Online Class: Hinduism 101 — An Introduction
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.
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.
Lesson 1: What is Hinduism?Understanding how Hinduism differs from other world religions, its history, and its basic tenants are introduced in this course.
Lesson 2: OriginsIn this lesson, we'll offer a brief introduction of Hinduism's history and origins.
Lesson 3: Indo-Aryan SocietyIn this lesson, we'll briefly touched on Indo-Aryan society and how caste systems evolved.
Lesson 4: Focal Points of HinduismIn this lesson, we'll offer a very brief introduction into some of the major focal points of Hinduism from a religious perspective.
Lesson 5: All About KarmaLike many different religions, the concept of living a good and moral life offer rewards in the afterlife.
Lesson 6: Holy Books of HinduismAs in other religions, Hindus rely on the writings, texts, and both written and oral traditions of the founders of Hinduism.
Lesson 7: Hindu DeitiesIn 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.
Lesson 8: Predestination and ReincarnationHindus believe that a soul is born repeatedly and may be reborn in the form of a human, animal, or plant.
Lesson 9. Common Hindu TraditionsHinduism 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.
Lesson 10: Hinduism and YogaIn 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.
Lesson 11. Mantras and GunasUnderstanding 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.
Lesson 12: Hindu Priests and TemplesIn 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.
Lesson 13: Hindu CustomsIn 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.
Lesson 14: Hindu FestivalsIn this lesson, we'll discuss a selected number of festivals that take place each year.
Lesson 15: Hindu Women in SocietyIn 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.
Lesson 16: Hindu FoodsIn 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.
Lesson 17: Hinduism in the 21st CenturyIn this lesson nearing the end of this basic introductory course on Hinduism, we'll discuss how Hinduism is practiced in the 21st century.
Lesson 18: Striving for Harmony and PeaceOne of the most important aspects of Hinduism is tolerance, acceptance, and harmony.
Bibliography and Online ResourcesBibliography and Online Resources
- 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.
- Demonstrate mastery of lesson content at levels of 70% or higher.
Additional Course Information
- Document Your Lifelong Learning Achievements
- Earn an Official Certificate Documenting Course Hours and CEUs
- Verify Your Certificate with a Unique Serial Number Online
- View and Share Your Certificate Online or Download/Print as PDF
- Display Your Certificate on Your Resume and Promote Your Achievements Using Social Media
- "Mac is an amazing instructor. He is always available and always positive comments and when I don't quite understand something, he is very patient in explaining it so that it is easily understood." -- Diana C.
- "Thanks. I had wanted to learn more about Hinduism and this course gave me the information I needed about the religion and culture. I understand karma and the different types of religious practices much better now. Great course." -- Tama V.
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