#1 Do Hindus Believe in Reincarnation?

Sometimes referred to as ‘the oldest religion,’ – Hinduism dates back to approximately 1500 B.C., but the precise date is still known.

As the third largest religion in the world, the denomination of Hinduism teaches sacred lessons of becoming one with Brahman (the highest priesthood and caste). Within this freedom of oneness, reincarnation is a central tenet and cycle to the denomination.

Signifying that life does not end with the singular physical body, reincarnation, moving from body to body with the same fundamental spirit, is destined to repeat itself until one’s lessons have been authentically learned.

Two important terms within the concept of reincarnation inclue:

  1. Atman is the first principal of one’s true self, this is the purest part of one’s soul that will travel to different forms and bodies.
  2. Jiva is the Atman plus body.

The subtle body (the mind and intellect) will be carried without the less-crucial form of the body.

In theory, if a person is:

  • Not breaking free of their patterns in each lifetime
  • Not changing their karma

(Or)

  • Not growing into a more pure atman –

Then a soul will continue to move in a cyclical-motion through multiple bodies for eternity until the cycle has been broken. A life is said to last up to 84,000 lifetimes in some Hindi sects.

The BBC describes:

“Reincarnation and karma are elements of Hinduism, Sikhism and of course Buddhism – the Dalai Lama is probably the world’s most famous reincarnated person. For followers of those religions, the concepts help explain the problem of suffering. They are about cause and effect – your actions in the current life being stored and having a consequence spiritually in the next.”

The final destination of reincarnation is to achieve Brahman.

Brahman is the final destination of one’s soul through different bodies in Reincarnation, and reaching Brahman is seen as a peaceful exodus from earth-bound suffering.

Reincarnation – Medium

TheHindu.com writes of Reaching Brahman:

“Once he is told the right direction that he has to take to reach his destination, then he can make this journey alone… But when does a person reach Brahman?

Only when he exists outside of the body can he reach Brahman.

Once he has served out the effects of his karma, his soul leaves his body.”

To explain this more richly, if one’s karma is terrible due to malicious behavior in past lives, their karma may be to serve out a penance to suffer in the way he has caused suffering;  However, if someone served a benevolent life, they should experience significantly more gentleness and forgiveness from the justice-seeking entity of karma.

According to karma, “what you have done, you become,” and the sum of one’s actions in previous states will determine their state in future existences.

The goals are to:

  1. Clear one’s karma.
  2. Stop the pattern of reincarnation by breaking free of self-defeating patterns.
  3. Break the cycle and leave the body once and for all.

In the external realm, as well as the physical realm on earth, the soul must travel and learn about it’s own karma. Reincarnation is often referred to within the spirituality as samsara, and since the goal of samsara is not to prove one’s worthiness to any singular God, Hindis are prescribed with the unique goal of finding balance in reincarnation, eventually being freed of the perpetual nature of it’s sentence, and cyclical motion that binds one’s soul to earth’s suffering.

Related Scripture(s):

“The purpose of a human life was to recognize one’s higher self (the Atman) and perform the dharma (duty) one had been given with the proper karma (action) in order to free one’s self from the cycle of rebirth and death (samsara) which was characterized by the suffering and loss one experienced in the physical world. Once an individual had broken these bonds, that person’s Atman returned to Brahman and eternal peace.”

Related Video(s):

#2 Do Hindus Worship Cows?

Hindus do not worship cows; however, they do consider them to be sacred animals that should be protected, revered, and not eaten.

With 25%-35% of the Hindu population being vegetarian, some will participate in a Lacto-vegetarianism diet (incorporating milk-based food but not meat and eggs). In contrast, others will consume certain meats like fish, chicken, and lamb.

There is no official rule within the denomination that requires a disciple to be vegetarian, but most derive their own meaning from the major pillar of the religion to never do harm to others.

The U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institutions of Health reports in their 2020 study on cultured meat:

“Many Hindus interpret ahimsā, the principle of nonviolence, as requiring vegetarianism, although this is not explicit in Hindu texts (Dudek, 2013). The focus on nonviolence means that vegetarian Hindus are likely to see cultured meat as a way of avoiding harming animals, and some may decide it is permissible to eat. Some have suggested that cultured beef is unlikely to be accepted in Hinduism because cows are considered sacred (Mattick et al., 2015).

Table 3.

