Beliefs are the building blocks of the mind. Our beliefs determine our thoughts and attitudes about life, which in turn direct our actions. By our actions we create our destiny. Beliefs about sacred matters—God, man and cosmos—are essential to one’s approach to enlightenment. But beliefs are not mere matters of agreement. They are what we value and hold as true. Hindus believe many diverse things, but there are a few bedrock concepts on which most Hindus concur. The following nine beliefs, though not exhaustive, offer a simple summary of Hindu spirituality.
Hinduism, the world’s oldest religion, has no beginning—it precedes recorded history. It has no human founder. It is a mystical religion, leading the devotee to personally experience the Truth within, finally reaching the pinnacle of consciousness where man and God are one. Hinduism has three main denominations—Saivism, Shaktism, and Vaishnavism. The preceding nine beliefs form a common ground for all Hindu sects.
Karma is what the soul undergoes in one of two ways, according to whether its actions are virtuous or not; but both kinds subsist until the end of enjoyment in this world.
God’s cosmic law of karma governs our life experiences through cause and effect. As God’s force of gravity shapes cosmic order, karma shapes experiential order. Through karma, your thoughts, emotions and deeds-whether good, bad or mixed-return to you. Thus, karma is your teacher. It imparts the lessons you need and are able to meet. For it is a divine law that no karmic situation will arise that exceeds your ability to resolve it. Karma is not fate. You have free will. No God or external force is controlling your life. It is your own karmic creation. To be responsible for your karma is strength. To blame another is weakness. Therefore, remember God’s great law of karma and act wisely.
Through his past works he shall return once more to birth, entering whatever form his heart is set on. This mighty soul unborn grows not old, nor dies, for the soul is immortal and fearless.
Your soul is an immortal body of light. Its Absolute and superconscious essence is identical to with God. Yet, this identity needs to be realized and unfolded within the soul. Toward this goal your soul undertakes many, many lifetimes in a physical body. You are now the sum total of all your past lives. You undergo every conceivable human experience as the forces of the body, ego and desire manifest. In the latter lives the forces are transmuted toward spirituality. Finally, your soul realizes God. After resolving all residual karmas, your soul no longer incarnates into human form. As the Agamas and Vedas teach, the soul continues its evolution in the inner worlds. Therefore, you live joyously, strive for spiritual unfoldment and do not fear death.
May noble wisdom come to us from all sides, undeceived, unhindered, overflowing, so that the Devas may always help us onward, unceasing is their care, our Guardians day by day.
Dharma is God’s Divine Law, the law of being. Dharma is to the individual what its normal development is to a seed-the orderly fulfillment of an inherent nature and destiny. When following Dharma you are in harmony with the cosmic order; you abide close to God. The moral dimension of Hindu Dharma is embodied in the eight yamas (restrains) and eight niyamas (observances). The yamas are: nonviolence not stealing; disciplining desire; abjuring lust and greed; curbing arrogance and anger; not lying; avoiding injustice; shunning wrongdoing and evil company. The niyamas: be pure in body, mind and speech; love mankind; seek contentment; cultivate devotion; develop forbearance; give charitably; study the scriptures; perform penance and sacrifice. Every person has his or her path; worship God, and your Dharma will become clear.
Offering of perfumed substances, flowers, incense, lamps and fresh fruit—these are the five elements of the traditional puja which culminates with offering of the lamps.
Worship expresses our profound love for God. Puja, bhajan, prayer and meditation are all worshipful means of direct, personal communion with God and Gods. God, Gods and devas are all real beings dwelling in the inner worlds. They can and want to help you in every aspect of your life. This they do in accord with your own patterns of karma and Dharma. Daily, personal puja at home keeps you God-conscious and your home holy. God has established many temples to allow us to intimately communicate with Him. Temple puja opens a channel to God. Through His personal presence and shakti, prayers are answered, karma softened, spiritual unfoldment guided. Surrender, worship with intense love, and God hears.
These four facts—karma, reincarnation, Dharma, worship—are the essence of the Vedas and Agamas and the fabric of every Hindu’s life.
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