Hinduism, though often viewed in the Western culture as a religion or philosophy, is, in fact, a complex of beliefs and practices that lead a person to self-understanding and their unification with the divine. Hinduism is based on strict social hierarchical relationship and unique cultural and ethical concepts.
Hinduism relies on the strict social hierarchy according to which all people belong to a particular caste. The caste differentiation determines a person`s position in society, namely a priest, worker, or untouchable. People belong to a particular caste from their birth, and this status cannot be changed, regardless of their income, level of education, or moral values. The ethical norms that are shared within a particular caste support the traditional hierarchical organization of the society in India.
One of the key concepts of Hinduism is “sanatana dharma” that is translated as “the eternal way” and explains the state of the world in every moment of its existence under the influence of the divine. According to this concept, the world is endless, and at any moment of time, it develops to its next stage going through cosmic cycles. Generally, all the texts, rituals, and beliefs of Hinduism should be viewed through the prism of sanatana dharma.
Another notion, which is often wrongly interpreted by Westerns simply as a stretching practice, is yoga. In Hinduism, this term denotes rather a spiritual practice that enables people to control their egoistic self. There are different kinds of yoga, namely karma yoga, bhagti yoga, jnana yoga, and raja yoga. According to karma yoga, all people`s actions should be done consciously and be dedicated to god. In such a way, people attain the life sense by serving to the divine. As for bhagti yoga, it describes the life dedicated to the divine through rituals and prayer. From the perspective of jnana yoga, a person comes to the true self-understanding and inner peace through a chain of questions a human mind sets for itself. While trying to answer these questions, a person realizes that most things in the mortal life are not important and the only thing that a person should aim at is the true self-discovery. As for raja yoga, it is the practice of freeing the mind via intense concentration that results in the union of a person`s self-conscience and reality.
One of the most common ways of practicing Hinduism is bhakti that is divided into three types: Vaishnavism, Shaivism, and Shaktism that focus on the worship of three gods, namely Vishnu, Schiva, and mother goddess.
By worshiping gods and doing their duties, people build their karma that is a specific cosmic force. In Hinduism, karma is formed by the deeds and intentions of people, and their consequences for the world. Karma is believed to follow a person from one life to another determining what kind of life circumstances a person will have after the rebirth. If people do only righteous deeds during their lifetime, they will come back in the world as human beings. But those who fail to form a good karma during their mortal lives are doomed to suffering.
All the things considered, Hinduism is a unique philosophical, cultural, social, and religious system that focuses on the explanation of the principles of the world existence, the ways people can unite with the divine and find their true freedom and self. The key concepts of Hinduism are sanatana dharma that reveals the main principles of the world development, yoga that is a complex of physical, mental, and spiritual practices, and karma that is viewed as a specific cosmic force a person creates by their deeds.