Hinduism is indeed a shoreless sea. It includes within itself everything from the highest and most abstract philosophy down to the crudest superstition. And this does not in any way disturb the average thoughtful Hindu—it is to him evidence of the largeness and splendor of the religious system to which he gives his allegiance.
To all Hindus, the scriptures of highest authority are the four Vedas. These, which are among the most ancient of all literary monuments (older than Homer, and about of the same age as the Song of Deborah in the Old Testament), were the product of that lively and vigorous people, the Aryans, at the time of their first invasion of India. Yet, though they possess such unquestioned authority for the Hindu, they are mainly concerned with gods whom no one any longer worships—Varuna the outspread heaven, Agni the sacred fire, Ushas (Aurora) the dawn—and they contain not a trace of any of the most characteristic doctrines of later Hinduism. Then follow the immensely complicated ritual rules of the Brahmanas, the foundation of much of the ritual that is still practiced in classical Hinduism today. Next come the Upanishads, marking the beginning of critical philosophy, and that understanding of the world that is summed up in the saying Tat tvam asi, “that art thou,” the soul in man is the same as the soul of the universe; separate existence is an illusion from which man needs to be freed. There follows the whole range of the bhakti-forms of Hinduism, in which the worshiper chooses one of the many gods as the object of his special and devoted adoration and finds release through this worship. At one side are the Tantric rites, glorifications of the powers of fertility in nature, which ...1
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