HinduismPrior to the modern age Hinduism was not the name of this ancient tradition that has no starting point. The practice of the traditions that became known as Hinduism have derived from what some believe are thousands of years in the past while there are practitioners who have claimed the eternal nature of Hindu revolution. While emphasis has been put on personal spirituality among the history of Hinduism, it has also been closely connected with the social/political roots that have developed in India with both the various rise and fall of empires and kingdoms. The fact is the substance of Hindu stories or texts have warranted more concern than its actual starting date among Hindus and this may be the reason there has never been a starting date assigned to this religious faith (Flood. 2009; Flood 2013).
What is known about the different eras that Hinduism has been traced goes back before 2,000 BCE where it was practiced in the civilization located in the Indus Valley. During the Vedic period Hinduism in India ran from 1500-500 BCE. What has been labeled the epic, puranic, and classical age of Hinduism took place 500 BCE-500 CE. The Medieval period lasted from 500 CE-1500 CE that led into the pre-modern period lasting from 1500-1757 CE. What has been called the British period lasted from 1757-1947 CE and, lastly from 1947 CE to the present in the 21st century in known as Independent India regarding Hinduism (Flood 2009-).
From its earliest stages in the Indus Valley where archeological finds have led to speculation that the beginnings of spiritual bathing, sacrifice, and worship of goddesses took hold. While there are other religions that practice such rituals nonetheless these have been associated with the practice of Hinduism and a part of India religious history. The Sanskrit Vedic language emerged during this era and archeological continuity both supports and questions the origin during this era because of the central tradition of horse sacrifices yet there is no archeological verification that horses existed in India during this Neolithic timeframe thus, the debate continues. Correlating with the time of the death of the Buddha (c. 400 BCE) was the Classical Age where the development of dharma emerged in texts relating to law, duty, and truth. As the ensuing eras developed the major deities formed along with religious literature (Flood 2009).
The era that followed then emerged Hindu philosophers with their own writings that included commentaries on scripture, new theologies, as well as founding their own successions. Into the Pre-Modern development of Hindu traditions took hold in the form of meditation/yoga. The British Period did not interfere with Hindus practicing their religion and led to reformations taking place that eventually idealized a united India. Into the current era that began with India’s independence in 1947 to the present shows Transcendental Meditation reaching a global audience (Flood 2009).
Founded in the late 6th Century BCE Buddhism has attempted to follow the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama (the “Buddha” or enlightened one). The experiences of the Buddha underpin the different forms of Buddhism that have emerged with the death of the Buddha and his followers spreading the spirit/essence of his teachings on the nature of the journey of the soul in its incarnate state. The journey to enlightenment that Siddhartha underwent as a practicing Hindu who had chosen the religious ideal of Hinduism to renounce his royal position as the warrior son of a royal family and all social life choosing to become a holy person seeking Truth. This has been viewed as a move away from the Vedic fire sacrifice that was central to Hinduism at the time (Vail 2017; Flood 2013).
The choice made by Siddhartha corresponds to a prediction by a soothsayer at his birth who had explained he might withdraw from the temporal life. Attempting to counter any such outcome his father had showered Siddhartha throughout his life with luxuries and the most profound pleasures. However, during a series of chariot rides among the people, Siddhartha saw the painful existence of humanity – the suffering of illness, old age, and death. During one of these excursions he also saw a holy man who had renounced everything. These journeys brought a realization to Siddhartha that the pleasures he had always experienced were only transitory and were but a mask to the reality of human suffering and therefore his purpose in life was to seek Truth. Leaving his wife and young son and following several teachers his renunciation became so emboldened that he almost starved (Vail 2017).
Realization took him from this destructive path as he realized it was only another form of suffering so after eating food he sat under a tree to meditate. Whether it was by morning or as some believe six months later, Siddhartha had attained Nirvana (Enlightenment) thus having achieved the truth about the causes of human suffering and the path to permanently releasing it. No longer the Prince Siddhartha, but now the Enlightened or Awakened One – the Buddha his life was spent teaching others the truths he had gained spurred by compassions for the suffering of everyone. From his teachings emerged the Four Noble Truths and the Eight-Fold Path doctrines. Upon his death, his followers spread his teachings throughout Asia and even though it had been born in India, Buddhism all but died in India by the 12th century CE (Vail 2017; Flood 2013).
- Flood, Gavin. History of Hinduism. 2009. Web.
- Flood, Gavin. The Truth Within: A History of Inwardness in Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Oxford University Press. 2013. Print.
- Vail, Lise F. The Origins of Buddhism. 2017. Web.