Thanks for visiting Sewanee’s Multifaith Calendar! Created as a project of the Interfaith Advisory Council, this resource is meant to help our campus community know about some of the diverse religious and ethical holidays celebrated by members of the Sewanee community. Use it as you plan programming and schedule events, or to learn about the rich religious diversity that exists at Sewanee.

Though we’ve made every effort to be inclusive, this calendar is not exhaustive; we focused primarily on major holidays identified by practitioners of the traditions represented on campus. If we’ve missed something you’d like to see included, or if you see something you’d like to have corrected, please email Cassie Meyer, Director of Dialogue Across Difference Programs.

If you would like to observe an important religious or ethical holiday, but are struggling to find the resources to do so on campus, please email Cassie Meyer, Director of Dialogue Across Difference Programs and the University Chaplain, the Rev. Peter Gray. We want to work with you to help the Mountain feel like a religious and spiritual home for all.

September 2021

9/4-11 Jain: Paryushana, also known as the Festival of Forgiveness, lasts either eight or ten days and is a time of intensive study, reflection, and purification. It culminates with a day focused on confession and asking for forgiveness.


9/6-8 Jewish: Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown, and begins the Jewish New Year and the Days of Awe, a period of reflection on the past year and the year to come.


9/11 Coptic Orthodox Christian: Nayrouz (Coptic New Year) begins the new year for the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt.


9/15-16 Jewish: Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) begins at sundown on the 27th and ends at sundown on the 28th. A day of fasting and repentance, Yom Kippur marks the end of the Days of Awe or Days of Repentance, and is the holiest day in Judaism.


9/20-27 Jewish: Sukkot, or the Festival of Booths, begins at sundown on 9/20 and goes until 9/27. It is celebrated by the building of sukkot (sing. sukkah; outdoor shelters covered with greenery) as a commemoration of the autumnal harvest.


9/20 – 10/6 Hindu: Pitra Paksha is a 16 day holiday where many Hindus observe an all-vegetarian diet while also offering food to those in need.


9/21 – Various: Zhongqiu Jie (China), Chuseok (Korea), Tết Trung Thu (Vietnam) or Sampeah Preah Khae (Cambodia) is a harvest festival celebrated in much of East Asia and Southeast Asia. Traditions include viewing the full moon with family, eating moon cakes, reunions, and boat races.


9/21- 9/22 Pagan and Wiccan: Modron/Mabon (Autumnal Equinox) begins at sundown; sabbat is observed on the autumnal equinox. It is the first harvest holiday.


9/27-28 Muslim: Arba‘een, observed by Shi’a Muslims, begins at sundown and marks the end of the 40-day mourning period following Ashura, the anniversary of the martyrdom of Hussein ibn Ali, grandson of Islam’s prophet Muhammad.


9/28-29 Jewish: Simchat Torah marks the end of the annual cycle of Torah readings and the beginning of the new cycle.

The Study of Pagan Gods & Goddesses: Brahma, The Hindu Creator God



The Hindu Creator God


Brahma is the Hindu Creator god. He is also known as the Grandfather and as a later equivalent of Prajapati, the primeval first god. In early Hindu sources such as the Mahabharata, Brahma is supreme in the triad of great Hindu gods which includes Shiva and Vishnu.
Brahma, due to his elevated status, is less involved in picturesque myths where gods take on human form and character, but is rather a generally abstract or metaphysical ideal of a great god. In later Puranas (Hindu epics) Brahma is no longer worshipped and other gods are assigned his myths, even if he always maintains his status as the Creator god. Brahma’s epithet is ekahamsa, the One Swan. His vahanam (‘vehicle’) is a peacock, swan or goose. He is still honoured today with an annual ceremony at the pilgrimage site of Pushkar in Rajasthan, India and he remains a popular figure in South-east Asia, especially in Thailand and Bali.


In the beginning, Brahma sprang from the cosmic golden egg and he then created good & evil and light & dark from his own person. He also created the four types: gods, demons, ancestors, and men (the first being Manu). Brahma then made all living creatures upon the earth (although in some myths Brahma’s son Daksa is responsible for this). In the process of creating, perhaps in a moment of distraction, the demons were born from Brahma’s thigh and so he abandoned his own body which then became Night. After Brahma created good gods he abandoned his body once again, which then became Day, hence demons gain the ascendancy at night and gods, the forces of goodness, rule the day. Brahma then created ancestors and men, each time again abandoning his body so that they became Dusk and Dawn respectively. This process of creation repeats itself in every aeon. Brahma then appointed Shiva to rule over humanity although in later myths Brahma becomes a servant of Shiva.
Brahma had several wives, the most important being his daughter Sarasvati who, after the Creation, bore Brahma the four Vedas (Holy books of Hinduism), all branches of knowledge, the 36 Raginis and 6 Ragas of music, ideas such as Memory and Victory, yogas, religious acts, speech, Sanskrit, and the various units of measurement and time. Besides Daksa, Brahma had other notable sons including the Seven Sages (of whom Daksa was one), and the four famous Prajapatis (deities): Kardama, Pancasikha, Vodhu, and Narada, the latter being the messenger between gods and men.


