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This article is the second in a series about world religions.

Hinduism is the third largest religion in the world, with approximately 1.2 billion followers. This represents 15-16% of the world's population. Hinduism is the second largest religion in Asia and the third fastest growing religion in the world. About 95% of Hindus live in India. Hinduism is the world's oldest religion, with roots and customs dating back more than 4,000 years. Hinduism originated on the Indian subcontinent and is comprised of several and varied systems of philosophy, belief, and ritual. 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. Hinduism prescribes the eternal duties, such as honesty, refraining from injuring living beings (ahiṃsā), patience, forbearance, self-restraint, virtue, and compassion. Hindu practices include worship (puja), fire rituals (homa/havan), devotion (bhakti), fasting (vrata), chanting (japa), meditation (dhyāna), sacrifice (yajña), charity (dāna), selfless service (sevā), learning and knowledge (jñāna), recitation and exposition of scriptures (pravacana), homage to one's ancestors (śrāddha), family-oriented rites of passage, annual festivals, and occasional pilgrimages (yatra).

The concept of God, and the number of deities, rests upon the philosophy and the tradition that make up a devotee's adherence. The faith is described by some to be monotheistic, where all deities are believed to be forms of Brahman, the Ultimate Reality, as popularized by the Advaita philosophy. It is also widely regarded to be polytheistic and henotheistic.

Brahman is a term used by Hindus to describe God or the Supreme Being. It can also refer to the ‘divine consciousness’. Brahman is a supreme, universal spirit that is eternal and unchanging. Hindu holy books refer to Brahman as being present throughout the entire universe and Hindus believe that all living beings carry a part of Brahman within them. This divine spark is known as the atman, or soul, and it is immortal.

The Trimurti are the most prominent deities of contemporary Hinduism. This consists of Brahma, the Creator, Vishnu, the Preserver, and Shiva, the Destroyer.

Their feminine counterparts are Saraswati, the wife of Brahma, Lakshmi, the wife of Vishnu, and Parvati (or Durga), the wife of Shiva. There are also many other Hindu gods and goddesses such as Ganesha (the elephant-headed god), Hanuman (the monkey god), Kali (the goddess of destruction), Durga (the invincible goddess), and many more.

A fundamental principle of the religion is the idea that people’s actions and thoughts directly determine their current life and future lives. Hindus strive to achieve dharma, which is a code of

iiving that emphasizes good conduct and morality. Hindus revere all living creatures and consider the cow a sacred animal. Food is an important part of life for Hindus. Most don’t eat beef or pork, and many are vegetarians.

This article is a very brief summary of Hinduism. Additions or corrections to this post? Let us know.


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