Hinduism: The One and the Many


1.    The idea of “Hinduism”

a.    Hindus = 80% of India’s 1 billion; 15% of the world’s population; emerging world power (economically and militarily); 815k US, 850k UK, 1033k S.Africa

b.    “Hinduism” = “Religion of the Hindus.”  So named by early incomers (esp. Persians and Turks) – Indus valley & beyond, “people of” (initially no religious meaning), later “religion of” the people of the subcontinent

                                     i.     Extremely broad.  Later adopted by Indians themselves.

2.    How do we look at Hinduism?

a.    Hinduism is overwhelmingly visual; vast diversity of images. Multitude of aspects (arms, objects, number of gods, perspectives)

b.    A Hindu Question: How to grasp underlying unity in this diversity?

3.    The Question of The One and the Many

a.    The Hindu world is “radically polytheistic.” 

b.    Differs from traditions of the West this way.

1.    Western monotheism: one God, book, Son, church

2.    Hindu traditions stress diversity of all creation/ultimate unity at the same time

                                              i.     There are many ways to the ultimate; many viewpoints

c.    Religions in Indian history move from polytheism to pantheism to monism