The Hindu tradition has no founder and is best understood as a group of closely connected religious traditions rather than a single religion. It represents a complete way of life. Hindus believe in one God under many manifestations or images, so that all prayers addressed to any form or manifestation will ultimately reach the one God. Hinduism does not prescribe any particular dogmas; rather it asks individuals to worship God according to their own belief. It therefore allows a great deal of freedom in matters of faith and worship.
For Hindus, religion is a sanctified and disciplined path one follows to reach a higher level of consciousness or goal, i.e. to become a better person by following the path of Dharma, the ancient law that underlies the order of the universe and is reflected in a moral and ethical life. Hindus believe in the law of karma, a simple law of cause and effect: "As you sow, so shall you reap". They also believe in the divine nature of the soul which is immortal. It journeys from body to body depending on the merits and sins of one's actions (karma) accumulated in a lifetime. In the end, one's karma determines one's future rebirth. Hindus believe that the Divine descends to earth and these manifestations of God include Rama, Krishna and the Buddha. They serve as an example and inspiration for pious Hindus. Hindus also recognise the presence of God in all living things.
Customs and Practices
Prayer and the reading of the Holy Scriptures, which give Hindus an example of how they should live, are important practices. Worship or veneration of the divine image takes place around a shrine morning or evening in devout Hindu homes. Hindus follow the lunar calendar and particular days are set aside during the week and month to honour particular manifestations of God.
There are two kinds of scriptures in Hinduism: the holiest texts, called the Vedas, and the great epics of the Mahabharata and Ramayana. The Bhagavad Gita, which is part of the Mahabharata, is a very popular text in the West.
Places of Worship
Hindu temples or Mandirs, which have a priest educated in the scriptures, have public worship twice daily and Sunday has become a day for communal worship and activity. Only trained priests are able to perform religious ceremonies on special occasions. However worship and general religious activity are commonly centred around the home. Anyone may perform 'puja', which is a prayer ritual performed by Hindus to honour and worship one or more deities, or to spiritually celebrate an event.
There are many religious festivals, the most commonly celebrated being Diwali, the festival of lights and Navrathri, nine nights during which goddesses such as Durga, the Great Mother are worshipped. This takes place over nine days and nights twice a year.
Food and Diet
Hindus follow the concept of ahimsa (non injury) which encourages many of them to be vegetarian.
Click here for useful links to Hindu communities in Scotland.
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