Hinduism, the world's oldest religion guiding the devotees to personally experience the Truth within, finally reaching the highest point of consciousness where man and Ishwar(God) are one. Sanatana Dharma, which means the eternal or universal tradition, is the ancient name of the Hindu religion. It refers to a dharma, a teaching, way of living life or truth that embrace the full spectrum of human spiritual experience and reaching highest development of being a human being in the direct realization of the Divine as one’s own True Self.
Four Facts of Hinduism
These four facts- Karma, Reincarnation, All-Pervasive Divinity and Dharma are the essence of the Vedas and the core of every Hindu's life.
According to as one acts, so does he become. One becomes virtuous by virtuous action, bad by bad action. Yajur Veda, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.4.5
Karma literally means "deed" or "act" and more broadly names the universal principle of cause and effect, action, and reaction which governs all life. Karma is a natural law of the mind and life. Karma is not fate, for man acts with free will, creating his own destiny. The Vedas tell us if we sow goodness, we will reap goodness; if we sow evil, we will reap evil. Karma refers to the totality of our actions and their consequent reactions in this and previous lives, all of which determines our future. It is the interplay between our experience and how we respond to it that makes karma devastating or helpfully rejuvenating. The conquest of karma lies in intelligent action and dispassionate reaction. Not all karmas rebound immediately. Some accumulate and return unexpectedly in this or other births.
After death, the soul goes to the next world, bearing in mind the subtle impressions of its deeds, and after reaping their harvest returns again to this world of action. Thus, he who has desires continues subject to rebirth.
Yajur Veda, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.4.6
Reincarnation, punarjanma, is the natural process of birth, death, and rebirth. At death, we drop off the physical body and continue evolving in the inner worlds in our subtle bodies, until we again enter into birth. Through the ages, reincarnation has been the great comforting element within Hinduism, eliminating the fear of death. We are not the body in which we live but the immortal soul which inhabits many bodies in its evolutionary journey through world. After death, we continue to exist in unseen worlds, enjoying or suffering the harvest of earthly deeds until it comes time for yet another physical birth. The actions set in motion in previous lives form the tendencies and conditions of the next. Reincarnation ceases when karma is resolved, God is realized and moksha, liberation, is attained.
He is the God of forms infinite in whose glory all things are smaller than the smallest atom, and yet the Creator of all, ever living in the mystery of His creation. In the vision of this God of love, there is everlasting peace. He is the Lord of all who, hidden in the heart of things, watches over the world of time. Krishna Yajur Veda, Shvetashvatara Upanishad 4.14-15
As a family of faiths, Hinduism upholds a wide array of perspectives on the Divine, yet all worship the one, all-pervasive Supreme Being hailed in the Upanishads. As Absolute Truth, God is unmanifest, unchanging and transcendent, the Self God, timeless, formless and spaceless. As Pure Consciousness, God is the manifest primal substance, pure love, and light flowing through all form, existing everywhere in time and space as infinite intelligence and power. As Primal Soul, God is our personal Lord, the source of all three worlds, our Father-Mother God who protects, nurtures and guides us. We beseech God's grace in our lives while also knowing that He/She is the essence of our soul, the life of our life. Each denomination also venerates its own pantheon of Divinities, Mahadevas, or "great angels," who were created by the Supreme Lord and who serve and adore Him.
Dharma yields Heaven's honor and Earth's wealth. What is there then that is more fruitful for a man? There is nothing more rewarding than dharma, nor anything more ruinous than its neglect.Tirukural 31-32
When God created the universe, He endowed it with the order, with the laws to govern creation. Dharma is God's divine law prevailing on every level of existence, from the sustaining cosmic order to religious and moral laws which bind us in harmony with that order. Related to the soul, dharma is the mode of conduct most leading to spiritual advancement, the right, and righteous path. It is devotional and ethical practice, duty, and obligation. When we follow dharma, we are in conformity with the Truth that inheres and instructs the universe, and we naturally abide in closeness to God. Adharma is opposition to divine law. Dharma is to the individual what its normal development is to a seed-the orderly fulfillment of an inherent nature and destiny.
The Four Denominations of Hinduism
Hinduism has four main denominations:
Saivite Hindus worship the Supreme God as Siva, the Compassionate One. Saivites esteem self-discipline and philosophy and follow a satguru. They worship in the temple and practice yoga, striving to be one with Siva within.
Shaktas worship the Supreme as the Divine Mother, Shakti or Devi. She has many forms. Some are gentle, some are fierce. Shaktas use chants, hymns, holy diagrams, yoga and rituals to call forth cosmic forces and awaken the great kundalini power within the spine.
Vaishnavites worship the Supreme as Lord Vishnu and His incarnations, especially Krishna and Rama. Vaishnavites are mainly dualistic. They are deeply devotional. Their religion is rich in saints, temples, and scriptures.
Smartas worship the Supreme in one of six forms: Ganesha, Siva, Sakti, Vishnu, Surya, and Skanda. Because they accept all the major Hindu Gods, they are known as liberal or nonsectarian. They follow a philosophical, meditative path, emphasizing man's oneness with God through understanding.