In the myths told in the Mahabharata, Brahma created women, the source of evil amongst men:
A wanton woman is a blazing fire…she is the sharp edge of the razor; she is poison, a serpent, and death all in one.
The gods feared that men could become so powerful that they might challenge their reign, therefore, they asked Brahma how best to prevent this. His response was to create wanton women who ‘lusting for sensual pleasures, began to stir men up. Then the lord of gods, the lord, created anger as the assistant of desire, and all creatures, falling into the power of desire and anger, began to be attached to women.’ (Mahabharata in Hindu Myths, 36).


In another myth Brahma’s first female is also Death, the evil force which brings balance to the universe and which ensures there is no over-crowding of it. The figure of Death is picturesquely described in the Mahabharata as ‘a dark woman, wearing red garments, with red eyes and red palms and soles, adorned with divine ear-rings and ornaments’ and she is given the job of ‘destroying all creatures, imbeciles and scholars’ without exception (Mahabharata in Hindu Myths, 40). Death wept and begged Brahma to be released from this terrible task but Brahma remained unmoved and sent her on her way to perform her duty. At first Death continued her protests by performing various extraordinary acts of asceticism such as standing in water in complete silence for 8,000 years and standing on one toe on the top of the Himalaya mountains for 8,000 million years but Brahma would not be swayed. So Death, still sobbing, performed her duties bringing endless night to all things when their time came and her tears fell to the earth and became diseases. Thus, through Death’s work, the distinction between mortals and gods was preserved forever.


Brahma is often represented in red with four heads, symbolic of his creation of the four Vedas. Thus he is often called Caturanana/Caturmukha or ‘four-faced’ and Astakarna or ‘eight-eared’. Originally Brahma had five heads but when he lusted after his daughter Sandhya an outraged Shiva cut off the head which had ogled the goddess (or burned it with his central eye). Brahma is also represented with four arms. One right hand holds the brahma-tandram, an oval disk with a beaded rim which is perhaps a sacrificial ladle and used to mark men’s foreheads with their destiny. The other right hand holds a rosary made from rudraksham seeds. One left hand holds a cleansing vase and he sometimes holds his bow Parivita or the Vedas. Brahma may also be depicted sitting on the sacred lotus flower which sprang from Vishnu’s navel, a scene especially common in Cham art.


In Cambodian art, Brahma -known as Prah Prohm- is again represented with four heads and often riding a sacred goose, the hamsa (a popular form of depiction in Javanese art, too), and so the god may in this guise be referred to as Hansavahana. In Tibet, where Brahma is known as Tshangs-pa or White Brahma (Tshangs-pa dkar-po), he often rides a horse and carries a white bull and a sword.



The first god in the Hindu trimurti. He is regarded as the senior god and his job was creation.
Who is Brahma?
Brahma is the first god in the Hindu triumvirate, or trimurti. The triumvirate consists of three gods who are responsible for the creation, upkeep and destruction of the world. The other two gods are Vishnu and Shiva.


Vishnu is the preserver of the universe, while Shiva’s role is to destroy it in order to re-create.


Brahma’s job was creation of the world and all creatures. His name should not be confused with Brahman, who is the supreme God force present within all things.


Brahma is the least worshipped god in Hinduism today. There are only two temples in the whole of India devoted to him, compared with the many thousands devoted to the other two.


What does Brahma look like?
Brahma has four heads and it is believed that from these heads came the four Vedas (the most ancient religious texts for Hindus). Some also believe that the caste system, or four varnas, came from different part of Brahma’s body.


He has four arms and is usually depicted with a beard.


Brahma’s consort is Saraswati, goddess of knowledge.


Why is Brahma not worshipped so much?
There are a number of stories in the Hindu mythology which point to why he is rarely worshipped. These are two of them.


The first view is that Brahma created a woman in order to aid him with his job of creation. She was called Shatarupa.


She was so beautiful that Brahma became infatuated with her, and gazed at her wherever she went. This caused her extreme embarrassment and Shatarupa tried to turn from his gaze.


But in every direction she moved, Brahma sprouted a head until he had developed four. Finally, Shatarupa grew so frustrated that she jumped to try to avoid his gaze. Brahma, in his obsession, sprouted a fifth head on top of all.


It is also said in some sources that Shatarupa kept changing her form. She became every creature on earth to avoid Brahma. He however, changed his form to the male version of whatever she was and thus every animal community in the world was created.


Lord Shiva admonished Brahma for demonstrating behaviour of an incestuous nature and chopped off his fifth head for ‘unholy’ behaviour. Since Brahma had distracted his mind from the soul and towards the cravings of the flesh, Shiva’s curse was that people should not worship Brahma.


As a form of repentance, it is said that Brahma has been continually reciting the four Vedas since this time, one from each of his four heads.


A second view of why Brahma is not worshipped, and a more sympathetic one, is that Brahma’s role as the creator is over. It is left to Vishnu to preserve the world and Shiva to continue its path of cosmic reincarnation.


Mark Cartwright, Author
Ancient History Encyclopedia


Hindu Branches, Sects & Schools

Hindu Branches, Sects & Schools

What are the sects and denominations in Hinduism?

Modern Hinduism is divided into four major devotional sects: Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism, and Smartism. Vaishnavism and Shaivism are generally regarded as monotheistic sects: each believes in one supreme God, who is identified as Vishnu in Vaishnavism and Shiva in Shaivism.

