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Hindu Heritage Study Program
 
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Principles and Practice of Hindu Dharma
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-HR 201.01
A Comprehensive Study of the Ancient Tradition and the Perennial Philosophy
The Principles of Hindu Faith - an Overview of Chapters II to VII
-~ Level - 2 ~
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Lesson - 15:
Smrithis, Dharma Sãstras and Spiritual Discipline
Practice of Faith through Rituals and Prayers
Please see below
for Lesson - 66
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Vedas, Agamas and the Bhakthi pathways explain many rituals and methods of offering prayers to the Divine, one of their forces or manifestations. Hinduism is often mistaken as following polytheism or worshipping multiple Gods or as practicing henotheism or worshipping One God as the superior at one ritual and another one at another ritual. Contrary to this, as we follow the rituals, it will be clear that all rituals in many forms are for the same Brahmam. "Like the rain water from the sky falls and flows to the same ocean, let all my prayers in every direction reach the same almighty."

These are some of the popular words studied and recited by every devotee to explain "One God in many forms". Kanchi Paramacharya says: Rituals, prayers and mythology are important vehicles to hold the faith strong, to support and carry our thoughts, as fire, utensil and water are all needed to cook rice suitable as food, though rice is the only essential material.

In Karma Yoga, one is explained the need for doing all activity with devotion as an offering to God and not for pleasure or personal benefit and not to look for the fruits of such action. Performance of action with desire for profit is inferior as it will cause grief. Actions that cause harm to others or borne out of greed or lust are to be avoided. Hindus believe in Jyothisha, a book on astrology, and that planets and stars guide and affect the individuals and family.

The Smrithis and other texts establish the normal conduct, ethics and customs. Every person is given certain duties according to their age, personal qualification, ambition, past actions and certain inborn qualities. These traditions have considerably changed with the changes in cultural practice and social interaction with other religious groups. It may appear slightly different in various families and language groups and communities. The essence of the faith in this practice remains the same.

 
     
     
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Lesson - 16 :
Practice of the Faith and Dharma as a Way of Life
Hindu Rituals Performed to create a Spiritual Discipline
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Rituals at the Temple and at home are given in the Vedas and Agamas. Hinduism prescribes several rituals for many occasions based on days, Stars and phase of the Moon. Every one needs to perform certain Karmas and rituals as part of their daily duties to the family, to the community, to animals, to ancestors and to God. They are called "Runa" and "Nithya Karma".

At home, rituals are conducted for birth, stages of life, first feeding, starting of education, starting of religious study, for marriage and during pregnancy for the child. Funeral rituals and annual rites are conducted for the departed souls.Many other rituals are conducted based on star positions and New Moon days. The offerings are given in front of Fire or water in a temporarily prepared area in the house or in a community hall or river bank. Often the rituals are mixed with the Devotional styles of practice.

Vedic prayers are recited by priests and the person performing the service. Offerings [such as food, cloth, coconut, clarified butter, fruits] are put into Fire as a sacrifice offered to the celestial forces, called Devas, often mistaken by outsiders as "many gods". In addition to these rituals, devotional prayers are also conducted to various images of a personal God in any of His manifestations, called Ishta Devatha.

It is believed that a person should get proper knowledge and training from a religious teacher or Guru before he or she can get the rights or "Adhikara" to perform these prayers. In these rituals, God in one of His forms is invited as a guest to the house, honored with a ceremonial bath and washing of feet. Then He is offered dress, sandal paste, jewelry and food and then prayers are recited in praise of him. In the Temples, the deity is ceremonially installed and these prayers are offered every day.

 
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Then the common question asked: "Is Hindu Dharma just a way of life and not a religion in the true sense?" The answer is more complicated "Yes and No". It is a way of life with rich traditions and customs and strict ethics for living. At the same time it is a Dharma giving a moral code for daily activities; a Philosophy taught through the Vedanthas and Upanishads; a set of Theological Rituals taught through the Vedas; and a set of Religious beliefs and practice of varying kinds taught throuh the Puranas and Bhakthi paths of Devotion as taught by the Acharyas or teachers.
 
 
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Chapter - 1 : An Introduction and Overview of Hinduism - Lessons 3 & 4
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Go to Lessons: - :~: 01 & 02 :~: 03 & 04 :~: 05 & 06 :~: 07 & 08 :~: 09 & 10 :~: 11 & 12 :~: 13 & 14 :~: 15 & 16 .
 
 
End of Chapter - 1 :~: Go to Chapter - 2 :- The Essentials of the Hindu Traditions
 
 
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