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Hinduism is commonly thought of as a religion, but this is an inaccuracy, it is a Way in which most of the people of India who are not Muslim live. Some say those belonging to sects such as Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism, plus various schools including tantra and bhakti, do not belong to the Way of Hinduism. This also is partially inaccurate if one considers those sects as daughters or offshoots of Hinduism. Taken as a whole, Hinduism comprises some fifty percent of the earth's people.
No definition or category defines Hinduism since it is said to be a combination of religious beliefs, rites, customs, and daily practices, many of which appear overtly secular but in most instances have religious origins and sanctions. Because of this Hinduism is the only one of the major beliefs that cannot be defined; therefore it is called the Way.
Although Hinduism cannot be defined, it must be described, which is also a difficult task. Hinduism is primordial, it always was. Hinduism appears to have been present in all ages of time, whether fact or myth seems irrelevant. Historical figures blend into gods that have descended to earth. Semi-historical personages, shadowy and elusive, later appear in ancient epics. The reality between fact and imagination is completely obliterated. And, from this huge historical and imaginary transformation has come a work of unimagined beauty that not only can unite man with Supreme Divinity but also with his immortal Self.
Some of the historical highlights of Hinduism have been pieced together. This was accomplished through the fusion of two major elements, one the "Dravidian" strata of prehistory, on archaic folk levels often of the most primitive, which were traced, some by informed guesses, back some five thousand years, before which all is immersed in primordial mists; and the second from the Vedic-Aryan overlays, around thirty-five hundred years in age.
The information concerning the periods of the "Dravidian" layers, comes largely from excavations of cities in the Indus Valley. Here was discovered a civilization of unsuspected complexities and depths, highly structured and formalized, and religious in nature, centered on a parallel worship of a Great Mother and a yogi-like god who is equated with the Lord Shiva. Also identified were cults of water, trees, the sun, snakes, animals, and other aspects of nature. Another mysterious element, which was long lost and defying analysis and explanation, was found, that of a Sacred Unicorn, baffling, mysterious, male that had a important role in Indus life of which cannot even be surmised.
The second major force promoting Hinduism was the invasion of the Vedic Aryans, nomadic warriors, who invaded India during the second millennium before Christ and settled in Punjab. The Aryans compiled the Vedas between 1000 BC and 500 BC, making them the oldest extant religious literature in the world and the oldest work of literature in an Indio-European language. The Vedas are divided into four books, the oldest of which is the Rig Veda. The books essentially serve as manuals for priests in the use of hymns, prayers, magical rites and spells, and meditational practices during Aryan sacrificial rituals. The Vedas recognized gods who were great supernatural forces of nature and the phenomena in which the powers manifested. The gods lacked the power to help human beings in their spiritual striving.
Although the Vedic literature is Aryan, it contains various non-Aryan elements too, some from as far away as the South Pacific. The material describes a culture that is conquering fearless, mostly "white" military aristocratic, worshiping a pantheon of male gods, which overran and subjugated swarms of "primitive" savages. Since this is the only surviving literature, the picture is complete Aryan of the territory that they controlled.
The picture that depicted the supremacy of the Aryan gods, Indra, Agni, Soma, Rudra, Vasyu, etc., and the dominance of the Aryan ritualism, which centered around the twin concepts of sacrifice that included both animals and humans, and of the sacrificial fire that had to be tended with exemplary detail and care, was superficial. The real picture was quite different when it was put in perspective. It was only after the discoveries from the excavations of the 1920s, when the Indus cities were laid bare, that the real composition of the aggregated culture was revealed. That revelation showed that even though the Aryan presence was strong the pre-Aryan cultural elements intermingled with it.
The augmented culture occurred because the Aryans eventually imposed a semi-racist slavery upon the Dravidians, the Austro-Asiatic and Mongoloid people, virtually all who were dark-skinned or yellow. However, even with such slavery, there was much intermingling that allowed pre-Aryan beliefs to be absorbed into the Aryan strata. Even though the conquered remained the workers, lower artisans, and drudges there were sexual liaisons and even marriages where dark-skinned women taught their older beliefs to their children. Another way in which the races mixed was through the process of being "twice-born"; this was the adoption of non-Aryan leaders, chiefs, kings, and priests.
Most teachings of Hinduism are embodied in the Vedas and other literature. Within this article there are links to some of these works as well as other aspects of Hinduism, other aspects may be found in this encyclopedia's Hinduism section. Contained in the articles of this section will be descriptions of the different aspects of the subject. Since previously stating that Hinduism cannot be defined this seems the most practical approach. Hinduism is presented because it has developed many mystics and yoga techniques, and not to mention many occultists were interested in it.
In summary, it can be said that the primary goal of the Hindu mystic is to escape selfhood. All individuals are bound in samsara, a bondage that is viewed as being characterized by misery and suffering. Samsara is determined by karma, the cause and effect of desire. Remaining in the bondage of samsara prevents one from knowing Brahman. The one way to obtain liberation from this cycle is to attain union with Brahman by being emptied of all sense of self-realization.
From this short paragraph a connection between Hinduism and the occult
can be readily recognized. One does not need be a mystic to recognize the
benefits that can serve in individual, whether an occultist or not. Many
persons interested in the occult sciences want to abandon the self at times,
which alone would substantiate a relative interest in Hinduism. This would
include the yoga and meditation practices which the Way of Hinduism has
Guiley, Rosemary Ellen, Harper's Encyclopedia of Mystical
and Paranormal Experience, New York: HarperCollins, 1991, pp. 263-265
Rice, Edward, Eastern Definitions: A Short Encyclopedia of Religions of the Orient, Garden City, New York, Doubleday, 1978, pp. 166-171