Four Great Ideas from Hinduism - The School Of Life (2023)

Even if we are not religious and have no interest at all in becoming a Hindu, Hinduism offers us at least four fascinating ideas…

1. Look Forward to Death

Hinduism is hugely radical in suggesting that there is nothing especially noble or interesting about being alive.

Once we look at matters dispassionately, a lot of what we have to go through is misery and suffering: we need — with great effort — to grow up, to assume responsibilities, to master a profession, to have a family, to take our place in societies full of backbiting and hypocrisy, to watch those we love get ill and eventually to succumb to old age ourselves. To think highly of ‘life’ is, through a Hindu lens, a fundamental intellectual error.

As Hinduism sees it, our real purpose is to be done with life forever; that is the true summit of existence. Hinduism reverses the Western equation: the sinful and blinkered are forced to live forever, the righteous and awakened are privileged enough to be able to die. If we are not careful, if we do not show sufficient mercy and imagination toward others, we may well — Hinduism suggests — be subjected to the ultimate punishment: we will have to carry on into eternity.

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The symbol of this ghastly on-goingness is the eight-spoked wheel of ‘samsara’, the most commonly depicted item in the religion, which evokes the pitiless and unceasing nature of life — to which we are committed unless we take a disciplined series of averting actions which together comprise the central components of Hindu ethics.

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Hinduism does not suggest that we will carry on forever in our own bodies. According to the process of ‘samsara’, we are reborn into a succession of different outward envelopes, as each example is eroded away and disintegrated by time. Because samsara is at work across the whole animal kingdom, we might find that our enduring soul (‘atman’) transmigrates at our death into the body of a woodlouse, a pelican or a house spider (though we might also be reborn as a paediatric nurse or the president). What determines the quality of the migration is the degree of ‘karma’ or virtue that we have accrued in our lives. Among the many reasons why we might have to be kind to others is an awareness that unkindness might wind us up having to suffer a cycle or two of life as a cockroach or a naked mole rat.

The suspicion that life is constantly painful and anxious is one that we largely have to bear in a very lonely way in the philosophies of the West; in those of the East, pessimism is ennobled and takes centre stage. We are permitted to feel weary and amply dissatisfied; we have, without quite knowing it, been alive since the start of creation — and it is untenably exhausting and frustrating. The trick, and the true prize, will be to be good and wise enough to learn to die once and for all.

2. Rejoin Cosmic Totality

For Hindus, the way to step off the treadmill of eternal existence is to realise that, despite many appearances to the contrary, however paradoxical or absurd the idea might sound, we and the universe are in truth one.

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From the earliest age, we tend to assume the very opposite. It seems self-evident that we are one kind of thing and the tree over there, the relative over here, the clouds in the sky, the monkey on the parapet and the river wending its way to the sea belong to quite different categories. Yet Hinduism insists that our belief in difference belongs ultimately to a realm of ‘maya’ or illusion. If we look more deeply into the nature of things, through the help of teaching and spiritual exercises, we stand to discover the remarkable unity of all elements. Unlike what appearances imply, everything we can see and experience around us belong to the same life force: the leaves unfurling on the tree, the child learning to read, the earthworm digging its tunnels, the lava bubbling from the earth, all belong to a single unitary power which only egoistic prejudice has hitherto prevented us from acknowledging as one.

Most of our pain, Hinduism argues, arises from an overeager attachment to the difference between ourselves and the rest of the world. We pay inordinate attention to who has slightly more money or respect than we do, we are constantly humiliated by people and events that don’t seem to honour our sense of uniqueness.

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But in a process known as ‘moksha’ or liberation, we can throw off the veil of illusion that works to separate us from the universe and can start to identify with cosmic totality. It no longer matters exactly where we end and others begin; everything belongs to the same whole that we have mistakenly and unnecessarily carved up into parts. There is a little less reason to grasp, to be puffed up, to be proud or to become embittered. We can survey the course of our lives and of our societies with calm indifference. We can cease to identify happiness with the working out of our will upon the world — and take in with compassion and serenity whatever destiny throws our way. We enjoy ‘paripurna-brahmanubhava’, the experience of oneness with ‘brahman’, the principle of all things.

