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Key points of Hinduism

Sanatana Dharma
    Hinduism is the most diverse of the major religions, and in fact comprises hundreds of different religious traditions with a common basis in the ancient sacred scriptures of the Vedas, Upanishads, and Puranas. Some see themselves as different religious traditions; some see Hinduism as an integrated religion, seeking to unify the diversity. The name which Hindus use to refer to their religious tradition is Sanatana Dharma, the Eternal flow of ever-present Truth. It is the way of life that is in alignment with uncreated Reality.

Brahman (Singular Reality)
    There is only one ultimate Reality; all else derives its existence, its being, its features and traits from that one infinite absolute Reality. Brahman is the elemental source, the underlying foundation of existence as such. It is the essence of Being itself, unlimited, self-existing, underived, uncaused. It is the source of all that is, both spiritual and material. It is the one indivisible, infinite, eternal unity of Being. It is not a being among other beings, but the principle of Being without which nothing is. It is without form, without attributes, beyond imagination and conception. Brahman is the vital force, the living core from which all living things draw their life. It is pure consciousness. God is everywhere around us and everywhere within us. The universe is alive with God.
Ishvara (Supreme Lord)
    We give God many names, but they all refer to the same one Supreme. Our needs, our understanding, our cultures, times and places differ widely. But God comes to each one in the way and the form that each will recognize and comprehend. God is ever present in our world in the divine forms which capture our attention, elicit our devotion, meet us in the places we live our lives. God is never absent but always living among us in myriad forms and with innumerable names.
atman (eternal spirit)
    At the core of every living thing is an eternal essence, which is the same as the essence of God, the one supreme Reality. The spirit is neither born nor created, nor does it die; it is eternally existent in the Infinite Reality of God. It is conscious, unchanging, and inherently blissful. The spirit is universally present in all things.
jivatma (ego-self)
    The individual “self” we imagine ourself to be is merely a confluence of sensations, emotions, intellect, psyche, and mind that arise from the functioning of the brain as it encounters the myriad aspects of our lived experience in this universe. The ego-self has evolved through eons of time to make it possible for us to consciously experience that which all existence experiences unconsciously: the infinite Oneness of Being Itself. Our experienced ego is just a temporary scaffolding that we have taken to be our reality. Our identification with the transient ego and the incessantly repeating cycles of life in the material universe prevent us from experiencing the true reality of who we really are, which is the eternal divine spirit.
maya (illusion)
    The material universe has emerged from the absolute undifferentiated pure Reality of Brahman. It manifests in brilliant arrays, the infinite qualities and attributes of supreme Being itself. But it is merely a transient changing reflection of that unchanging ultimate Reality. The universe presents us with an unlimited arena for experience and enjoyment. But it is essentially the realm of duality, of multiplicity, of the pendulum swing of opposites. Thus it is also the arena of pain and suffering, confusion, anxiety, loss and disappointment. The universe into which we are born manifests all the potential ways of being that are inherent in Being itself. But it is merely a reflection, a shadow, not the Reality itself. It is the means by which we gain the capacity for conscious awareness but it is not the goal. We see all the many possible experiences in the universe and are distracted into chasing after them making them the purpose of our life. But that is a delusion. The purpose of the eternal spirit is not to consciously experience the ever-changing play of the phenomenal universe, but to consciously experience the eternal reality of ultimate Reality itself.
samsara (reincarnation)
    All living things are reborn in an ongoing process of increasing capacity for consciousness. When the spirit first takes on material form it is totally unconscious of God or itself. It takes on successive lifetimes in successive forms. As the forms evolve from gas to stone to vegetable to insect to animal to human, consciousness increases with each life experience. When the human state is reached, full consciousness is achieved.

    But we are only conscious of the limited mind, psyche, personality and emotions of the physical self and of the physical universe around it. We are not conscious of the eternal spirit (atman) or of God. We imagine ourself to be this body-mind-psyche complex and spend many lifetimes seeking satisfaction in this or that form of life, following urges and inclinations we have brought with us from previous lives. When we finish with one life, we leave it aside and go to a new life to continue the journey. Each time we play a role we have set for ourselves; and each time we end up wanting something else and go off to play another role and another and another.
karma (actions)
    The material universe is based on the premise of cause and effect. Everything is bound by this principle. Thoughts, words and actions all leave impressions in the mind which set the parameters, the possibilities and potential for future thoughts, words and actions. They bind us to particular limited outcomes and restrict and shape our options and choices. Every action has inherent in it, results or consequences which must be experienced and expended before the last vestiges of the action can be exhausted.

    Actions which have not been exhausted at the end of one life are stored as impressions in the mental body and carried forward into the next life. It is the particular impressions stored in the mental body that attract the spirit toward the distinctive family and conditions of the new life.

