Hinduism 101: An Introduction

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Course Description

Welcome to this introductory course on Hinduism. In this course, the student will learn the foundations of one of the oldest religions in the world. From the origins of Hinduism to the writings that shaped its historical development over centuries, non-Hindu students are introduced to a number of rather 'foreign' concepts.

While this course in no way claims to offer an in-depth view into every aspect of Hinduism and its concepts, we do want to touch upon the development and continual evolution of Hinduism in the past, and today. We'll talk briefly about the Indo-Aryan people from the Indus Valley region, known as the birthplace of Hinduism, and then focal points found in the practice of Hinduism. Topics relating to important scriptures found in Hinduism touch upon the Veda and the concept of Dharma.

 As students progress through the course, they'll learn about concepts like karma and the difference between mantras and tantras. Hindu deities will be explored, offering a glimpse into the most popular deities and holidays that still celebrate them today. You'll be introduced into concepts such as predestination and reincarnation and understand how such concepts helped shape Hindu society through the ages.

We'll then move on to talk about common Hindu customs and learn about the foods that Hindus can and cannot eat, customs regarding birth, marriage, death and funerals as well as how and why Yoga is such an important part of the practice of Hinduism. The functions of Hindu priests and temples and festivals is also briefly explored.

We'll wrap up this introductory course on Hinduism by exploring the contributions of various women in Hindu society who helped shaped India's history, past and present, as well as how Hinduism has adapted to 21st century attitudes. Finally, we'll conclude the course with common Hindu goals such as the continual search for peace and harmony, not only among Hindus, but also among all peoples and religions.
What is Hinduism? 
Hinduism is a religion and yet it's a practice in diversity. Hinduism is an ancient belief, one developed in the caste systems of India, and one that believes in karma, predestination and reincarnation. The Hindu religion is filled with traditions and beliefs closely linked with other practices such as meditation and yoga. Hinduism contains its own customs, festivals and holy books as well as a number of deities that intertwine its history, culture and Indian society, past and present. 

Hinduism is different than other major religions around the world, including Islam, Judaism or Christianity in that it does not claim one idea, person or entity as its founder. Hindus consider themselves monotheistic, while other cultures perceive them as being polytheistic. Hinduism is practiced in different ways depending on what region from India you come. Sages, teachers and gurus throughout history, as well as the lessons taught in epics, stories and poetry of the deities have influenced Hindu belief systems throughout its development. 

Hinduism is ever changing and yet finds its foundation in a constant theme - that God is found in everything and everybody. It's an exciting religion, one that, because it's so fluid, offers those who practice it not just one viewpoint or focal point in regard to morals, ethics, beliefs and religious practices, but many. Where you grew up in India also played a large role in how you or your family approached the religion. These differences are what make Hinduism different from other world religions such as Judaism or Christianity. Hinduism is not based so much on one holy book or perception of faith, but many.  

Hindus, unlike Christians or Muslims or Jews, do not rely on a single source (such as the Holy Bible, the Koran or the Torah) for the practice of their faith. Hundreds of Indians from throughout India contributed to Hindu practices and viewpoints over generations. This is why we say that Hinduism is a fluid religion. It is not static, but ever changing. Nevertheless, Hinduism, despite the changes, additions and different viewpoints offered by sages and philosophers, has always maintained a firm foundation in its roots. 

Hinduism is widely practiced by a majority of Indians today, although large Hindu communities are found throughout the world from Southeast Asia to South America to Africa, the United States, Europe and Australia. 

The word "Hindu" originated in the Indus Valley and the lands surrounding the river Indus, in India. Throughout history, various terms have been used to apply to this culture and society, from the British "Hindustan", meaning specifically the northwest portion of India, to Arabic text that referred to the individuals who lived in the Indus Valley as Al-Hind, a modern-day term for India. 

So what, exactly is Hinduism? In concept, Hinduism is not easily defined because it's made up of a wide range of ideas and traditions. Many of these traditions are based in sacred literature such as the Vedas, which will be explored more fully in this course.

People with differing viewpoints inside that religion compose Hinduism, like many other religions. For example, some Hindus consider certain rituals necessary for their salvation while others don't; some revere certain texts as sacred literature, while others don't. 

Hinduism, to a great extent, relies on the belief that all actions in life have certain consequences or effects. This concept is called karma. Many Hindus believe that their actions, and how those actions affect themselves or others, perpetuate an eternal cycle of death and birth. During this cycle, a person continues to improve in each and every consecutive life in a process known as reincarnation. Attaining the highest level of perfection possible results in salvation or freedom for the individual to break free of the reincarnation cycle. 

Other religions have similar beliefs, including Buddhism. The difficulty in defining Hinduism in a single sentence or two is that it has been, and it still being, created and developed from a variety of founders. Therefore, Hinduism is not defined by a specific creed or declaration. It's a combination of many teachings, beliefs and traditions. Because of this, Hinduism is different than the religions of Islam or Christianity, which are in essence, monotheistic. 