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Once we have let go of our own ego like this, we may have a few more years left to live, but we can be sure that — eventually — we will not need to keep returning. Constant rebirth is the fate of those who cleave too tightly to their own selves. By contrast, those who have learnt to surrender can at their demise merge with the universe and will never need to suffer the indignities of individual life again.

3. Don’t Forget Money

We might expect that a religion devoted to spiritual enlightenment would have scant concern for money and possessions. But Hinduism surprises and challenges us by suggesting that — despite everything — what it calls ‘artha’ or a concern for material prosperity has a place within a wise life.

Hinduism is not directing us towards crass materialism. It doesn’t want to exhaust us with overly rich foods or attention-seeking displays of wealth. But it is aware — with a touching practicality — that many good and elevated things require a degree of financial support in order to go well. One won’t be able to undertake spiritual exercises unless one is able to take a considerable amount of time off from practical duties every day. Meditation on nothingness can be substantially assisted by having a servant or two to take care of the laundry and the housekeeping.

Hindus traditionally direct their hopes for material comfort to Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity. One of the most popular of all Hindu deities, she is typically represented holding two lotus flowers that speak of spiritual liberation as well as material good fortune. She is usually accompanied by at least one elephant, a symbol of power and strength, and a swan, an animal that is at home both in the air and in the water, and thereby speaks of an ability to combine competence in the material and spiritual realms.

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Lakshmi understands, and would never condemn, one’s appetite for a better house or a more high paying job. Her role isn’t to make us feel guilty about wanting more wealth, it is to remind us that the true point of money is — in the end — to enable us to forget about money.

4. Don’t Turn Against Sex

We have come to expect very little by way of encouragement or sympathy in relation to sex from religions. At best, a blind eye, at worst, a constant hounding and reminder of the evils of the flesh.

But Hinduism surprises us; it made the remarkable step of placing sexual fulfilment — ‘kama’ — among the four ‘puruṣārthas’, or aims of human life, alongside ‘dharma’ (morality), ‘artha’ (prosperity) and ‘moksha’ (spiritual liberation).

Hinduism’s respect for sex was rooted in a particular understanding of what lies behind our erotic feelings. These do not stem — as has so often been alleged — from a base animal impulse; they are a means by which we can sense the unity of the universe (‘brahman’).

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Normally, we live beneath a veil of illusion which persuades us of the separateness of all things, bodies included, but our sexual desires push us to break down the barriers between ourselves and others. We might colloquially say that we are turned on, but through a Hindu lens, at the core of our excitement is the sense that we are breaking down the illusion of separateness and taking a small but important step towards oneness with what we can, without exaggeration, following the religion, term the universe.

FAQs

What are the 4 ideas of Hinduism? ›

Hindus believe that there are four goals in human life: kama, the pursuit of pleasure; artha, the pursuit of material success; dharma, leading a just and good life; and moksha, enlightenment, which frees a person from suffering and unites the individual soul with Brahman.

What are the main ideas of Hinduism? ›

Hindus believe in the doctrines of samsara (the continuous cycle of life, death, and reincarnation) and karma (the universal law of cause and effect). One of the key thoughts of Hinduism is “atman,” or the belief in soul. This philosophy holds that living creatures have a soul, and they're all part of the supreme soul.

What are 5 big ideas of Hinduism? ›

Prominent themes in Hindu beliefs include (but are not restricted to) Dharma (ethics/duties), saṃsāra (the continuing cycle of entanglement in passions and the resulting birth, life, death, and rebirth), Karma (action, intent, and consequences), moksha (liberation from attachment and saṃsāra), and the various yogas ( ...

What are the 4 aims of life? ›

Purushartha: The 4 Aims of Human Life. The Purusharthas are the inherent values of the Universe: Artha (economic values), Kama (pleasure), Dharma (righteousness), and Moksha (liberation).

