actions,
  • Good Karma will lead to a good reincarnation. Bad Karma will lead to a bad reincarnation,
  • A better reincarnation means to move up a caste,
  • Eventually, the aim is to escape the reincarnation cycle and attain moksha,
  • Moksha is liberation from the samsara. This is achieved by those who have lived a good spiritual life. Those who are not selfish and who renounce the fruits of their actions (those who do not look for a reward),
  • The atman becomes one with Brahman or joins a God in communion,
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Samsara, atman, karma & moksha

  • Samsara is the idea that time is cyclical, it has no beginning or end,
  • Birth, death, and rebirth occurs over and over again, the cycle is endless,
  • All individuals have a self or soul which is called the atman,
  • At death, the atman passes on from one body to the next, this is called transmigration,
  • The body is only a temporary house for the Atman,
  • Karma refers to our actions & the consequences of our actions,
  • Good Karma will lead to a good reincarnation. Bad Karma will lead to a bad reincarnation,
  • A better reincarnation means to move up a caste,
  • Eventually, the aim is to escape the reincarnation cycle and attain moksha,
  • Moksha is liberation from the samsara. This is achieved by those who have lived a good spiritual life. Those who are not selfish and who renounce the fruits of their actions (those who do not look for a reward),
  • The atman becomes one with Brahman or joins a God in communion,
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The universe & cosmology

  • Cosmology is connected with the universe & time,
  • The world is cyclically created and destroyed over billions of years,
  • Time is divided into 4 epochs or ages called Yugas,
  • We are now living in the final age, the age of darkness called Kali-yuga,
  • In the end, the world will be destroyed by Shiva, it will be recreated again by Brahma,
  • Some observers have noted that this idea is like the scientific of the Big Bang and the Big church,
  • Hindu literature (in the Puranas) teaches there are numerable universes, heavens, and hells,
  • Vaikuntha is the spiritual realm, the abode of Lord Vishnu,
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Spirit & Matter

  • Reality is made up of the spirtual & physical or material,
  • Purusha (the spirit) equates with the Atman,
  •  Prakriti refers to our physical nature (matter & the body),
  • The spirit is trapped in matter,
  • Prakriti has 3 qualities or gunas or the tri-guna,
  • Sattva - Goodness,
  • Rajas - Passion,
  • Tamas - Darkness / Ignorance,
  • By the kali-yuga, tamas which is negative and impure dominates in most human beings,
  • This explains why the world faces many more problems, e.g. A rise in crime, conflict and war and environmental problems,
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