Hinduism, a religion popular in Southern Asia, has spread across continents and oceans throughout the world. The Hare Krishna Temple of Honolulu offers spiritual refuge to the Hindus of Oahu.
Hinduism is characterized by a belief system built upon concepts of karma, reincarnation, and serving God along with his 33 million demigods, according to Sundarananda Das, president of the Hare Krishna Temple of Honolulu.
“There is a demigod for everything,” Das explained. “There’s one for rain, the ocean, and so on. It is almost impossible to please all of them at once. The only way to make them all happy without offending any of them is by serving God, whose name is Krishna.”
Das said serving Krishna is one of the best ways to improve one’s karma, which he said is a divine record of the good and bad one does in life. If a person spends most of their life being morally upright, helping others, and glorifying God, they can expect to be reincarnated into an easier, happier life on earth after they die. If that person chooses to live selfishly and sinfully, they will be reincarnated into a lesser life form such as a pig or a dog, according to Das.
Jayaram V, an author specializing in Indian religions, philosophy, and spirituality wrote, “According to Hinduism, a soul reincarnates again and again on Earth until it becomes perfect and reunites with [God]. A being has to live many lives and undergo many experiences before it attains perfection and becomes one with the divine.”
Das indicated that there is no global hierarchy in the Hindu faith. Rather, there are different stages of spirituality one can ascend. The base level classification he gave was called kanishta adhikari, which is a category for people without faith in anything.
The next step up is called madhama adhikari, for people who have faith in God but still pursue earthly things. Spirituality is not a top priority at this stage.
The top group Das spoke of is known as utama adhikari. The utama adhikari are, as Das explained, “Capable of seeing everything as created by God. They are very sober, very humble. They cannot be agitated by anything and they are totally concentrated on God. Utama adhikari have totally dedicated their lives to serving God.” Once one reaches the stage of utama adhikari, they will no longer be reincarnated after death, but will be removed from this world and will be eternally connected with God, Das explained.
According to Das, becoming an utama adhikari is available to people of all faiths and religions. He expounded further: “Our religion teaches that Krishna is everywhere and in everything, which means worshipping any type of god is good because Krishna is the source of it.”
Similar to the LDS faith, Hindus live by a series of restrictions and guidelines given to them to improve their health and spirituality. Stephen Roser, a Hindu author, said many practicing Hindus choose to live a vegetarian lifestyle because of the belief that all spirits, whether they be human or animal, are equal. Das added that many believe if they eat a certain type of meat, they will be reincarnated as that type of animal in their next lives. Other restrictions Das mentioned include the prohibition of drugs, tobacco, alcohol, gambling, or premarital sex.
These teachings, along with many other points of Hindu doctrine, come from a series of scriptures known as the Four Vedas, according to www.iskconeducationalservices.org.
The first Veda is called the Rig Veda, and is believed to be the oldest of the four. The Rig Veda is considered the most important and is divided into 10 books called mandalas. It also contains 1,028 hymns in praise of various deities.
The second is called the Yajur Veda, which is a priestly handbook used to perform sacrifices known as yajnas.
The third is the Sama Veda. The Sama Veda is made up of chants and melodies to be sung during worship and the performance of yajnas.
The final Veda known as the Atharva Veda contains hymns, mantras, and incantations used outside of yajna ceremonies.
Another book of scripture Das described is the Bhagavad Gita. Das said the book is a part of a larger Hindu volume of scripture known as the Mahabharata. The name Gita means ‘song of God,’ which is what the book represents.
Practicing Hindus will often visit a Hindu temple such as the Hare Krishna Temple of Honolulu for a long day of worship starting at 3 a.m. Das said the day begins with a shower, followed by a 3:30 a.m. meditation which lasts for one hour. After their meditation, Hindus will spend the rest of the day worshipping Krishna and other deities through prayer and food offerings until 7 p.m.
According to Das, some members choose to live as communities in Hindu temples and live by this strict schedule every day, while most Hindus only visit and follow this worship schedule once or twice per week.
According to the Pew Research Center, there were more than 1 billion Hindus in the world in 2010, making Hinduism the third largest religion behind Islam and Christianity.