Why is number 4 Important Hinduism? ›

Other examples for the importance of number four are the 4 seasons, the 4 sides and the 4 corners of a square, the rare four-leafed clover, a symbol of good luck in some cultures, in Hinduism the 4 faces of Brahma the creator, the 4 directions, the 4 elements water, fire earth and air and, finally, the 4 human ...

What are 3 things about Hinduism? ›

Here are some facts about Hinduism you may not have known!
  • The goal of life in Hinduism is to attain salvation, or moksha. ...
  • Hinduism actually believes in only one god, but in many forms. ...
  • Hinduism is the 3rd largest religion in the world, after Christianity and Islam.
4 Aug 2015

What are the 3 main traditions of Hinduism? ›

Hinduism has no central doctrinal authority and many practising Hindus do not claim to belong to any particular denomination or tradition. Four major traditions are, however, used in scholarly studies: Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism and Smartism.

What are some of the main ideas of Hinduism and Buddhism? ›

Hinduism and Buddhism both accepted the law of Karma, Dharma, and Moksha and believed in a cycle of rebirth. Hinduism and Buddhism both believe in the existence of several hells and heavens or higher and lower worlds. The founders of Hinduism and Buddhism are both unlike most major religions.

What are the 4 types of dharma? ›

Varnashrama dharma

The four main classes are Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras. This social class system appears in an ancient Hindu book of law called the Manusmriti.

What are the 7 concepts of Hinduism? ›

This article explains the Hindu concepts of Atman, Dharma, Varna, Karma, Samsara, Purushartha, Moksha, Brahman, Bhagavan and Ishvara.

What are the 6 schools of Hinduism? ›

The six orthodox schools are called as shatdarshanas and include Nyaya, Sankhya, Yoga, Vaisheshika, Purva Mimamsa and Uttara Mimamsa (Vedanta Philosophy). Most of these schools of thought believe in the theory of Karma and rebirth.

What were the 3 schools of thought? ›

The schools are cognitive, humanistic, and behavioral (see Figure 4.1). Although the ideas from the three appear to be independent, you will see they share many beliefs. The first school of thought we will examine has its roots in cognitive science, a field that studies how people think.

What are the 6 schools of philosophy? ›

These are known as Vaishesika, Nyaya, Samkhya, Yoga, Purva Mimansa and Vedanta or Uttara Mimansa. These six systems of philosophy are said to have been founded by sages Konada, Gotama, Kapila, Patanjali, Jaimini and Vyasa, respectively.

What are the four stages of life? ›

The four asramas are: Brahmacharya (student), Gṛhastha (householder), Vanaprastha (forest walker/forest dweller), and Sannyasa (renunciate). The Asrama system is one facet of the Dharma concept in Hinduism.

What is the first aim in life Hinduism? ›

According to Hinduism, the meaning (purpose) of life is four-fold: to achieve Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha. The first, dharma, means to act virtuously and righteously. That is, it means to act morally and ethically throughout one's life.

What is the aim of life? ›

So, the aim of life is to give your life a purpose and meaning. Certainly, it is done by finding out what truly matters to you. Your purpose is to create more joy in life or to show others how you can live your life in the best possible manner.

What does the 4 represent? ›

"Almost from prehistoric times, the number four was employed to signify what was solid, what could be touched and felt. Its relationship to the cross (four points) made it an outstanding symbol of wholeness and universality, a symbol which drew all to itself".

Why is 4 a lucky number? ›

The number 4 signifies stability, reliability, sturdiness and it has the energy of being grounded, organised and productive.

Which god number is 4 in Hinduism? ›

4 is a symbolic representation of santana dharma which is the traditional name for Hinduism. It is the solution to the problem of ahamkara or ego, which is the fourth in the 24 tattvas (principles) of creation.

How many types of Hinduism are there? ›

The four main sects of Hinduism are Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism, and Smartism. Hinduism is a polytheistic religion. Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu form the Trimurti, the holy trinity (three forms) of Hinduism.

What is the culture of Hinduism? ›

Hinduism is a way of life for many people around the world. The Hindu philosophy comes from a wide range of beliefs from scriptures and many other varied religious literatures. The Hindu culture is one that revolves around love and respect for others. For example, respect for elders is a foundation of Hindu culture.