Vaishnavism, Shaivism and Shaktism are the most prevalent Hindu sects; among these, Vaishnavism is the largest. The devotional sects do not generally regard other sects as rivals, and each sect freely borrows beliefs and practices from others.

In addition to the four theistic sects, there are six schools of Vedantic philosophy within Hinduism. These schools tend to emphasize Ultimate Reality as Brahman, the great “Self” who must be realized to attain liberation.

The six Astika (orthodox; accepting the authority of the Vedas) schools of Hindu philosophy are Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Yoga, Purva Mimamsa (also called just ‘Mimamsa’), and Uttara Mimamsa (also called ‘Vedanta’). Of these six, three continue to be influential in Hinduism: Purva Mimamsa, Yoga, and Vedanta.

Click on the links below for more information on each of these sects and schools of Hinduism.

Four Theistic/Devotional Sects of Hinduism

– Vaishnavism
– Shaivism
– Shaktism
– Smartism

Six Philosophical Schools of Hinduism

– Yoga
– Purva Mimamsa (Mimamsa)
– Uttara Mimamsa (Vedanta)
– Nyaya
– Vaisheshika
– Samkhya



Who is a Hindu?

Who is a Hindu?

Seven Features of Hinduism Recognized by Indian Law Courts

The Supreme Court of India defined the features of a Hindu in its 1995 ruling of the case, “Bramchari Sidheswar Shai and others Versus State of West Bengal.” At one place, it says that the court identifies the following seven defining characteristics of Hinduism and by extension Hindus:

  1. Acceptance of the Vedas with reverence as the highest authority in religious and philosophic matters and acceptance with reverence of Vedas by Hindu thinkers and philosophers as the sole foundation of Hindu philosophy.
  2. Spirit of tolerance and willingness to understand and appreciate the opponent’s point of view based on the realization that truth was many-sided.
  3. Acceptance of great world rhythm, vast period of creation, maintenance and dissolution follow each other in endless succession, by all six systems of Hindu philosophy.
  4. Acceptance by all systems of Hindu philosophy, the belief in rebirth and pre-existence.
  5. Recognition of the fact that the means or ways to salvation are many.
  6. Realization of the truth that Gods to be worshipped may be large, yet there being Hindus who do not believe in the worshipping of idols.
  7. Unlike other religions or religious creeds Hindu religion not being tied-down to any definite set of philosophic concepts, as such.

If you’re still confused…

When the question of who is a Hindu is discussed today, we get a multitude of confused and contradictory answers from both Hindu laypersons and from Hindu leaders. That we have such a difficult time understanding the answer to even so fundamental a question as “Who is a Hindu?” is a starkly sad indicator of the lack of knowledge in the Hindu community today. Below are some thoughts on the topic collated from a speech by Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya.

Common Answers

Some of the more simplistic answers to this question include: Anyone born in India is automatically a Hindu (the ethnicity fallacy), if your parents are Hindu, then you are Hindu (the familial argument), if you are born into a certain caste, then you are Hindu (the genetic inheritance model), if you believe in reincarnation, then you are Hindu (forgetting that many non-Hindu religions share at least some of the beliefs of Hinduism), if you practice any religion originating from India, then you are a Hindu (the national origin fallacy).

The Real Answer

The real answer to this question has already been conclusively answered by the ancient sages of Hinduism, and is actually much simpler to ascertain than we would guess. The two primary factors that distinguish the individual uniqueness of the great world religious traditions are a) the scriptural authority upon which the tradition is based, and b) the fundamental religious tenet(s) that it espouses. If we ask the question what is a Jew?, for example, the answer is: someone who accepts the Torah as their scriptural guide and believes in the monotheistic concept of God espoused in these scriptures. What is a Christian? – a person who accepts the Gospels as their scriptural guide and believes that Jesus is the incarnate God who died for their sins. What is a Muslim? – someone who accepts the Qur’an as their scriptural guide, and believes that there is no God but Allah, and that Mohammed is his prophet.

Scriptural Authority

In general, what determines whether a person is a follower of any particular religion is whether or not they accept, and attempt to live by, the scriptural authority of that religion. This is no less true of Hinduism than it is of any other religion on earth. Thus, the question of what is a Hindu is similarly very easily answered.

The Definition

By definition, a Hindu is an individual who accepts as authoritative the religious guidance of the Vedic scriptures, and who strives to live in accordance with Dharma, God’s divine laws as revealed in the Vedic scriptures.

Only If You Accept the Vedas

In keeping with this standard definition, all of the Hindu thinkers of the six traditional schools of Hindu philosophy (Shad-darshanas) insisted on the acceptance of the scriptural authority of the Vedas (shabda-pramana) as the primary criterion for distinguishing a Hindu from a non-Hindu, as well as distinguishing overtly Hindu philosophical positions from non-Hindu ones. It has been the historically accepted standard that, if you accept the Vedas (and by extension Bhagavad Gita, Puranas, etc.) as your scriptural authority, and lived your life in accordance with the Dharmic principles of the Vedas, you are then a Hindu. Thus, an Indian who rejects the Veda is obviously not a Hindu. While an American, Russian, Indonesian or Indian who does accept the Veda obviously is a Hindu.


