Hinduism is one of the oldest and widespread religions in the world; currently it is practiced by people who may live in very different countries. This paper is aimed at discussing the main principles of Hinduism, it cultural aspects and its impact on the society in the United States. The knowledge of these issues is important for understanding the diversity of modern societies in which people may have different beliefs, values or even perceptions of God.
Overall, one can identify the following characteristics of Hinduism, namely the acceptance of different religious views, the belief in reincarnation of soul, and the idea that God can take many different forms. Furthermore, it should be noted this religion is now practiced in many Western countries, such as the United States and its presence increases the diversity of modern American society and makes people more aware about the variety of religious beliefs. First of all, Hinduism is very difficult to define because this religion incorporates a variety of beliefs that recognize the moral authority of the Vedas which are religious texts originating from ancient India (Mittal and Thursby 3). Moreover, Hinduism includes several denominations or groups of people who may have different rituals. It should be noted that there are several distinct features of Hinduism.
Certainly, the supporters of this religion accept the existence of God as a higher power that created the universe. Moreover, God is present in every living being. Yet, Hindus think that an individual can worship God in different forms. The deity can have different identities such as Shiva, Vishnu, or Brahma (Neusner 186).
It is difficult to determine whether Hinduism is monotheistic or polytheistic religion. The thing is that in some denomination of Hinduism, people can accept the existence of several deities (Neusner 186). Thus, Hindus do not accept the idea that God can take only one form. This is one of the issues that people should remember. Moreover, people should take into account that Hinduism is not based on some specific canon or a set of written sources. The Vedas do play an important role in the lives of Hindus, but various religious leaders could provide their own interpretation of God and morality.
Secondly, it is worth noting that this religion does not set direct requirements for the worshipers who may follow different religious rituals. More importantly, Hinduism does not reject other forms of religious faith. It is not opposed to Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. Hindus do not argue that their view on God and the universe is the only possible one.
These are the main distinctions of the religion and people should remember about them when interacting with Hindus. One should also discuss the culture of Hinduism. It should be taken into consideration that Hinduism evolved in the course of several millennia during which Indian subcontinent witnessed many political, social, and demographic changes. Furthermore, Hinduism can be practiced in different countries, for example, India, Sri Lanka, or Bangladesh. This is why one should not suppose that this religion is always associated with some distinct cultural values or practices. There are several rituals that play an important life in the cultural life of Hindus, for example one can mention, different forms of yoga, or festivals such Gudi Padwa and Bihu (Kaur 1968). These festivals are held by Hindus who may live in different countries.
Secondly, Hinduism accepts the idea of material possessions and even sensual pleasures provided that a person does not violate the ethical principles, especially if he/she does not limit the freedom of other people. Additionally, it is possible to identify several cultural values that Hindus usually recognize, in particular, the respect for elders, modesty, and acceptance of ones limitations and weaknesses. So, this religion stresses the humility of an individual. These cultural values affect Hindus’ relations with other people. Additionally, one should note that Hinduism can now be practiced in the United States for more than a century. Certainly, this religion is not followed by the majority of the popularity. Yet, nowadays, Hindu temples can be found in different parts of the country, for instance, one can mention such states as California, Illinois, New York, and so forth (Neusner 180).
Many Hindus live in such urban areas as Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, or New York (Neusner 180). This religion is followed by people who came to America from India or Sri Lanka. There are several ways in which this religion influences the society. First of all, one can mention that American people have become more aware about religious and cultural practices that may exist in non-Western countries. The presence of Hinduism makes people more aware of the fact that there are various forms of religious faith, and they can differ from the Judeo-Christian tradition which is dominant in the United States. Some of these practices have become very popular, for instance, one can mention Yoga that is very popular among many people. Therefore, the influence of Hinduism can be considered positive because this religion emphasizes the necessity of tolerance and respect toward the views of others. Overall, I have a positive attitude toward Hinduism, even though I did not have direct contacts with this religion.
As it has been said before, it accepts different forms of worship and religious faith and it is not opposed to other religions. This feature greatly appeals to me because the supporters of Hinduism do not think that their religious views are in any way superior to those of other people. Secondly, Hinduism does not impose certain restrictions on worshippers. They do not have to follow certain rules, when worshipping God. In other words, these people have a relative degree of freedom.
So, a person, who is not affiliated to any religion, may have a favorable attitude toward Hinduism. Certainly, my judgment may be very subjective, and more accurate assessment can be given if I learn more about the beliefs and ethical principles that Hindus recognize and various denominations of this religion. On the whole, these examples suggest that contemporary Hinduism is a vibrant religion that can now be practiced in Western and non-Western countries. Its principles include the rejection of dogmatism and emphasis on the liberty of an individual. In the course of its history, it underwent several significant changes, but it does remain appealing to many people in part because Hindus do not claim their perception of God is better or more accurate than the beliefs of other people. The presence of Hinduism in the United States can be seen as a positive force because American people can learn more about the ethical and cultural aspects of other religions.
Performative Politics and the Cultures of Hinduism: Public uses of Religion in Western India, Delhi: Anthem Press, 2005. Print. Mittal Sushil, and G. Thursby. Studying Hinduism: key concepts and methods, New York: Routledge, 2008. Print. Neusner, Jacob. World Religions in America: An Introduction, Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009.