    Each life is created out of the residue of the actions we have chosen in the past; and our future will be created out of the actions, thoughts and words we choose now. In each life our actions which determine our future conditions and states are called karma. And the process of reincarnation operates according to the laws of karma. The individual ego-self will keep on being attracted to new bodies and new lives in order to experience the results of the actions done.
moksha (liberation)
    Our ego-self spends innumerable lifetimes seeking satisfaction in this or that form of life, following the urges and inclinations it has brought with it from previous lives. But the life of the material-conscious mind, body, psyche and emotions never satisfies the spirit. The spirit gradually becomes more and more discontented with the seemingly endless pursuit of the ever-changing transitory attainments of the phenomenal life. It begins to turn away from the temporary to seek the permanent.

    When the spirit takes this turn, the inclinations and urges begin to be more and more toward finding God and less and less for satisfying material desires. The goal of the spirit’s journey is to grow closer and closer to God, until finally all else is left behind and only God is experienced. Thus the spirit journeys from unconscious union with God through many life-times of separation from God, gaining wisdom and greater consciousness, until it attains to conscious union with God. Each individual lifetime is just one chapter in the life of the spirit; each life brings its own lessons and moves us further on the long journey to conscious awareness of the spirit itself which is one with God.

    Once the spirit begins to seek God, each time the body dies, the spirit is drawn to another life that will lead it further toward conscious awareness of God. Finally the spirit completely abandons its transient ego-self and gains a state where it is only conscious of being one with God. It will no longer take any further physical birth because it no longer has any inclinations or urges for the physical life. It is eternally one with God.
Yoga-margas (spiritual disciplines/paths)
    All our infinite collection of thoughts, words and actions lead us in continual circular repetitions of the same results again and again binding us ever more tightly to the cycles of this life. Other actions lead us out of the treadmill and into new possibilities of spiritual growth and awakening. In our usual life, we are caught up in attachments to the thoughts of the mind, the play of emotions, seeking results for our endeavors, and the incessant activity of our life.

    But each of these tendencies can lead us out of the maze if they are re-directed to a different object. Thus, with practice, the thoughts of the mind can be directed increasingly away from the transient, changing phenomena of the common goals of life and more toward engagement with the inherent essential truth of existence, which is Ultimate Reality itself.

    Similarly emotions can be caught up in devotion to the living presence of God everywhere around us and within. The beauty of God can capture the emotions until all other attachments fade in value and interest.

    Our drive for achievement and action can also be re-shaped into selfless service of God in all those beings around us, instead of seeking to satisfy our limited ego-self.

    Likewise our energy for life can be trained into one-pointed focus that dissolves and stills the ego-life until only the ultimate truth at the core of our being is experienced unmediated, unmitigated, purely and permanently.
Pujya (worship)
    God is everywhere and in everything and can be worshipped anywhere and in anything. It is the love and devotion of the heart which draw the living presence of God from deep within every particle and ripple of the universe.

    God responds to the loving worship of the heart wherever it is performed. But some places incite our hearts to love more profoundly than other places, so pilgrimage is a part of worship as well. Places of exquisite beauty can be created that inspire our love for God.

    Places of great natural beauty, at the tops of mountains, the confluences of rivers, and places of unusual stunning presence elicit a response from the human heart a well, that when turned toward God’s infinite presence in all these things, brings God and the human heart together.

    We also can find God through worship at places where there are ancient stories of God having come there to meet with the ones who love and adore Him-Her.

    But we can worship God anywhere, we can respond to the awe and wonder of God in anything. Whenever our hearts turn in love toward God, God is there with us. Worship of God in each moment and experience of life transforms life into a dance of love with the living God among us.
advanced souls (sages, saints, gurus)
    From the beginning of human history there have been those who have pursued the spiritual quest for conscious awareness of God above all else. Rare ones have achieved the goal and left behind accounts of this great journey and the spiritual landscape we all unconsciously inhabit.

    At any given time there are, hidden among us, unique souls who are living vessels in whom the supreme Divine shines out from the human life. In those who have attained the ultimate, the individual ego-self has been completely washed away and only the pure atman, that is the essence of Brahman, remains as the governing principle of that life. But these ones are very rare and nearly impossible to find.

    There are also, however, many more who are actively engaged in this supreme quest. They have made progress along the spiritual path and can lead others to the level they have achieved. Simply spending time in the presence of such advanced souls will effect profound changes in one's perceptions of life and consciousness. Following their directions will begin to transform the experience of life and awaken the deep inner longing to set out to consciously experience God ourself.
ahimsa (harmlessness)
    How can we cause harm to any creature, knowing that God resides there and the suffering we cause another we are causing to God. The central primary moral imperative for human beings is to do no harm to any living being. As humans we have the full capacity for conscious awareness of ourselves and all around us. Knowing that God inhabits all things and that all things dwell in God how can we ever knowingly hurt another, knowing that it is God we are hurting. Inherent in the life of harmlessness are the qualities of compassion toward all, of tolerance and respect. Living harmlessly is the basis for our humanity and the foundation of the spiritual life.

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