The Basis of Hinduism

Updated November 12, 2013Posted by Jaganatha Das


In Hinduism, the practice of non-attachment has led many monks to live a simple lifestyle. Many monks are easily satisfied with only a walking stick, begging bowl, and a loin cloth. Visibly, they appear to have almost nothing, yet spiritually they are quite wealthy.

From the different orders of Sadhus come a diversity of beliefs and practices. Hinduism has two main branches. There are devotees who worship Vishnu and those who worship Shiva. (Vishnu temples have yellow flags and Shiva temples have red ones, seen at the mela camps too)

The worship of Vishnu, the Preserver, includes a practice of chanting and fire sacrifice. They offer grains, ghee (clarified butter), incense, and water to appease Vishnu. There are many different incarnations of Vishnu including: Krishna, Rama, and Narayana.

Shiva has many forms- the mystic yogi, the dancer surrounded by a ring of fire, or the lover embracing his consort, Shakti. The formless aspect of Shiva is worshiped as a lingam, or egg-shaped stone. The worship of Shiva in his formless state is done as a ritual using bells, chanting, and for the more extreme few, the daily smoking of hashish. Shiva's son is Ganesh who is known as the God of new beginnings and the remover of obstacles.

The term "Brahmin" does not refer to those who worship Brahma, rather, it indicates a class of educators and priests. Brahma is not usually worshiped as an individual God, but as an aspect of the Hindu Trinity. Bramha, Vishnu and Shiva.

The Hindu Gods

( see the gallery of the Gods )


The Sadhus and the practice of Yoga

Known as Yogis, these Sadhus are known for their great strength and discipline. They may practice some forms of yoga up to twenty hours a day, however, it may not be the physical exercises that we think of as yoga. Hatha, the yoga of postures, is the yoga we are most familiar with. Jnana is the yoga of scriptural knowledge. Bhakti is the yoga of devotion and emotion. While yoga requires physical concentration, meditation is used to calm the mind. Taking on a "sadhana", or discipline is common to spiritual practice. In extreme cases, this may involve undergoing severe austerities such as standing on one leg, remaining in constant motion, or taking a vow of silence. While some of these acts are difficult and even painful, other sadhanas are purely joyous. The acts of these individuals often seem amazing to us, however Indians see it as a way to express their devotion. Chanting "MANTRAS" (sacred words) with beads, or directly reading from the "VEDAS", is practiced in Bhakti yoga along with "puja" or ritualistic offerings to the Hindu Gods. Many of their basic rituals include elements of fire and water. Waving a flame or bathing a diety, lighting incense (sometimes smoking hashish in chillums is also practiced, although the Babas smoking at the Mela are a very small portion of the event. Perhaps only 10% of the Shiva monks do this and none of the Vishnu monks do at all).