Widely considered the oldest religion still in practice today, Hinduism – or the Sanatana Dharma (the “eternal law”) – is based upon a series of ancient manuscripts known as the Vedas. This collection of Sanskrit texts, encompassing four main scriptural works, is thought to have been written over 3500 years ago. With one billion (and ever growing) followers throughout the world today (most being concentrated in India and Southeast Asia), Hinduism is a fusion of various cultures and traditions, with no single founder nor creed, and as much a way of life as a religion.
The Vedas focus on a single, unifying force that governs all aspects of our existence. Although there are a number of recognizable deities within Hinduism, notably Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma, these deities are all but a small part of the greater God. Dharma, or the “Ultimate Reality,” is the universal power or law by which all things that exist are bound. The only means of breaking free from unending reincarnation is through meditation and the realization that the one God is in all things. Hindus also firmly believe in Karma, by which our deeds, both good and bad, have a cause-and-effect relationship on how our lives progress.
Although there are a number of competing sects within Hinduism and the Vedic schools may differ in their interpretation of the ancient manuscripts, they do not view each other as rivals, and in fact share ideas and opinions openly amongst one another.