The Sacred Texts of the Hindus

The Sacred Texts of the Hindus

The Basics of Hinduism

According to Swami Vivekananda, “the accumulated treasury of spiritual laws discovered by different persons in different times” constitutes the sacred Hindu texts. Collectively referred to as the Shastras, there are two types of sacred writings in the Hindu scriptures: Shruti (heard) and Smriti (memorized).

Sruti literature refers to the habit of ancient Hindu saints who led a solitary life in the woods, where they developed a consciousness that enabled them to ‘hear’ or cognize the truths of the universe. Sruti literatures are of two parts: the Vedas and the Upanishads.

There are four Vedas:

  • The Rig Veda -“Royal Knowledge”
  • The Sama Veda – “Knowledge of Chants”
  • The Yajur Veda – “Knowledge of Sacrificial Rituals”
  • The Atharva Veda – “Knowledge of Incarnations”

There are 108 extant Upanishads, of which 10 are most important: Isa, Kena, Katha, Prashna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Taitiriya, Aitareya, Chandogya, Brihadaranyaka.Smriti Literature refers to ‘memorized’ or ‘remembered’ poetry and epics.

They are more popular with Hindus, because they are easy to understand, explains universal truths through symbolism and mythology, and contain some of the most beautiful and exciting stories in the history of religion world literature. The three most important of Smriti literature are:

  • The Bhagavad Gita – The most well known of the Hindu scriptures, called the “Song of the Adorable One”, written about the 2nd century BC and forms the sixth part of Mahabharata. It contains some of the most brilliant theological lessons about the nature of God and of life ever written.
  • The Mahabharata – The world’s longest epic poem written about 9th century BC, and deals with the power struggle between the Pandava and the Kaurava families, with an intertwining of numerous episodes that make up life.
  • The Ramayana – The most popular of Hindu epics, composed by Valmiki around 4th or 2nd centuries BC with later additions up to about 300 CE. It depicts the story of the royal couple of Ayodha – Ram and Sita and a host of other characters and their exploits.


Theories About the Origin of Hinduism

Theories About the Origin of Hinduism

A Brief History of Hinduism

According to historians, the origin of Hinduism dates back to 5,000 or more years. The word “Hindu” is derived from the name of River Indus, which flows through northern India. In ancient times the river was called the ‘Sindhu’, but the Persians who migrated to India called the river ‘Hindu’, the land ‘Hindustan’ and its inhabitants ‘Hindus’. Thus the religion followed by the Hindus came to be known as ‘Hinduism’.

It was earlier believed that the basic tenets of Hinduism were brought to India by the Aryans who invaded the Indus Valley Civilization and settled along the banks of the Indus river about 1600 BC. However, this theory has now been proved to be a flawed one and is considered nothing more than a myth.

The Various Periods of the Evolution of Hinduism

According to scholars, the evolution of Hinduism may be divided into three periods: The ancient (3000 BCE-1000 AD), the medieval (1000-1800 AD), and the modern (1800 AD to present). Hinduism is commonly thought to be the oldest religion in the history of human civilization.

Timeline: History of Hinduism

  • 2500-1600 BCE: The earliest of Hindu practices form roots with the rise of the Indus Valley civilization in northern Indian sub-continent around 2500 BCE.
  • 1600-1200 BCE: The Aryans are said to invade southern Asia in c. 1600 BCE., which would have a lasting influence on Hinduism.
  • 1500-1200 BCE: The earliest Vedas, the oldest of all scriptures, are compiled in c. 1500 BCE.
  • 1200-900 BCE: The early Vedic period, during which the main tenets of Hinduism were developed. The earliest Upanishads were written in c. 1200 BCE.
  • 900-600 BCE: The late Vedic period, during which the Brahminical religion, which emphasized ritual worship and social obligations, came into being. During this time, the latter Upanishads are believed to have emerged, giving birth to concepts of karma, reincarnation and moksha.
  • 500 BCE-1000 CE: The Puranas were written during this time giving rise to the concepts of deities such as trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, and their female forms or Devis. The germ of the great epics of the Ramayana & Mahabharata started to form during this time.
  • 5th Century BCE: Buddhism and Jainism become established religious offshoots of Hinduism in India.
  • 4th Century BCE: Alexander invades western India; Mauryan dynasty founded by Chandragupta Maurya; Composition of Artha Shastra.
  • 3rd Century BCE: Ashoka, the Great conquers most of South Asia
  • 2nd Century BCE: Sunga dynasty founded
  • 1st Century BCE: Vikrama Era named after Vikramaditya Maurya begins
  • 1st Century CE: Composition of the Manava Dharma Sashtra or Laws of Manu (?)
  • 2nd Century CE: Composition of the Ramayana completed
  • 3rd Century CE: Hinduism spreads to Southeast Asia
  • 4th Century CE: Composition of the Mahabharata completed


The Main Tenets of Hinduism

The Main Tenets of Hinduism

The Basics of Hinduism

Hinduism lacks any unified system of beliefs and ideas. It is a phenomenon and represents a broad spectrum of beliefs and practices which on one hand are akin to paganism, pantheism and the like, and on the other very profound, abstract, metaphysical ideas.

