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Hinduism
AUM.png
Image from Wikimedia Commons.
The AUM symbol, an important symbol in many Hindu traditions.

A broad religious metatradition, incorporating atheist, monotheist, nondualist, pantheist, panentheist, animist, polytheist and other viewpoints, and a wide diversity of practices. It is arguably the oldest of the Old Earth religions. So diverse as to have no one common thread outside of a shared identity even on Old Earth, its descendant beliefs diversified and spread further with the off-Earth expansion, and the term ‘Hindu’ has diluted still further. While the Hindu tradition in the Current Era is less and less discrete, many groups do still claim Hindu heritage to some degree or another.

Key Concepts

A few concepts have been very prominent within Hindu thought, of which the following are a small selection. Whilst none of these have ever been believed by all Hindus, they have all been believed by most.

Dharma is a multifaceted term which refers to social order, a being’s true nature, the right way of living, duties and other related concepts. Generally speaking, dharma is the path one should follow to be in accordance with the rhythm of existence and society. It thus tends to include the upholding of religious traditions, non-violence, social cohesion and responsibility. However, the meanings of the term vary widely within Hindu and post-Hindu memesets, not to mention amongst other religions which use the term, such as Buddhism and Sikhism. The concept is nevertheless central enough for these religions to be referred to as ‘the dharmic religions’.

Karma is a second very important concept in much of Hinduism. While technically meaning action, this term more practically refers to cause-and-effect, and also to the residues of past actions which remain with an individual. The concept of karma emphasizes the fact that actions performed in the present have an impact upon the future, and that the current situation results from actions performed in the past. In many cases, karma is connected to the common doctrine of individual reincarnation - each soul’s rebirth will come about as a result of residues from past actions, either as a punishment/reward system or to provide the right situation for ‘working out’ existing karmas from previous lives.

Samsara is a term referring to the cycles of deaths and rebirths, or, more broadly, life for those attached to the world of appearances. One escapes from samsara by exhausting karmas and/or by understanding the truth of the nature of reality.

Moksha is the term for liberation from samsara, and generally refers to coming to understand the true nature of existence, or to reach the closest to God as is possible.

Deities

Not all Hindus at any point in the past were involved in the worship of deities. Many movements have been actively against it. However, there are a number of deities who have been worshipped widely within Hindu and derived traditions at different points in history. Some of these originate within the traditions of the Indian subcontinent (later coming to include India and its successors, Pakistan, Nepal and other polities), while others appear to have been imports from outside. These deities are worshipped variously as the one God, as conceptualisations of the Absolute, as a deity in a polytheistic sense, as a higher being who is nevertheless lower than the personal God, as archetypes of the human mind, in other ways, or not at all.

Siva-Nataraja
Image from Wikimedia Commons
A statue depicting Shiva in his form as Nataraja, Lord of the Cosmic Dance.

Prominent deities include Shiva, Vishnu (with many forms, most popular among them Krishna, Narasimha and Kalki), Hanuman, Ganesha, Murugan, Brahma, Jesus, Indra, Varuna, Odin, Agni, and forms of Devi, the Mother, such as Durga, Kali, Tripura Sundari, Saraswati, Lakshmi and Gaia. Groups identifying as Hindu, or as of Hindu heritage, can also be found involved in AI-worship, in particular centred upon archailects such as the Lord of Rays and the Blessed One.

Prominent Forms of Hinduism

A vast and diverse plethora of Hindu denominations and movements have risen and fallen over history. Some of the most prominent and influential are listed below, but by no means should this list be taken as exhaustive. It is also to be noted that there has always been a substantial proportion of Hindus who identify with no particular organised tradition.

Shaivism - Traditions which centre around the worship of Lord Shiva, Mahesh. Shiva is variously thought of in forms of Shaivism as being the true nature of all things, a conceptualization of the Absolute or a deity in a dualistic monotheist sense. Shiva’s worship has particularly been found among ascetic groups, although this is by no means universal. The depictions of Shiva vary, including different anthropomorphic forms, the aniconic lingam and various forms modeled on vecs, provolve clades and other sophonts. The worship of Shiva seems to be a continuation of beliefs found within the Indus Valley Civilisation and pre-Hindu South Indian traditions.

