by Alpa Palicha
The word "Hinduism" originated about only 200-300 years ago. The terms used today to describe the social, political, religious, cultural and political dimension of Hinduism are "Hindu Dharma" which refers to the teaching of Hinduism, and " Hinduvta", which pertains the Hindu identity. The religious tradition of Hinduism is called "Sanatana Dharma", eternal truth or teachings, and includes groups such as Shaivism, Vaisnavism, Shaktism, and Vedanta.
Hinduism proclaims that there are four goals in life, namely Kama (internal satisfaction or desire), Artha (power), Dharma (duty), and Moksa (liberation). Liberation from what, one would ask. The simple answer to that question would be, liberation from the attachment that human beings tend to have for the materialistic aspect of life. Hence, the ultimate goal of Hinduism is the departure from the illusive world which is termed Samsara and the realization of the ultimate reality which is termed Brahman. The term "Brahman" implies that reality is unified existent, unchaining, and ultimately the essence of all reality; In other words, "Brahman" denotes the "real thing". Samsara, on the other hand, constitutes the manifold of the phenomenal world. It fluctuates between existence and non-existence and changes permanently. Hinduism also identifies the phenomenal world ‘Maya’ which means illusions or false realities. It constitutes the realm of appearance rather than reality.
To obtain Moksa or Liberation, one needs to move from Samsara to Brahman. This can be achieved in four ways. First there is Bhakti Yoga, the way of devotion. This involves devoting oneself to Krsna, who manifests Brahman. This devotion could take the form of prayers, offerings, meditating and having belief in higher being.
The second way is termed Jnana Yoga, the way of knowledge, in particular, the knowledge that Krsna constitutes the personification of Brahman. In addition, through the process of introspection of self, an indivitual realizes Brahman as his or her true self. According to the Gita, however, it is easier to worship Krsna than to think of the unmanifested or the unthinkable- that is why devotion is important!
The third way , Karma Yoga, involves the practice of doing one’s duty or way of action without attachment. An example of Karma Yoga would be the sacrifice of attachment, desire, and hence our ego-self in order to liberate the higher self from the souls of desire and Samsara. Insofar as Karma Yoga can imply the dedication of one’s action to Krsna it overlaps with Bhakti Yoga.
The fourth way is called Yoga Yoga, It simply means positioning the body in such a way as to concentrate on the ultimate truth. Sitting in a lotus position, the practitioner unifes body and mind. Within the philosophical system of Samkya-Karka, Yoga is understood as the disentanglement of Purusa (that is, the soul, the higher Self, that which sees) from Prakrti (that is, illusions, senses, the phenomenal world, that which is seen).
The social structure of Hinduism is explicated in the Varna dharmas. These include: Brahmin, Ksatriya, Vaisya, and Sudra. Similarly, Hinduism divides the life span of every person into four states (ashrama) traditinally identified as Brahmacharya (student), Grhastha (householder), Vanapastha ( hermit or forest dweller), and Sanyasi (asceticism).