Since religion and culture are nearly interchangeable terms in Hinduism, emotive expressions like ‘bhakti’ (devotion) or ‘dharma’ (what is right) and ‘yoga’ (discipline) are used to depict essential aspects of the religion.

Hinduism believes in idol worship, reincarnation, karma, dharma and moksha. Some moral ideals in Hinduism include non-violence, truthfulness, friendship, compassion, fortitude, self-control, purity and generosity.

Human life is divided into four stages, and there are defined rites and rituals for each stage from birth till death.

Traditional Hinduism has two life-long dharmas that one can follow: ‘Grihastha Dharma’ (Domestic Religion) and ‘Sannyasin Dharma’ (Ascetic Religion).

The ‘Grihastha Dharma’ has four goals: ‘kāma’ (sensual pleasure), ‘artha’ (wealth and prosperity), ‘dharma’ (the laws of life), and ‘moksha’ (liberation from the cycle of births). The ‘Sannyasin Dharma’ recognizes ‘moksha’ as its ultimate goal.


Hinduism: The Only Religion to Exult the Greatness of Other Religions

Hinduism: The Only Religion to Exult the Greatness of Other Religions

Renewal of Authentic Hinduism

Sanatana Dharma, authentic Hinduism, is a religion that is just as unique, valuable and integral a religion as any other major religion on earth, with its own beliefs, traditions, advanced system of ethics, meaningful rituals, philosophy and theology.

Unique & Original
The religious tradition of Hinduism is solely responsible for the original creation of such concepts and practices as Yoga, Ayurveda, Vastu, Jyotisha, Yajna, Puja, Tantra, Vedanta, Karma, etc. These and countless other Vedic-inspired elements of Hinduism belong to Hinduism, and to Hinduism alone.

Though they are elements of Hinduism alone, however, they are also simultaneously Hinduism’s divine gift to a suffering world. Thus, so many of the essential elements of Hinduism are now to be found incorporated into the structures and beliefs of many of the world’s diverse religious traditions.

The Greatness of Hindu Ideals
The world, both ancient and modern, has appreciated, either with direct acknowledgement or not, the greatness of Hindu ideals.

When we make the sentimentally comforting, yet unthinking, claim that “all religions are the same”, we are unwittingly betraying the grandeur and integrity of this ancient heritage, and contributing to weakening the philosophical/cultural matrix of Hinduism to its very core.

Radical Universalism
Each and every time a Hindu upholds Radical Universalism, and proclaims that “all religions are the same”, they do so at the expense of the very Hinduism she love. To deny the uniqueness and greatness of Hinduism leads, in turn, to a sense of unworthiness and a confusion on the part of anyone who wishes to consider themselves Hindu.

Why Hindu Youth Often Lack Interest in Hinduism
This is especially the case for Hindu youth. The effects of this inferiority complex, coupled with the lack of philosophical clarification are some of the reasons why Hindu parents find their children all too often lacking a deep interest in Hinduism and, in some cases, even abandoning Hinduism for more ‘rational’ religions. No one wants to follow a religion in which it is claimed that the very basis of the religion is to exult the greatness of other religions at its own expense.

Teach them the Eternal Way of Truth
If we want to ensure that our youth remain committed to Hinduism as a meaningful path, that our leaders teach Hinduism in a manner that represents the tradition authentically and with dignity, and that the greater Hindu community can feel that they have a religion that they can truly take pride in, then we must abandon Radical Universalism.

If we want Hinduism to survive so that it may continue to bring hope, meaning and enlightenment to untold future generations, then the next time our son or daughter asks us what Hinduism is really all about, let us not repeat to them that “all religions are the same”. Let us instead look them in their eyes, and teach them the uniquely precious, the beautifully endearing, and the philosophically profound truths of our tradition…truths that have been responsible for keeping Hinduism a vibrantly living religious force for over 5000 years. Let us teach them Sanatana Dharma, the eternal way of Truth.

Beacons of Hope
Fortunately, by no means have all present-day Hindu leaders allowed themselves to succumb to the influence of Radical Universalism. Indeed, in the present generation we have been blessed with the sagacious guidance of many truly authentic traditionalist Hindu gurus and teachers.

These gurus, many of whom represent some of the most ancient lineages (sampradayas) of classical Hinduism, have spoken out compellingly and courageously against both Radical Universalism and the neo-Hinduism from which it took birth, and have articulated the urgent need for the restoration of genuine and traditional Hinduism.

True Gurus
Among the many Hindu leaders in recent decades who have openly repudiated Radical Universalism and neo-Hinduism can be included: Swami Chinmayananda, Pujya Swami Dayananda Sarasvati, Shivaya Subramuniya Swami, Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Sri Vamadeva Shastri, Sri Chinna Jeeyar Swami, Sri Rangapriya Swami, among many others. We need to help facilitate the work of such truly genuine Dharma leaders if we wish to witness the renewal of authentic Hinduism.


