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Home > History of religion > Hinduism > Main theme of Hindu religion
Main theme of Hindu religion
Hinduism states three paths to self realization - knowledge (gyana), devotion (bhakti) and work (karma). In the olden times, Hindus were split into four castes, which was based on division of labour. The castes were as follows priests (Brahmins), soldiers (the Kshatriyas), traders (Vaishyas) & the unskilled labourers (Shudras). These however have faded with time and are not in practice in the modern age.

Theme of Hindu religionSimilarly, four stages of life have been defined ideally for a Hindu - first is a student and bachelor (brahmacharya), then is the householder (grihsthya), meditator in the forest (vanaprastha) & finally the sanyas i.e. the renunciation of material life for a spiritual one.

A number of movements like Bhakti Movement and societies like Keshab Chandra Sen`s Brahmo Samaj, Swami Dayanand Saraswati`s Arya Samaj and Ramakrishna Mission had their origin in Hinduism. Hinduism can boast of thinkers such as Kabir, Sankaracharya, Vidyasagar and Raja Ram Mohan Roy who had significantly contributed in reforming the society by abolishing sati, where, upon the death of a husband, the wife was supposed to immolate herself by throwing herself on her husband`s corpse, and by encouraging widow remarriage. Buddhism, Jainism & Sikhism are all breakaways from Hinduism.

The question of ajnana and moksa does not arise in the Rgveda. The ultimate end for them was the attainment of Svarga, where their hearts` desires would be fulfilled in company with the gods. However, in extant Hinduism, the seeker pursues the chief end of mukti from the endless chain of births and rebirths. Hence, enchained existence is a real bondage. As this bondage to worldly existence is due to ajnana, so this can be removed only by means of jnana.

Ajnana does not mean simply ignorance, if by ignorance we mean lack of awareness. Ajnana really means distortion of will and intellect. Naturally, intellect has to be purified, and will has to be put on the right tract. As both will and intellect are guided by ego-feeling (ahamkara), so this ahamkara has to be dissolved. Hence, a philosophical knowledge of the ultimate reality is necessary, and, this knowledge can be attained by overcoming the passions for enjoyment or pleasurable feeling. Only by cultivation of will and intellect will Brahma Jnana dawn. Therefore, attaining jnana really means the culture of the soul.

Loss of aharnkara would mean entrance into an undifferentiated reality. When will and intellect have been purified, then there can be no question of immorality.Theme of Hindu religion Hence, a Brahma Jnani is said to be beyond good and evil. Jainism and Buddhism in their classical form do not admit the reality of any supernatural power. According to them, man unaided by any supernatural powers can attain his final liberation. This is not the case either with Hinduism.

According to Hinduism, since bondage in worldly existence is due to ignorance (ajnana), so liberation is possible only through jnana. But jnana cannot be attained independently, both Karma-kanda and bhakti are necessary for preparing the ground for obtaining mukti.

There are two paths for the jivas, the pravrtti marga of action and nivrtti marga of the renunciation of action (Karma-Sannyasa). Pravrtti marga has been prescribed for the Kshatriyas in whom there is the predominance of rajas. This path is good for purifying the soul and, only the purified soul can follow nivrtti marga called jnanayoga. The path of action in general is meant only for unenlightened. Besides, Karmakanda implies the dualism of the doer and deed. But Brahma is one non-dual reality.

Bhakti means Upasana (worship). worship is means the concentration of mind on a symbol (alambana or support) as prescribed by the Shastras.bhakti By the steady flow of the mental stream in the direction of the symbol, all other disturbing thoughts are warded off. This results in the purification of the mind. This purified mind and intellect ultimateiy lead to bodhi or the enlightenment of the spirit, which is the same thing as release from Samsara or liberation. Thus, bhakti is a very important auxiliary means of obtaining Brahma-prapti or liberation. But bhakti need not lead to mukti, for bhakti may be maintained for reasons other than mukti.

The grace of God can be understood by the following three things:
  • To be born as a human being.

  • To have the desire for liberation.

  • To come in contact with a jivanmukta.


  • Mukti: Mukti means the attainment of Brahma-Jnana. There is also the Upanishadic saying `Brahmavid Brahmaiva bhavati` (The knower of Brahma becomes Brahma). Hence, Brahma-jnana means becoming one with Brahma. A number of such sayings show that `becoming Brahma` means mergence into Brahma. Just as the rivers merge in the sea, just as the water of a pitcher becomes one with the water once the pitcher breaks, so the spirit imprisoned in the body becomes one with Brahman once this body ceases to be a part of the jiva.On this topic the sayings of Kabir hold very true:

    "A tree by the side of a sandal tree, becomes sandalized an iron-piece coming in contact with Parasa, becomes gold; water of a drain when merged into the Ganges becomes ganga-jala.ganga Ahamkara (egoity) is lost, but the jiva becomes one with the creative Brahma. The jiva loses his creature-hood and becomes the creative source of all that is. He has been transformed from being a created being into a creator force itself."
    There are two kinds of mukti, namely, Jivanmukti (deliverance in this very life) and Videhamukti (liberation after the fall of the body). After attaining Brahma-jnana, the body is not immediately left behind. It continues. But the attachment to the world and bodily movements is lost. The on-goings of the world are left behind, just as the slough of a snake is left behind on a distant hill by the snake. The water of the drain, as if gets purified through the machinery before it falls into the Ganges. Body, intellect, mind, aharnkara are all purified by Vedic performance of Karmakanja and devotion to God that a jivan-mukta goes beyond good and evil of extant morality.

    Knowledge destroys all the past karmas (sanchita karman) and cancels the fruition of current activities (kriyamana karman), but the fructescent (prarabdha) karman will continue to work till they are exhausted since the resultant of the present body must produce definite results, speech, mind and the body are bound to work even after the highest realization, for actions that have begun to bear fruit are stronger than knowledge, as, for instance the arrow that has been let to fly continues the course for some time.

    After the prarabdha karman gets exhausted the body falls and the spirit merges into, Brahma. However, only a jivanmukta can really serve as the teacher of advaitism for an adhikari fit) seeker. Hence, for advaitam, jivanmukti is a necessity.

    In this connection four kinds of jivanmukti have been mentioned, namely, Brahmavid, Brahmavidvara, Brahmavidvariyana and Brahmavidvaristha. Brahmavid realizes that Brahma alone is real and this world is illusory. Brahmavidvara rises from his samadhi, according to his will. Brahmavidvariyana has to be awakened from his samadhi. Brahmavidvaristha cannot be aroused even by others. Ramakrishna had attained the last stage of Brahma-jnana.

    Mukti is the supreme goal of ajiva. The Mukta goes out of the temporal flow and becomes a spectator of all times.krishna He no longer requires this world, for it is God`s world, and, God can take care of this world. One should not run away with the idea that Brahmaprapti is a product of any activity. It is an eternal state of ajiva. But he can find only when he turns to himself and becomes aware of himself as Brahma.

    A jiva falls into samsara because of his karma, Kama (passions) and avidya. Further, through countless ages of Samsarika existence, the jiva gets away from Brahma. The farther away he remains from Brahma, the more entangled he gets in this worldly existence of suffering. However, the jiva is real, both on the state of release and bondage, both in the created world and at the time of pralaya in a subtle form. Ramanuja ridicules the doctrine of mergence.
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