Major Concepts:

Karma: the law of action and reaction;

Reincarnation: we have several lives in order to learn the lessons of life in their completeness;

Caste and Gender Roles: determined by birth: Four principle Castes but literally hundreds of minor divisions: Brahmins: philosophers and teachers, Ksatriyas: warriors/administrators; Vaishyas: shopkeepers, traders, those concerned with economics and money-making; Sudras: the lowest cast doing basic jobs and Dalits: the lowest of the low doing the jobs no-one else will do; Gender Roles: Hinduism prescribes strict rules for gender roles and for arranged marriage so that caste remains intact.

Dharma: duty both personal cosmic in the sense of the ‘laws of life’;

Samsara: the wheel of life and suffering in which we are caught until we break with the cycle of ignorance of Spirit and how it operates in the world;

Moksa: escape from the wheel of life to Nirvana or a higher state of existence beyond the human stage;

Maya: the ‘illusion’ in which most people live of life’s purpose and our understanding of Reality;

Rita: the divine harmonious law keeping the universe intact;

Avataras: great teachers of humanity who come at cyclic times;

Stages of Life (Asramas): Bramacharya: student; Grihasti: householder/family life; Varna Prastha: retired person; Sanyassi: ,

Sacred Cows.

Gods and Goddesses:

330 million of them! Major ones: Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, Ganesha, Durga, Pavrati, Laxsmi.

Ista Devati: personal favourite God/Goddess.

Paths to Understanding/ Union with the Godhead (Trimarga):

Karma Marga – Action/Good Works.

Jnana Marga – Wisdom/Study.

Bhakti Marga – Devotion to a Deity.

Four Goods of Life:

Dharma: Duty.

Artha: Wealth.

Kama: Pleasure.

Moksa: Escape from the wheel of life/suffering (Samsara).

To achieve Moksa you must give up the other three Goods, otherwise you remain wedded to the Wheel of Life (Samsara) and put off Moksa or escape from the wheel of suffering, for a future life.

Timeline:

3000BC: Indus Valley Civilization–1600BC: Migration of the Aryans; Vedas–800BC: Upanishads—561BC —Buddha. Jainism—400BC: Mahabharata—327BC: Alexander the Great—200BC: Bhagavad Gita; Laws of Manu; Ramayana; Dharma Sastras; Puranas—500AD: Tantras— 700AD: Muslims invade India—1469AD: Sikhism— 1757: British invade India—1947: Independence from Britain; Partition of India—2001: Kumbh Mela Festival becomes the largest religious gathering in history.