Dr. Frank Morales

Article Published On & Owned by

6 Myth Busters About Hinduism

6 Myth Busters About Hinduism

Facts About Hinduism You Must Know

Hinduism is a unique faith! The most obvious misconception about Hinduism is that we tend to see it as just another religion. To be precise, Hinduism is a way of life, a dharma. Dharma does not mean religion. It is the law that governs all action. Thus, contrary to popular perception, Hinduism is not just a religion in the tradition sense of the term. Out of this misinterpretation, has come most of the misconceptions about Hinduism.

1. ‘Hinduism’ is a Modern Term

Words like Hindu or Hinduism are ananchronisms. They do not exist in the Indian cultural lexicon. People have coined them to suit their needs in different points of history. Nowhere in the scriptures is there any reference to Hinduism.

2. Hinduism is a Culture More than a Religion

Hinduism does not have any one founder, and it does not have a Bible or a Koran to which controversies can be referred for resolution. Consequently, it does not require its adherents to accept any one idea.

It is thus cultural, not creedal, with a history contemporaneous with the peoples with which it is associated.

3. Hinduism Encompasses Much More than Spirituality

Writings we now categorise as Hindu scriptures include not just books relating to spirituality but also secular pursuits like science, medicine and engineering. This is another reason why it defies classification as a religion per se. Further, it cannot be claimed to be essentially a school of metaphysics. Nor can it be described as ‘other worldly’. In fact, one can almost identify Hinduism with a civilization that is flourishing even now.

4. Hinduism is the Dominant Faith of the Indian Subcontinent

The Aryan Invasion Theory having been completely discredited, it cannot be assumed that Hinduism was the pagan faith of invaders belonging to a race called Aryans. Rather it was the common metafaith of people of various races, including Harappans. The Sanskrit word ‘aryan’ is a word of honourable address, not the racial reference invented by European scholars and put to perverse use by the Nazis.

5. Hinduism is Much Older than we Believe

Evidence that Hinduism must have existed even circa 10000 B.C. is available: The importance attached to the river Saraswati and the numerous references to it in the Vedas indicates that the Rig Veda was being composed well before 6500 B.C. The first vernal equinox recorded in the Rig Veda is that of the star Ashwini, which is now known to have occurred around 10000 B.C. Subhash Kak, a Computer Engineer and a reputed Indologist, ‘decoded’ the Rig Veda and found many advanced astronomical concepts therein. The technological sophistication required to even anticipate such concepts is unlikely to have been acquired by a nomadic people, as the Invasionists would like us to believe. In his book Gods, Sages and Kings, David Frawley provides compelling evidence to substantiate this claim.

6. Hinduism is Not Really Polytheistic

Many believe that multiplicity of deities makes Hinduism polytheistic. Such a belief is nothing short of mistaking the wood for the tree. The bewildering diversity of Hindu belief – theistic, atheistic and agnostic – rests on a solid unity. “Ekam sath, Vipraah bahudhaa vadanti”, says the Rig Veda: The Truth (God, Brahman, etc) is one, scholars call it by various names.

What the multipicity of deities does indicate is Hinduism’s spiritual hospitality as evidenced by two characteristically Hindu doctrines: The Doctrine of Spiritual Competence (Adhikaara) and the Doctrine of The Chosen Deity (Ishhta Devata). The doctrine of spiritual competence requires that the spiritual practices prescribed to a person should correspond to his or her spiritual competence. The doctrine of the chosen deity gives a person the freedom to choose (or invent) a form of Brahman that satisfies his spiritual cravings and to make it the object of his worship. It is notable that both doctrines are consistent with Hinduism’s assertion that the unchanging reality is present in everything, even the transient.




About 80 percent of India’s population regard themselves as Hindus and 30 million more Hindus live outside of India. There are a total of 900 million Hindus worldwide, making Hinduism the third largest religion (after Christianity and Islam).The term “Hinduism” includes numerous traditions, which are closely related and share common themes but do not constitute a unified set of beliefs or practices.

Hinduism is thought to have gotten its name from the Persian word hindu, meaning “river,” used by outsiders to describe the people of the Indus River Valley. Hindus themselves refer to their religion as sanatama dharma, “eternal religion,” and varnasramadharma, a word emphasizing the fulfillment of duties (dharma) appropriate to one’s class (varna) and stage of life (asrama).

Hinduism has no founder or date of origin. The authors and dates of most Hindu sacred texts are unknown. Scholars describe modern Hinduism as the product of religious development in India that spans nearly four thousand years, making it the oldest surviving world religion. Indeed, as seen above, Hindus regard their religion as eternal (sanatama).

Hinduism is not a homogeneous, organized system. Many Hindus are devoted followers of Shiva or Vishnu, whom they regard as the only true God, while others look inward to the divine Self (atman). But most recognize the existence of Brahman, the unifying principle and Supreme Reality behind all that is.

Most Hindus respect the authority of the Vedas (a collection of ancient sacred texts) and the Brahmans (the priestly class), but some reject one of both of these authorities. Hindu religious life might take the form of devotion to God or gods, the duties of family life, or concentrated meditation. Given all this diversity, it is important to take care when generalizing about “Hinduism” or “Hindu beliefs.”

The first sacred writings of Hinduism, which date to about 1200 BCE, were primarily concerned with the ritual sacrifices associated with numerous gods who represented forces of nature. A more philosophical focus began to develop around 700 BCE, with the Upanishads and development of the Vedanta philosophy. Around 500 BCE, several new belief systems sprouted from Hinduism, most significantly Buddhism and Jainism.

