Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hinduism Trivia

In one of my classes we are discussing Amy Carmichael, a former missionary to India. As part of our discussion we have researched Hinduism. I asked the students to make a list of questions they had about Hinduism so that I could dedicate a class to them. Here are some of their questions and the answers I found.

Why do they not eat cows?
All animals are revered because they have souls just like humans. To kill a cow would be like committing murder. Plus, since you interfered with the cow’s natural death, it would have to be reborn in the same form. Cows are specifically revered because they are so important to life. Not only do they provide milk, but burning their dung can be a good insecticide and the ashes make great fertilizer.
How would other people know if other people were breaking caste?
It involves the interaction of two people, so someone else will always find out. Here are the major rules of the caste system, (which is now illegal in India).
  • Caste members can socially mix with only those belonging to their caste.
  • Caste determines where each member can live.
  • Caste determines what an individual may eat and drink.
  • Caste determines how each member may earn a living.
Accepting one's caste is seen as a key part of dharma, right actions in life. Due to the belief in reincarnation, most people believe that violations of caste will be punished in the next life.
Why do they have so many gods? How many are there?
Christians know that with Adam and Noah, there was a worship of the One True God. As people continued to rebel against God, they replaced him with their own perceptions of divinity. God is infinitely powerful. However, people rejected the idea of an omnipotent God. Therefore, they must come up with an infinite number of gods to fill His shoes. It takes an infinite number of gods with limited power to make up for One Omnipotent God.
There are two answers to the question of "how many gods". There is only one pantheistic god in Hinduism and that is the Brahman. All gods that Hindus worship are an example or aspect of the Brahman. There are three major gods: Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the preserver), and Shiva (the destroyer). The only total number I could find is about 330 million.
What is their theory of creation?
The Brahman has always been. The other gods emanated from it. The following is a version of their creation legend.
A giant cobra floated on the waters. Asleep within its endless coils lay the Lord Vishnu. He was watched over by the mighty serpent. Everything was so peaceful and silent that Vishnu slept undisturbed by dreams motion. From the depths a humming sound began to tremble, Ohm. It grew and spread, filling the emptiness and throbbing with energy.
The night had ended, Vishnu awoke. As the dawn began to break, from Vishnu's navel grew a magnificent lotus flower. In the middle of the blossom sat Vishnu's servant, Brahma. He awaited the Lord's command.
Vishnu spoke to his servant: 'It is time to begin.' Brahma bowed. Vishnu commanded: 'Create the World.' A wind swept up the waters. Vishnu and the serpent vanished.
Brahma remained in the lotus flower, floating and tossing on the sea. He lifted up his arms and calmed the wind and the ocean.
Then Brahma split the lotus flower into three. He stretched one part into the heavens. He made another part into the earth. With the third part of the flower he created the skies.
The earth was bare. Brahma set to work. He created grass, flowers, trees and plants of all kinds. To these he gave feeling. Next he created the animals and the insects to live on the land. He made birds and many fish. To all these creatures, he gave the senses of touch and smell. He gave them power to see, hear and move. The world was soon bristling with life and the air was filled with the sounds of Brahma's creation.
What is the percentage of Hindus in the US? the World?
Hindus make up about .4% of the U.S. population with 1.1 million people. They make up 14% of the world population with about 900 million people.
If they aren't supposed to kill anything, how do they eat?
Ideally, all Hindus are supposed to be vegetarians. They get their protein from nuts, beans, and other plants. However, Shiva is a mega meat-eater, and many Hindus don’t feel it necessary to practice this.
Do they have a god of poop?
His name is Samana.

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