- Nandinathism - an ancient variety of Shaivism which emerged during the 22nd Century BT, emerging as a monistic (advaitic) form of Shaiva Siddhanta, which also contained strong dualist traditions. The monistic form became largely independent over the course of the Interplanetary Age, in particular spreading in southern areas of South Asia, in North America and in Southeast Asian Hindu populations. Its forms emerging in the Interplanetary Age varied substantially, incorporating practices and even philosophies from Nuagist movements and other forms of Hinduism. Many of its earlier forms held that Shiva was personal, but derived understandings becoming common in the Interplanetary Age tended to hold impersonalistic or transpersonalistic views, often influenced by Advaita and some other Shaiva schools. Becoming one of the predominant forms of Shaivism during the Federation Age, it had a great impact upon the spread of the worship of Shiva, but increasingly diverged and ultimately declined during the Age of Establishment.

- Lingayatism - another very old form of Shaivism, also known as Veerashaivism. Founded in the 9th Century BT by Basava. Strongly based upon social equality, in particular reacting against the caste system of the period. Centres upon worship of Shiva in the aniconic form, and in the human body as Shiva’s temple. Shiva within Lingayatism is reality itself, and the source of creation. Depending on viewpoint, the advancing soul is seen as coming to merge with Shiva, or to realize their identity with Shiva.

- Spirit Shaivism - popular form of Shaivism from West Africa, emerging out of the eclectic Shaiva convert communities of central Nigeria in the 2nd Century AT. Highly dualistic, believes in Shiva as God separate from Creation, but upon whom all Creation including the individual souls (jivas) are reliant. Spirit, as the presence of Shiva, is the method by which Shiva’s grace is bestowed upon devotees, and the presence of Spirit is necessary for the spiritual unfoldment and liberation of the jiva. One important sect was known as the Christian Shaivas, who believed in Jesus Christ as a complete avatar of Shiva. These various forms of Spirit Shaivism were especially popular amongst many West African- and Brazilian-derived cultures off-Earth during the Interstellar Era and beyond, and had influences upon many spiritual traditions.

Vaishnavism -varied set of traditions dating back to the Vedic period in the 4th millennium BT, centred upon the worship of Vishnu and figures thought to be either forms of Vishnu or of whom Vishnu is a form, in particular Krishna, Rama, Narasimha and Kalki. These traditions have historically been strongly devotional in flavour, but this has not been universal, in particular during the diversification of the Vaishnava traditions during the Interstellar Era.

- Nirguna Vaishnavism - typically, Vaishnava movements leading up to the Interplanetary Age had been strongly centred on a personal God, be that God best referred to as Vishnu, Krishna or otherwise. However, in a number of habs in the former Saturnian Ring Territory during the Sundering, a movement arose among Vaishnava minorities in which devotion was aimed at a formless Vishnu as the highest form. This may have been influenced by Advaitin and Islamic groups also in the habs, although much of it is likely an indigenous development. Utter surrender and devotion to a formless source of all, a true reality, best represented in a lower form as the personal Vishnu, is the core of Nirguna Vaishnava practices. This was a highly influential tradition in certain areas during the First Federation, and even more so during a later flowering in the Age of Consolidation. Its ideas fed directly into the forms of Sophism in the solidifying Sophic League, and while it no longer exists as a distinct tradition there remain groups who essentially follow its ideals on several worlds in the League.

- Gaudiya Vaishnavism - broad tradition founded in the 5th Century BT by Chaitanya. In the original Gaudiyas believed that Krishna was the highest form of God, and that while the individual soul was eternally separate to God it could reach liberation by attaining to a state of eternal and absolute devotion to Krishna. The Gaudiyas also believed that Chaitanya was a joint incarnation of Krishna and his partner Radha. Gaudiya Vaishnavism spread outside of India during the 1st Century AT in particular, over time developing a substantial following in China especially. By its focus on the avatars of Krishna, it was especially prone to producing sub-sects, and so diversified rapidly throughout the Interplanetary and Interstellar Eras. Many of the disparate followers were subsumed into a descendant form of Hamsa Vaishnavism during the Age of Expansion, but diverse sects survived for several further millennia, and the influence of Gaudiya Vaishnava aesthetics, philosophy and practice has been lasting upon many religious traditions.

