Common Tenets of Hinduism:
(Vidya Bhushan Gupta from his book, Hinduism in America, Vid Publications, 2005)
1.Most Hindus believe in God as the creator (intelligent designer), sustainer, and recycler of the universe. Although God is one, one can conceptualize Him as an impersonal, formless and abstract God (Parmaatmaa, Brahman) or as a personal God (Eeshwar) in different forms, as a father, mother, or friend, and commune with Him in various ways. God is immanent, pervading the whole universe as a master spirit, but, according to some denominations, it can incarnate in an embodied form (Avataar). Arya Samaj believes in an abstract God who is always present with us and hence does not have to incarnate. Too many representations of the same God cause dissension and confusion.
2. Hindus believe that the real self of a being is the soul (atmaan) which is eternal. The body is the abode of this soul for the life span. The soul goes through a cycle of births and deaths taking with it the impressions of the past life (samsaakar) and the blue print of its actions (karma) to reap their fruits in the next life.
3. According to Hinduism, man is not a sinner but essentially divine, because the master spirit or Brahman pervades all creatures of the universe. The purpose of religious life is to achieve this divinity through spiritual experience. Mere belief in religious cannon or performance of rituals without spiritual cleansing or righteous behavior is not religion.
4.An individual himself is responsible for his or her self evolution. There are various paths for this self-cleansing or self-evolution: knowledge, yoga and meditation, righteous actions (orthopraxy), and devotion. Devotion is by far the most popular path. Because there is no chasm between Man and God, no intercessory or redeemer is necessary to deliver a person, but a learned teacher (guru) may be help to learn and follow the path to salvation. Salvation is conceived in different ways: to most it means a release from the painful cycle of birth and death to abide in God; to others it means a state of absolute bliss achieved in life time by cleansing the mind of all thought waves and abiding in all pervading Brahma through yoga and other paths mentioned above. The purpose of life is spiritual (nihsreyasa) and socio-material (abhyudaya) progress. Abhyudaya occurs by righteous conduct (Dharma) and by performing one’s duty at each station of life (ashrama-dharma).
5. The primaryholy books of the Hindus are the Vedas, but many secondary scriptures have been written to expound on the concepts of the Vedas. Among these Bhaagavad Gita is the foremost.
6. Hindu orthopraxy orrighteous conduct, dharma, consists of the following virtues: Patience, forgiveness, restraint, non-stealing, clean body and mind, control of the senses, knowledge and wisdom, truthfulness, and anger control are the ten signs of dharma. 7. Hindus use various symbols and forms of worship to commune with God. Among the symbols, aum or om is the foremost. Uttering aum is believed to create the sound of God or pranav, according to some the residual vibrations of the Big Bang. Included among the forms of worship are oblations to sanctified representations of various aspects of God (murthis), chanting mantras around fire in an urn (havan), singing hymns in solo or chorus (bhajanand kirtan), repeatedly chanting a name of God (japa) and quiet contemplation and meditation. Arya Samaj did away with material representations of God to unite all Hindus and to downplay the role of ritual and mythology in favor of the true spirit and substance of religion. Instead of communing with Him through man-made representations, one should commune with Him by praising His qualities (stuti), praying to Him to grant us these qualities (praarthana) and for His benediction, grace and mercy, and come close or sit near Him (upaasana) through meditation. If a concrete object is needed to commune, use His creation, animate and inanimate or a symbol or ritual that is venerable to all Hindus and is available in all Times and places, such as Fire or light.
8. All Hindus believe in the concept of karma. Everyone will have to bear the fruits of one’s actions; good actions bring about good results and bad, bad. The results may or may not be immediate and may manifest in next life. There is no Day of Judgment, but judgment is ongoing through karma. However, fate is not predetermined because the results of karma can be mitigated through good deeds.
9. Hindu view of cosmos is cyclical. The universe goes in cycles of synthesis and disintegration just as life goes in cycles of birth and death. Therefore, there is no specific Doom’s day.
10. Hinduism emphasizes family values "May the son act in accordance with the father's wishes; may he be of one mind with the mother as well. May the wife talk to her husband in soothing words as sweet as honey! Behaving properly toward the elders and the others, considerate, pleasing each other, and working for common good, may you never part company! Come here each talking affectionately to each other." (Atharveda 3.30.2) Atharvaveda further says that "O, family members! May you live together amicably for the sake of common goals like the spokes of a wheel which are all equal and converge to the core!
11. Respect for women: O bride! May you enter this house to become its guiding light! You are endowed with intelligence and understanding. (subudhaa budhyamaanaa) Make the children of this house intelligent and knowledgeable. By observing the rules of hygiene assure the health, happiness and long life of all the people in the house. May the Lord also bless you so that you may live long! (Atharveda xiv.2.75)
12. Caste is not an article of faith of Hinduism. While the Hindu scriptures talk of four types of professions (varna) from which people can choose (vri) depending upon their innate nature, they do not condone hierarchical ranking of the society and exploitation of man by man. Vedas declare that we are God’s children (Sarve Amritasya putrah) and God has created creatures of all colors equal. "The One without form and hue, the One who created by means of His power creatures of all colors equally, the One in whom the world begins and ends, for proper and auspicious understanding."
13. Social consciousness - Applying the Vedic concepts of collective consciousness to empathize with other person’s pain and sorrow is social spirituality. Parental affection is naturally greater than filial love, and one should take care of oneself and his family. But the love of self and the family should be moderated, because excess of parental love can be ruinous as happened in Mahabharata. Arya Samaj believes in a balance of self-interest and common-interest.
14. Environmental consciousness – Prithvi sukta in the Vedas - Earth is my mother, I am her son. I have bestowed this earth upon noble people making a covenant with them that they shall secure the Earth against all environmental trespass and shall never let her be oppressed. Man is free to enjoy the bounties of nature and live life to the fullest for one hundred years. (Vedic vitalism)
15. Global worldview – the whole world is a family and I look upon everyone as a friend.vasudheva kuumkum, mitrasya ahum chakshusha smaikshamahe. One should be willing to accept noble ideas from the whole world. Aa no bhadra kritavo yanto vishawatah.
16. Many Hindus are vegetarians because non-violence is a cardinal virtue of Hinduism. However, even meat-eating Hindus do not eat beef, because cow was an important engine of economy and a pet in ancient India. Hindus still continue the ancient tradition of treating cows as pets and consider dairy products as particularly wholesome.
17. Despite a belief in non-violence, Hinduism condones death penalty for those who threaten civil society and the rule of law.
18. Hindus generally cremate their dead.
19. Hindus generally greet each other with folded hands and say namaste, namskaar, or namskaaram, which means "I bow before you." However, there are many regional and sectarian variations.
20. Hinduism does not condone abortion except to save the life of the mother, to prevent extraordinary physical or emotional burden to her or to prevent birth of a child whose life will be painful and burdensome. Hinduism regards pregnancy as a sacrament or sacred duty (garbhaadhaan samskar) that must be planned meticulously and once started should be carried to its successful completion.