Religions of the World: Brief description of aspects of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam.

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Beliefs and Practices:

Hinduism has commonly been viewed in the west as a polytheistic religion - one which worships multiple deities: gods and goddesses. Although it has been viewed by some as a monotheistic religion, because it recognizes only one supreme God: the panentheistic principle of Brahman, that all reality is a unity. To Hindus the entire universe is seen as one divine entity who is simultaneously at one with the universe and who transcends it as well.

Some choose to view Hinduism as Trinitarian because Brahman is simultaneously visualized as a triad: Brahma the Creator, who is continuing to create new realities;

Vishnu, (Krishna) the Preserver, who preserves these new creations. Whenever dharma (rder, righteousness, religion, and law) is threatened, Vishnu is said to travel from heaven to earth in one of ten incarnations. Shiva is responsible for destruction of things altough, is at times said to be compassionate, though destructive.

Altough strictly speaking, Hinduism is a henotheistic religion -- a religion which recognizes a single deity, but which recognizes other gods and goddesses as facets or manifestations or aspects of that supreme God.

Hindus tend to follow one of two major divisions within Hinduism:

Vaishnavaism: which generally regards Vishnu as the ultimate deity or

Shivaism: which generally regards Shiva as the ultimate deity.

However, many rural Hindus worship their own village goddess or an earth goddess. She is believed to rule over fertility and disease - and thus over life and death. Priesthood is regarded as a less important aspect in rural Hinduism: non-Brahmins and non-priests often carry out ritual and prayer there.

Hindus believe in the repetitious Transmigration of the Soul or the transfer of one's soul after death into another body (reincarnation). This produces a continuing cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth through their...