of World Religions:
World’s Major Religions in terms of numbers of followers divide
into two primary belief systems. That is Hinduism/Buddhism and the
one of the world’s oldest religions, according to many scholars,
with roots and customs dating back more than 4,000 years. Today, with
about 900 million followers, Hinduism is the third-largest religion
behind Christianity and Islam. Roughly 95 percent of the world’s
Hindus live in India. Because the religion has no specific founder,
it’s difficult to trace its origins and history. 900
Million Profess to Hinduism as their belief system. 400 Million To
that owe their origins to Abraham are called Abrahamic faiths. There
are thee such faiths. (Abraham lived in the Middle East about 4000
2.25 Billion (1.15 Billion of these are Catholic)
of a world population of 7 Billion approximately:
75 Billion approx. are Abrahamic.
basic Hindu concepts include:
embraces many religious ideas. For this reason, it’s sometimes
referred to as a “way of life” or a “family of religions,”
as opposed to a single, organized religion.
forms of Hinduism are henotheistic, which means they worship a
single deity, known as “Brahman,” but still recognize other gods
and goddesses. Followers believe there are multiple paths to
reaching their god.
believe in the doctrines of samsara (the continuous cycle of life,
death, and reincarnation) and karma (the universal law of cause and
of the key thoughts of Hinduism is “atman,” or the belief in
soul. This philosophy holds that living creatures have a soul, and
they’re all part of the supreme soul. The goal is to achieve
“moksha,” or salvation, which ends the cycle of rebirths to
become part of the absolute soul.
fundamental principle of the religion is the idea that people’s
actions and thoughts directly determine their current life and
strive to achieve dharma, which is a code of living that emphasizes
good conduct and morality.
Om and Swastika are symbols of Hinduism. The Swastika, which
represents good luck, later became associated with evil when
Germany’s Nazi Party made it their symbol in 1920.
revere all living creatures and consider the cow a sacred animal.
is an important part of life for Hindus. Most don’t eat beef or
pork, and many are vegetarians.
is closely related to other Indian religions, including Buddhism,
Sikhism and Jainism.
value many sacred writings as opposed to one holy book.
primary texts, known as the Vedas, were composed around 1500 B.C.
This collection of sacred verses and hymns was written in Sanskrit
and contains revelations received by ancient saints and sages.
Vedas are made up of:
believe that the Vedas transcend all time and don’t have a
beginning or an end.
Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, 18 Puranas, Ramayana and Mahabharata
are also considered important texts in Hinduism.
scholars believe Hinduism formally started somewhere between 2300
B.C. and 1500 B.C. in the Indus Valley, near modern-day Pakistan. But
many Hindus argue that their faith is timeless and has always
other religions, Hinduism has no one founder but is instead a fusion
of various beliefs.
1500 B.C., the Indo-Aryan people migrated to the Indus Valley, and
their language and culture blended with that of the indigenous people
living in the region. There’s some debate over who influenced who
more during this time.
period when the Vedas were composed became known as the “Vedic
Period” and lasted from about 1500 B.C. to 500 B.C. Rituals, such
as sacrifices and chanting, were common in the Vedic Period.
Epic, Puranic and Classic Periods took place between 500 B.C. and 500
A.D. Hindus began to emphasize the worship of deities, especially
Vishnu, Shiva and Devi.
concept of dharma was introduced in new texts, and other faiths, such
as Buddhism and
Jainism, spread rapidly.
AND MODERN HINDU HISTORY
Medieval Period of Hinduism lasted from about 500 to 1500 A.D. New
texts emerged, and poet saints recorded their spiritual sentiments
during this time.
the 7th century, Muslim Arabs began invading areas in India. During
parts of the Muslim Period, which lasted from about 1200 to 1757,
Hindus were restricted from worshipping their deities, and some
temples were destroyed. Saints expressed their devotion through
poetry and songs.
