The Hindu Spiritual
Swami Vivekananda, the teacher credited with introducing
Hinduism to the western world, presented a paper at the
World's Parliament of Religions in Chicago, September 1893. He
shared a history and a Hindu perspective on the origins of
life. He said the Hindus received their religion through
revelation, the Vedas, now sacred texts. He said the Vedas are
not books so to speak, but the accumulated treasury of
spiritual laws discovered by different persons into different
Hinduism provided a basis for many of today's spiritual and
philosophical beliefs about soul evolution, energy, eternity,
and consciousness. Hinduism has no founder or date of origin,
and the authors and dates of most Hindu sacred texts are
unknown. Scholars describe modern Hinduism as the product of
religious development in India that spans nearly four thousand
years, so it is the oldest surviving world religion. The first
sacred writings of Hinduism, which date to about 1200 BC, were
primarily concerned with the ritual sacrifices associated with
numerous gods who represented forces of nature. A more
philosophical focus began to develop around 700 BC, with the
Upanishads and development of the Vedanta philosophy. Around
500 BC, Buddhism emerged from Hinduism as well as some other
new belief systems.
About 80 percent of India's population embraces Hinduism or
what is called the eternal religion. There are 900 million
Hindus worldwide, making Hinduism the world's third largest
faith (after Christianity and Islam).
In the 20th century, Hinduism began to gain popularity in the
West. Its different worldview and its tolerance for diversity
in belief made it an attractive alternative to traditional
Western religion. Hinduism gave rise to religious movements
like Hare Krishna and New Age and the incorporation of Indian
beliefs and practices (such as the chakra system and yoga)
in books and training on health and spirituality.
Hindu religious life takes many forms; it might take the form
of devotion to God or gods, the duties of family life, or
concentrated meditation. Source: www.religionfacts.com/hinduism
Smith, in The World's Religions, describes Hinduism as the
religion that says you can have what you want. It accepts the
basic drives and motivations of people and the principle that
these evolve within each person. Hinduism embraces a great
diversity of beliefs. One can believe a wide variety of things
about God, the universe and the path to liberation and still
be considered a Hindu.
This attitude towards religious belief has made Hinduism one
of the more open-minded religions when it comes to evaluating
other faiths. Probably the most popular (and famous) Hindu
saying about religion is: "Truth is one; sages call it by
Beliefs common to all who follow Hinduism:
the existence of an enduring soul that moves from one body
to another at death (reincarnation);
the law of karma that determines one's destiny both in this
life and the next
the authority of the Vedas (the oldest Indian sacred texts)
and the Brahmans (priests);
The ultimate goal of all Hindus is release from the cycle of
rebirth (samsara). For devotional Hindus, this means being in
God's presence, and for those who are more philosophical, it
means uniting with God as a drop of rain merges with the sea.
Brahman: Ultimate Reality
Most Hindus venerate one or more deities, but regard these as
manifestations of Ultimate Reality. So who, or what, is the
Ultimate Reality that is behind the universe and all the gods?
In the Rig Veda, it is referred to as "the One." In
the Upanishads it is called "Brahman," "the
One," and several other names.
- The Cosmic Dancer
Personifies the Dynamic Universe
The Sanskrit word karma means "actions" and refers
to the fundamental Hindu principle that one's moral actions
have unavoidable and automatic effects on one's fortunes in
this life and condition of rebirth in the future.
In these later texts, especially the Upanishads, the
polytheism of the earlier Vedas has evolved into a pantheism
focused on Brahman, the supreme reality of the universe. This
concept remains a key feature of Hindu philosophy today.
Upanishads ("Sittings Near a Teacher")
The word "Upanishad" means "to sit down
near," bringing to mind pupils gathering around their
teacher for philosophical instruction. The Upanishads are
philosophical works that introduce the now-central ideas of
self-realization, yoga, meditation, karma and reincarnation.
In Hinduism, there is not just one purpose of human life, but
Dharma - fulfilling one's purpose;
Artha - prosperity;
Kama - desire, sexuality, enjoyment
Moksha – enlightenment.
Techniques & Meditation
The religious life of many Hindus is focused on devotion to
God (perceived as Brahman, Shiva, Vishnu, or Shakti) or
several gods. This devotion usually takes the form of rituals
associated with sculptures and images of gods in home shrines.
More philosophically-minded Hindus ignore the gods altogether
and seek Realization of the Self through intense meditation.
Still others focus primarily on fulfilling the social and
moral duties appropriate to their position in life.