Following its independence, the first prime minister of India stated that Hinduism was "all things to all men" -- further illustrating that Hinduism in and of itself cannot be specifically defined as one thing or another. 

Throughout this course, in an effort to more specifically define the concepts and belief systems in Hinduism, we will explore various viewpoints when it comes to God, the Veda, Dharma, karma, and the writings of many of the holy books of Hinduism. We'll delve more deeply into the concepts of predestination and reincarnation, and how Hindu traditions developed into the form of religion as it's practiced today. 

Understanding Hindu deities and what place they have in Hindu and Indian society is an important aspect of understanding the Hindu religion. In a sense, Hinduism does not have boundaries. Its edges are often blurred and hard to define. 

The bottom line is that Hinduism as a religion embraces a variety of thoughts, beliefs, rituals and traditions. Hinduism is an ancient religion, and is thought by many to be older than Judaism or Christianity. However, Hinduism as it is practiced today came into being in the 19th century, making it a fairly new concept, but one whose origins dates back centuries. 
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    Course Lessons

    Average Lesson Rating:
    4.8 / 5 Stars (Average Rating)
    "Extraordinarily Helpful"
    (354 votes)

    Lesson 1: What is Hinduism?

    Understanding how Hinduism differs from other world religions, its history, and its basic tenants are introduced in this course. 40 Total Points
    • Review Article: What is Hinduism?
    • Take Poll: Hinduism
    • Take Survey: Reasons for Taking this Course
    • Complete Assignment: An Introduction
    • Complete: Lesson 1 Assignment
    • Complete: Lesson 1 Exam

    Lesson 2: Origins

    In this lesson, we'll offer a brief introduction of Hinduism's history and origins. 35 Total Points
    • Review Article: History of Hinduism
    • Complete: Lesson 2 Assignment
    • Complete: Lesson 2 Exam

    Lesson 3: Indo-Aryan Society

    In this lesson, we'll briefly touched on Indo-Aryan society and how caste systems evolved. 35 Total Points
    • Review Article: Historical Origins of the Caste System
    • Review Video: Aryans invade India
    • Complete: Lesson 3 Assignment
    • Complete: Lesson 3 Exam

    Lesson 4: Focal Points of Hinduism

    In this lesson, we'll offer a very brief introduction into some of the major focal points of Hinduism from a religious perspective. 35 Total Points
    • Review Article: The Vedas
    • Review Video: What is Dharma?
    • Complete: Lesson 4 Assignment
    • Complete: Lesson 4 Exam

    Lesson 5: All About Karma

    Like many different religions, the concept of living a good and moral life offer rewards in the afterlife. 35 Total Points
    • Review Article: The Theory of Karma
    • Complete: Lesson 5 Assignment
    • Complete: Lesson 5 Exam

    Lesson 6: Holy Books of Hinduism

    As in other religions, Hindus rely on the writings, texts, and both written and oral traditions of the founders of Hinduism. 35 Total Points
    • Review 2 Articles: Holy Books of Hinduism; Sacred Texts of Hinduism
    • Review Video: The Vedas Video
    • Complete: Lesson 6 Assignment
    • Complete: Lesson 6 Exam

    Lesson 7: Hindu Deities

    In this lesson, we'll briefly discuss and address the concept of deities in Hinduism, as well as the concept of the infinite Brahman known as Ishvara. 35 Total Points
    • Review 2 Articles: Hindu Deities; Hindu Gods and Goddesses
    • Complete: Lesson 7 Assignment
    • Complete: Lesson 7 Exam

    Lesson 8: Predestination and Reincarnation

    Hindus believe that a soul is born repeatedly and may be reborn in the form of a human, animal, or plant. 35 Total Points
    • Review 2 Articles: Reincarnation; Karma and Reincarnation
    • Take Poll: Reincarnation
    • Complete: Lesson 8 Assignment
    • Complete: Lesson 8 Exam

    Lesson 9. Common Hindu Traditions

    Hinduism is a fluid religion and, as such, a variety of traditions that have been practiced since the origin of the Hindu way of life as a practice have also changed. 35 Total Points
    • Review 2 Articles: Hindu Traditions; The Hindu Way of Life
    • Review Video: Science and Hinduism
    • Complete: Lesson 9 Assignment
    • Complete: Lesson 9 Exam

    Lesson 10: Hinduism and Yoga

    In this lesson, we'll briefly discuss the importance of yoga, and the types of yoga practiced by Hindus around the world in their journey toward striving for more direct communication and spiritual companionship with God. 35 Total Points
    • Review Article: History of Yoga
    • Take Poll: Yoga
    • Complete: Lesson 10 Assignment
    • Complete: Lesson 10 Exam