Percentage of Hindus who eat/would eat each species of meat (data from Bryant et al., 2019)

Hinduism (n = 730)
Currently eat, %Find cultured meat appealing, %Difference, %
Beef18.218.9+0.7
Poultry67.568.1+0.6
Pork18.519.6+1.1
Lamb/Goat61.464.4+3.0
    

Again, survey data appear to confirm this. Of 730 Hindus in the dataset, 65% would eat cultured goat and 68% would eat cultured chicken, but only 20% would eat cultured pork and 19% would eat cultured beef (Bryant et al., 2019). Interestingly, Hindus were the only religious group who were overall more willing to eat cultured meat than conventional meat for all relevant species, perhaps highlighting the motivation to avoid harming animals. Notably, just 24% of the Hindus in this dataset were vegetarian, again marking a departure from the diets we might expect in this religious group.”

Kamadhenu

Related Scripture(s)/Resource(s):

  • She is known as KamdhenuKamadhenu (kama-dhenu, ‘wish-cow’), was a miraculous cow of plenty who could give her owner whatever he desired. She was sometimes said to be the daughter of Daksha, and the wife of the rishi Kasyapa. Kamadhenu appeared on earth as one of the precious things that were brought to light in the Churning of the Ocean.”

Related Video(s):

#3 Do Hindus Drink Alcohol?

Although Hinduism discourages drinking alcohol in many sects, other Hindi sects do not.

There is a divide in the religion on this issue.

With many areas of India that have created legal reinforcement around the consumption of alcohol, (including the areas of:

  • Bihar
  • Gujarat
  • Mizoram
  • Nagaland
  • Lakshadweep
  • And partial-bans in areas like Manipur) –

The controversy comes from the fact that there is no explicit law in the Vedas or any other spiritual text, but related Eastern religions find drinking to be sinful and dangerous.

In a comparative study done on ‘The Drinking Habits of Sikh, Hindu, Muslim, and White Men, they found:

“Men born in India but living in Britain have higher than expected treated prevalence rates of alcohol-related disorders. A community survey of random samples of 200 each of Sikh, Muslim and Hindu men and 200 white English-born men, matched for age, were interviewed using a structural questionnaire containing a retrospective drinking diary.

Sikhs were most likely to be regular drinkers followed by whites and Hindus. The very few Muslim men who drank consumed the most alcohol on average. The frequently reported pattern of an inverse relationship between drinking and age was found for white men but not among Sikhs and Hindus. In both these groups older men reported consuming more alcohol than did young men. However, age was confounded with generation: heavier levels of consumption were reported by Sikhs and Hindus born in India than by Sikhs and Hindus born in Britain. Among regular drinkers Sikhs had higher average Alcohol Problem Scale Scores than did white men or Hindus.

The highest average scores were recorded for the (few) Muslim regular drinkers (who also consumed the most alcohol). A clear association with religious observance was found for all three Asian groups and for the white men. No religious Muslims drank at all, and a relatively small proportion of the other groups who were regular church/Temple attenders drank regularly.”

Despite the fact that Hindus come third place, only ranking after caucasions and Sikhs to be ‘regular drinkers,’ this is not what the spiritual leaders of Hinduism promote nor encourage. ThePanchamahA PAthaka (The Five Great Sins)outlines that the mistakes detrimental to one’s soul include:

  1. Murder
  2. Theft
  3. Cruelty
  4. Drinking
  5. Copulation with a married woman

Within this cultural divide, some would prescribe levels to the sinful-ness of different classifications of liquor, sometimes being labeled as:

  • Paishtikam – most alcohols
  • Thaalajam – toddy
  • Kairavam – toddy sourced from coconut
  • Madhukam – liquors sourced from honey and/or grapes
  • Gudasambandha – liquors sourced from sugarcane

Women may be allowed to consume some of the sweeter classifications of liquor. Still, there are more rules around the notion of women consuming alcohol, especially during the times when they are unmarried, waiting for their husband’s return, or while menstruating.

