Hinduism is a monotheistic religion that believes in God as the one source, having numerous manifestations. As a divine being, God transcends every being and object, and one’s purpose in life is to become aware of the divine. Worship rituals and meditative practices within Hinduism are intended to lead the soul toward direct experience of God or self.

Important Terms

  • Samsara: Hindus believe that human beings are born into a recurring cycle of birth and rebirth.
  • Karma: The consequences of one’s actions determine one’s lot in future reincarnations.
  • Yogas: Four disciplines that compromise four paths to enlightenment, discerning the true nature of reality.
  • Dharma: Ethics and responsibilities in life.

Important Religious Texts

Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads.

Customs

Because of Hinduism’s emphasis on human beings having a right relationship with the world around them, many Hindus are vegetarian. Food is categorized as sattvic (pure food, such as fruits, vegetables and milk), rajasic food (heavy, dark food, such as meats, spices and fried foods) and tamasic food (lethargic, slow food, such as alcoholic beverages). Cows and other animals are held as sacred and are not slaughtered for consumption.

Worship, Prayer, and Practice

Hindu temples are understood to be the residence of a particular god(s) or goddess(es). The main image of the deity is kept in the center of a small room (puja room) or in a mandir, where devotees are invited to worship the deity through prayer and offerings. Prayers include chanting mantras, meditation and sometimes yoga. The Interfaith Prayer Room at Benedictine University holds a mandir for Hindu students to use in prayer and meditation.

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