- Omega Vaishnavism - a form of Vaishnavism heavily influenced by the Omega Point Theology of Manhara Benisol. This Vaishnava tradition arose out of certain Age of Expansion colonies where Omegist philosophy flourished within majority-Vaishnava worlds of the antispinward settlements of the Vasudevaloka colonists. Within Omega Vaishnavism, Vishnu exists in the present-day only in potential, but is to emerge from the spiritual and technological advancement of sophonts, and while this is inevitable it is the duty of everyday sophonts to work to bring this about sooner. The inevitability of the emergence of Vishnu means that all those worshipping Vishnu and striving towards Vishnu are naturally guided towards that universal destiny of union with creation to become Vishnu. This philosophy became an important influence on several Omegist schools, particularly being involved in the formation of Paramegism. It flourished in forms similar to the original throughout the Ages of Expansion and Establishment, and a variety of divergent forms continued in fits and starts until the time of the Second Federation. Influences remain in forms of Sophism and Omegist philosophies, and in various disparate traditions of the Outer Volumes and Periphery. Sporadic revivals are not unknown.

Shaktism - Of the major deity-centred Hindu schools of the Agricultural and Industrial Ages, Shaktism is the most blurred at the edges. However, Shaktism can be said to constitute those traditions which centre upon the worship of the Divine Mother, Shakti or Devi, and dates back to the goddess-worship of the Indus Valley Civilisation and contemporary cultures of South Asia (Mother Goddess figurines are known to have existed in India as far back as 22,000 BT). Common forms in which the Mother has been worshipped include Durga, Kali, Saraswati, Lakshmi, Gaia and Radha. While some forms of Shaktism centre purely upon Devi, many in fact worship Shakti as the active/generative principle and Shiva (or sometimes Krishna) as the passive principle of the one Absolute. Tantric ideas have been particularly prominent within Shaktism. It became one of the predominant forms of Hinduism during the Interstellar Era, and has been highly influential on many later religious movements.

- Adi Parashaktism - largely a retrospective term for forms of Hinduism emerging from the Agricultural Age onwards centred upon a belief in Devi as the Absolute, or Adi Parashakti, the Source and nature of all things. These traditions were often centred upon Kali and related goddesses, but in particular during the Sundering many varieties based upon the family of goddesses surrounding Tripurasundari. Adi Parashakta groups during the Interstellar Era and even the Inner Sphere Era heavily emphasized the universality of Goddess worship, and revived the worship of many diverse goddesses from different traditions as expressions of the connection with the Mother. In particular, it gave rise to the Neo-Venusians during the Age of Expansion. Forms of Adi Parashaktism in a broad sense can be said to have persisted right through to the Current Era, and some even claim continuity with the tradition, but the practice and terminology has changed beyond recognition.

- Bioist Shaktism - a combination of Gaianism and Bioism with Shakta ideas, with many predecessors from the Interplantary Age onwards, but which ultimately flowered into a tradition in the ComEmp Era. In Bioist Shaktism, Devi as the generative principle of reality is manifest in life, and so to sustain and spread life is to worship the Mother. This ideology spread in its own right to many Bioist groups, remaining in some forms in the Outer Volumes, and influenced the ideas of the Zoeific Biopolity and lesser Bioist Empires.

Brahma Worship - While Brahma, the creator god, has long been present within Hinduism, Brahma-centred sects only arose during the Interstellar Era, with Vaishnava and non-denominational Hindu groups in a number of habitats with strong Indian and Chinese heritages around <{A4609c8d6cadb4,Barnard’s Star}>. Devotion to Brahma as the creator is central, with Brahma typically having been represented in two aspects - the personalistic manifest aspect and the impersonalistic primordial aspect (typically a point of bright white light). The tradition split into strongly philosophical and devotional sects, which became influential in the Sophic League and Solar Dominion respectively, although the tradition in a discrete form declined by the mid-Inner Sphere Era.