These various approaches are regarded as equally valid, and in
fact are formally recognized as three paths (margas) to
bhaktimarga (the path of devotion),
jnanamarga (the path of knowledge or philosophy)
karmamarga (the path of works and action).
Hindus are expected to pass through four stages (ashramas)
over the course of their life:
1. brahmacharga, which takes place during the school years, is
focused on acquiring knowledge and developing character
2. grastha, the middle years, is focused on worldly pursuits
and pleasures such as marriage, family and career
3. vanaprastha, when one's children reach adulthood, is a time
of increased focus on spiritual things
4. sanngasu, in the last years of life, one may abandon the
world entirely for a life of contemplation.
Teacher Training Poster (click photo for info)
Major Hindu Practices
Ayurveda – a system of medicine and healing that is becoming
well-known again today. It is based on four basic types of
personality and body makeup; it aims toward balancing energies
for wellbeing through nutrition and other therapies.
Yoga – practices focused on physical and spiritual goals.
The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit yuj and means
"union" or "yoke." Yoga involves several
forms of practice and discipline. "At its core, yoga
means union, the union of body, mind, and soul; the union of
the ego and the spirit; the union of the mundane and the
divine." Deepak Chopra
There are several types of yoga;
here are three:
o Hatha Yoga is meditative movement focused on "asanas"
or physical postures and breathing. It's health benefits are
now well-known in the west, including flexibility, balance,
improved muscle tone and endurance. Tranquility and vitality
are also benefits.
o Kundalini Yoga is a tantric form of yoga focused on
awakening the kundalini, the latent psychic energy that lies
at the base of the spine, and making it rise through the seven
chakras to the top of the spine.
o Raja Yoga is considered the "royal road" to
reintegration, a path to the divine through self-exploration,
delving into the unconscious mind to Being itself. Its method
is "willed introversion" through meditation to find
and experience the "beyond that is within."
Poster by Liz Cook (click poster for info)
Yoga Breath or Complete Breath – breathing is central to the
practice of yoga and other forms of meditation and healing. As
we know, breath is life. Begin with visualizing your lungs and
mid-section as a cup. Straighten your spine.
Place the palm of your hand on your navel and begin inhaling
slowing into your palm; feel your lower belly expand (your
hand will move outward if you are breathing correctly) ,
filling your lungs from the bottom up as you fill your
"cup" with air. Inhale to a slow count of 8. When
you have completing filled your lungs, relax and hold the
breath for a count of 8;
then, slowing exhale to a count of 8, emptying your lungs as
you would a cup, from the top first to the bottom. Do at least
three to seven complete breaths before beginning meditation or
to simply to relax. Complete breath can be done sitting
upright or lying prone.
Namaste Greeting – The gesture (or mudra) of namaste is a
simple act made by bringing together both palms of the hands
before the heart, and lightly bowing your head. In the
simplest terms it is accepted as a humble greeting straight
from the heart and reciprocated accordingly. It is a soul
greeting and a simple way of saying, 'the light in me salutes
light in you.'
Puja - Puja is a religious ritual which some Hindus perform
every morning after bathing and dressing but prior to taking
any food or drink. Puja is seen as a way of relating humans to
the domain and actions of the divine, and can be performed for
anything considered divine, from Vishnu to a holy tree.
Temple in New Delhi
Anointing with oil
Supplies and preparation: 1-2 tbsp of oil either massage oil
or olive oil, or as last resort vegetable oil from kitchen.
The whole groups stand in circle around the small container of
oil and send energy for 10-20 seconds.
Divide into two groups: one is healer and the other is
receiver. Ask if you may cleanse the person.
Cleanse the head area only. Then the healer dips index
and middle finger lightly in oil and make “cross” or
“circle” on the third eye area of the recipient. Change
rolls. When all completed, share on the experience both
as a receiver and sender of healing energy.
Participants may desire to blot third eye area with tissue to
avoid staining clothing after completion of technique.
In the Hindu religion, may women wear a red dye in the third
eye area in their daily lives to open up their “seeing”
Chakras are “wheels of light”, organizing principles
of the nonphysical self, that enliven and regulate the
physical endocrine system of the body. They are moderated by
consciousness. Yoga works with the chakra system as do many
avenues of meditation and spiritual growth.
A simple meditation based on Hindu wisdom is modified from the
work of Dr. Franciso Coll.
