Inter-Faith Relations: Survey of World Religions (Part 4)

Japa Mala Prayer Beads
Japa Mala Prayer Beads (Fountain Posters – Wikipedia)


Hinduism is unique among the world faith systems because it has no founder and no date of origin. Most major religions derive their ideas from charismatic leaders but “Hinduism is simply the religion of the people from India.”18 This religion of the people from India gradually developed over four-thousand years and the origins are not known. Hinduism of today differs significantly from the earlier Indian religion but its roots go back to 2,000 BCE which makes it one of the oldest surviving religions. Hinduism’s authors of its holy texts are mostly unknown and most of the ancient writings are still waiting to be deciphered. This means that “for the earliest periods scholars must rely on educated guesses based on archaeology and the study of contemporary texts.”18

Hinduism is a polytheistic religion. The pantheon of Hinduism contains many gods and goddesses with the chief deities being the gods Shiva and Vishnu as well as the goddess Shakti. Devotion to the various gods and goddesses is based upon one’s region and needs. Generally devotion is limited to only one god or goddess but the existence of other deities is acknowledged. “Hindu worship virtually always involves sculptures and images, to which offerings are made and rituals are performed.”19

Hinduism’s holy texts fall into one of two categories: sruti (“heard”) or smruti (“remembered”). The sruti scriptures are those texts that are divinely inspired and hold the complete authoritative text of beliefs and practices. The smruti scriptures are considered the texts of the great sages which often carry the same authority as the sruti texts. The smruti texts help to explain the sruti texts and makes them meaningful to the average Hindu.20

Hinduism does not have a central belief regarding the source of evil. There are generally four ways of viewing evil according to Hinduism. According to the Vedas evil is caused by mankind not fulfilling the laws or not performing rituals properly. The Upanishads believe that karma is the explanation for evil because suffering is caused by ignorance. According to the Samkhya and Yoga evil is caused by how much one is caught up in the illusions “generated by the primordial substance.”21 Hindu theism explains evil and in the Epics and the Puranas the gods are responsible for creating evil.21 Hinduism believes that there are four purposes to life. Dharma is the fulfillment of one’s purpose. Artha is prosperity. Kama is desire, sexuality, and enjoyment. Moksha is enlightenment. Karma – Sanskrit for “actions” – refers to “the fundamental Hindu principle that one’s moral actions have unavoidable and automatic effects on one’s fortunes in this life and condition of rebirth in the next.”22


18“History of Hinduism.” Religion Facts, n.d.  []
19“Hindu gods and goddesses.” Religion Facts, n.d.   []
20“Hindu sacred texts.” Religion Facts, n.d.   []
21Ernest Valea. “The Problem of Evil in World Religions.” World Religions: Comparative Analysis, n.d. []
22“Hindu beliefs.” Religion Facts, n.d. []