What defines Hinduism? ›

: the dominant religion of India that emphasizes dharma with its resulting ritual and social observances and often mystical contemplation and ascetic practices.

What are the 4 main ideas of Buddhism? ›

The Four Noble Truths comprise the essence of Buddha's teachings, though they leave much left unexplained. They are the truth of suffering, the truth of the cause of suffering, the truth of the end of suffering, and the truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering.

What are 4 differences between Hinduism and Buddhism? ›

Buddhism and Hinduism agree on karma, dharma, moksha and reincarnation. They are different in that Buddhism rejects the priests of Hinduism, the formal rituals, and the caste system. Buddha urged people to seek enlightenment through meditation.

What are the 3 goals of Hinduism and Buddhism? ›

They are kama, artha, dharma and moksha.

What are the 5 principles of dharma? ›

Knowledge, Patience, Justice, Love And Dedication As The Five Pillars Of Dharma.

What is dharma of life? ›

In Hinduism, dharma is one of the four components of the Puruṣārtha, the aims of life, and signifies behaviours that are considered to be in accord with Ṛta, the order that makes life and universe possible. It includes duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and "right way of living".

How many are main schools of Hindu Law? ›

There are two Schools of Hindu Law:- a) Mitakshara b) Dayabhaga. Mitakshara School prevails throughout India except in Bengal. It is a running commentary on the code of Yajnavalkya (Yajnavalkya Smriti).

Who invented Hindu school? ›

Hindu School, Kolkata
Hindu School
EstablishedJanuary 20, 1817
FounderRaja Rammohan Roy Radhakanta Deb Rasamay Dutt Baidyanath Mukhopadhya David Hare Sir Edward Hyde East
School boardWBBSE & WBCHSE
AuthorityGovernment of West Bengal
19 more rows

What are the 4 schools of philosophy? ›

These schools of thought are: Idealism, Realism, Pragmatism, and Existentialism. It is important to note that idealism and realism, otherwise known as general or world philosophies, have their roots in the work of the ancient Greek philosophers: Plato and Aristotle.

What are the 4 schools of thought in sociology? ›

Four Major Sociological Theories. The four main theoretical perspectives are symbolic interactionism theory, social conflict theory, structural-functional theory, and feminist theory.

What are the 4 schools of psychology? ›

The analysis of four major classical schools of psychology is done in this chapter: (1) structuralism, a subjective epistemological system, (2) functionalism, a quasi-objective action system, (3) Gestalt psychology, both a subjective and quasi-objective cognitive system, and (4) classical Watsonian behaviorism, an ...

What are the 4 concepts of philosophy? ›

This includes such philosophically interesting concepts as TRUTH, GOODNESS, FREEDOM, and JUSTICE.

What are the 4 main branches of philosophy and their meaning? ›

Metaphysics: Study of the fundamental nature of reality. Epistemology: Study of the nature, origin, and limits of human knowledge. Ethics Philosophy: Study of what is right and wrong in human behaviour. Aesthetics: Study of beauty and taste.

What are the 5 types of philosophy? ›

Janice explains to Paula, who is not a philosophy student, that although it is not always broken down in this exact way, a common approach to the branches of philosophy is through five categories: ethics, epistemology, metaphysics, logic, and aesthetics.

What is the concept of life in Hinduism? ›

According to Hinduism, the meaning (purpose) of life is four-fold: to achieve Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha. The first, dharma, means to act virtuously and righteously. That is, it means to act morally and ethically throughout one's life.

What is Hindu concept of God? ›

Many Hindus understand God to be Brahman or the Infinite. Brahman is believed to be ever-present, all-powerful, and beyond comprehension. Some Hindus believe that Brahman is formless and without attributes, but manifests in form. Other Hindus believe Brahman has a transcendent form and attributes.

What are the 4 principles of dharma? ›

In the Śrimad Bhāgavatam, dharma is described as a 'bull' who stands on four 'legs'—austerity, cleanliness, truthfulness, and kindness. These principles, also called 'the four pillars of dharma', are common to all aspects of human life, including that which is not directly associated with a 'religion'.

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