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Hindu Heritage Study Program
 
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Principles and Practice of Hindu Dharma
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-HR 201.02
Some of the Basic Aspects of Hindu Religious Beliefs and Practice
A Short Note on the Evolution of the Faith, its Spirit and the Culture
-~ Level - 2 ~
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Lesson - 31 :
The Spiritual Discipline and Cultural Practice
The Dharma Sasthras, Rituals and Prayers
Please see below
for Lesson - 32
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The Ancient Scriptures of the Hindu faith has been followed closely by the community as a way of life, even though it allowed questioning and analysis with reasoning. The Vedas gave the philosophy, the rituals and the Manthras to God in a Formless State through Knowledge. However, most people understood less and less of the teachings as years passed by, as these teachings were kept as "Sacred" and secret by few knowledgeable families.

They were understood by a small fragment of the community who were the priests and others started to follow it blindly without studying them. Often they thought that mere recitation will give them Divine Powers. The Agamas established the rules for construction of Temples and worship of God in various forms of Deities. The Dharma Sasthras established the rules of conduct for daily living and for regular prayer rituals. The Dharsanas explained the Philosophy of the Vedas. The Ithihasas and Puranas told the stories of Divine Incarnations as examples of the Spiritual message.

In the medieval period many leaders gave us these teachings as simple theories of Spiritual Discipline for daily practice. The Vedantha Philosophy and Dharma Sasthra of Sage Vyasa and explanations by Acharyas are the basis of Our Faith and Practice. Sri Sankara gave us the Advaitha theory of "Unity of the Human and Divine Soul" and the Path of Knowledge [J˝ana Yoga]. At the same time, he also gave us the rules of worship of God in six forms as in Agamas for daily practice.

Sri Ramanuja gave us a theory that separates the Divine Soul to be reached by prayers through the Path of Devotion [Bhakthi Yoga]. Many other theories were given by other Acharyas. We also had a Path of pious living Meditation and concentration [Raja Yoga] with the standards for the Hindu ethics and the Spiritual Discipline.

The Path of Action [Karma Yoga] was given as the first and early step of the Spiritual Discipline for the uninitiated. They taught us the rules of doing the duties without greed, lust or attachment to the fruits of our action. These four paths of spiritual disciplines and the rituals and prayers as in the Vedas and Agamas were the basis of the practice of culture by the Hindu community as a way of life.

 
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Lesson - 32 :
A Study of the Modern Day Practice of Ancient Faith
The Changes in Prayers and Cultural Practice
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The highly educated religious Yogis and J˝aanis could follow the path of knowledge and observe the way of life as in the Scriptures with meditation and prayers to the Absolute -the One Supreme Reality- Formless God, in what is known as Nirguna-upasana. The common people could not comprehend all the teachings of the Vedic philosophy. They followed the rituals, recitations of the Vedas and the path of Devotion. They performed the prayers and sang songs to the manifestations of God in various forms, called the Saguna-upasana, and followed the Agamas and Puranas with Vedic rituals to fire and water. In the later age, the concept of devotion developed with various levels of intense Bhakthi to God in many forms.

Many rituals evolved over the years for daily activities and family events like birth, marriage and death. These changed from time to time with the arrival of alien cultures. Many changes occurred in the way of life in large section of the population with the pressure of material benefits, greed, lust and ignorance along with alien culture and education. Religious study got the least preference as it was least understood and least beneficial. Several wars and occupation by Turks, Persians, Moghuls, French and British rulers with alien culture, religious faith and proselytizing people with force also slowly changed the ethics and culture as well as the way of worship and religious practice.

When Temples were destroyed and prayer gatherings were attacked by the alien forces, people started assembling in small houses for devotional prayers instead of elaborate Temple rituals. Some of the alien culture and habits were accommodated for acceptance in the high society. There were separate Dharmasasthras for different age groups and various segments of society according to their work, ability and education.

Strict caste systems were established according to the family of birth and some sections who were not following the religious rituals, were pushed down the social ladder as untouchables to perform low level jobs. Inter-dining and inter marriages were denied amongst the various castes, thus dividing the community for ever. This was advantageous to the aliens who could spread their faith easily. However, the strength and viability of the Hindu faith were proved very well by the very small dent all these events of history could make in the strong Hindu Indian culture.

 
 
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Chapter - 2 :- The Essentials of the Hindu Traditions - Lessons 31 & 32
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Go to Lessons: - :~: 17 & 18 :~: 19 & 20 :~: 21 & 22 :~: 23 & 24 :~: 25 & 26 :~: 27 & 28 :~: 29 & 30 :~: 31 & 32 :
 
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End of Chapter - 2 : : Go to Chapter - 3 - A Review of the History of Hindu Traditions
 
 
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