1757 and 1848, the British controlled India. At first, the new rulers
allowed Hindus to practice their religion without interference. But
sought to convert and westernize the people.
reformers emerged during the British Period. The well-known
politician and peace activist, Mahatma Gandhi, led a movement that
pushed for India’s independence.
partition of India occurred in 1947, and Gandhi was assassinated in
1948. British India was split into what is now India and Pakistan,
and Hinduism became the major religion of India.
in the 1960s, many Hindus migrated to North America and Britain,
spreading their faith and philosophies to the western world.
worship many gods and goddesses in addition to Brahman, who is
believed to be the supreme God force present in all things.
of the most prominent deities include:
the god responsible for the creation of the world and all living
the god that preserves and protects the universe
the god that destroys the universe in order to recreate it
the goddess that fights to restore dharma
the god of compassion, tenderness and love
the goddess of wealth and purity
the goddess of learning
worship, which is known as “puja,” typically takes place in the
Mandir (temple). Followers of Hinduism can visit the Mandir any time
can also worship at home, and many have a special shrine dedicated to
certain gods and goddesses.
The giving of offerings is an
important part of Hindu worship. It’s a common practice to present
gifts, such as flowers or oils, to a god or goddess.
many Hindus take pilgrimages to temples and other sacred sites in
has many sects, and is sometimes divided into the following:
(followers of Shiva)
(followers of Vishnu)
(followers of Devi)
(followers of Brahman and all major deities)
Hindus elevate the Hindu trinity, which consists of Brahma, Vishnu
and Shiva. Others believe that all the deities are a manifestation of
caste system is a social hierarchy in India that divides Hindus based
on their karma and dharma. Many scholars believe the system dates
back more than 3,000 years.
four main castes (in order of prominence) include:
Brahmin: the intellectual and spiritual leaders
Kshatriyas: the protectors and public servants of society
Vaisyas: the skillful producers
Shudras: the unskilled laborers
subcategories also exist within each caste. The “untouchables”
are a class of citizens that are outside the caste system and
considered to be in the lowest level of the societal hierarchy.
centuries, the caste system determined every aspect of a person’s
social, professional and religious status in India.
India became an independent nation, its constitution banned
discrimination based on caste.
the caste system still exists in India but is loosely followed. Many
of the old customs are overlooked, but some traditions, such as only
marrying within a specific caste, are still embraced.
of Hinduism, BBC.
Fast Facts, CNN.
are the Basic Beliefs of Hinduism, Smithsonian
The World’s Third Largest
Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown
founder of Buddhism was Buddha Shakyamuni who lived and taught in
India some two and a half thousand years ago. Since then millions of
people around the world have followed the pure spiritual path he
revealed. The Buddhist way of life of peace, loving kindness and
wisdom is just as relevant today as it was in ancient India. Buddha
explained that all our problems and suffering arise from confused and
negative states of mind, and that all our happiness and good fortune
arise from peaceful and positive states of mind. He taught methods
for gradually overcoming our negative minds such as anger, jealousy
and ignorance, and developing our positive minds such as love,
compassion and wisdom. Through this we will come to experience
lasting peace and happiness. These methods work for anyone, in any
country, in any age. Once we have gained experience of them for
ourselves we can pass them on to others so they too can enjoy the
is at the heart of the Buddhist way of life. It is basically a method
for understanding and working on our own mind. We first learn to
identify our different negative mental states known as ‘delusions’,
and learn how to develop peaceful and positive mental states or
in meditation we overcome our delusions by becoming familiar with
virtuous minds. Out of meditation we try to maintain the virtuous
minds we have developed and use our wisdom to solve the problems of
daily life. As our mind becomes more positive our actions become more
constructive, and our experience of life becomes more satisfying and
beneficial to others.
can learn basic meditation techniques and experience great benefits,
but to progress beyond basic meditation requires faith in the Three
Jewels – Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Usually people find this
develops naturally as they experience the benefits of their
teachings of Buddha reveal a step by step path to lasting happiness.
By following this path anyone can gradually transform his or her mind
from its present confused and self-centered state into the blissful
mind of a Buddha.
Geshe Kelsang says in his popular book Eight
Steps to Happiness:
living being has the potential to become a Buddha, someone who has
completely purified his or her mind of all faults and limitations and
has brought all good qualities to perfection. Our mind is like a
cloudy sky, in essence clear and pure but overcast by the clouds of
as the thickest clouds eventually disperse, so too even the heaviest
delusions can be removed from our mind. Delusions such as hatred,
greed, and ignorance are not an intrinsic part of the mind. If we
apply the appropriate methods they can be completely eliminated, and
we shall experience the supreme happiness of full enlightenment.
attained enlightenment we shall have all the necessary qualities –
universal love and compassion, omniscient wisdom and boundless
spiritual power – to lead all living beings to the same exalted
state. This is the ultimate aim of Mahayana Buddhism.
