Brahmanism

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Brahmanism:

see HinduismHinduism
, Western term for the religious beliefs and practices of the vast majority of the people of India. One of the oldest living religions in the world, Hinduism is unique among the world religions in that it had no single founder but grew over a period of 4,000 years in
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Brahmanism

 

name frequently employed in scholarly literature for the late Vedic religion, after the religion had changed considerably as a result of the development of class relations (particularly slavery) and the influence of the religion of the indigenous population of ancient India (first millennium B.C.). It got its name from the collection of ritual texts, the Brahmanas.

Brahmanism is characterized by polytheism with the inclusion of various local tribal deities in the pantheon, by the retention of animistic and totemistic views, and by ancestor worship. The supreme deities of Brahmanism are Brahma, the creator and embodiment of the universe, and the beneficent Vishnu and terrible Siva, which embody the productive forces of nature. At the basis of the dogma of Brahmanism are the notions of the animation of nature and the reincarnation of all living beings. Rebirth of the soul in one or another new corporeal form proceeds as requital (karma) for virtuousness or sinfulness in the preceding life: in the first case, a soul is reborn in the body of a human being of higher social standing or even as an inhabitant of heaven; in the second case, the soul is reborn in a person of lower social standing or even in an animal or plant. The criterion for the evaluation of a person’s behavior is his fulfillment or violation of dharma—the particular way of life allegedly established by Brahma for each varna. Brahmanism sanctified social inequality, proclaiming the division of society into varnas to be established by the gods.

Crucial significance was attributed by Brahmanism to rites—the complex ritual of sacrifice to the gods, memorial offerings to ancestors, and so on. The accurate execution of the ritual of reading the sacred texts in a language incomprehensible to the people (Sanskrit) required long training; this helped increase the importance of the Brahmins (the priestly class). The notion of ritual purity was extremely persistent; its violation required compulsory purifying rites. Brahmanism developed the notion of man’s ability to obtain the favor of the gods and acquire superhuman capacities by means of ascetic feats. In the struggle against Buddhism, and under its influence, Brahmanism was transformed into Hinduism in the first millennium A.D.

REFERENCES

Barth, A. Religii Indii. Moscow, 1897. (Translated from French.)
Il’in, G. F. Religii drevnei Indii. Moscow, 1959.
Radkhakrishnan, S. Indiiskaia filosofiia, vol. 1. Moscow, 1956. (Translated from English.)
Renou, L. Religions of Ancient India. London, 1953.
Monier-Williams, M. Religious Thought and Life in India, 2nd ed. Part 1, “Vedism, Brahmanism, and Hinduism.” London, 1885.

G. F. IL’IN

References in periodicals archive ?
Such "vested interests" have been unhesitatingly and consistently referred to as "Brahmanists" in the book.
The Cham society was--is still--divided into two categories: the Balamons, or Brahmanists, and the Banis, or Muslims.
Sadly, their original works have been lost, and thus we are left to glean what we can of their writings from the texts of their opponents--Buddhists, Jains, and Brahmanists. Despite this distorting influence, in the work of the early Indian materialists we see the combination--later to become central to both Epicurus and Marx--of both a radically physicalist conception of the universe and a conviction that human welfare is first and foremost material welfare.
They are strong, good natured if fairly treated, and since they are Buddhists there is no difficulty about special food for them--a point surely in their favour at high altitudes." (The religious and cultural practices of the Hindus and Brahmanists restrict their diets.)