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Hindu Heritage Study Program  
 
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Hindu Heritage Study Program
 
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Principles and Practice of Hindu Dharma
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-HR 201.03
Understanding the History of the Religious Faith in India
Evolution of the Beliefs and Culture over the Time of Several Millennia
-~ Level - 2 ~
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Lesson - 35 :
'Pre-Aryan' Practices and "Aryan" Faith
Rituals and Worship as Practiced in the Ancient Times
Please see below
for Lesson - 36
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In several parts of the ancient India, more than 6000 years back, local customs and cultures developed in the practice of the religion. This is sometimes called the "Pre-Aryan" period of the History. Many of the Incarnations of our Deities, according to the puranas, are referred to this period or an earlier period. Vedas are the foundation of the principles and practice of the faith at this time. At the same time, other texts also existed about various forms of worship.

Religious teachings very much like the Vedas existed in every part of India and South Asia during the "Pre-Aryan" period itself. Sage Baadarayana (also popularly known as Sage Veda Vyasa or Vyasa Maharishi) organized the faiths and practice and codified the texts of Vedas. [He did not claim to have written them]. These texts were memorized and were recited in a particular way for generation after generation. This was the way the texts were well preserved for posterity, even though large parts the Vedas that are referred in the texts now, are not available and are lost forever.

Veda Vyasa who organized the Vedas also wrote the Vedantha Darsana and wrote all the eighteen Puranas and Upapuranas. Several types of Vedic rituals according to the teachings were performed as prescribed by the priests, along with the ritualistic worship to various Deities. In many communities, rituals, to images and natural forces and offerings to water and fire "Gods", were given precedence over the teachings of philosophy and ethics. Various religious beliefs and faiths that were present in the so called "Pre-Aryan India" in several parts of the land assimilated with the teachings of Vedas.

Several village Deities were identified as the manifestations of the Impersonal Vedic God. Folklore stories of these village gods became Puranas later. The culture also accepted the various classes and varnas along with the teachings of Karma and Dharma. Over the course of time, people were concentrating on the rituals, worshipping various forms of Deities as the primary object of their religion and its very external aspects of the practice, with the hope of obtaining eternal salvation through rituals alone.

 
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Lesson - 36 :
One God and One Faith with Many Practices
The Faith in Divine Manifestations in Many Forms
 
 
 

Many schools of Vedic scholars, Rishis, gave different meanings to the Vedic teachings and wrote the six "Dharsanas" or philosophical explanations. Some emphasized the rituals as the main feature of the practice. Some stressed the philosophy. Some even ignored the aspect of the "God" in the teachings and some others stressed the importance of a Philosophy or complicated rituals only as the ultimate means of liberation. Some mixed the rituals, Philosophy and Theism (Belief in God) in a single system.

Most of the time the teaching that missed faith in God was not accepted and was denied popular support. Later Rishis wrote new versions of these theories with new meanings, modified to accommodate the faith in God, to make them more acceptable to the people. As the Veda taught us the essence of monotheism in our daily prayers, slowly people started forgetting the true meaning of the faith along with the basic essence of the philosophy.

As the practice changed with time from prayers of Mantras to teachings of Upanishads and later to Rituals with sacrifices, people followed the teachings with blind faith, discipline and fear. This was the way religious faith of Sanatana Dharma and Vedic way of life was practiced from the dawn of civilization until about 2500 years ago. At this time, Sri Krishna taught us, through the Bhagvat Geeta, the true essence of Vedic Hindu Philosophy. He explains the importance of one's duty to the society and the true meaning of religion and rituals.

He tells us not to concentrate only on rituals as the sole path and means of achieving the goal of uniting with God. He tells us of the oneness of the Divine Force (Brahmam) in various forms and the unity of Atmam and Brahmam. The basic teachings of the Vedas and Upanishads on Hindu religious belief remains the same forever, as told again by Sri Krishna in Srimad Bhagavat Geeta that: "When Dharma declines and Adharma gains strength, God manifests Himself to protect the community." "Whatever form a devotee seeks to worship with faith, God will stabilize his faith in that form for him."

 
 

 

 
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Chapter - 3 - A Review of the History of Hindu Traditions - Lessons 35 & 36
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Go to Lessons: - :~: 33 & 34 :~: 35 & 36 :~: 37 & 38 :~: 39 & 40 :~: 41 & 42 :~: 43 & 44 :~: 45 & 46 :~: 47 & 48 :
 
 
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