In the 20th century, Hinduism began to gain popularity in the West. Its different worldview and its tolerance for diversity in belief made it an attractive alternative to traditional Western religion. Although there are relatively few western converts to Hinduism, Hindu thought has influenced the West indirectly by way of religious movements like Hare Krishna and New Age, and even more so through the incorporation of Indian beliefs and practices (such as the chakra system and yoga) in books and seminars on health and spirituality.


– “Hinduism.” Oxford Concise Dictionary of World Religions.
– “Hinduism.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Premium Service. 2004.
– Huston Smith, The World’s Religions.
– Linda Johnsen, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Hinduism, pp. 222-24.

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How Do You Define Hinduism & Towards Clearly Defining Hinduism

How Do You Define Hinduism?

The Basics of Hinduism

Hinduism is essentially an Indian phenomenon. It is the dominant faith of India, practised by over 80% of the population. Since religion is a way of life in India, Hinduism forms an integral part of the entire Indian tradition.

It is not easy to define Hinduism, for it is much more than a religion in the Western sense. According to some scholars, Hinduism is not exactly a religion. Also known to practitioners as Sanatana Dharma, which means everlasting or eternal religion / truth / rule, Hinduism can best be defined as a way of life based on the teachings of ancient sages and scriptures like the Vedas and Upanishads. The word ‘dharma’ connotes “that which supports the universe” and effectively means any path of spiritual discipline which leads to God.

Hindu Dharma, as one scholar analogizes, can be compared to a fruit tree, with its roots (1) representing the Vedas and Vedantas, the thick trunk (2) symbolizing the spiritual experiences of numerous sages, gurus and saints, its branches (3) representing various theological traditions, and the fruit itself, in different shapes and sizes (4), symbolizing various sects and subsects.

However, the concept of Hinduism defies a definite definition because of its uniqueness.

Towards Clearly Defining Hinduism

Vedic Origin Holds the Key

Traditional Hindu philosophers emphasize the crucial importance of clearly understanding what is Hinduism proper and what are non-Hindu religious paths. You cannot claim to be a Hindu, after all, if you do not understand what it is that you claim to believe, and what it is that others believe.

“Vaidika” and “Avaidika”
One set of antonymous Sanskrit terms repeatedly employed by many traditional Hindu philosophers was vaidika and avaidika.

The word vaidika (or “Vedic” in English) means one who accepts the teachings of the Veda. It refers specifically to the unique epistemological stance taken by the traditional schools of Hindu philosophy, known as shabda-pramana, or employing the divine sound current of Veda as a means of acquiring valid knowledge. In this sense the word “vaidika” is employed to differentiate those schools of Indian philosophy that accept the epistemological validity of the Veda as apaurusheya, or a perfect authoritative spiritual source, eternal and untouched by the speculations of humanity, juxtaposed with the avaidika schools that do not ascribe such validity to the Veda.

In pre-Christian times, avaidika schools were clearly identified by Hindu authors as being specifically Buddhism, Jainism and the atheistic Charvaka school, all of whom did not accept the Veda. These three schools were unanimously considered non-Vedic, and thus non-Hindu (they certainly are geographically Indian religions, but they are not theologically/philosophically Hindu religions).

Views stated in the “Manava-dharma-shastra”
Manu, one of the great ancient law-givers of the Hindu tradition, states the following in his Manava-dharma-shastra:

“All those traditions and all those disreputable systems of philosophy that are not based on the Veda produce no positive result after death; for they are declared to be founded on darkness. All those doctrines differing from the Veda that spring up and soon perish are ineffectual and misleading, because they are of modern date.” (XII, 95)

Stated in simpler terms, “vaidika” specifically refers to those persons who accept the Veda as their sacred scripture, and thus as their source of valid knowledge about spiritual matters.

Views stated in the “Sarva-darshana-samgraha”
In his famous compendium of all the known Indian schools of philosophy, the Sarva-darshana-samgraha, Madhava Acharya (a 14th century Advaita philosopher) unambiguously states that Charvakins (atheist empiricists), “Bauddhas” (Buddhists) and “Arhatas” (Jains) are among the non-Vedic, and thus non-Hindu, schools. Conversely, he lists Paniniya, Vaishnava, Shaiva and others among the Vedic, or Hindu, traditions. Likewise, in his Prasthanabheda, the well-known Madhusudana Sarasvati (fl. 17th century C.E.) contrasts all the mleccha (or “barbaric”) viewpoints with Hindu views and says that the former are not even worthy of consideration, whereas the Buddhist views must at least be considered and debated.

The differentiation between “orthodox” and “heterodox”, from a classical Hindu perspective, rests upon acceptance of the Vedic revelation, with the latter rejecting the sanctity of the Veda.

“Astika” and “Nastika”
As a further attempt to clearly distinguish between Hindu and non-Hindu, Hindu philosophers regularly used the Sanskrit terms astika and nastika. The two terms are synonymous with vaidika and avaidika, respectively. Astika refers to those who believe in the Vedas, nastika to those who reject the Vedas.

