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Home > History of religion > Hinduism > Four Pillars of Hindu religion
Four Pillars of Hindu religion
The defining characteristics of Hinduism may be called the four-fold pillar of Karma-Samsara-Jnana-Mukti. But each term is found in various meanings.

Karma: Usually it means an action under the influence of passions and undesirable emotions. `Karma` in this sense binds a creature in the endless cycle of rebirths. Each birth in the cycle is said to be painful.

As distinguished from `Karma`, the advaitins prefer `avidya or ajnana` as the real starting-point of tumbling into the miserable worldly existence. rama Ramanuja who criticizes the -doctrine of Shankara prefers `Karma` to `avidya`. However, this is only a verbal distinction. In Samkhya it is pointed out that the pure spirit is essentially inactive. But it falsely thinks identifies itself with the active prakrti and thereby falsely thinks itself to be a doer and enjoyer of its activity. However, action (Karma) is due to ignorance, infatuation or avidya. Thus avidya and karma under the influence of emotions are two inseparable aspects of the same coin. There is not much to choose between kanna and avidya.

The doctrine of niskama karmo is also a distinctive aspect of karma. According to it only vakwiu (with some desire) karma binds a man in the wheel of rebirths. But a disinterested performance of duties in one`s station of life (Varnashrarna Dharma) does not bind a man. Of course, this niskania kurma comes under Bhakti. This comes very near Kant`s doctrine of duty for the sake of duty, taking duty to be a divine command.

Samsara (Painful worldly existence): `Samsara` means an endless process. Here it means `an endless chain of rebirths`. Each birth, even a birth into the highest species called `human being` is full of miseries. It does not mean that life is only suffering. Nobody can deny the fact that an actual life has both moments of pleasure (happiness) and painfulness. But what is contended is that even the worldly pleasure is infected with momentariness and transitoriness. And that which is transitory can never be considered to be `real or eternal happiness`.

Further, this worldly existence has become worse through the ages because it has been greatly shaped by the twisted wills of thejil`ai. This accumulation of Karinax through the ages in countless rebirths of an individual is called Kurnici-Samskara. One can imagine how difficult it is to get rid of one`s Karma-Suinikani.

Jnana: But after diagnosing the cause of human miseries, one can hope to deal effectively with them.shiv Those who take `ajnana` as the real cause of fall into wordly existence, hope to put and end to ajnana by means of true jnana. Others take the performance of Vedic rituals and niskama Karmas, as a means of terminating the endless cycle of rebirths. Ramanuja advocates the theory of Karma-jnana-Samuccaya. Others advance one of three ways of ending the endless chain of rebirths. These three ways are jnana-marga, Karma-marga and bhakti-marga. Advaitins recommend jnana-rnarga, the Saints and others under their influence advocate bhakti-marga (the path of devotion).

Mukti (Liberation): It means deliverance from rebirths. It is both a positive and a negative concept. The most important cause of bondage is said to he the formation of egoism (aham kara). Hence, the loss of one`s ego in the differenceless Brahman (as Sat + Cit + Ananda) is characterized as Bhukti. This is also known as layavada or mergence. This has been advocated by Shankara.

The immortality of the Soul: Classical Hinduism accepts the immortality of the soul. Shankara teaches that a jiva is really identical with Brahman (jivo brahmaiva). A jiva is only a part of Brahman and remains conserved to the end, whether in bondage or in the state of liberation.

Here the soul is said to be a spirit and capable of existence, independently of a body. The well-known verses of the Gita state that the spirit is unborn, eternal, permanent, and, not slain when the body is slain. The spirit in its different births, simply changes its body as garments, but itself remains the same, unchanging soul.

Hinduism accepts supernaturalism more firmly than this worldliness. But by clinging to whramaashrama dharmas, the importance of the duties of a house-holder cannot be under-estimated But it must be admitted that Hinduism accepts social conservatism much more than progressiveness. This follows from the fact that Hinduism believes in the periodic creation and dissolution of the world. Further, it also accepts that there are four Yugas which keep on repeating themselves as soon as there is a fresh creation. They are Satya, treta, dvapara and Kali.

.lord krishnaAn alloyed true dharma prevails in Satya Yuga, in treta truth and falsehood get mixed up in equal proportion. In dvapara there is more of adharma than true religious piety. However, Kali vaga is unmixed adharma.The four main Avataras of these Yugas were Narasimha in Satya Yuga, Lord Rama in Treta Yuga, Lord Krishna in Dwapara Yuga and Kalki will appear at the end of Kali yuga that is the present yuga.
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