Hinduism; a basic overview of this eastern religion and philosophy.

Essay by OpheliaDrowndCollege, UndergraduateA+, April 2003

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"Follow the migration of mankind from East to West along the sun's course and along the track of the world's magnetic currents; observe its long voyage from Asia to Europe, from India to France.....At its starting point in India, the birthplace of races and religions, the womb of the world...."

- Jules Michelet (1789-1874) French writer:

From the beginning of her history, India has adored and idealized, not soldiers and statesmen, not men of science and leaders of industry, not even poets and philosophers, who influence the world by their deeds or by their words, but those rarer and more chastened spirits, whose greatness lies in what they are and not in what they do: men who have stamped infinity on the thought and life of the country. To a world given over to the pursuit of power and pleasure, wealth and glory, they declared the reality of the unseen world and the call of the spiritual life.

This ideal had dominated the Indian religious landscape for over forty centuries. Hinduism, known as Sanatana Dharma, or everlasting religion, to its followers, differs from Christianity and other Western religions in that it does not have a single founder, a specific theological system, a single system of morality, or a central religious organization. It consists of "thousands of different religious groups that have evolved in India since 1500 BCE." 1

Hinduism has grown to become the world's third largest religion, after Christianity and Islam. 1 It claims about 762 million followers - 13% of the world's population. 7 It is the dominant religion in India and Nepal, and among the Tamils in Sri Lanka. According to the Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches, there are about 1.1 million Hindus in the U.S. 5 However, the American Religious Identification Survey is believed...