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This is the sum of duty; do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you.
   
 -  Mahabharata 5,1517
 

Sanātana Dharma

Hinduism is a religious tradition that originated on the Indian subcontinent. Hindus themselves prefer to use the Sanskrit term Sanātana Dharma for their religious tradition. Sanātana Dharma is often translated into English as “eternal tradition” or “eternal religion” but the translation of dharma as “tradition” or “religion” gives an extremely limited, even mistaken, sense of the word. Dharma has many meanings in Sanskrit, the sacred language of Hindu scripture, including “moral order,” “duty,” and “right action.”

Dharma is an all-important concept for Hindus. In addition to tradition and moral order, it also signifies the path of knowledge and correct action. Because of Hinduism’s emphasis on living in accordance with Dharma, anyone who is striving for spiritual knowledge and seeking the right course of ethical action is, in the broadest sense, a follower of Sanātana Dharma. Within the context of Hinduism, Dharma refers to one's personal obligations, calling and duties, and a Hindu's Dharma is affected by the person's age, caste, class, occupation, and gender. In modern Indian languages it can refer simply to a person's religion, depending on the context.

Hinduism is one of Earth's most ancient and revered traditions, perhaps the oldest living religion on the planet.

History
The earliest evidence for prehistoric religion in India date back to the late Neolithic in the early Harappan period (5500–2600 BCE). The beliefs and practices of the pre-classical era (1500–500 BCE) are called the "historical Vedic religion". The Vedic religion shows influence by Proto-Indo-European religion. Modern Hinduism grew out of the Vedas, the oldest of which is the Rig Veda, dated to 1700–1100 BCE. The Vedas center on worship of deities such as Indra, Varuna and Agni, and on the Soma ritual. Fire-sacrifices, called yajña were performed, and Vedic mantras chanted but no temples or idols are known.

The major Sanskrit epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata, were compiled over a protracted period during the late centuries BCE and the early centuries CE. They contain mythological stories about the rulers and wars of ancient India, and are interspersed with religious and philosophical treatises. The later Puranas recount tales about devas and devis, their interactions with humans and their battles against mythological humanoid beings, or rakshasa.

Hindu Texts
Hinduism’s vast body of scriptures include: the Vedas and the Upanishads , which are considered to be the foremost in authority, importance and antiquity. There are four Vedas, the Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda. The Vedas are the primary texts of Hinduism. They contain hymns, incantations, and rituals from ancient India. They also had a vast influence on Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. Traditionally the text of the Vedas was coeval with the universe. Scholars have determined that the Rig Veda, the oldest of the four Vedas, was composed about 1500 BCE, and codified about 600 BCE. It is unknown when it was finally committed to writing, but this probably was at some point after 300 BCE.

The Upanishads are a continuation of the Vedic philosophy, and were written between 800 and 400 BCE. They elaborate on how the soul (Atman) can be united with the ultimate truth (Brahman) through contemplation and mediation, as well as the doctrine of Karma-- the cumulative effects of a persons' actions.

In the Rig Veda, the belief (or observation) that a natural justice and harmony pervades the natural world becomes manifest in the concept of rta, which is both 'nature's way' and the order implicit in nature. Thus rta bears a resemblance to the ancient Chinese concept of Tao and the Christian conception of the logos. This "power" that lies behind nature and that keeps everything in balance became a natural forerunner to the idea of dharma. The idea of rta laid the cornerstone of dharma's implicit attribution to the "ultimate reality" of the surrounding universe

The transition of the rta to the modern idea of dharma occurs in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. The Upanishads saw dharma as the universal principle of law, order, harmony, all in all truth, that sprang first from Brahman. It acts as the regulatory moral principle of the Universe. It is sat (truth), a major tenet of Hinduism. This hearkens back to the conception of the Rig Veda that "Ekam Sat," (Truth Is One), of the idea that Brahman is "Sacchidananda" (Truth-Consciousness-Bliss). Dharma is not just law, or harmony, it is pure Reality.

Other major scriptures include the Tantras, the Agama and the Bhagavad Gītā, a treatise from the Mahābhārata, spoken by Krishna, is sometimes called a summary of the spiritual teachings of the Vedas.

Trimurti - The Hindu Trinity

The Trimurti is a concept in Hinduism in which the cosmic functions of creation, maintenance, and destruction are personified by the forms of  Brahma the creator, Vishnu the maintainer or preserver, and Shiva the destroyer or transformer. These three deities have been called "the Hindu triad" or the "Great Trinity". They are also aligned as: The transcendent Godhead - Shiva... the cosmic lord - Vishnu... and the cosmic mind - Brahma. In this regard they are called Sat-Tat-Aum, the Being, the Thatness or immanence and the Word or holy spirit. This is much like the Christian trinity of God as the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. The trinity represents the Divine in its threefold nature and function. Each aspect of the trinity contains and includes the others.

Each God in the trinity has his consort. To Brahma is Saraswati, the Goddess of knowledge. For Vishnu is Lakshmi, the Goddess of love, beauty and delight. For Shiva is Kali, the Goddess of power, destruction and transformation. These are the three main forms of the Goddess, as Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are the three main forms of the God. The three Goddesses are often worshipped in their own right as well as along with their spouses.

Ananta Shesha
In Hindu (Vedic) tradition, Shesha (Shesha the Naga) is the king of all nagas, one of the primal beings of creation, and according to the Bhagavata Purana, an Avatar of the Supreme God known as Sankarshan. Shesha is generally depicted with a massive form that floats coiled in space, or on the universal ocean, to form the bed on which Vishnu lies. Shesha is depicted as a many thousand-headed serpent, sometimes with each head wearing an ornate crown.

In the Puranas, Shesha is said to hold all the planets of Universe on his hoods and to constantly sing the glories of Vishnu from all his mouths. He is sometimes referred to as Anantha Shesha which means endless Shesha or as Adishesha which means the first Shesha. It is said that when Adishesha uncoils, time moves forward and creation takes place. When he coils back, the universe ceases to exist. "Shesha" also means remainder: that which remains when all else ceases to exist.

(Source: Wikipedia & the work of Dr. David Frawley)

 

Resources

Hinduism - Joseph Campbell

Hinduism @ University of Wyoming

Hindu Sacred Texts

Persona - @ Tek-Gnostics blog

 

 

 

 

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