find out more about basic Buddhism, read Introduction
to Buddhism by
Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.
that owe their origins to Abraham are called Abrahamic faiths. There
are three such faiths. All three use the Old Testament with varying
interpretations as their founding belief system and knowledge about
2.25 Billion (Of which 1.15 are Catholic)
of a world population of 7 Billion approximately:
75 Billion approx. are Abrahamic.
is they owe their faith allegiance to the God of Abraham.
the destruction of the world by the flood over 6000 years ago: Noah
and his descendants re populated the earth. Many generations later
the people once again turned away from God and started to build the
Tower of Babel which in their pride they declared would allow them to
scattered them to the four corners of the world all speaking in
later made a covenant with Abraham that in return for his
faithfulness to God he would make his descendants as numerous as the
stars of the sky.
Billion Over half the population of the world, is a lot of people?
wife Sarai was barren into their very late years even though God had
promised Abraham his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in
the sky. Abraham became impatient and had a son with an Egyptian
slave girl called Hagar, they called him Ishmael. Some years later
Sarai bore him a Son as God had promised and they called him Isaac.
Tension arose between Sarah and Hagar over inheritance rights, so
Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away into the desert.
became the father of the Jewish nation and Ishmael became the father
of the Arab nations.
was a descendant of the great King David who was a descendant of
Isaac who was Abraham’s son. King David ruled the Jewish nation
1000 years before the birth of Jesus.
years after the death of Jesus, Mohamad as a descendant of Ishmael
claimed to have visions/messages from God proclaiming that the
descendants of Ishmael in the nation of Islam were the true
inheritors of Gods covenant with Abraham, not the Jewish nation.
the rejection of Jesus as the Messiah by the Jewish nation:
Christianity meaning the followers of Christ was founded by Jesus and
a term applied to a range of spiritual or religious beliefs
and practices that developed in Western
the 1970s. Precise scholarly definitions of the New Age differ in
their emphasis, largely as a result of its highly eclectic structure.
Although analytically often considered to be religious, those
involved in it typically prefer the designation of spiritual or Mind,
Body, Spirit and
rarely use the term "New Age" themselves. Many scholars of
the subject refer to it as the New
although others contest this term and suggest that it is better seen
as a milieu or zeitgeist.
a form of Western
the New Age drew heavily upon a number of older esoteric traditions,
in particular those that emerged from the occultist current that
developed in the eighteenth century. Such prominent occult influences
include the work of Emanuel
Swedenborg and Franz
as well as the ideas of Spiritualism, New
Thought, Theosophy, Biosophy and
the European Lebensreform movement.
A number of mid-twentieth century influences, such as the UFO
the 1950s, the Counterculture
of the 1960s,
and the Human
also exerted a strong influence on the early development of the New
Age. The exact origins of the phenomenon remain contested, but there
is general agreement that it developed in the 1970s, at which time it
was centred largely in the United Kingdom. It expanded and grew
largely in the 1980s and 1990s, in particular within the United
States. By the start of the 21st century, the term "New Age"
was increasingly rejected within this milieu, with some scholars
arguing that the New Age phenomenon had ended.
its highly eclectic nature, a number of beliefs commonly found within
the New Age have been identified. Theologically,
the New Age typically adopts a belief in a holisticform
of divinity that imbues all of the universe, including human beings
themselves. There is thus a strong emphasis on the spiritual
authority of the self. This is accompanied by a common belief in a
wide variety of semi-divine non-human entities, such
as angels and masters,
with whom humans can communicate, particularly through the form
Typically viewing human history as being divided into a series of
distinct ages, a common New Age belief is that whereas once humanity
lived in an age of great technological advancement and spiritual
wisdom, it has entered a period of spiritual degeneracy, which will
be remedied through the establishment of a coming Age
from which the milieu gets its name. There is also a strong focus on
healing, particularly using forms of alternative
and an emphasis on a New Age approach to science that seeks to unite
science and spirituality.
primarily in Western countries, those involved in the New Age have
been primarily from middle and upper-middle-class backgrounds. The
degree to which New Agers are involved in the milieu varied
considerably, from those who adopted a number of New Age ideas and
practices to those who fully embraced and dedicated their lives to
it. The New Age has generated criticism from established Christian
organisations as well as modern
Pagan and indigenous
From the 1990s onward, the New Age became the subject of research by
academic scholars of religious