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AN01d2a Unit01: Beginnings of Civilization Ch.

Timeline: 3rd Millennium BCE - Present
FQ: To what extent is Hinduism a faith of hope?

Main Idea: The Hindu faith is one of the oldest (or perhaps the oldest) organized faith in history. The social structure that
developed in the Indian subcontinent is intimately intertwined with Hindu religious beliefs. The faith shows the marks of a culture
that draws from different groups. It has adapted to and adopted from the many peoples that have traveled the busy routes
traversing the mountain passes of Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is a model of stability and a source of hope for those who seek
another chance to achieve eternal bliss.


Do Now: "If at rst you don't succeed, try, try again."

Ponder: How often in life do you really have the opportunity to 'try again'? A second chance?

I. Historical Context
Cultural diffusion sparks the birth of Hinduism in the 3rd Millennium BCE . The Aryans
invade South Asia (Indian
Subcontinent) via the mountain passes of Afghanistan and Pakistan. They encounter the Dravidians
and begin a process of
cultural exchange encouraged by the Aryan conquest.

II. The Faith Evolves
A. Brahminism (Early Hinduism)
The Hindu faith was initially dominated by the Brahmin.
The Brahmin would be the central gures in the conduct of
prayers and rituals. Access to hymn-like prayers written in the Vedas
was limited to this literate group.
B. Bhakti (Popular Hinduism): By the mid-second Millennium BCE the restricted Brahmin-dominated faith of Brahminism
gives way to a 'popular' faith. The Hindu faithful are no longer restricted in the practice of the faith. Prayer and common rituals are
open for 'popular'/ public participation. Worship and performance of rituals in private becomes common. This is the form Hinduism
reaches us today.
C. There are many who contributed to an understanding of the precepts of the faith, but there is no single individual who
bears the title of founder of the faith.
D. Symbolism: An ancient symbol adored by many for four millennia, abhorred by 21st C. Westerners. Why?

Activity: Read about the story of the 45th Infantry Division (on Ponder) and this ancient South Asian symbol.

III. Canonical
A. Vedas: Volumes of texts comprising the oldest canonical texts of Hinduism. Believed to be of divine origin and
historically attributed to a period dating prior to 1500 BCE. It is the oldest canonical text for religions extant today. Its
content is hymn-like in structure and was initially restricted in use to the priestly class (Brahmins).
B. Upanishads: Accepted as a part of the Vedas. The Upanishads are a compilation of comments whose purpose, among
others, may parallel that of texts like the Talmud- that is, to provide guidance to the faithful based on the debates held by
religious scholars over the centuries.
C. Mahabharata: (Including the Bhagavad-Gita) Refer to the vocabulary exercise (crossword puzzle).

Basic teaching is that the enlightened person is disciplined (knows himself)
and can see all things in himself and himself
in all things (unity of life universe). He can look beyond illusions (that which we perceive to be real and impactful that is neither
and hence it creates separateness) to what is real/ true => creates unity.
The Upanishads are a compilation of comments on the Vedic texts while the Bhagavad-Gita is an epic story about a
Kshatriya (Arjuna) and lord Krishna (in the guise of his charioteer) before a great battle.
Contributions of the Aryans Contributions of the Dravidians
Introduced New Military Technology: Chariots Literacy: Developed Written Language
Introduced New Agricultural Methods: Animal Husbandry Agrarian Lifestyle: Sedentary
Introduced New Religious Beliefs and Practices Builders: A Long History of Brick Structures
Follow the QR code to view a video
AN01d2a Unit01: Beginnings of Civilization Ch.03
These canonical texts offer a way for the faithful to reach this 'enlightened' ideal. As in the Mahabharata, the use of myths
to 'teach' is in keeping with ancient traditions prevalent throughout the world.

