Geography of Religion Wk 4

The Hindu Way of Life

According to the Vedas, life began as a great cosmic sacrifice. The sacrifice of the creator god Purusha created the world as we know it. His eye: the sun. His mind: the moon. And so forth. According to Holy Scripture, humans are born into one of four classes, each represented by some part of Purusha. The highest class (varna) is the Brahmans or priests and came from the creator god’s mouth. The next highest is the Kshatriyas, those men born to be warriors or nobility, and were created from his arms. The third class is the most populated and made up of farmers, merchants, and craftsmen and were crafted from his thighs. The last came from his feet; the Sudra, slaves and serfs. Women’s role in this group tended to assume the status of their husbands or fathers.

Males of the three highest classes were expected to follow a set life path that consisted of four segments (ashramas). The first stage consists of being a student where you study the holy books, among other philosophy, and practice the art of yoga where you may join with the cosmic body. After a coming-of-age-ceremony is held, you enter the householder stage of life. In ancient times, a wife would be selected for the young groom but nowadays the only similarities are a long and fairly complicated ritual completed at the marriage ceremony. After a family was established, you could enter into the third stage; the forest dwelling stage. Upon leaving the family in the hands of your oldest son, you devote your life to studying the sacred texts. Finally you have reached the fourth stage of life where you may decide to become a sadhu (holy man) and renounce your worldly possessions, including your family. Upon death, a Hindu’s body will be cremated in a ceremony, and their spirit will be reincarnated. Karma from this life will decide their fortune in the next life.

Hinduism has evolved to emphasize spiritual riches over physical wealth and to abolish animal sacrifice so as not to harm any creature.

Geography of Religion//Susan T. Hitchcock & John L. Esposito


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