Hinduism is perhaps the world’s oldest religion and in many of its writings ahimsa-nonviolence has been considered the highest duty of the followers from the beginning of time. Jainism and Buddhism that grew out of Hinduism also believe that people should strive to practice ahimsa as an essential step on the way to personal salvation.
Hinduism is the only religion, which is not founded on a single historic event, person, prophet or god. It precedes recorded history and many consider it is the cradle of spirituality or the mother of all religions. It has influenced every major religion and it has absorbed all other streams, honoring their scriptures, their saints and their thinking.
It gave birth to Buddhism, and many feel Buddha was born and died a good Hindu. There are scholars who believe it also gave birth to other religions of the East, like Taoism, Jainism, Sikhism and others.
It does not exist outside the mind. Hindus can understand, acknowledge, accept and love all religious people. The Hindu does not believe that only one religion paves the way for salvation. All religions reflect truth. Naturally, a Hindu feels that his faith is the broadest. Hinduism believes all the religions of the world are expressions of the one Eternal Path.
Still, Hinduism is extremely adamant in some of its beliefs. It does not compromise on its doctrines of karma and reincarnation or rebirths. It does not demand of any soul perfection in this life as belief in reincarnation gives the Hindu acceptance of any level of life. One will be reborn until one’s karma is washed away and the soul merges with the Eternal Being. Many people in the world today, whether they call themselves religious or not, are not coming to terms with this concept.
It is also one of more experience than of doctrine. There is no strict dogma or commandment. It tells its followers: this is the nature of truth, and these are the means by which that Truth may be realized. It shows traditions which have withstood time and proved very effective. Now you may test them in your own life or prove them to yourself. The scriptures like the Vedas,written thousands of years ago and the great saints and seers explain how we should live.
Hinduism is so broad: there is a place in it for the insane and for the saint, for the beggar and the rich, for the believer and non-believer. There is a place for the intelligent person and plenty of room for the fool.
Unlike Buddhism, Hinduism is a theistic religion. People believe in gods and semi-gods and different sects worship different gods. Many say there are millions of Gods in Hinduism although only a few major Deities are worshiped in the temples. Monkeys, snakes, stones and trees are all also worshiped as parts of God. Everything is a manifestation of the Underlying Principle. Everything is one. Everything is contained in the Absolute Brahma. There is no duality. It is an illusion that one does not realize this truth.
Hinduism has a grand diversity among its many sects and many feel the diversity is itself a strength. These various sects and divisions are springing from the same source. There is no person or spiritual authority that stands between man and God. Essentially you are God himself. Hinduism is unique because God and man, mind and God, can merge as one.
Hinduism, also called Sanatana Dharma, is very different from the western religions. It is a code of ethics, a way of living through which one may achieve moksha (enlightenment, liberation). The end of the birth-death-rebirth cycle is the ultimate goal of life in Hinduism. This is how one attains moksha- a life of perfect bliss- by total release from the attachments to worldly possessions and desires and merging with the Eternal. The Hindu concept of moksha is very similar to the Buddhist concept of nirvana
Sanatana shows it is an eternal path, without beginning or end. It is an all- pervading truth. Dharma stands for righteousness, compassion, morality, truth, teachings and tradition. Hinduism is more experience based rather than belief based. It is more introspective.
There are nearly a billion Hindus in the world today. That's roughly four times the population of the entire United States. Every sixth person on the planet is a Hindu and there are temples in Europe, in North and South America, Australia, Africa and throughout Southeast Asia.