Hindu Religious Traditions
The everyday lives of all people are made up of rituals and traditions. The practice of religions, including Hinduism, sanctifies many of these daily rituals into sacred events and observances. In order to understand Hinduism and its followers, one must study their belief systems, their social practices, and the rituals and traditions they hold sacred. The study of these elements identifies their symbolism and meaning and helps one to understand the Hindu people. The first step to this understanding involves the examination of their basic beliefs.
The basic concepts of the Hindu religion involve the quest for spiritual liberation, or Moksha, through reincarnation and the answering for one's actions through karma. In order to achieve Moksha, the Hindus believe that the individual living soul, or Atman, needs to realize its true nature distinct from the physical body and become one with the absolute truth, or Brahman.
They believe the journey to this realization involves the passing of the Atman from life to life and body to body either as a human, animal, plant, or any of the 8,400,000 species of life (Ashram, 2005a).
While living through these incarnations, the Hindu followers believe Karma dictates that a person must answer for the consequences of his or her actions both positive and negative. They also believe any action that has not been answered in this life will follow a person past physical death and affect his or her next incarnation (Fisher, 2003) and that only by acting in the full service of Brahman can a person answer to all his or her karmic reactions, free themselves from the bondage of the physical body, and achieve Moksha (Ashram, 2005a).
Hindu sacred texts dictate that status among the Hindu people be divided by social orders,