Smartism - perhaps the most influential of all the memeticities of Hinduism, Smartism is centred around a belief in an impersonal Absolute, and the worship of that Absolute in different forms. From its origins in the 2nd or 3rd millenniums BT, or perhaps earlier, the different forms worshipped were traditionally Shiva, Vishnu, Devi, Surya, Ganesha and Murugan. However, the same ethos was applied ever-more broadly during the Industrial and Interplanetary Ages, with worship of the Absolute in many different forms becoming common and accepted. While the term Smartism was often not used by adherents, it can be said that those Hindus holding nondualistic philosophies (typically Advaita Vedanta and variations) as a basis for non-sectarianism and acceptance of multiple forms of the divine. Forms which can be classified as Smartism in the broad sense have existed throughout the history of the Terragen Sphere, although very few have strong enough connections to the Hindu rituals and practices which merit them the term. During the Interplanetary and Interstellar Eras, non-sectarianism became a feature of the vast majority of Hindu traditions, and therefore on their derivatives which have spread widely, which some have therefore referred to as Smarta in the broadest sense, although it is more generally considered more meaningful to apply it only to traditions in which multiple deities are actively worshipped. A few historians have even referred to the Sophic League as the ‘Smarta Sephirotic’, although this is largely a word-play, with only some core aspects of the ethos and beliefs being in common.

Vedic religion - one of the predecessor traditions which gave rise to Hinduism during the 4th millennium BT. A highly ritualistic tradition, originally composed of the rituals and beliefs of the Vedic people who migrated into India from the northwest. Centred around forms of sacrifice and chanting, including the worship and invoking of a number of deities including Indra, Varuna, Agni, Soma and Surya. Gave many important traditions and concepts to later forms of Hinduism, including the use of fire in worship, the Sanskrit language and most importantly the Vedas, central texts for many forms of Hinduism which developed a sub-section known as the Upanishads that were the foundation of much of Hindu philosophy. The tradition survived in a well-conserved form right up until the Interplanetary Age among certain Hindu social groups, associated in particular with a philosophical school called Mimamsa. It subsequently merged with the Vedic reconstructionist groups emerging in Central Asia and the Slavic nations in particular, and in this form spread off-world into a number of colonies in Solsys. A wide diversity of philosophical understandings hid behind the highly homogenous ritual of the religion, and it was often defined as a heterodox and orthoprax faith. Some of these closely related forms, which began to change the wordings and even liturgical language in some cases, were regionally popular in some systems during the time of the First Federation, but generally were prone to fusing into other local traditions. However, their rituals were influential on practices within Santism and other folk traditions, and relics are still to be found, in addition to their persisting influences in other forms of Hinduism dating back to the Vedic period in the 3rd millennium BT.

Early History

The traditions retroactively labeled Hinduism essentially emerged out of a complex of different faiths in South Asia during the Agricultural Age, beginning in the 4th millennium BT but with individual components dating back further. These included the Vedic religion, the traditions of the peoples of the Indus Valley Civilisation and the numerous other native traditions of Indian peoples. These different components interacted, and continued to do so over the course of the region’s religious development.

In particular, the sramana tradition and the Vedic tradition were very important predecessors to Hinduism, with the former giving rise to Jainism and Buddhism in addition to many forms and elements of Hinduism.

Much of mainstream Hinduism throughout the later Agricultural Age and into the Industrial and Information Ages was characterized by a strong system of social stratification called the caste system. There were, however, always figures within the tradition denouncing this practice, in particular during the rise of the bhakti movement, a more devotionally-centred set of traditions, in the 1st millennium BT, and even more so with the rise of Hindu reformation movements in the late Industrial and Information Age.

The term Hindu itself is not one originating within the tradition, but from outside it. Originally derived from geographic terms used by groups to the northwest of the Indian subcontinent for the peoples living to the land east of the Indus River and its peoples, it came to be used as a more religious term over time. Firstly, Muslim upper classes established in South Asia following conquest by Arab, Turkic and Mongol groups would refer to the natives as Hindus unless they converted to Islam, or were Christian. Therefore, this term covered eclectic native traditions including Sikhism, Jainism and other traditions not later referred to as Hindu, and also Judaism, Zoroastrianism and all other non-Muslim and non-Christian natives. The term later became more specific following conquest by the British Empire, who narrowed down the term’s meaning to exclude Sikhism, Jainism and other related faiths, in addition to the more varied faiths initially included under the catch-all.