! Discuss the Bhagavad-Gita's value as revealed by its protagonists- Arjuna and the Charioteer
! Dene Incarnation and Avatar as it relates to the Bhagavad-Gita and Ramayana* myths.**
*Click on the link to read a a brief description of the Ramayana.
**Avatar Derived from the Sanskrit word for 'incarnation'. In the Hindu faith, it refers to an embodiment (human form) of a

IV. The Hindu Caste System
The origins of this social order have a mythical
and historical basis. As conquerors, it can be assumed that the Aryans
would subdue and subjugate to some extent the peoples they conquered. Any resulting social order would undoubtedly place the
victors and their descendants at the top, with the subjected and their descendants at the bottom. Given the age of this faith and
the absence of records, this explanation is a theory at best. A clue, however, is visible in the word 'Varna'. This word implies 'color'
and is also the word to describe the major divisions of the Hindu caste. The Aryans may have racially segregated the society
based on skin color (Aryans = lighter, Dravidians = darker).

A. Varnas: The four levels depicted in the diagram above are called 'Varnas'. Each Varna is divided into many sub-
groupings called Jati. A Jati is an occupational classication. So, within each main division of the Caste System there are many
groups of occupations that fall within it. For example, the Sudra Varna consists of the laborers. In that general grouping are many
occupations that fall within the category of laborer. A factory laborer and an agricultural laborer would fall within this Varna. Keep in
mind that all Jatis are ranked, even within the Varnas.
Therefore, the factory laborer may be ranked higher or lower than the agricultural laborer.

B. Purity of the Soul: Though there may have been originally a politically and racially motivated reason for the Caste
System, it seems to have been totally replaced by this religious belief (based in part on the mythical origin). The lower in the Caste
you are, the less pure your soul is. The lower your Jati is in your Varna, the less pure is your soul compared to others in your
Varna. The occupation you have reects the purity of your soul. The most polluted occupations are those that are considered
most dirty or foul.
Your duties are determined by the Jati within which you work. Your Jati will be the same as that of your parents (marriage,
in general, must be within your Jati).

C. Samsara Cycle: Birth, life, marriage and death must be within your Jati. Despite its outward appearance, there is a
degree of social mobility. This cycle is briey explained as:

1. Dharma: The duties you must perform as member of a particular Jati. Your parents, who are also from this Jati,
are charged with instructing you on those duties.
2. Karma: Your ultimate 'fate'. Whether that fate (Karma) is positive or negative depends on how well you attended
to your Dharma.
3. Reincarnation: After death, this is the means by which rebirth occurs. The soul transmigrates from one body
(the deceased) to the next body (the soon to be born).
4. Moksha: Marks the end of the Samsara cycle. It marks the union of the soul with Brahman. This will occur only
when all negative Karma has been erased by positive Karma.

A soul can, therefore, move up and down the Caste depending on how it lived a previous life. Positive Karma will move
the soul up through the Jatis and Varnas while negative Karma will produce the opposite effect. The next level beyond Brahmin
would be Moksha while the level below Sudras is Untouchability. Untouchables are seen as being so impure that they are not
AN01d2a Unit01: Beginnings of Civilization Ch.03
even considered within the Caste System (They are true Outcasts). Should the soul migrate beyond untouchability, it would enter
the realm of animals and plants.

D. General Characteristics of the Caste System

1. Provides for a very stabile society, able to withstand traumatic changes..
2. Jatis and Varnas act as social security nets.
3. The Samsara cycle provides a soul with numerous opportunities to get it right.
4. Social mobility is limited to the after-life.
5. The top ranks of the caste have a disproportionate share of wealth, status and opportunity.
6. The lower ranks of the caste have a disproportionate share of the poverty-stricken and disenfranchised.
7. Most of what is recorded here applies to the rural villages of the Hindu population (which is the majority in India
today, but changing rapidly). Urban populations and the unique nature of human interaction under such conditions have begun to
alter how the age-old caste system is played out. Much has begun to change.

V. Cyclic Nature of the Universe
A. The Human Cycle
1. Values: The broad aims of life. The four Values (in increasing importance) are:
a. Arta = Wealth. Most fraught with illusion since it gives the perception that one has all that they need.
b. Kama = Sexual activity/ Pleasure of the esh. Not as illusory, but it appeals to human emotion to such a
degree as to present a false joy or contentment.
c. Dharma
= Duty and Responsibility leading to righteousness. This is not the goal but the process via
which the goal (Moksha) is achieved. Since it has this relationship with the goal, it is given great importance.
d. Moksha = The goal of all Hindus. Spiritual liberation via education,
freedom from 'illusion' and
ignorance. Highest level of consciousness. Unity (you with everything) has been achieved (enlightenment).