Relax in a seated posture, and:
1. Close your eyes and focus on the crown of the head; breath
slowly and visualize the color red permeating the back of the
head, neck and shoulders. Keep visualizing the color while
relaxing for 30 seconds or more;
2. Keeping eyes closed, move your attention to the base of
your spine, continuing to breathe slowly and visualize the
3. Move your attention to a place below your navel, and
breathe into the lower abdomen the color yellow, seeing your
reproductive organs filled with light and the color yellow.
remaining there for at least 30 seconds;
4. Direct your focus now to the solar plexus area. Visualize
the color blue and breathe the blue into your stomach, kidneys
and other organs in the area;
5. Move your attention next to your chest, focusing green
light into your heart chakra, bathing lungs and heart and
thymus gland with light and color;
6. Raise your awareness and focus on your throat the color
purple. Breathe into the thyroid and throat area the light of
7. Finally, raise your focus of attention to your third eye,
your forehead, and see the crystal clear white energy
permeating there. Breath and relax for at least 30 seconds.
Finally, visualize the flow of energy through your chakra
system, quickly, seeing clear water flowing through each
center, opening the energy and flow of your life force.
Chakra Healing Meditation
Sit quietly with eyes open or closed as desired. The
referee reads the following script to the participants:
Breathe deeply in through your mouth and out through your
nose. Visualize your breathing in a stream of energy from the
universe that enters your body at the back of your head, flow
down your backbone, up the front of your body and out your
Imagine the stream of energy is first filling up the first
chakra, in the back of your head. Imagine the red color
flowing into your neck, shoulders and upper back area.
Feel this area become energize and relaxed. Feel your
arms down to the fingertips being energized with the red
Now, imagine the stream of energy flowing into the coccyx area
below your waist on the low back area. Image the color
now changing to orange. Image the color flowing down the
legs all the way to the feet and then flowing back up the rest
of the body in the front. Feel a sense of direction,
aspiration, and courage. Have a sense of clearing a
removing any resistance to your moving forward with your path.
Now shift your attention to the reproductive area, the lower
pelvis. Fill the pelvic bowl up with a bright yellow
light. As the bowl fills, have it overflow upward toward
the abdomen. Picture this overflowing bowl as your well
of creativity, abundance, and spiritual center. Imagine
a sun that has come down from the sky and shine from this area
outward to the rest of the world.
Leaving that area now, move above to the higher abdominal
area. Imagine a beautiful blue light shining there.
Picture a deep sense of service and empathy with all humanity
and a sense of oneness with all. See that blue light flowing
from the solar plexus outward over your whole body.
Now moving further up the front of the body, picture the heart
center as a green light. See green light streaming in
from the universe. Picture the heart area expanding and
swelling with love for yourself and your purpose. Feel charged
with a sense of your desire to live your purpose and the
fulfillment of doing so.
Moving up the anterior body, center your attention on the
throat area. A beautiful purple light is shining there.
With your loving attention it expands and pulsates. You
have a sense of healing and removal of all obstacles to
communication. Your love for yourself and what you have come
to share expands and fills you with joy.
Finally, you move your attention to the forehead area.
Focusing on the area between your eyebrows a brilliant white
light flows into and out of your third eye. You feel a
sense of completeness. A sense of desire to share of
your wisdom with the world. You notice that the white
light splits into the colors of the rainbow like a prism and
then just as quickly returns to the white light spectrum.
A sense of completeness, a sense of coming full circle
embraces you and you fill whole.
Rest for a moment before returning to your awareness of the
room and place that you are in.
Regroup what you have gotten for yourself from experiencing
this chakra balancing experience.
Share your experiences with the others that made this journey
Hindu Messages, Prayers, Verses
"There never was a time
when there was no creation." Swami Vivekananda
"I am a spirit living in a
body. I am not the body. The body will die,
but I shall not
die." Swami Vivekananda
"As long as you derive
inner help and comfort from anything, keep it." Mahatma
"The source from which the
world and the mind rise and into which they set
Reality, which does not rise nor does it subside." Ramana
"Oh, Lord, forgive me
three sins that are due to my human limitations:
everywhere, but I worship you here;
Thou art without form,
but I worship you in these forms;
Thou needest no praise,
yet I offer you these prayers and salutations.
three sins that are due to my human limitations."
Sources for Further Exploration
by Barbara Stoler Miller
"The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga," by Deepak Chopra,
"The World’s Religions" by Huston Smith
"The Philosophies of India" by H. Zimmer
"The Art of Mental Prayer" by Frost Bede
"India & the
Infinite: The Soul of a People" by Huston Smith, Elda Hartley
"A Passage to