Forms of Hinduism increasingly spread from its homeland in South Asia, first with migrations to Southeast Asia in the 1st and 2nd millennia BT, and later through migrations to other regions and conversions, often due to the action of varied missionary groups. In particular, Hindu communities developed in China, West Africa and areas of the Western world. With the changes in society of the Interplanetary Era, in particular the diversification of baseline humans into rianths, tweaks, nearbaselines and cyborgs, and the emergence of aioid clades, provolves and splices, many Hindu traditions were forced to adapt, but the nature of the broad faith meant that many non-baselines were absorbed into the tradition. In particular, forms of Hinduism became the primary faith of the Sufants, as well as of Indian-derived Calebs and some vec cultures of the time. This increasingly diverse Hinduism, ever-syncretising with other traditions and innovating within itself, was exported off-world by emigration for various reasons during the Interplanetary Era, helped by the vibrant and prosperous Earth cultures and polities in which it was common, such as the West African Co-operation states and many of the regional alliances within the South Asian Union, including Dravida and Bangla.

History during the Interstellar Era

The emergence of the Federation re-opened civilization and many previously-isolated Hindu groups were once again thrown into contact with one another and with other philosophies. New Hindu movements were very common, either dating from the Sundering or from the following period, and some of these included many influences from other religious traditions. Meanwhile, many of the older established forms continued to thrive, re-interpreting and re-wording their ideas for the new contexts in which they found themselves.

Varieties of Hinduism which flourished during the Interstellar Era include Christian Shaivism and Nirguna Vaishnavism while continuing evolutions of Adi Parashaktism and the broad Smarta tradition were also very widespread.

During this Era, the seeds were sown for the memesets which would become central to many Sephirotics. Hindu ideas were very influential on the early development of such traditions. This in particular included some forms of Sophism and Bioism.

Diffusion and Evaporation

Over the Interstellar Era and even leading up that in the Interplanetary Era, already many groups drawing on Hindu traditions felt no particular identification with the overarching term ‘Hindu’. This process continued with the ongoing divergence of their ideas and practices, and with growing galactographic separation, until ‘Hindu’ became a term more used as one of heritage than living tradition, even within groups that had little changed since identifying as Hindu some time before.

The emergence of new traditions mixing Hindu and non-Hindu ideas, and the shift in identities among established groups formerly known as Hindu led to the metatradition’s evaporation, as it diffused out into different places. In particular, many Shaiva and Smarta-derived groups came to identify as Sophics, rather than Hindus, in particular those drawn to the emerging Sophic League, while others became focused on more specific identities, or came to think of themselves as part of the greater fraternity of dharmic faiths, including Buddhism and Sikhism and derived ideas.

While being very rare as a modern identity, the heritage of Hinduism is widely acknowledged among peoples of a wide variety of faiths and philosophies. An even broader sheaf of traditions can be shown to draw on Hindu ideas and to have inherited much from it, including many forms of Sophism and Sufi-derived beliefs and many other religions and sets of folk beliefs. In many traditions, practices and terminologies have been drawn from Hindu heritage. In particular, many early disciples of Mahara Benisol drew on Hindu ideas and imagery during the initial spread of Lucidian Sophism, and similar processes occurred as this transitioned into Sophic League Sophism at a later date.

Despite this general decline, a few scattered groups do claim a Hindu identity. In many cases these are continuous traditions dating back to before the Interplanetary Era, but in plenty of others are descended from revivalist movements. Most of these are subcultures, but in some cases larger populations have developed, in particular in the Periphery and certain Sophic League systems in the Middle Regions.

 
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Development Notes
Text by Kirran Lochhead Strang
Initially published on 09 February 2016.

Expanded from an original by M. Alan Kazlev, written 2001.
 
 
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