    Lesson 11. Mantras and Gunas

    Understanding what chanting is, why certain things are chanted, and the meaning of mantras and symbols in Hinduism offers students a greater understanding of why it is done. 35 Total Points
    • Review Article: Mantra Chanting
    • Complete: Lesson 11 Assignment
    • Complete: Lesson 11 Exam

    Lesson 12: Hindu Priests and Temples

    In this lesson, we'll illustrate and offer a brief introduction into the different types of temple styles, why they evolved over time, as well as a brief glimpse into the duties of a temple priest. 35 Total Points
    • Review 2 Articles: The Hindu Temple; Hindu Temples
    • Review Video: Conversation with a Hindu Priest Video
    • Take Poll: Hindu Temple
    • Complete: Lesson 12 Assignment
    • Complete: Lesson 12 Exam

    Lesson 13: Hindu Customs

    In this lesson, we'll introduce various Hindu customs, covering the lifespan of a religious follower from the pre-birth stage all the way until death, and subsequent funeral traditions and customs. 35 Total Points
    • Review Article: Rituals and Practices
    • Complete: Lesson 13 Assignment
    • Complete: Lesson 13 Exam

    Lesson 14: Hindu Festivals

    In this lesson, we'll discuss a selected number of festivals that take place each year. 35 Total Points
    • Review 2 Articles: Hindu Festivals; Festivals of Hinduism
    • Complete: Lesson 14 Assignment
    • Complete: Lesson 14 Exam

    Lesson 15: Hindu Women in Society

    In this lesson, we'll discuss the reverence accorded to Hindu women in the early centuries of Indo-Aryan development, and conclude our lesson with brief profiles of women throughout India, ancient and modern. 35 Total Points
    • Review 2 Articles: Women in Hinduism; The Status of Women
    • Complete: Lesson 15 Assignment
    • Complete: Lesson 15 Exam

    Lesson 16: Hindu Foods

    In this lesson, we will discuss Hindu foods and how they are regarded in a spiritual sense, as well as how those of the Hindu faith eat on a daily basis. 35 Total Points
    • Review 2 Articles: Dietary Customs; Hinduism and Food
    • Review Video: How to Cook Hindu Foods
    • Complete: Lesson 16 Assignment
    • Complete: Lesson 16 Exam

    Lesson 17: Hinduism in the 21st Century

    In this lesson nearing the end of this basic introductory course on Hinduism, we'll discuss how Hinduism is practiced in the 21st century. 35 Total Points
    • Complete: Lesson 17 Assignment
    • Complete: Lesson 17 Exam

    Lesson 18: Striving for Harmony and Peace

    One of the most important aspects of Hinduism is tolerance, acceptance, and harmony. 125 Total Points
    • Review Article: Hinduism and War
    • Complete: Lesson 18 Assignment
    • Complete: Lesson 18 Exam
    • Complete: The Final Exam

    Bibliography and Online Resources

    Bibliography and Online Resources 0 Total Points
    • Review 2 Articles: Hinduism; Hinduism Resources
    • Take Poll: End of Course Poll
    • Take Survey: Program Evaluation Follow-up Survey (End of Course)
    Total Course Points

    Learning Outcomes

    By successfully completing this course, students will be able to:
    • Define Hinduism is.
    • Describe origins of Hinduism.
    • Describe Indo-Aryan Society.
    • Describe Focal Points of Hinduism.
    • Recognize and define karma.
    • Summarize Holy Books of Hinduism.
    • Summarize Hindu Deities.
    • Describe predestination and reincarnation.
    • Describe common Hindu traditions.
    • Describe Hinduism and yoga.
    • Describe mantras and gunas.
    • Summarize Hindu priests and temples.
    • Describe Hindu customs.
    • Summarize Hindu festivals.
    • Describe Hindu women in society.
    • Identify Hindu foods.
    • Summarize Hinduism in the 21st century, and
    • Demonstrate mastery of lesson content at levels of 70% or higher.

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    Course Title: Hinduism 101: An Introduction
    Course Number: 7550557
    Course Requirements: View Course Requirements
    Lessons Rating: 4.8 / 5 Stars (354 votes)
    Languages: English - United States, Canada and other English speaking countries
    Course Type: General Education (Self-Paced, Online Class)
    CEU Value: 0.9 IACET CEUs (Continuing Education Units)
    CE Accreditation: Universal Class, Inc. has been accredited as an Authorized Provider by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET).
    Grading Policy: Earn a final grade of 70% or higher to receive an online/downloadable CEU Certification documenting CEUs earned.
    Assessment Method: Lesson assignments and review exams
    Instructor: C. Michael McKenna
    Syllabus: View Syllabus
    Duration: Continuous: Enroll anytime!
    Course Fee: $65.00 (no CEU Certification) || with Online CEU Certification: $90.00

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