The myth says that Hinduism was the melting of two beliefs, those of the local people and those of pale skinned foreign invaders. This myth is supposedly where the Hindu caste system comes from, their word for it meaning colour. It was believed that the paler skin made you of a higher cast. If this myth were true it would suggest that northern Europeans (peoples with white skin) moved into India in the distant past and bred with the locals also taking with them their religion.
Hinduism for Magicians
Hinduism is a major world religion, incorporating a stream of belief so incredibly wide as to be in eternal contradiction with itself. Anything which is said to be true about one branch of the tradition will be false somewhere else. It is a religion in which the concept of Heresy is purely local.
Hinduism has no single founder, no single leader, no liturgy. It is democratic, in that a person may choose to follow any guru, leader or tradition (although there may be family resistance to some choices).
Here is a brief overview of some magically useful bits of the Hindu belief system.
- There is a single consciousness which existed before the universe was created. It exists in all things. It will exist after the universe ends. All awareness is connected to this primordial awareness, which is without properities (it cannot be said to be good, bad, hot, cold, or anything else). This primal awareness is called Brahman (which is separate from Bramah, the creator of the universe). Individual consciousnesses can discover their connection to this primordial source, escaping suffering and rebirth in the process.
- Individual consciousnesses continue to exist after death, being reborn in new bodies. These bodies need not be of the same species, or on the same planet or plane of existence, as the previous bodies, although there is a certain amount of habituation and therefore continuity. Deeds accomplished in one lifetime, whether good or ill, then tend to manifest consequences in the future, in one's current or future lifetimes. This process is called karma, and is understood to be mechanical, rather than reflective of retribution from some absolute god.
- Gods exist, but they are best understood as either direct manifestations of the original creation of the universe, or beings who have achived enormous spiritual advancement by innumerable incarnations of tapas (spiritual effort). Some texts identify the fundamental gods as faces of the original divine, created de novo, others suggest that these gods were ordinary beings who worked for their jobs. Certain readings would render these viewpoints compatible, but little matter. The tradition is comfortable with paradox.
- The gods are real, and many of them come to earth either in the form of Avatars, or maintain long-lasting physical bodies which they can use to visit devotees. Furthermore, all statues or pictures of the gods are actually part of the diety themself, and can be fully invested with the awareness, consciousness and power of the diety: there are no "images" of gods, only facets of them on paper or cast in brass.
- Beings can become "enlightened" through spiritual effort. Yoga and meditation can enable beings to understand their fundamental connection to all consciousness, and so escape all limitation in expanded states of awareness which remove the illusion of duality and therefore karma. A guru (spiritual teacher) who is already enlightened can pass on this insight through direct contact.
Tantra is an aspect of Hindu teaching concerned with becoming enlightened while remaining completely embedded in the world. Rather than renouncing the world and becoming a monk, Tantra teaches that truth is everywhere, all around us, and nothing is any more holy than any other thing. Oh, and it also teaches a lot of stuff about sex magic.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinduism has a more orthodox overview of the subject.