|A polytheistic religion that was formed from
a variety of different religious practices. In Hinduism, salvation is achieved
through a spiritual oneness of the soul, atman, with the ultimate reality
of the universe, Brahma. To achieve this goal, the soul must obtain moksha,
or liberation from the samsara, the endless cycle of birth, death, and
rebirth. As a result of these basic teachings, Hindus believe in reincarnation,
which is influenced by karma (material actions resulting from the consequences
of previous actions), and dharma (fulfilling one's duty in life). Because
all forms of animal life possess souls, Hindus believe in ahimsa, or that
all life is sacred and should not be harmed. In fact, one animal which
Hindus consider to be extremely sacred is the cow. The peaceful and contented
existence of cows is considered virtuous by Hindus and would represent
a rewarding reincarnation for a soul. For this reason, most Hindus are
vegetarians so that they do not harm other living beings. The belief in
reincarnation, karma, and dharma also provides the religious justification
for the existence of the rigid social structure known as the Caste System.
Moksha: In Hinduism, it is the release from the cycle of reincarnation through unification with Brahma.
Dharma: The act of fulfilling one's duty in life. Associated with Hinduism and Buddhism.
Karma: Actions in this life resulting from the consequences of a previous life’s actions. Associated with Hinduism and Buddhism.
Brahman: In Hinduism, Brahman is the name given to the oneness of the universe.
Ganges River: Located in India, this river is considered sacred to Hindus and is used for spiritual cleansing, funeral rites, and other Hindu rituals.
Caste System: A rigid social class
system in Hinduism.