Often referred to as the "oldest living religion," Hinduism is the third largest religion in the world with over a billion followers, most of whom live in India. Join Active Minds for an examination of its origins, teachings, beliefs and practices.

Key Lecture Points

  • Hinduism is the third largest religion in the world. With a billion devotees around the world. Hinduism is the dominant faith of India and is practiced by 80% of its population.
  • Hinduism finds its roots in multiple holy texts, the Vedas, written over the course of centuries.  The first Hindu scripture, the Rigveda, was written in Sanskrit around 1500BCE, making Hinduism the world’s oldest living religion.
  • Unlike some religious faiths, Hinduism has no single historical moment of origin or single point of authority. As such, it is a faith that multiple interpretations, denominations and sects. Still, Hinduism has some tenets common to all believers. The most significant common tenets include the belief in the immortality of the human soul and the reincarnation of that soul in a cycle known as samsara. Hindus also believe that the acts of the individual in life can help (or hinder) one’s soul in a progression towards enlightenment.
  • Approximately 1.5 million Hindus live in the United States As Hindus have immigrated to the US, many of their traditions and practices have moved into American mainstream life. This is seen in the popularity of vegetarian restaurants, yoga, and meditation.
  • Contemporary India, under the leadership of Narendra Modi, is seeing a surge in Hindu Nationalism with wide-ranging effects on the people who live in the region.

Discussion Questions

  • How do you feel about the belief in reincarnation and the cycle of samsara?
  • How do the essential tenets of Hinduism differ from other world religions? In what ways do they overlap?
  • Have you ever been to India?  Did you see Hindus practicing their faith? In what way?

More to Explore

Books For Further Reading

  • Dalrymple, William. Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India. Alfred A. Knopf. 2009. 304 pages. Dalrymple tells us the story of 9 contemporary Hindus from different walks of life and how they live their faith.
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  • Knott, Kim. Hinduism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. 2016. 160 pages. The Very Short Introductions Series provides short, pocket-sized, but scholarly overviews of important topics. Knott takes up topics like the Vedas and the roles of Brahmans and gurus.
    Click here to order