Indigenous Indian Religions

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Indigenous Indian Religions

Indigenous Indian Religions


The two indigenous Indian religions I have selected for comparative study is Hinduism and Buddhism. The discussion conducted below is based on the theme of Living and Death.


Hinduism teaches that any attempt to find permanent happiness in this world is maya (an illusion). Hindus believe that a person's atman (spirit) is permanent and cannot change while the physical body is not permanent and can change. The atman is reborn many times, this is samsara (reincarnation) (Mullin, 1986).

Death is a natural event so that the atman can move nearer the ultimate release from rebirth, moksha. Each group in society (varna) has its own dharma or duties which must be followed. The speed with which a person can be freed from samsara is dependent on karma, which is the law of cause and effect which teaches that all actions have corresponding results. The following terms are important (Nagapriya, 2004):

Samchita karma - the karma from previous lives

Paapa - sinful actions in the past; these can cause suffering

Agami karma - the actions which are performed in the present life and which go on to affect the future.

When the atman finally reaches moksha it can rest. Because of this teaching, any attempt to shorten life such as suicide or euthanasia is unacceptable. This would be samchita karma. It is a popular belief among Hindus that they reincarnate after their death.

Vedas and Reincarnation

Let's consider Rigveda 1.4.10-8:O Spirit of the dead! Go to the highest heaven and meet with Yama and your ancestors. Carry with you only the good Karmas leaving behind the bad. Seek a body and a new home (reincarnate), and a life of glory.

Brahmajnana and Reincarnation

If we take the literal meaning of the above mantra it means that Yama is the Hindu god of death and according to Vedas we Reincarnate. Yama is the god of compulsion and the most powerful and least controllable Hindu god for actions. Many of the actions executed with Yama force get abolished, to prevent adverse effect on other actions. The mantra is about such 'dead' actions. 'Ancestors' refers to previous attempts of the action that got abolished.

Karma is the facilitating/ retarding force associated with actions

If the dead action is associated with retarding force only, it would god to hell (get abolished irreversibly). If it is associated with facilitating force then the dead action would be re-executed after some modifications (Reincarnation). (Mullin, 1986)

Yama and Death

Yama was the god of justice (Yamadharma). This means that Yama force is the most difficult to control and we what we do must be acceptable to all. However, more often than not, use of Yama resulted in disasters. Therefore, Yama was made the god of death. Death here refers to actions that got abolished and not to our death.

The Belief in Reincarnation

We believe in reincarnation because we take the literal meaning of Hindu scriptures. We use reasoning instead of logic. We consider life part by part and not as a ...
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