Religions and Philosophies of India

These are some of the religions and philosophies common to the Indian Sub-continent.

The major religions in India are comprised of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Islam, and Zoroastrianism. The most dominant religion is Hinduism, which is followed by over eighty percent of the total population. Buddhism and Islam are followed by most other Indians although Sikhism and Zoroastrianism both have voices in popular society and culture.

Hinduism

Hindus worship many Gods, although they do believe in a holy trinity. The trinity is comprised of Brahma, the creator of the Universe; Vishnu, the preserver of birth and new birth cycles; and Shiva, the conquerer of evil. Rama and Krishna are said to be reincarnates of the God Vishnu. Hindu Gods are said to be alive and they represent qualities that are revered by their followers as heroic and super-human. The attitude and feeling toward these Gods is warm and not generally fearful. The basic Hindu belief of reincarnation and the caste system comes from the worship of Vishnu, the God of birth cycles. It is believed that one’s actions in life will instigate good karma or bad karma, and this will be reflected by the station one is born into in the next life. This is why the caste system is so important to a predominately Hindu culture. If someone is born into the lowest caste system, that person was probably responsible for bad karma in his previous life, and if someone is born into the highest class, it means they are reaping good karma from their previous life.

Hindus believe in a culture of peace and have a basic faith in the instructable nature of the human soul.

Buddhism

Buddhism is an offshoot religion from Hinduism with some striking similarities in many philosophies. Buddhists follow the teachings of Gautama Buddha, the founder of the Buddhist faith. Buddhist philosophy is based on the law of impermanence, or that everything is subject to change, and that nothing happens by chance or coincidence.

Buddhists strongly believe that Karma is what orders all events. They share the Hindu belief that the human soul is indestructible. Buddha taught the philosophy of the ‘middle path’ or in living a balanced and harmonious life. He discouraged living to the extremes of either self-indulgence or complete self-denial.

Buddhist philosophy is based on four basic principals: That suffering is universal, that suffering is caused by desire and yearning, that suffering can be prevented and overcome, and that suffering can be eliminated if desires and cravings are conquered. He believed that a state of nirvana can be attained when one has conquered all cravings and desires.

Islam

Islam has its original roots in Judaism, although it is not that today. Islamics worship one God, Allah – God Almighty, and believe that He alone is the creator of all things. Islamic beliefs are that Allah created the world out of nothing, and most Islamics take a mystical approach to philosophy.

Much of Islam’s philosophy was adopted from Greek culture and philosophies. Islamics highly value the obtaining of knowledge, and most Islamics idealize Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle. Islamics follow the teachings of the Qu’ran, Islam’s Holy Book.

Zoroastrianism

There is also a school of philosophy in Hindu culture called Zoroastrianism. This philosophy is based on the responsibility of every man and woman to choose between good and evil. Its founder Zarathustra, was the first philosopher to teach the duality between good and evil. The followers of this philosophy practice five daily prayers that are found in the Zendra Auestra, the holy writings. In this philosophy, fire is believed to symbolize truth, righteousness, and order.

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