2. Standards of Human Conduct: 'The Ideal'.
The concept offers us a standard that uplifts us and creates
expectations. 'The Ideal' need not be realized (achieved) to be valid.

Ponder: Is the concept of the Guru applicable to any other philosophy or faith?

3. Journey of four (ideal) stages through Life: The faithful develop relationships between themselves and society
in accord with life stages. [note the cyclic nature of these and other elements of Hindu faith]
a. Student Stage: Learn by studying religious and historical texts.
b. Householder Stage: About 25-55 years of age. Establishing and nurturing a family.
c. Vanaprasta (Forest hermit) Stage
: Begins when 'son of son' arrives (birth of grandson) at ~55 years of
age. It signals the 'search for truth' stage in one's life. Family and society is left so that one can nd how he/ she is connected with
all other things (the unity).
d. Senyasa (Saintliness): Acquiring spiritual liberation in life. In essence, acquiring Moksha while still alive.
Lord Buddha's seven-year sojourn in the forest is an example of vanaprasta leading to senyasa (and enlightenment).

B. 'Enlightenment' is the understanding of 'The Truth': 'The Truth' is seeing all things in oneself and oneself in all things
(unity of beings). Once this is known, a corollary can be added- violence against or towards anything is violence against oneself.
Non-violence (Ahimsa) becomes an attribute of an enlightened person.

VI. The Deities
Is it possible that Indian people of the subcontinent, then and now, believe the numerous deities depicted in statuary and
paintings (in temples and homes) truly exist (Look at the image of Brahma below)? This, of course, is a question of faith and can
only be answered by a follower of the religion. However, as junior historians we can go beyond this to ask ourselves is this
phenomena (multiple deities, multi-limbed and multi-faced divinities) unique or does it hint at a much more common attribute of all
A. What does it mean to be Two-faced?, or Speak with forked tongue? or Dont judge a book by its cover.
B. How could multiple faces or arms in a drawing mean more about a subject than just appearance?
C. Silent Communication: Images as communication devices to the masses. (Refer to Hindu-Buddhist Mudras found on
the course website.)
D. Incarnation/ Avatar: A representation of an attribute of the One. A physical or earthly manifestation of an attribute of the

AN01d2a Unit01: Beginnings of Civilization Ch.03

VII. Theory of Guru Faith Relationship
The Tripartite-Self Theory (Similar to Ancient Greek philosophical understanding) states that all people have a personality
composed of three parts:
# Sutva: Goodness, wisdom.
# Rajas: Energy, courage.
# Topus: Desire, appetite.

A. Though all people have the three elements above, it is not necessarily to the same degree. The Hindu caste is
structured accordingly (Brahmin - Sudra). Hence, the caste was structured on merit (who was best qualied for each grouping).
Therefore, we return to education and the Guru's task of helping a student identify their dominant tripartite attribute and identifying
the caste most appropriate for the student. There is no sense of equality since this, in essence, is a meritocracy.
B. Brahmins are at the top of the caste because of the dominance of sutva. The Kshatriya (political leaders) could never
wield political power over Brahmins because the composition of their self makes them incapable/ unqualied to do that. The
Brahmins, as teachers, are responsible for providing a 'vision' for society. Since the ultimate goal of every Hindu is to achieve
Moksha, then a teacher, who can help guide one toward eternal bliss, is the preferred head of the society.

VIII. Summary Activity: Modern Challenges
Challenges are not new to any faith, regardless of their age. The 21st century has and will produce its own brand of
religious challenges for Hinduism. Many of these challenges are faced by several faiths because they transcend cultural

Ponder: Hindu dilemmas are a good way to understand the challenges other faiths face. Among these dilemmas we can include:
# Spiritual Freedom vs. Social Order
# Importance of Beliefs vs. Importance of Ritual
# Cultural Diffusion vs. Purity of the faith.