Some social stigmas and regulations developed by Hindi leaders include:

  • Piashtikam is the worst
  • Gudasambandha is the weakest and least sinful
  • Varnas must not consume paishtikam
  • Brahmins must not consume any liquors
  • Shudras must avoid paishtikam and thaalajam
  • Kshatriyas must avoid paishtikam and thaalajam
  • Vaishyas must avoid paishtikam, thaalajam, and kairavam
India TV News

Related Scripture(s)/Resource(s):

The medical branch of Hindu dharma, contains clearly defined views on the use alcohol. Ayurveda uses alcohol as a solvent for extracting the active ingredients of certain herbs. Tinctures are used in western herbalism in the same way. Ayurveda also prepares special herbal wines called asavas and arishtas. Herbal wines are regarded as particularly good medicines to take for a weak digestion and as relaxants for stress.

Ayurveda recognizes that certain alcoholic beverages (like wine) can have health benefits, like improving digestion or circulation, but only taken in moderation.

Ayurveda also recognizes that excessive alcohol consumption can cause or contribute to physical or psychological diseases. Excess alcohol can damage the liver, make the blood toxic, and overheat the brain. Alcohol can impair our mental judgment as well as our sensory coordination. For those engaged in study, like students and college, alcohol can weaken one’s concentration and ability to learn.”

Related Video(s):

#4 Do Hindus Believe in Heaven?

With a different interpretation of the afterlife than the Christian terminus of Heaven, Hindus believe in a variety of dogmas that build upon one another to create the story of their spiritual transcendence.

Some terms related to death and heaven worth comprehension are:

  • Samsara – The cycle of life and death, occurring as reincarnation in a continuous loop until one can break the pattern and free the soul of human form. Some schools of thought in Hinduism believe that the life can travel for up to 84,000 lifetimes.
  • Moksha – The final goal of breaking the cycle to achieve spiritual liberation; when one may rest from this world.
  • Svarga Loka The closest thing to Heaven in the Hinduism faith. Also known as Swarga or Swah, this is one of seven esoteric planes in Hinduism; a heavenly world located on and above Mt. Meru, a paradise where Gods live. A place where the soul will be returned to for rest and peace after accomplishing what journeys one’s soul must complete.  
  • Brahman – Highest God, father of all fathers, also known as Shiva Allah Yehova.
  • Shiva – The fifth manifestation and form of Brahman,
  • Brahmaloka – Considered the highest level a soul can be transient within, similar to the status of Christian Heaven.

Some consider meditating effectively as a form of enlightenment, and earthly Heaven. But most Hindus are focused on detaching from the material world to break the loop of reincarnation.

This liberation is the Hindu version of Heaven.

Since the goal of spiritual enlightenment is less about ‘caring for thy neighbor’ such as in the Christian faith,and more focused on detaching oneself from:

  • Worldly materials
  • Superficial pleasures

(And)

  • External factors that leave the soul hollow and empty – 

One may ascend the levels of the universe and reach Brahman only by becoming desireless.

Moksha

Related Scripture(s)/Resource(s):

According to Ramakrishna.org on The Ideas of Heaven and Hell in:

“Hindu Puranas, there are fourteen worlds in the universe – the seven upper and the seven lower. The seven upper worlds are Bhuh, Bhavah, Swah, Mahah, Janah. Tapah, and Satyam; and the seven nether worlds are Atala, Vitala, Sutala, Rasatala, Talatala, Mahatala, and Patala.

The region known as Bhuh is the earth where we dwell, while Swah is the celestial world to which people repair after death to enjoy the reward of their righteous actions on earth. Bhuvah is the region between the two. Janah, Tapah, and Satyam constitute Brahmaloka, or the highest Heaven, where fortunate souls repair after death and enjoy spiritual communion with the personal God, and at the end of the cycle attain liberation, though a few return to earth again. The world of Mahah is located between Brahmaloka and Bhuh, Bhuuah, and Swah. Patala, the lowest of the seven nether worlds, is the realm where wicked souls sojourn after death and reap the results of their unrighteous actions on earth.

Thus, from the viewpoint of Hinduism, Heaven and hell are merely different worlds, bound by time, space, and causality. According to Hinduism, desires are responsible for a person’s embodiment. Some of these desires can best be fulfilled in a human body, and some in an animal or a celestial body. Accordingly, a soul assumes a body determined by its unfulfilled desires and the results of its past actions. An animal or a celestial body is for reaping the results of past karma, not for performing actions to acquire a new body.

