Hinduism does not have an official set of beliefs. There really is no official creed of Hinduism. Instead, Hinduism is a quite diverse set of various religious beliefs, traditions, and practices. Surpisingly to some, Hinduism is not necessarily a religion that is even characterized by belief, but it can perhaps better be described by rituals, traditions, and practices. Nevertheless, in an attempt to make sense of the broadness of Hinduism, many Hindus would accept the following basic notions:
A Summary of Some Beliefs in Hinduism
Brahman: One Supreme Impersonal Reality named Brahman. Brahman is the source of all things. It is impersonal, eternal, and beyond all human comprehension.
The Atman/Brahman Unity: Most adherents of Hinduism believe that in their true selves (atman) they are extended from and one with Brahman. Hindus explain their notion of unity with Brahman with the analogy of air inside a jar. Just as the air inside the jar is identical to the air outside the jar, so our essence is identical to that of Brahman. This is explained in the phrase Tat tvam asi, “That thou art.”
Scripture: Hindus believe in the truthfulness of the four Vedas, but this does not mean that a Hindu must regard them as literally true or practice everything that is taught within them.1 Many of them also accept the Upanishads and other Hindu writings.
Cyclical View of Time: "Hindus believe that the universe undergoes endless cycles of creation, preservation and dissolution."2 This is one of the bedrock differences between Hinduism which is an Eastern mode of thinking compared with Western modes of thinking. In the west, many of us view the world is linear which is constent with a Judeo-Christian view of the world. Hinduism, on the other hand has a cyclical view of time where "the universe undergoes endless cycles of creation, preservation and dissolution."3
Karma: According to Hinduism, our primary problem is that we are ignorant of our own divine nature. We have forgotten that we are extended from Brahman and we have attached ourselves to the desires of our separate selves, or egos.4 As a result of the ego’s attachments to its desires and individualistic existence, humans have been subject to the law of karma. The law of karma essentially is the moral equivalent to the natural law of cause and effect. It basically says that we reap what we sow. However, our actions not only affect us in the present lifetime, but from lifetimes to lifetimes, which is why there is reincarnation.
Samsara: In light of Karma, Hindus believe that humans are in samsara which basically means suffering. This suffering is caused by people needing to work of bad karma and after many reincarnations or transmigrations, such an person would reach moksha or liberation.
Moksha: Many Hindus believe that one can achieve liberation or enlightenment (moksha) through working off the bad karma that one has incurred from previous lives. Many Hindus believe that all will eventually achieve moksha.
Gods and Goddesses: Many Hindus believe in the existence and reality of various gods and goddesses and that these beings can be appeased through various rituals in the temple or in other places.
Enlightened Masters: Many Hindus accept some form of various enlightened Masters, avatars, or other individuals who can serve as guides to faithful Hindus. These wise individuals serve as examples and provide wisdom to those who want to achieve moksha or enlightenment from the suffering of Samsara.
Ahimsa: Ahimsa means nonviolence to life. Hindus have great respect for all life forms and seek to cause the least amount of harm as possible. This applies not just to humans, but also to animals.
No One True Religion: Hindus believe that there are many paths to God. There is not one true religion or one right way to find Brahman.
Other Beliefs of Hinduism
The Caste System: Originally, Hinduism had some form of the Caste system in which there were four classes and also a number of sub castes (called jati). Members from each class were forbidden to marry one another. While Buddhism and Jainism have much in common with Hinduism, since they denounce the caste system, they are not Hindu. However, the Caste System has been outlawed in India. Nevertheless,, many of the ingrained ideas in the Caste System are hard to remove.