Under the astika category Hinduism would include any Hindu path that accepts the Veda, such as Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism, Advaita, Yoga, Nyaya, Mimamsa, among others. The nastika religions would include any religious tradition that does not accept the Veda: Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Christianity, Islam, Baha’i, etc.

Thus when it came to the importance of unambiguously differentiating between the teachings of Hinduism and the teachings of non-Hindu religions, the most historically important sages of Hindu philosophical and theological thought are clear advocates of “Vaidika Dharma” – Hinduism – as a systematic, unitive tradition of spiritual expression.

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How Do You Define Hinduism –

Clearly Defining Hinduism –  Dr. Frank Morales

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Hindu History

Hindu History

What is the story of the Hindu faith?

The history of Hinduism is unique among the world religions in that it has no founder or date of origin. While most major religions derive from new ideas taught by a charismatic leader, Hinduism is simply the religion of the people of India, which has gradually developed over four thousand years. The origins and authors of its sacred texts are largely unknown.

Although today’s Hinduism differs significantly from earlier forms of Indian religion, its roots date back as far as 2000 BC, making it one of the oldest surviving religions. Because of its age, the early history of Hinduism is unclear. The most ancient writings have yet to be deciphered, so for the earliest periods scholars must rely on educated guesses based on archaeology and contemporary texts.

In the last few decades, the history of India’s religion has also become a matter of political controversy. The history of any nation (or individual) is an important part of its self-identity, and this is especially true of India, which so recently gained independence after centuries of colonial rule. The controversy over India’s history centers on the origin of the Aryan culture, as we shall see in more detail below.

The Hindu religion: past and present

The Indus River Valley Civilization

In 1921, archaeologists uncovered evidence of an ancient civilization along the Indus River, which today runs through northwest India into Pakistan. The so-called Indus Valley civilization (also known as the “Harappan civilization” for one of its chief cities) is thought to have originated as early as 7000 BC and to have reached is height between 2300 to 2000 BC, at which point it encompassed over 750,000 square miles and traded with Mesopotamia.

Some writings of this period has been discovered, but unfortunately in such small amounts that they have yet to be deciphered. Knowledge of this great civilization’s religion must therefore be based on physical evidence alone. Baths have been found that may indicate ritual bathing, a component of modern Hinduism. Some altar-like structures may be evidence of animal sacrifice, and terracotta figures may represent deities. An important seal features a horned figure surrounded by animals, which some conjecture is a prototype of Shiva, but it could be a bull parallel to that found on Mesopotamian seals.

The Controversial Aryans

The Indus Valley culture began to decline around 1800 BC, due possibly to flooding or drought. Until recently, it was held that the Aryans (an Indo-European culture whose name comes from the Sanskrit for “noble”) [3] invaded India and Iran at this time. According to this hypothesis, both the Sanskrit language and the Vedic religion foundational to Hinduism is attributable to the Aryans and their descendants. The original inhabitants of the Indus Valley are thought to have had a Dravidian language and culture, which became subordinate to that of the invading peoples.

Proponents of this hypothesis point to similarities between Zoroastrianism (the ancient religion of Iran) and the Vedic religion of ancient India, as well as similar finds in ancient cemeteries in modern-day India and Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. In addition, no trace of horses or chariots have been found in the remains of the Indus Valley culture, but were central to Aryan military and ritual life.

Since the 1980s, this “Aryan Invasion” hypothesis has been strongly challenged as a myth propagated by colonial scholars who sought to reinforce the idea that anything valuable in India must have come from elsewhere. Critics of the hypothesis note that there is lack of evidence of any conquest, among other historical and archaeological problems. One alternative hypothesis is explained by Encyclopædia Britannica as follows:

Between about 2000 and 1500 BCE not an invasion but a continuing spread of Indo-Aryan speakers occurred, carrying them much farther into India, to the east and south, and coinciding with a growing cultural interaction between the native population and the new arrivals. From these processes a new cultural synthesis emerged, giving rise by the end of the 2nd millennium to the conscious expressions of Aryan ethnicity found in the Rigveda, particularly in the later hymns.[4] The 19th-century Aryan Invasion theory has generally been abandoned as inaccurate, but most scholars do not reject the notion of some outside influence on the Indus Valley civilization. For many, it is a political issue as well as a historical one, with the original theory is regarded as racist and offensive. BBC Religion & Ethics summarizes the matter this way:

Many people argue that there is now evidence to show that Muller [original proponent of the hypothesis], and those who followed him, were wrong. Others, however, believe that the case against the Aryan invasion theory is far from conclusive. Resources:

    – “History of Hinduism.” Encyclopædia Britannica (Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service, 2004).
    – “Indian Religions and the Hindu Tradition” The Cambridge Illustrated History of Religions (Cambridge University Press, 2002).
    – “Aryan.” Encyclopædia Britannica (Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service, 2009).
    – “India » History » India from the Paleolithic Period to the decline of the Indus civilization » Post-Harappan developments » The appearance of Indo-Aryan speakers.” Encyclopædia Britannica (Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service, 2009).
    – “Hinduism: History: Aryan Invasion Theory” – BBC Religion & Ethics

External Links – Indus Valley Civilization – Wikipedia
– Indo-Aryan migration – Wikipedia
– The Myth of the Aryan Invasion of India by David Frawley, hosted at

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