Performance of karma to effect any change of life is possible only in a human body, because only human beings do good or evil consciously. Human birth is therefore a great privilege, for in a human body alone can one attain the supreme goal of life. Thus, in search of eternal happiness and immortality, the apparent soul is born again and again in different bodies, only to discover in the end that immortality can never be attained through fulfillment of desires. The soul then practices discrimination between the real and the unreal, attains desirelessness, and finally realizes its immortal nature. Affirming this fact, the Katha Upanishad says: “When all the desires that dwell in the heart fall away, then the mortal becomes immortal and here attains Brahman.”

Related Video(s):

“Salvation is not from scriptural knowledge; it is from the experiential Gnan (Knowledge). The experience of Gnan can only be obtained from the Gnani Purush (Self-Realized one), who is the embodiment of absolute experience of the Self. Scriptures do not point out our mistakes, they address everyone in a common format. Does a picture of a lamp give light? The limitation of scriptures is like that of a drawing of a lamp. True light can only be given by a Gnani, who is the enlightened lamp!’

What do you do in moksha?

Once you have attained liberation and gone to Siddha Kshetra (the permanent abode of absolutely liberated Souls), you remain in the infinite bliss of the Self while being the Knower and Seer of the whole universe including the plane of existence of humans, animals, plants, and other life-forms, celestial world and the realm of existence of hellish beings.”

#5 Do Hindus Wear Turbans?

Yes, turbans are worn in the Hindi faith. The spiritual reasons that Hindus wear turbans include:

  • To keep the vibrations of the universe within the body
  • To enhance one’s intellect
  • To increase kārya-shaktī (energy of action) within the body
  • To attract the protection of superior deities
  • To create the energy of a warrior
  • Formerly only worn as a symbol of social status (worn by Sikhs and leaders), more Hindis wear turbans now than solely the 2% of Sikhs in India. 
  • All Sikhs must wear them as a form of identification.

Others will argue that they simply wear it for sun protection and could use the following (more casual) reasons for wearing a turban:

  • To protect from the sun (India is known for very high temperatures)
  • To keep one’s hair clean
  • To look respectable and honorable
  • General Hindis will wear turbans for special occasions, such as a wedding or religious ceremony
  • They want their hair to grow long (or opt to be bald, less-so requiring the turban than if one had hair to protect)
  • Simply a cultural staple and fashionable form of expression to some
  • To keep long hair out of the way (convenience)

It is not required to wear a turban unless you are a Sikh with hair, and some Hindu males go their entire lives without wearing a turban. It would not be seen as offensive for a non-Sikh to wear a turban.

It is most common to wear turbans in the countries of:

  • Afghanistan
  • Africa
  • Arabia
  • Greece
  • India
  • Indonesia
Turban History CNN.com

Related Scripture(s)/Resource(s):

“In Kaliyug, human beings have begun to drift away from God and Dharma. Hence, the need was felt to create bhāv (Spiritual emotion) towards the karma (Action which gives rise to destiny) performed, and make them solemn about the karma for generating yearning towards God-realisation at least by using external means such as turban. It is out of this need that the custom of wearing a turban originated.”

Related Video(s):

#6 Do Hindus Meditate?

Yes, Hindus find meditation to be a vehicle for enlightenment, progressing the soul towards pure freedom and moksha (spiritual enlightenment).

Considered as ‘a deeper concentration of the mind,’ a participant of meditation would hope to reach the deepest and most profound level of connection to self, called dhyāna. This form of self-realization is the highest, but there are many levels of meditation and mindfulness, including:

  • Yamas (Conduct)
  • Niyamas (Conduct)
  • Asanas (physical postures)
  • Pranayama (breathing exercises)
  • Pratyahara (contemplative and reflective meditation)
  • Dharana (contemplative and reflective meditation)
  • Dhyana (contemplative and reflective meditation)
  • Samadhi (contemplative and reflective meditation)
  • Vedic meditation (derived from holy scripture, The Vedas, a 5,000 year old piece of Sanskrit sacred text).

You could also break the categories of Hindi mediation down into classification such as:

  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Spiritual meditation
  • Movement meditation
  • Focus meditation
  • Mantra meditation
  • Transcendental meditation (similar to dhyana)
What is Dhyana?

Related Scripture(s)/Resource(s):

  • God is within you – Quote from Buddha “The subject on which is meditate is truth.”
  • The Upanishads – Sanskrit text created between the 8th and 5th century B.C. Teachings and meditations on the meaning of the universe and the nature of existence. 

Related Video(s):

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If you are interested in learning about other Religions in the world, then check out this book on World’s Religions on Amazon.