A. To what extent can these issues apply to other philosophies and faiths?
B. Can we separate these religious values without affecting the faith?
C. Living in a large urban/ modern area, is there evidence of challenges to religious beliefs and practices?

Materials/Sources:Refer to the course calendar for additional assignments and pertinent due dates.
! Mahabharata (incl. 'Bhagavad Gita')
! World History: Patterns of Interaction
AN01d2a Unit01: Beginnings of Civilization Ch.03
! Google Books excerpts. Dharma: The Imperative of Caste Law
! Prezi Presentation: Hinduism Develops.
! Hindu Vision of Life- Lecture #1: By Prof. Dennis G. Dalton of Barnard College [Text: Presuppositions on Indian Philosophy By Karl Potter.]
$ Deciphering the Indus Language. $ 45th Infantry Division

Nomads of an Indo-European language group previously from an area midway between South Asia and Europe.
Descendants of the civilized societies of the Indus river valley (Harappa & Mohenjo-daro).
'Class' of priests.
Oldest Hindu religious texts.
Canonical = Religious
By 1500 BCE, 'Know thyself' becomes a dominant tenet in Hindu philosophy. The premise is that any understanding of others or nature must rst be preceded by
understanding one's own self [Ancient Greek philosophers adopt same views but much later].
The myth involves a deity whose body parts/ sections correspond to the four general levels within the caste hierarchy. The head of the deity is the origin of the
Brahmin caste, the arms give rise to the Kshatriya caste, the legs produce the Vaishya caste and the Sudra caste originates from the feet of the deity. The
deity's body part imparts an important trait or characteristic to the caste that originates from it.
Mohandas K. Gandhi emphasized that the Bhagavad-Gita teaches that all people must naturally bare a responsibility (Dharma). He emphasized that this does
not suggest that peoples' civil/ political rights are any less natural or important. He does, however, go on to highlight that social and personal responsibility are
natural and should precede civil/ political rights. Compare this to our discussions of codes and human conduct & ethical monotheism. Also, read note 11 below.
Education is the rst area of attention in Hindu philosophy.
The Guru as 'ideal teacher'. One to one relationship w/ students. Must be intimately knowledgeable of students' needs.
This is not the position of ancient Greeks. Plato and Aristotle clearly see Man as a political creature that must participate in the political realm, not withdraw from
it. The State is not an enemy of Man. Hinduism has a contrary view of the Man - State relationship. The State is a distraction and must be transcended by Man for
the search of truth to occur. 'This obnoxious State that is an alien being...' (Thoreau) cannot be trusted.
The Buddha's Experience
# Siddhartha, at 18 yrs old, realizes that he has never seen or experienced life outside the palace walls. He manages to get out despite his father's efforts
to keep him there.
# Siddhartha witnesses death, poverty, disease, etc. He now feels that he has been kept in ignorance.
# Siddhartha decides to leave his home and family permanently.
# Vanaprasta begins and lasts for seven years.
# Senyasa is achieved (transcended earthly pleasures and desires) and Siddartha returns as 'The Buddha' to teach and guide people toward
'Truth' (Satya) and 'Non-violence' (Ahimsa) are forces (graha) which were pivotal principles underlying Mohandas K. Gandhi's Satyagraha movement in [British]
colonial India.
Plato and others of ancient Greece would never accept this. In the Greek conception of the State, one's goal should be political involvement & leadership
positions. The political leaders then exercise political power over the rest.

Teacher Note: Here, as in any academic attempt to study beliefs and practices of peoples, the sources include scholarly work as well as philosophical/ religious
texts. Presentation of any philosophical/ religious text is to facilitate study, acquire appreciation, and enliven discussion of the traditions that produced them. In no
form, content or intent, are the materials presented to teach and/ or proselytize any belief system. No particular denomination, if applicable, is chosen over
another. The basic tenets of the philosophy or faith as presented here are meant to transcend any deviations that currently separate the denominations.