Brahma, the Hindu god of creation and life, and is the supreme god of the Hindu trinity. Just like the Greeks with Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades, or the Christians and Jews with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Hinduism has this same standing of a trinity with Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu. Hinduism is believed to be a branch off of Brahmanism, much like how Christianity or Islam is a branch from Judaism, where Brahmanism is more focused on the teachings of Brahmins, priests of the Brahman faith, on the Vedas, "a collection of hymns and other religious texts composed in India between about 1500 and 1000 BCE," (Violatti 2013), and Hindus were more focused on creating a better life in the future through reincarnation. The belief of Brahmanism comes from the original idea of Brahma around the writing of Kena Upanishad which reads: "That which existed before creation, that which constitutes the existent whole, and that into which all creation dissolves is the all-pervading Brahman, and the cycle of creation, sustenance, and destruction of the universe is endless" (Joshi 2016).
India in the first millennium B.C.E. was based around the caste system, which was a way to separate different groups in the Brahman faith into the different casts based on their karma, how hard they worked, and dharma, their devoutness to the faith. The castes are, in order of hierarchy, as follows: Brahmins, priests and teachers; Kshatriyas, rulers and warriors; Vaishyas, farmers, traders, and merchants; Shudras, laborers; Dalits-outcasts (What is India's caste system? 2016). Because of these castes it was almost impossible for someone born into the Vaishya to work their way to becoming a Kshatriya or Brahmin, this was very influential to one of the core beliefs in Hinduism (which would come after Brahmanism), reincarnation, meaning that the work you put into this life to increase your karma and dharma can make you be born into a higher caste in the next life, and if you did not work to increase your karma and dharma you could be reincarnated into a lower caste in your next life. The social standing you had in this society would be dependent of what cast you were born into, meaning there was virtually no way for you to change your current life so then followers of the faith would have to work on having a better life in future reincarnations.
Artist's Representation of the Caste System in India
Brahmanism's fundamental beliefs that "everything that ever existed, that exists now, and that is going to exist is a minuscule event in the all eternal universal reality" and the Atman, or soul, "is considered to be the source of all vitality among humans," and that the soul is the same as Brahman and so all souls are interconnected through Brahman (Joshi 2016). But the main source of the Brahman faith is the Vedas, which is taught by the Brahmin caste but it cannot be taught by other castes, showing how Brahmins were able to use this system to their advantage. These fundamental beliefs for Brahmans can easily be related to that of the Jews, where the soul is connected directly through God and that all that was ever was, is, and will be was created by his divine will, much like the belief that Brahma created all and is connected to all living things through their Atman.
- Works Cited
- Joshi, Nickul. "Brahmanism." Ancient History Encyclopedia. N.p., 2 Sept. 2016. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.
- Violatti, Cristian. "The Vedas." Ancient History Encyclopedia. N.p., 18 Jan. 2013. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.
- "What is India's caste system?" BBC News. BBC, 25 Feb. 2016. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.