The Cycle in Hindu Beliefs

Hindu renunciants seeking liberation from the cycle of life death and rebirth pray to lord Shiva.
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At the crux of Hindu cosmology is the belief that the human experience of this world is an ever moving cycle of life, death and rebirth. The present life incarnation is a product of the deeds and actions of a person in their previous life just as what a person does in this life affects the next. Devout Hindus work to take responsibility for their actions; living a life of piety in order to secure their position in their next life. The end of this cycle, known as moksha, is only achieved when a person overcomes desire, attachment and ignorance.

1 Karma

Karma, meaning action in Sanskrit, is the law of cause and effect. It means that every action has an equal or greater reaction. Positive and virtuous actions are met with positive reactions while negative and ill-intended acts are met with undesirable responses. Hindus believe that they will see the returns of their good actions and virtues in either this or future lives. This also holds true for bad actions and poor virtues. Furthermore, they believe that a person’s karmic accumulations will decide whether or not they are reborn in a human form.

2 Nature of Samsara

Hindus believe all life is cyclical, which is evidenced in the natural world; the changing of the seasons, movement of planets, and the constant interplay between day and night. Within the cyclical nature of the human experience, the soul is born and reborn into human bodies in accordance with the law of karma. What binds a person to the continuous cycle of life, death and rebirth are actions and decisions driven by sense desire and attachment. Liberation from this process is the ultimate aim for a practicing Hindu.

3 Worldly Renunciation

Renunciation is considered to be the main mode of achieving liberation from samsara. It is an effort to remove the self from worldly attachments and transient pleasures. A typical Hindu renunciant will leave all traces of the household life behind; family, career and other material responsibilities, in exchange for a spiritual life of meditation as a wandering mendicant. By living the renunciant lifestyle, the ascetic seeks to conquer qualities such as lust, anger and greed in an effort to transcend samsara.

4 Moksha

The final duty of a Hindu after living a lawful and well enjoyed life with a prosperous home and family is to look inward and achieve liberation. Moksha, the release from the cycle of samsara, occurs when there is no more accumulation of bad karma causing the person to be reincarnated into a new life. All sense of desire and attachment has been abandoned, the ego has dissolved and the individual has merged with God, known to Hindus as Brahman.

Rachel Alexander is a cultural and political area specialist of South Asia and the Middle East. She received the State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship in 2011, and again in 2012, to live in northern India and study advanced Hindi. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in international studies from Loyola University of Chicago.