posted on Dec, 29 2009 @ 11:04 AM
I think Hinduism is best considered as a collection of religions that are vaguely related rather than a single religion. I strongly disagree that
these differences are illusory. For example:
-Vedic Hinduism: The most ancient form, centering around the Vedas (very ancient sacred writings) and the correct performance of rituals. Often very
-Upanishadic Hinduism: Based on the Upanishads and other writings. More philosophical and panthiestic.
-Bhakti: Devotion based in surrender or love to a given diety. Examples include Shiva, Krishna, and Shakti. Devotees concentrate more on reaching pure
devotion to these dieties through ritual and love rather than on textual studies, although that goes on too.
These are all miles apart, and there are other varieties, too. Then even within, say, one of these three, there is tremendous differences. Some Bhakti
devotees worship Krishna as suprime lord, others say Shiva. Then there are other cross currents: Some Hindus are very pantheistic ("all is one")
while others are more involved in worshiping a seperate God and are more montheistic like the Abrahamic religions. The idea that all Hindus are
panthiests and believe in the fundamental unity of the cosmos and of man and the divine is incorrect.
Let's take a concept like Yoga (not embraced by all forms of Hinduism, by the way) Drilling deeper, there is division into "paths:" Karma-yoga (the
yoga of selfless action); Jnana-yoga (philosophical research and wisdom); Astanga/RajaYoga (physical exercises and meditation); and Bhakti-Yoga (the
path of devotional service). Then there are "sub-paths." You could cut the cake this way too, if you choose. Some say these are all separate; some
arrange them in hierarchy, with the different types seen as more or less powerful than each other. Some say they lead to the same place and are
Some go in for aseticism, like starving the body to near-death or undertaking severe austere practices like marathon yoga or meditation sessions. Then
there is Tantrism which involves sexual yoga among other things and is often misunderstood...lot of different ideas, texts, and practices bumping
around, as well as smaller sub-movements that have come and gone that can't be neatly classified.Then you have the whole caste issue...very complex:
for a strict, orthox, Brahmanical Hindu, its a sin for an untouchable to even cross his shadow. For a Shiva-worshiping tantrist during a ganachakra
ritual, all such divisions dissolve. Do some research...the topic seems (and is) bewilderingly complex and diverse but very rewarding.
In short, there is not one "Hinduism" but many "Hinduisms".
[edit on 12/29/09 by silent thunder]