Hinduism: A way of life
Swami Vivekananda, the wandering monk had said that Hinduism was not a religion; it
was a way of life. In fact this is what this ancient religion is.
Hinduism is a worldwide religious tradition that is based on the Vedas and is the direct descendent of the Vedic Indo-Iranian religion. It encompasses many religious traditions that widely vary in practice, as well as many diverse sects and philosophies. It’s origins are unknown and estimates vary from 3102 BCE to 1300 BCE. It is the third largest religion in the world with it’s followers of around a billion in which ninty eight percent are from the Indian subcontinent. The word Hindu is derived from the Sanskrit word sindhu which means or more specifically the modern “Indus”. The Hindus define their community as “those who believe in the Vedas” or “those who follow the way (dharma)of the four classes (varnas) and stages of life (ashramas).” . The four classes or objectives of life are kama, artha, dharma and moksha. It is said that all humans seek kama (pleasure, physical or emotional) and artha (material wealth), but soon, with maturity, learn to govern these legitimate desires within the higher framework of dharma (righteousness). In fact the only goal that is truly ultimate, whose attainment results in ultimate happiness, is moksha (salvation), also known as Mukti (spiritual liberation).The four stages of life are Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanaprastha and Sanyasa. The first quarter of one's life, Brahmacharya ("meditation in Brahma") is spent in celibate, controlled, sober and pure contemplation under a Guru, building up the mind for the realization of truth. Grihastya is the householder's stage, alternatively known as samsara, in which one marries and satisfies kama and artha within a married life and professional career. Vanaprastha is gradual detachment from the material world, ostensibly giving over duties to one's children, spending more time in contemplation of the Divine, and making holy pilgrimages.
Finally, in sanyasa, the individual goes into seclusion, often envisioned as the renunciation, to find the Divine through detachment from worldly life and peacefully shed the body for the next life.
The ultimate doctrine for the Hindu religion is the Vedas which are scriptures written by scholars supposedly to have origins between 1500 and 1000 B.C. There are four Vedas, the Rig Veda, the Yajur veda, the Sama Veda, the Atharva Veda. The word Veda means knowledge in Sanskrit. The Vedas were composed in Vedic and early from of Sankrit. The present scriptures had been dictated orally by sages or rishis changing and elaborating them. The Rig-Veda was used by the hotri, or reciters, who invoked the gods by reading its hymns aloud. The Sama-Veda contains verse portions taken mainly from the Rig-Veda. It was used by the udgatri, or chanters, who sang its hymns, or melodies (Sanskrit sama). The Yajur-Veda consists of two recensions, both of them partly in prose and partly in verse and both containing roughly the same material (although differently arranged), contains sacrificial formulas. It was used by the adhvaryu, priests who recited appropriate formulas from the Yajur-Veda while actually performing the sacrificial actions. The fourth Veda, the Atharva-Veda (in part attributed by tradition to a rishi named Atharvan), consists almost exclusively of a wide variety of hymns, and magical spells.