THE HINDU PERSPECTIVE
Hinduism, believed to be one of the oldest religions existing today, is most-often described as a philosophy or a perspective. The Hindu perspective is often thought to have been brought to India by the Aryans in about 1500 B.C. The Aryans, along with their predecessors, the Dravidians, brought the ideas of worshipping gods and goddesses in the forms of dieties and many of the stories and myths that came with them. During the Vedic period, which was from 1500 - 900 B.C., the idea of Brahman, or the "over soul", came about. Hinduism is a complex philosophy that depends greatly on what followers make of it. Almost every valid point made about Hinduism can be validly opposed. It is quite possible in India, or in any area that Hinduism is widely practiced, to find two true Hindus with contrasting practices and beliefs. Devotional procedures are each individual's personal responsibility as a Hindu. In fact, ritual, action, and daily routine, different as they may seem, may be what unites all Hindus. They will come closer to Brahman by what best suits them. I believe the worship of millions of different dieties to be another important aspect of individual devotional procedures. I like the fact that new dieties arise every day. The people choose what they worship for themselves. Hindus may be atheists, monotheists, or even polytheists - it is an all-encompassing perspective, as far as I can tell.
I believe the idea of Brahman, or the ultimate reality, to be very essential to the Hindu philosophy. Brahman can either be a god or a personal diety to a theist or a process or ultimate to an atheist. Hindus believe that when they go to Brahman, they lose their identity and become part of the whole force. The idea of Brahman in the human soul is called Atman - it is the individual reality. Many Hindus believe in Karma, a kind of belief in predestination where the law of cause and effect has great influence. Regardless of whether or not they believe in Karma or reincarnation, they do believe that upon death, whether it be after one life or many, they absorb into Brahman. Brahman is what makes Hinduism monotheistic despite the worship of many gods and goddesses. Brahman is all gods. "Though men call it by many names, it is really one." -Rig Veda
Another idea that I found to be important to the Hindu perspective is what is often called the "Hindu One." Hinduism greatly relies on the belief that everything is part of the one. They see all forms of existence as related; the universal god is present in all things. The Hindu philosophy also emphasizes that everything is transforming - nothing is permanent. Most Hindus believe in an oscillating universe, meaning that there was not one big bang to create this universe, but an infinite number of bangs and an infinite number of universes before this one. This brings us to the belief in Maya, the world of appearances. The idea behind Maya is that everything is an illusion, not a reality. The illusion of Maya relies greatly on our point of view. We believe that the things happening around us are realities when, in actuality, they are just products of our systematic minds.
I am a Roman Catholic. As a Catholic I believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. I believe in heaven and hell and what is written in the Bible. Sunday is the Sabbath, or holy day, for Catholics and it is the day most attend church. There are many similarities between Roman Catholics and the Hindu perspective, as well as many differences. Catholics are true monotheists and Hindus can be mono-, poly-, or atheists, but the Hindu dieties that are worshipped could be compared to Catholic saints. Hindu dieties are not found in recorded history like Christian saints - they are thought to have lived before recorded history. There are no rules to making something a diety as there are for saints. The idea of Brahman can be compared to the Catholic idea of heaven. When Hindus die, they absorb into Brahman. When Christians die, they go to heaven and live there with God. The Vedas, or the very ancient and anonymous "revealed scriptures," are the main spiritual source of Hinduism and can be compared to the Bible. The Vedas trace back to Aryan nomads at the same time Moses was leading Israelites out of Egypt. The Bible is a definitive book, whereas the Vedas are a loose connection of diverse holy writings. Thought in India is said to be religious. Hindus take it upon themselves to worship - many have personal shrines in their homes. For the most part, Catholics go to church on Sunday and feel that to be a sufficient amount of time for worship. Catholics don not believe in evolution. They believe that God created the Earth, along with Adam and Eve on it, in seven days. Hindus believe in the oscillating universe and therefore have no problem with the idea of evolution.